The Government wants to give local communities in England and Wales more say in the way their areas are policed.
Home Secretary David Blunkett is setting out proposals which include giving members of the public a greater say in local policing, changing police authorities so they are wholly or partially directly elected and creating "community advocates" to help people deal with crime and the police.
The proposals, contained in a consultation paper, come after government research showed people had a lack of knowledge about what police authorities do.
Should communities have a say in policing? How would you influence policing in your area?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I thought we did have a say, well we do in Cheshire. They are called Police Forums and they held regularly and are open to the public to speak their thoughts. Seems quite an effective way to me for the police to listen to the community.
'They' are public servants! 'They' concentrate on speeding! 'They' haven't a clue what's happening in the community. 'They' should be on my street corner as 'we' pay their wages. The fact is police officers are members of the public who are as frustrated as anyone else by the lack of staffing, and inadequate sentencing from the courts (and they pay taxes too). Other than of course they are criticised or even assaulted on a daily basis for their efforts. It's clear from the comments submitted that we all know what the issues are, so what on earth is the point of yet another committee?
This could be a good thing for us all but first we actually have to start caring about our communities from within, not just when we are outraged. Stop blaming the police and government for the issues we have created ourselves with our lack of moral and social responsibility. We truly believe it is someone else's responsibility to keep our towns and cities clean, of both rubbish and criminals. We need to help the police do their job and help ourselves get rid of some of the horrific events that seem to touch us every day.
A number of people here have made comments about police officers hiding in the station, spending time in the canteen and not getting out of their cars enough. These people demonstrate precisely why we should not allow the public to have this sort of say in the way police resources are allocated. The police are swamped by unnecessary paperwork, and most of that paperwork is the result of over-regulation by successive governments. As for canteens, many offices have them for a good reason. You get a better standard of work from people who are able to eat properly, mix, share info informally and become and switch off for a few minutes.
The public and parliament already treat the police disgracefully and take them for granted whilst steadily removing all benefits from the job, lowering pay in real terms, adding paperwork, increasing the dangers to officers. Quit moaning about the cops. They're good guys - that's why they joined.
Mark, Japan (ex-pat Scot)
There need to be closer links between community and police, but politicising is not the way. The community should have a role in preventative policing; i.e. giving children activities that keep them away from drugs and vandalism, and support networks for young people already drawn into these things. From personal experience, I can say that a quiet patch is preferable to a high arrest rate, and keeping kids from getting into trouble in the first place goes a long way towards this.
The principle is sound inasmuch as the police are public servants and should therefore be accountable to those they serve, as company directors are accountable to their shareholders. However, a community's perception of its problems may not reflect the reality. If we train and trust our police to be professional and skilled in their roles, then let's defer to their expertise and judgment. This is a vote-winner, not a measure to reduce crime.
If the community really want to help the police, why not join the Special Constabulary? You get to make a real impact on your local policing, in a positive way. I should know - I've been a Special for 14 years! You'll also get to see the problems faced by the 'thin blue line' at first hand and be able to put forward an informed view.
Perhaps communities need to look at themselves before trying to run the police, hospitals etc. If people began to care about their communities and the people in it perhaps a lot of the crime will reduced.
You only have to look at parts of the USA to see why this is a bad idea. Middle class areas, where the voters have loud voices and crime is already low, end up being disproportionately policed. Poor areas with high crime and voters who feel disenfranchised are left to rot.
When you say "Communities", do you mean that Racial & Ethnic factors should be taken into account? For instance, do you mean that only Muslim Police Officers patrol predominantly Muslim enclaves in our Cities?, or if an area in say, England, had a majority of Scottish people could they decide that only Policemen of Scottish origin would be acceptable to Police their Community? Quite a divisive question really.
This sounds an irresponsible idea; the police already spend too much time on community PR. I recently reported a crime (severe damage to my car while I was in bed asleep). I knew the police would not be able to do anything due to complete lack of witnesses/clues and told them I was only reporting it for the purposes of my insurance. The result was wasted visits by a policewoman, and repeated letters from the Chief constable apologising for the fact I had been a "victim of crime". The police do not need to waste time excessively pandering to the public in this way. The effort should be used for serious community policing and serious crime prevention.
