Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Police power struggle is hurting us all

There is nothing new in the current tussle between government and Chief Constables; it has been going on, in one form or another, since the 1960 Royal Commission. A series of Acts - in 1964, 1976 and 1996 - have sought to establish the exact degree of operational control to be exercised over police forces by democratic authorities. Oh yes, the Secretary of State does have operational control over police forces, as do the various Police Authorities. What they don't have is tactical control. John Redwood summarises why it's important that police retain tactical control;
In a democracy the police need to be independent in important respects. We all want the police to investigate people connected with the government fearlessly if they have good reason to suspect they have committed crimes. We wish them to resist any temptation by those in power to have their political enemies investigated on trumped up charges. We expect our police to bring a neutral independence to consideration of crime and suspects, where the results of their labours are driven by the evidence rather than by any wish to please those in power , or through any sense of revenge.
However, it's up to Secretary of State and the Police Authority to determine and approve the particular objectives of a police force, and the resources in terms of share of police time and share of budget to be applied. In Cleveland, for example, the Police Authority may determine that tackling domestic violence is a key priority - and require the Chief Constable to target resources and show results. If a Chief Constable fails to heed these operational objectives, it's grounds for their removal from office by the Police Authority. Of course, Chief Constables resent this 'interference' hugely, and their collective reaction has been to comply as obstructively and bureaucratically as possible. Thus the over-complex and resource-sapping monitoring and performance recording that ordinary plods hate so much; in actuality, it's mostly just part of the struggle between police bosses and democratic authorities. Police bosses are saying "See, if it wasn't for your interference I could put 30% more coppers on the beat" and Police Authorities are saying "You're not using your resources efficiently". And this is where it goes to ground, for questions of 'efficiency' are decided not by the Secretary of State, or the Police Authority, but by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary.   

The truth is, the resistance to democratic control by police bosses is now not just covert and institutional obstruction but out in the open. They are now openly defying the authority of the Secretary of State, and more dangerously (and previously illegally, under s.53 of the 1964 Act, now repealed) potentially inciting disaffection amongst police constables. They seem to forget that the Secretary of State is the person of the Crown in Parliament. Their wish and that of ACPO, to escape all the requirements of democratic control under the fatuous and jejune presumption that everything is 'tactical' is doing the police, and the service they provide to us, immeasurable damage. 

There can be only one winner in this struggle - democratic control. We simply can't permit a special 'caste' of citizen operating outside of democratic control to exercise such immense powers over our lives. The police must be part of our society, integrated with and responsible to our communities, in accordance with Peel's principles, or they are a seditious body, in revolt against the Crown and the nation.   


Greg Tingey said...

Third possibility ....
It's deliberate, so that the police can "go for" whoever they like/want to. For now.
The politician let them, with a bad grace.
The politicians change the rules, allowing the ploice to carry on, unaccountably, but WITH ploitical control, in certain select areas.

Like independant "troublemakers" (like you and me) being harassed.
Think "Divine Right of Kings" as applied to a bureacratic "super"-state.
ESPECIALLY if that pesky "Common" law can be over-ruled by Lex Romana.

Or have I finally gone paranoid?

Gallovidian said...

No that's about it. Celebrity immunity has existed for a good while, the obverse is harassment of those who oppose the big plan.

Anonymous said...

"They seem to forget that the Secretary of State is the person of the Crown in Parliament."

Perhaps they believe they answer to a higher authority .. in Brussels?

Nick Drew said...

ask Damian Green about "temptation by those in power to have their political enemies investigated on trumped up charges"

Anonymous said...

...and it should be illegal for police officers to be members of any secretive "brotherhood".

Anonymous said...

especially one with a common purpose.

Greg Tingey said...

No further comment necessary!