31 January 2013

Police chiefs need beat experience

I'm relatively relaxed about the bulk of Damian Green's proposals to shake up the recruitment of senior police personnel.  It's clear the service suffers from a lack of external expertise and modern management.  It has very few women in senior positions and even fewer from ethnic minorities.  Its closed shop nature makes it easy for it to act as a law to itself - even trying to fit up senior ministers for political gain.

But the police's strength is that every single serving officer has spent time on the beat, dealing with community crime and misbehaviour.  It's the cornerstone of policing by consent that the police understand the neighbourhoods and people they police.  It's vital, but unglamorous, which is why community policing is increasinlgy squeezed out in the chase for resources, new kit and technology, special units, fast cars and helicopters.

It's a trend that has made the police more remote from the people, made neighbourhoods appear less safe for those who live there and, by way of response the authorities, have encouraged the use of more authoritarian policies such as extensive CCTV and databases.

And encouraging people with no experience on the beat to take over senior management positions will only speed up this process of making the police more remote and putting more barriers between them and those they are supposed to police.

The Home Office has a Lib Dem minister - Jeremy Browne - and in the unlikely event he reads this blog I hope he insists that a significant time on the beat is part of the induction process.  Otherwise comments can be made to the Home Office here.

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