No, I don't think members of the communities should have a say in policing. It may lead to corruption. Back-handers for favours for the few. Good old British policing should not die in this country if we want to keep democracy alive. As a multicultural society we must all abide by the same rule. Every town, city, village. No more no go areas political correctness has caused.
Sylvia McGinlay, Lincolnshire
Police only pick on youth as they think were all the same but were not, it's just a stereotype of youth so they should lean of us and think what we want and its something to do not been sent or taken home by the police from.
Helena, 15, Glasgow, Scotland
This proposal, as with many of this government's initiatives, is half-baked. This will simply open the door to those with an axe to grind against the police or allow extremist groups from both ends of the spectrum to influence the police. The police are the experts and for once the politician should let the experts get on with their jobs. We have one of the most tolerant, professional and fair police services in the world.
Many of the comments posted are from people who do not know the first thing about policing. I am a serving officer and am faced this afternoon with taking four statements, an interview and putting a file together regarding four prisoners I dealt with yesterday. That is if I have time, depending on what other incidents I have to deal with. Yet I am "local beat bobby" - what difference will this accountability make? I still have that work to complete, yet my community will want to see me out walking, some days I just don't have time. If one community wishes to see more officers, but the budget does not allow it, then where and how do they get their officers. The Police service is stretched to the maximum. I don't see how local communities are going to change that.
Yes, but ensure that all elected politicians are prevented from sitting on any "Panel" that controls the local force. Any panel should include at least one recognised criminal lawyer, and one serving police officer.
Sounds like a good idea: the public setting the police's priorities. But don't worry by the time it gets anywhere near the statue book it will be so watered down that it'll be an expensive exercise in nothing.
Never mind burglary, slavery, pollution or organised crime, lets have some poor copper wasting their time traipsing up and down every middle class street in the country. More "bobbies on the beat" is more waste. More policemen solving crimes and catching criminals is what reduces crime. Oh and Dave, the mess was created by the Tories with their chronic under funding of public services to pay for tax cuts for their mates, police numbers have been consistently on the up since Labour came to power with only a brief delay considering how much time it takes to train an officer.
Pete Nightingale, UK
These 'we'll give you more control' moves by our government are ALWAYS a bad thing. I recall local management of schools was introduced to 'give schools more control of their budgets' and look what's happened - most schools are struggling to stretch their funds to cover bare essentials never mind choosing how they spend. It's about time our government stopped trying to foist responsibility for our troubled times onto the public. It's bad enough that we have to live in troubled areas - soon it will all end up looking like our fault!
Paul Villa, Wales, UK
First 'Super Head teachers', then 'Foundation Hospitals' now 'Community Advocates'. When will this government get on with their job instead of hiding behind sound bites?
Ross S, UK
Politics and justice do not mix, and the danger is that this is the first step towards the reinstitutionalisation of mob law.
Robin Tudge, UK
Police work is a pretty simple concept - fight crime and keep the roads safe. We already have an incredibly bureaucratic system to work within. Part of this is the Crime & Disorder Act which already compels us to work with local authorities and other agencies
Christopher Sadler, UK
Should communities have a say in policing? I cannot believe this is in question. They are public servants and need to be reminded of that! I respect them and what they have to deal with. Bottom line! They are paid to server the public!
Tayte Hootma, USA
And when crime rates increase and detection rates decrease presumably Mr Blunkett will ensure that the public are accountable and not the Home Secretary. Power to the people or side stepping accountability? If crime figures were dropping this could be seen as an exercise in police/community relations, right now it looks like sheer desperation from a Home Secretary who can only reduce crime by decriminalising criminal activities.
