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POLICING - THE WAY AHEAD: HOME SECRETARY SETS OUT TIMETABLE FOR REFORM

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Reform proposals to strengthen the police's ability to fight crime ...
Reform proposals to strengthen the police's ability to fight crime
and boost public confidence will need to be agreed by the autumn in
order to take legislation on police reform forward, the home
secretary David Blunkett said yesterday.
Mr Blunkett was hosting a meeting of chief constables and chairs of
police authorities entitled 'Policing - The Way Ahead'.
He stressed that swift work was needed to turn concepts into firm
proposals for action in the four key areas of tackling crime;
building public confidence; the use of modern tools and technology;
and strong leadership.
The police reforms would mean a police service where:
- tackling criminality would be at the heart of police training and
activity, working with the best policing and detection methods,
reducing crime rates and repeat offending;
- more uniformed officers would be seen on the streets working with
others such as neighbourhood wardens and community leaders to deal
with low-level disorder;
- there is a cadre of specialist investigators, from police and
civilian backgrounds;
- well trained civilian staff can provide appropriate back up to
police officers - cutting down the amount of time officers spend
in the police stations after an arrest;
- strong leadership and modern management and working practices are
at the heart of a first class service; and
- Information and communication technology systems would be used on
a common basis across the service.
In addition the home secretary announced his intention to improve
crime recording by the police to give the public a clearer and more
consistent basis on which to judge the performance of government and
the police.
Mr Blunkett said:
'I want to work in partnership with the police service and police
authorities so that we deliver the reform programme together. This is
dialogue not diatribe.
'The police have my full support. They are there to keep order and
protect communities.
'My priorities are very clear - protecting the public, improving
detection, preventing disorder and anti-social behaviour and tackling
violent, sexual and dangerous crime head on.
'We must have the people available and able to do the job. But the
background to the debate has changed. We are absolutely committed to
increasing police numbers. We now need to look at the skills and
experience that can be brought into the service to complement not
replace uniformed staff.
'Not all our reforms require primary legislation - in fact the more
we can agree the less legislation it will take to bring about
significant change. It does mean being ready by the autumn with clear
proposals to feed into a Police Reform Bill - an opportunity we
cannot miss.
'The police service in the future will be a more professional and
effective service which enjoys the full confidence of the public. Its
workforce will be well trained and well equipped and make the best
use of modern technology, and enjoy strong leadership and effective
management.
'Reform will involve sweeping away arcane practices, unnecessary
regulations and 'no change' attitudes. But I believe that we share
the same objectives of providing the best service to the public and
reducing crime. This can only be achieved through modernising the
police service.
'Reform means giving the police the support they need. Front line
officers should be able to expect effective management and much
better working conditions and equipment than they do at present.
'A modern police service needs modern technology and modern
communications compatible across all forces.
'Good occupational health must be part of good management. Nearly all
police forces have targets to reduce sickness absence. Many have made
progress in reducing the incidence of retirement on grounds of ill
health - although at almost a third of retirements in 1999/2000, the
overall level for England and Wales is still far too high.
'I am keen that we develop a common approach to the provision of
occupational health, based on what works, across all 43 police
forces.
'The reform process will deliver improvements to civilian staff too -
for example in the training they receive.
'Our goal is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the
police by not only identifying good practice but ensuring that it is
picked up and used. In this way we will reduce crime and improve
public satisfaction with policing. I will consult over the summer and
announce criteria for the standards unit in September.
'Let me be clear - the standards unit is not a threat to the
operational independence of chief constables, or a move towards
greater central control. Operational matters will remain the
responsibility of chief constables and the tripartite structure
remains. The unit is about improving performance and hands on changes
on the ground.
'We want to be able to measure performance accurately and give the
public a clear picture of what's really happening. The new national
crime recording standards will iron out some inconsistencies in how
data is recorded. I welcome the work the association of chief police
officers has done with my department and others to develop and
introduce these new standards.
'The new standards will inevitably lead to an increase in the numbers
of recorded crimes but alongside the British Crime Survey it will
give a more accurate picture of change. With this solid base the
police can target their resources more effectively to tackle crime.
'To provide accuracy and meaningful data we are expanding the British
Crime Survey and it will now report on an annual basis - sufficient
to provide estimates for total crime levels in every police force
area. From next summer we want to publish the police recorded crime
statistics and the BCS together in one annual statement.
'Reliable and credible information which can be used to compare like
with like at command unit level will drive forward both delivery on
the ground and accountability to local communities. This will not
mean crude information tables linked solely to targets, but
transparent data being available for effective improvement to take
place.
'Two events have made a deep impression on me over the last week.
The first was the bravery awards just a week ago, when I saw examples
of outstanding commitment and courage by police officers.
'The second was the mindless violence in Bradford last Saturday
night. There is no excuse for violent and wanton destruction. It is
imperative that everyone accepts the rules of decent behaviour, the
procedures of democracy and the right of others to live without
intimidation. The police play a vital part in upholding public order.
'I look forward to working with the police to achieve the goals that
I know we all share.'
NOTES
1. The home office's director of research, development and
statistics, (RDS) professor Paul Wiles, gave the meeting a
presentation outlining the effects of the new National Crime
Reporting Standard (NCRS) and the increased emphasis to be placed
on the British Crime Survey. An RDS briefing note on the NCRS is
available from the Home Office Press Office.
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