Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Neighbourhood policing 'threatened'

Former Scotland Yard commissioner Lord Stevens is to unveil a report on improving the police service

The threat to neighbourhood policing highlighted in a report by former Met commissioner Lord Stevens is of "profound concern", Labour leader Ed Miliband will say.

The Independent Police Commission will set out 37 recommendations to transform policing in England and Wales, with a focus on getting officers back on the beat in the communities they serve.

Lord Stevens, who introduced neighbourhood policing at the Met, said his commission heard that officers were in danger of "beating a retreat from the beat" to a "discredited" reactive form of policing.

At the Labour-commissioned report's launch Mr Miliband will say: "This review is the first step in setting a new direction for policing in the 21st century.

"Neighbourhood policing was pioneered by Labour. It wasn't just a slogan, it was a different philosophy of policing: policing rooted in local communities, doing more than reacting to crimes by also preventing them, and working in partnership with local authorities, schools and the NHS.

"So it is of profound concern to me that the independent commission concludes that neighbourhood policing is under threat. We don't want to see services retreating back to their silos, becoming more remote from communities."

Lord Stevens, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, acknowledged that no extra money for his reforms would be made available, but said he had identified £60 million of savings to 2016/17 by paying the lowest price for common equipment - a sum Labour will claim could pay for 500 extra officers.

Mr Miliband is expected to say: " These are tough times and it is more important than ever that we get maximum value for money from every penny of taxpayers' money that is spent on the key public services.

"We recognise that after the next election, a One Nation Labour government will be seeking to improver public services in tough fiscal circumstances. That is why the commission is absolutely right to focus on the importance of savings and efficiencies. Crude salami-slicing without reform, as pursued by this Government, simply stores up costs later down the line.

"This independent commission has identified an initial £60 million a year that could be saved by better procurement.

"That is cash that could be re-invested back into the front line: saving that could mean 500 additional police officers protecting our communities.

"Over the next 12 months, we will continue to prioritise reforms that enable our police service to deliver more with less."

Labour has highlighted figures showing that 10,000 front line police have been axed since 2010 as budgets have been squeezed.

One of the commission's recommendations is that the social purpose of the police should be enshrined in law, bringing "much-needed consensus" to what the public expect of the police.

Police forces should not be able to investigate their own officers when they are accused of misconduct or criminal acts, according to the Sunday Telegraph, and the public should also have more influence over policing priorities in their neighbourhoods.

Lord Stevens said: "Our commission has looked at how we can change policing to keep a community-based approach, stopping what we see as the risk of beating a retreat from the beat."

He added: "Neighbourhood policing is the golden thread that runs through it all, and is foremost in my mind to secure a service fit for the 21st century."

Lord Stevens acknowledged that confidence in the police had been dealt a series of blows.

"With fewer crimes being solved, a return to merely reactive policing that the public do not favour, Plebgate, Hillsborough and the identity crisis of police and crime commissioners, it is no secret that policing in England and Wales faces challenges.

"The police have been subject to a confused programme of reform, in part the result of a lack of a coherent, all-encompassing review of policing."

The commission believes that government should introduce a local policing commitment, giving every community a guaranteed level of neighbourhood policing.

There should also be guaranteed response times, and every crime should be investigated or an explanation given to victims as to why not.

"This is the level of service that the public has a right to expect," Lord Stevens said, "but that has deteriorated in front of its eyes."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "What Lord Stevens is saying is that this is about a mindset, a change in attitude that seems to be taking place in policing, and that there's a retreat going on from neighbourhood policing, a retreat from the bobbies on the beat, and that this reflects in part what Theresa May has said - is that policing is just about crime fighting, pure and simple.

"What Lord Stevens and his commission are saying is, in fact, policing is about prevention of crime, it's about working with communities, it's about respectful law and order, it's about public safety."

Policing and Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green said: " Recorded crime has fallen by more than 10% since the Government came to power and we have put in place long-term reforms to help the police continue that downward trend.

"We have stripped away targets and red tape to free police from desk-bound jobs; we have installed the National Crime Agency to take on organised crime; we have installed a College of Policing to professionalise policing; we have modernised outmoded pay and conditions; and we have introduced a newly-reinforced ethical framework to ensure police conduct is on an equal footing to cutting crime."

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