As a Police Officer myself I do not believe the public should have a say in how we operate. Ideally we need to follow the American way and police by state and not by permission. This way convictions for offences such as Domestic Violence can be a pursued whether the injured party wants to press charges or not. The 'public' don't have a clue what happens behind the scenes. We would like to be out there, back on the beat but it is impracticable and the resources just aren't available.
Will these communities consist of the very people or the parents of the people who have already decided to be outside the law and perpetrate these crimes.
Here in the US, we have "Local Control" of the police, since ALL County Sheriffs and most Chiefs of Police are elected. Then we just "Leave them alone" until another 4 years go by! If they don't step up to the plate and do their job, they're "OUTA" THERE!"
W H Watts, San Diego, CA, USA
The government is offering to "empower" the people by giving them a direct say in policing, schooling, NHS, etc. This is nonsense, division of labour is essential for society: the butcher, baker and candlestick maker are not experts in the other man's trade, nor should they be. When everyone has a say, competing demands will pull the institutions in every direction, until nothing works. If institutions are failing then management should be sacked and replaced with competent hands. These proposals are sabotage dressed as progress.
Henry Rosenblum, Gateshead, England
I said it before, I'll say it again: come to Winsford Cheshire, a place of drugs, crime and lawless behaviour! Yes we should have a say, after all it's not the police who put up with it.
Just let the police get on with their job. They already have a mountain of paperwork for every little thing. Political meddling I fear will only make it worse. We need police on the streets, not explaining themselves to another authority.
Police who have a sense of being a part of the community they patrol, and have some consistent, regular means of meeting the people they police tend to do a better job, and tend to have better relations with the community. A 'civilian advisory board' type of organisation can easily be ignored, so giving the local community actual control may well be necessary to improve relations between police and the community.
There's no way that crime will ever truly be brought under control till there are harsher penalties for committing a crime. If anyone that stole had a hand cut off I doubt there would be many more thefts. Also what do the criminals do when in prison? We could use the extra man power to reconstruct the railways, resurface roads etc. Just putting the police under the power of local communities will do very little. The police are already stretched as it is when it comes to manpower to tackle crime. The police will end up focusing on the smaller picture
This is a bad idea. There is too much politics in policing as it is. Whitehall should pull its nose out and let the police get out on the streets catching criminals. Not causing more and more paperwork. We also need standardised levels of policing across the country.
It appears that the only 'true crime' is the one that concerns the individual. This would seem to be the best argument for not giving the 'locals' any say in the running of the police. Larger strategic and operational levels have to be considered.
Andy Ross, UK
Changes are definitely needed to ensure that the problem of racism does not persist. However, I fear that public involvement in policing will do little to alleviate the problem, particularly in areas of cultural tension. The police force needs to be an independent objective body that is not swayed by public opinion. I would also fear the effect public opinion would have on policing policy. Speeding motorists should remember that they break the law the same as other criminals. How can you expect youngsters and other impressionable groups to respect the law when others question which laws they should obey?
No! What do I know about policing? Sure, I can say I want more police on the beat and for them to concentrate on violent crime or whatever, but they already know that. This is utterly pointless.
Dave, London, UK
I think it's a great idea that the public will have their say on what goes on with our local police service. It shows us that we have more control with what happens to our taxes. We will have the right to explain where they are going wrong and where they are going right. I do hope this will work out according to plan and believe it is a step to making the public more confident in our police force.
Rob L, England
The public will continue to see the police as part of the problem not part of the answer until their priorities are changed to make real crime more important than traffic offences. High percentage detection rates should be rewarded and not just crime reporting. Thugs should be jailed and not just given warnings. Blunkett's little changes will make no difference at all.
John R Smith, UK
So we are now voting for local government, national government and European government with proposals for regional assemblies, referenda, NHS patient forums and now electing the police force. Will we be given "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" style voting pads or just be expected to camp out in the polling stations on a daily basis?
It depends what 'having a say' really means. Certainly the police should be left to decide operational issues and priorities for themselves. If this was subject to public consultation there would be a tendency for the needs of the majority (usually white) community to be concentrated on at the expense of the minority communities.
