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Guest #4: a Fed Rep's view on the future of modern policing, by Clive

I am grateful for the opportunity to write a few words and in doing so would open by congratulating Ollie on his Twitter birthday. As his many followers will know he is a prolific tweeter and blogger – which I suspect is an outlet for what must surely be an over-active mind and perennial insomnia.

It will be obvious to anyone reading this that unlike so many of Ollie’s followers and guest bloggers I am no academic; I haven’t been to “Uni” in fact the only way that I am ever likely to be found at university is in a pickle jar on a shelf – so if you are expecting some great exposition, I would give up now. I do however, have over thirty years practical experience as a police officer – much spent as a community beat constable, but of course nowadays this doesn’t seem count for very much at all.

Practical experience would also more than likely work against me if ever I applied for a job at a ‘Think-Tank’ plus I have the disadvantage of never having experienced a gap-year herding mountain goats and learning to play a humanatone in some remote part of the globe.

Much has been written and spoken of recently asking, “What are the police for”? BBC Radio Four broadcast a number of programmes discussing what it is the police should and should not be doing. These discussions have been set against a backdrop of the governments 20% cuts to policing, with the planned loss of over 16,000 full-time police officers. It is clear that despite what government ministers have said such unprecedented cuts will impact on what we do and the frontline.

The Police Federation have always warned of the impact of 20% cuts – supported by a piece of work undertaken by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary [HMIC] who argued that policing could withstand 12% cuts but no more.

The Association of Chief Police Officers [ACPO] initially said that such cuts will not impact on frontline policing and that they can manage. However, many chief constables are now breaking ranks and faced with the stark reality of the cuts have started to issue severe warnings of the catastrophic impact on service delivery.

Chief officers are having to make decisions regarding where they need to base dwindling resources and what functions should/should not be performed by officers. Many are looking to cut community policing and safer-neighbourhood teams in order to be able to respond to incidents, 999 calls etc.

I believe that to be forced to cut community policing and take police officers away from neighbourhood teams will have a disastrous impact. You only have to look back to the nineteen-sixties, when officers were taken off of foot patrol beats and put into cars to see how we became distant and anonymous to a whole generation and we have never truly recovered from that time.

In the last ten years great strides have been made with community policing and it is the bedrock on which intelligence led policing is based. (Intelligence-led policing is a business model and managerial philosophy where data analysis and crime intelligence are pivotal to an objective, decision-making framework that facilitates crime and problem reduction, disruption and prevention through both strategic management and effective enforcement strategies that target prolific and serious offenders.)

I am reluctant to use the phrase ‘Back to Basics’ (knowing that it came to haunt former Prime Minister John Major) but in relation to policing much can be gained from delving into our history to learn from what we may have got wrong over the years as well as build on all that is right. However, the past is for resonance – not for residence – so we do have to keep focused on what’s going on today.

In 1829 Sir Richard Mayne the first Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police wrote “The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all of the efforts of police must be directed.

The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquility, and the absence of crime will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objectives for which the police were appointed have been attained.”

As complex as policing has become, Mayne’s statement is still highly relevant today. If allowed to get on with this, with sufficient fully warranted officers and the proper level of scrutiny and accountability, we cannot go too far wrong.

The dichotomy that chief officers face between delivery of response policing versus neighborhood teams – with many arguing that they may not be able to do both is really worrying and our communities need to be aware of this.

Members of the public do need to decide whether they want a police force or a police service, the biggest danger being that we become so remote, police officers will generally only come into contact with people during a conflict situation somewhat like the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité [CRS] in France.

The government argue that more money can be saved in policing and I woud agree. Collaboration between forces is a good move with great potential to save millions on procurement of goods and services – if ever chief officers are able to reach agreement.

Many argue for more involvement from the private sector – but this would mean policing for shareholders and with profit in mind rather than people and the private sector will be taking on contracts to make money – not save it.

Policing is too important an issue to be decided by politicians and that is why I repeat the call for a non-partisan Royal Commission, to look into the whole of the criminal justice system. If people do not wake-up now to what is happening to what is still arguably the best police service in the world – then we will continue to sleep walk to disaster and before we know it – it will be too late!

Follow Clive on Twitter; @MrCliveC
Note from Ollie: Thanks Clive, for being my 4th birthday guest blogger. Clve was one of the first police officers i met through twitter and he has been a constant presence throughout the last year of blogging. He may not be an 'academic', as he said in his first paragraph, but to really tackle the issues he discussed we need to engage with both academics, and those who are most experience in the field itself. That's why i asked Clive to be one of my guest bloggers. The Police Federation is more important now than it every has been, and Fed Reps like Clive are the voices of reason during a highly politicised era for policing.  Keep up the great work Clive, and thanks again for writing for DJ this week.