In the wake of the Hillsborough report came calls from all quarters for the radical reform of the 'last great unreformed public service' - policing. The culture that allowed the cover-up, the distortion and misrepresentation of evidence, the outright and blatant lies, and at all levels including the most senior officers, the argument goes, must be ended. It's not the first time. Commentators reel out the list of police corruption from the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson, Blair Peach and many more.
But then read further and the calls for radical reform have less to do with a corrupt 'canteen culture' than employment costs; the police is the only 'job for life' left in the public sector, the pension is too generous, they're allowed to retire too early, and the biggest scandal is the way they're allowed to retire 'sick' as soon as any disciplinary action comes over the horizon.
Both arguments come down to the same thing. The police have become an organisation that serves itself, that puts itself before the public it is paid to serve. Whether closing ranks to cover-up the beating to death of a suspect, or protecting gold plated employment conditions, it's about the police no longer serving the public. To that extent commentators from the left and right are united, and the need for police reform is common ground. But from here on there is another agenda at play.
When they talk of reform, what they mean is greater homogeneity and more central command and control. A national police force under the command of a Justice Minister and integrated with the State Prosecutor, on the European model, with Justice Ministry civil servants sharing operational control and ensuring the police follow political objectives. This has been the long-term game plan of every Home secretary from David Blunkett to Theresa May, and the Hillsborough report is just grist to their mill.
Not one of the commentators I have read in the last week have looked back to the effects of the 1964 Police Act in creating this state of affairs. Following a Royal Commission, the Act reduced the number of police forces in England and Wales from 117 to 49, transferred the powers of the local police and watch committees to the Home Secretary, and restricted the appointment of Chief Constables, and Deputy and Assistant Chief Constables, to those from a shortlist provided by the Home Office. The divorce of the police from the public they serve is not something that has happened organically; it has been engineered by a State determined to establish central control of the police.
And they're ready to convince us that more of the same is the cure for the ills they've caused.