Neil Tonks, UK
This is just another initiative to get away from the real issues of a lack of police on the streets and a lack of funding for the Police in general. I live in a rural community and have seen a massive increase in crime over the last 12 months including two ram raids within a week on our local village shop. Spend less on Iraq and get our own house in order.
David Macmillan, UK
The argument for more "Bobbies on the beat" is always accompanied by sentimental stories like "You used to get a good clip round the ear from our local bobby" . Yet society is quick to condemn any use of force by the police. They wish a police officer was on hand to stop the speeding hatchback with yobs in it, yet protest when they are stopped for speeding. How can such a fickle public, with no understanding of the complex nature of policing be allowed to dictate police policy?
Mark H, UK
I'm glad to see that Scotland isn't (at the moment) intending to set up yet more quangos to perform a similar piece of farcical window dressing.
The BBC is reporting that the police will be "accountable". Oh, really? Will local communities be able to hire and sack police officers? No. So there is no accountability.
Lies, damn lies, and government spin.
Colin MacDonald, Scotland
How many of us really care, or know, enough to become involved in the running of our local police forces? Very few, I suspect. What it will do is provide a charter for political activists to gain the sort of control over our police that they've always wanted. Less politicisation, not more, please! And if police got out of their cars and patrolled on foot more, becoming familiar with their communities, we wouldn't need "community advocates" to help us "deal" with the police.
Some of your emails show one of the potential risks of more local control - the people who want to pick and choose between which laws are enforced. Speeding is a crime and one that causes numerous injuries and deaths every year but if some of your contributors had their way it would go unchecked. One other thing occurs to me - if all control is local, it would be potentially possible for a group of people (Freemasons for example) to pack a local police authority with their cronies and turn a blind eye to corruption, bribery etc?
I think it is a very good idea that people are given a lot more say in the way their areas and communities are policed. This would be one of the few times, people would actually see a police presence and could gauge how competent or not senior police are at their job!
The democratic inertia over changing laws that we don't like is enormous. Surely it is not unreasonable to expect a small community say in how those laws are enforced. The police have undoubtedly become more detached from the community and have less leeway to exercise their discretion, this initiative might redress that. The suggestion that targeting motorists for parking and speeding offences is a tactical assault on criminals is simply spurious. Road deaths could far better be dealt with by greater driver training and licence revalidation while the police get on with the job of preventing muggings and burglary by harassing the criminal element. It is undeniable that the people and the police feel they are on opposite sides at the moment.
I think we need to define the problem in more detail before coming up with probably ineffective, ill thought-out instant solutions. In my opinion, the fundamental problem is that the general public are not getting the policing they want. I believe most people would regard the primary responsibilities of the police as being to prevent them, their families and their property from being attacked, and to deal effectively with the perpetrators when the primary objective is not achieved. Unfortunately, the police do not appear to agree with this priority
John C, UK
Increasing the accountability of the Police within local communities is certainly a very good idea. However the real outcome of these 'new' initiatives does require significant questioning. A couple of years ago Staffordshire Police, with the assistance of The National Crime Fighting Fund, appointed a Community Beat Officer to each Local Governmental Ward. In Tamworth this system worked fine for the first few months with many Community Beat Officer taking their new role in the community quite responsibly and working their 'patch' effectively getting to know the local residents and businesses. However after a few months the frequency of Beat Officers in the community decreased significantly as it appears that local Police Chiefs saw them as a surplus Human Policing Resource to be deployed wherever they felt necessary. Although every electoral ward technically retains a Beat Officer in name, the reality is that these officers are often deployed to deal with some other task rather than their intended purpose. Until all Officers within the Police Service change their attitude towards community policing Government initiatives are of little utility.
Iqbal Singh Kang, Tamworth, Staffordshire, England.
The issue is not accountability but one of funding. We get what we pay for and not a jot more. If we really want better policing we are going to have to pay for larger numbers of officers, and having done this we need as a public to give then every support.
