Earlier this year, the Home Affairs Committee extracted painfully from both Hugh Orde and from Peter Neyroud some intelligence on just what ACPO is trying to do. For a start, they want to be independent of government - still taking £5m a year of government money, you understand, but also charging every constable in the UK £35 a year for compulsory membership, and selling the services of 'retired' officers (often no older than 49 years). Neyroud was cornered by Alun Michael MP at the Committee, on the wide divergence between the stated aims of government - to return us to Peel's principles of policing, and those of ACPO, which seeks to create a body above democracy and outside of the people:-
Q57 Alun Michael: The Police Minister has been very clear about taking us back to the key purposes set out by Sir Robert Peel of reducing crime.If you've never seen a senior plod wriggling like a maggot on the hook to deny every single precept set out by Peel without actually admitting it, then Neyroud's weasel words to the Committee will prove illuminating.
Peter Neyroud: Yes.
Q58 Alun Michael: It doesn’t seem to come out of the way that you have framed your report. There is an awful lot of stuff, an awful lot of detail.
Peter Neyroud: Yes, I was asked to deal with a lot of detail.
Q59 Alun Michael: A lot of woolliness, I would suggest.
Peter Neyroud: Okay, I am not sure I quite accept woolliness, but I wasn’t asked to describe the purpose of the police in the report. I was asked to try and find a way for the police to be able to be more purposive.
Q60 Alun Michael: But isn’t that why we end up with people moving away from a clarity of purpose-that it is not constantly restated and people are not constantly reminded? Isn’t it, as with other professions like medicine, very important that it is right at the heart of professionalism?
Peter Neyroud: I agree with that. Again, in trying to describe the type of professionalism that I think should be in place, a proper set of values and ethics that will necessarily encompass what the purposes of the police service are, yes, definitely.
Q61 Chair: So you would say this is something that you would expect the Government to commission?
Peter Neyroud: I think it is the first-
Q62 Chair: Absolutely the most important? Before any other reports are written about the new landscape of policing, it is essential to know what the purpose is?
Peter Neyroud: Yes. I think the purpose of policing is always going to be complicated, but yes.
Neyroud and Orde's proposals are dangerous in the extreme. They aim to have under their control the appointment and promotion of every single policeman in the UK; no longer will training and appointment, and subsequent promotion and posting, be down to the 43 Chief Constables, but decided by the Chartered Institute. Once they have control of national police professional qualifications, no Constable can rise to Sergeant and no Sergeant to Inspector without a certificate from Orde's organisation. Without that body's endorsement, no officer will be able to move into detective, terrorist, firearms or other specialist branches.
This is one area in which MPs on the Home Affairs Committee are asking all the right questions, even under the unlikely Chairmanship of Keith Vaz. One to keep watching.