Monday, November 20, 2006

Independent England: Police structure

There seems to have been a lot of reaction in the media to the Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police claim that having sex with children between 13 and 16 is a "grey area" - which I commented on yesterday.

One of the problems with our system of appointing senior policemen is that they will try to appeal more to those who make the appointments than they will to the ordinary man in the street that they are actually supposed to represent. And as those people who make the appointments all come from the same liberal left progressive breeding ground it is unsurprising that what these senior policemen consider to be priorities in modern policing echo the agenda of the progressives.

It would be a different story if our senior policemen had to stand for election.

If, instead of being appointed, these policemen had to stand for election - and re-election -by local people I suspect that their priorities might change. Maybe, instead of meddling in politics, they'd start delivering on policing. Perhaps, instead of turning our policemen and women into an offshoot of social services, they'd start concentrating on catching criminals.

This is what I would like to see in a future independent English nation.

For starters, instead of merging our existing forces into fewer, larger and increasingly remote and centralised bureaucracies, I would like each English county to have it's own police force. Now every "expert" on police will try to tell you that this idea is ridiculous. Our modern police face such huge problems with organised crime, terrorism and the like that having so many different forces would never work.

I believe that using the police to fight organised crime and terrorism is the wrong thing to do. Worse still, using the problem of organised crime and terrorism as the basis for the re-organisation of the police force will be a total unmitigated disaster. Their effectiveness and ability to deal with organised crime and terrorism will not be improved, but their effectiveness and ability to deal with low-level crime - the sort of thing that we face every day - will be diminished substantially.

The job of the police is to prevent crime and disorder. The most effective way for dealing with crime and disorder is to have a police force that is familiar with the terrain of the area and the people of the area. That means localised. And the best way for a force to be localised is to structure them into forces that match the area. That means county forces (in large counties such as Yorkshire you would need a force for each Riding). It means re-opening and staffing police stations in towns and villages. It means policemen patrolling on foot in what used to be called "beats". It also means recruiting local people to local forces.

One of the biggest problems with this method of policing is that it limits the career potential of an officer. Beat officers tend to be constables and few people want to stay a constable all their life. But if they move on, then there is a risk that their valuable local knowledge will be lost to that force.

So I would like to see a new career path that acknowledges the importance of beat policing -starting with the entry level Beat Constable (replacing the CPSOs), moving onto a senior constable, sergeant, inspector and up to Superintendent level - all concentrating on beat policing. All of these ranks - from beat sergeant to beat super will be available only to officers who progress through the beat policing system and will carry equivalent grades, salaries and authority to existing ranks.

I believe that organising and structuring the police in this way will bring about considerable improvements in dealing with low level crime and disorder, which, despite all the fear and media hype over organised crime and terrorism, is still the priority for the public - if not the current police and government.

Each county constabulary will be headed by a Chief Constable. This position will be chosen by the people of that county in an election every 4 years. Having Chief Constables chosen by local people through an election will ensure that the focus of that officer is on local concerns and not on government targets or agenda. It also ensures that the county's most senior policeman is accountable to the people of that county.

That's all very well - but what about organised crime and terrorism? As I said earlier, re-organising the police into fewer, but larger forces to combat organised crime and terrorism will make little or no difference. The reason is that it makes no odds whether you have 5 or 50 police forces, they will still face the same issues when it comes to cross force collaboration. There will be the same competitiveness, the same personality clashes - at senior and junior levels - and the same territory disputes.

Organised crime and terrorism are problems that go beyond the borders of the nation. I would hope that a future independent England will withdraw from the EU and restore it's borders quickly and properly - which will go some way in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. But if we are going to tackle these problems we need an organisation that is able to operate at national and international level - covertly if necessary.

In my view, this is best done by a specialist agency - a secret service. I know some people don't like the idea of an English (or British) version of the FBI - but that isn't really what I am suggesting. Instead I would recommend merging MI5 and SIS (MI6) into a single organisation whose job it would be to deal with organised crime, terrorism and who would collaborate - though always have authority over - local police forces when necessary.

I believe this would be the best way to deal with organised crime and to counter terrorism as well as delivering good local policing for communities. There is a lot more I could say on the subject of the police I'd like to see in a future independent England - that they should not be routinely armed, they should not wander around the streets in stab-proof vests (makes them look like para-militaries rather than policemen and women and creates a climate of fear) and they should only wear high visibility dayglo vests when there is a genuine need to do so - such as the scene of a motorway accident (makes them look like scruffy navvies) - but maybe I'll cover those issues in a future post.

No comments: