Cross Party Concerns on Police Reform

 

Posted on 10th May 2011

Derbyshire Police Authority has welcomed a report published by the Cross Party House of Lords Constitution Committee which exposes the Committee’s grave concerns regarding the Government’s proposals to radically change the Governance of local policing.

The controversial Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which aims to abolish Police Authorities and replace them with Directly Elected Police and Crime Commissioners, is currently the subject of heated debate in the House of Lords. The plans have attracted widespread criticism from both individuals and national representative organisations including the Association of Police Authorities, Liberty and the Local Government Association.

Philip Hickson, Chairman of Derbyshire Police Authority, said that the Report echoed the Authority’s own concerns, adding that in his opinion, there are serious risks if the changes are rushed through without more thought.  

“The Bill is still being debated, it has had more amendments than any Bill in history already and the House of Lords appear to seeking further amendments – and we are supposed to be electing the first Commissioners in May 2012. A proverb about acting in haste and repenting at leisure springs to mind.

“Lady Hamwee’s suggestion that the plan is tested through pilot schemes is eminently sensible and Nick Clegg does not appear to have ruled this out when he was asked for his views. At the very least this would allow any problems to be ironed out before every police force area in England and Wales is forced down this route.

“We completely agree with the cross party Committee Chairman, Baroness Jay of Paddington, when she said, ‘The radical reforms promised by the Government must not come at any cost. These proposals risk seriously compromising the independence of police operations.’”

Derbyshire Police Authority’s Chair also concurs with the Baroness’s view that “It is therefore essential that the Government publish the promised protocol [about the operational independence of Chief Constables] before the Bill starts its committee stage in the House of Lords.”

Key concerns raised by the Committee include the need to ensure that the operational independence of the police is not compromised; the amount of power to be transferred to one individual (the current police authorities have at least 17 members); the ability to engage with wider community; and whether the proposals are sufficiently robust to meet national risks and threats.

Philip Hickson said: “It is evident that people have real doubts about these plans. While the critics are becoming ever-more vocal, support appears weak - apart from the Coalition Government.

“We join calls urging the Government to respond constructively to the Committee’s serious and substantial concerns.”

 

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