Police reform: an emerging consensus


More conference news – the Lib Dems have vowed to tackle much-needed police reform.

Proposals aim at some very welcome decentralisation – scrapping central targets and providing for directly elected police authorities, which can define local priorities, set budgets and vary taxes where necessary. Whether the plans are ‘radical’ or not is subject to debate. All three of the main parties are starting to at least talk the talk of decentralization.

The moves do put the Lib Dems one step ahead of the Labour government who, for all their talk of localization, look set to retain their grip on policing – setting national standards and using the powers in the Police Reform Act 2002 to specify practice and impose solutions on local police authorities. The Conservatives seem to have the clearest sense of what a decentralized system would look like with proposals for locally elected police commissioners and the abolition of the National Plan. 

Ian Johnston, head of the Police Superintendent’s Association, has been making headlines over the past few days with his admission that the quality of service provided by the police is negligible. Indeed, public confidence in the police is extremely low – not helped by the perception that crime is getting worse or the unnecessary sideshow provided by Sir Ian Blair and Tarique Ghaffur. It is heartening then to see some kind of consensus emerging over the need to modernize, decentralize and make the police force more accountable to the people that they serve.