Geoff Scoynes, England
This is a good way of moving the blame for the poor policing we all have to put up with from the government to the community. The issue is lack of police on the beat and the lack of support they get from the court system, lets not let the government get off the hook for the mess they have created.
It is generally regarded that democratic control is the best means of control. However, electorates are not infallible and in the case of certain issues, such as policing, control is best exercised by those who know and understand the issues involved, in order to ensure a consistent and effective application of (police) resources.
John Wallace, UK
Yes most definitely, how can a one fits all approach fit anywhere? Local Policing gives people a feeling of buy in and co-operation with the Police which is very lacking these days.
James Balfe, England
Once again the government want to create an opportunity for the populace to show their apathy. What is needed is people who know and understand the system, warts and all. The Police need greater support and assistance from the public. That will have a greater influence on their workload and commitments than more "elected" people who will represent the local population. The bottom line is that the law is treated as an annoyance and distraction that people reject rather than being recognised as the price of being a member of a society. That is the problem that needs addressing most of all.
Communication must be a good thing in general, and the taxpayer deserves a say.
But you cannot have "compromised" individuals (organised crime associates) setting agenda's and you cannot have pressure groups resolving their problems at the expense of the overall community.
The police must be properly overseen and guided in their targeting, but be impartial.
Howard Davies, UK
Communities should not have any say on policing, leave it to the professionals who know what they are doing, and do it very well. You cannot have a police man or woman on every corner no matter how much money is spent, or being all the time in problematic areas of the community. The boys and girls in blue do a wonderful job at times without thanks, we have the best in the world, let them get on with it without interference.
Peter Berry, England
Of course we should have a say. We pay for them!
It is a good idea in terms of enhancing democracy, but it has one major flaw - the Public. The general public know nothing about running the Police.
James Chambers, United Kingdom
As a serving officer with 24 years experience I am concerned that the 'public' have little understanding of the real 'policing' issues in their area, with the exception of low level public order/nuisance. Given that only 5% of the population ever have dealings with the police as offender/victim/witnesses of crime.
A few years ago there was a significant problem with domestic burglary in a certain area of a Sussex town. At a local meeting of the residents, they wanted their local police to concentrate on illegal parking, dog fowling the footpath and speeding cars! The fact is that individual members of the public want the police to deal with whatever the nature of problem is that they face at that time. They do not think strategically, and they forget that excess speed does kill, and that criminals use cars to travel to commit crime during which time they are at their most vulnerable.
The best way to bridge the gap between police and public is to reintroduce the 'beat' officer who knew the people and the area he/she worked. That will need more officers if the service is to maintain staff in local intelligence units.
Electing Police Authority members is an irrelevance and will not affect effective accountability of local police.
Simon Baker, West Sussex
There are already police authorities. Would the new system add anything to the issue? Would the communities priorities actually be about effective policing? Most communities want more police on the beat but I understand this doesn't necessarily help deter crime or help catch criminals. How would community priorities be decided - by those who shouted the loudest? I notice some replies already indicate they would instruct the police to drop motoring offences as a priority and yet look at the numbers of deaths on the road. I can't help feeling this a dangerous proposal.
How are the public supposed to have any say in the police when they have no understanding of what the job entails? Comments such as 'fighting crime instead of speeding motorists' show that old fashion stereotypes and notions still exist. The government should come clean on the realities of today's police force instead of trying to blind us all with meaningless statistics
No, surely the police should manage their resources to the best without meddling. Many people may think that changing the police authority every time something goes wrong is a way forward. The bottom line is every time you did that it would cause waste and disruption to an already over-stretched service. If people obeyed minor laws (but very important laws) such as speeding or controlling their own kids, then more police could get on working on other things.
Mike, Oxon, UK
The people who would stand for these kind of posts are precisely the opinionated busy-bodies we don't want having a say in how our police are used. If they want to increase public accountability, then do it at public meetings, annual town "parliaments" and so on - not by electing yet more petty local politicians so that they can sit in a committee room somewhere foisting their policing theories on the rest of us!
Yes...I feel communities should have not only a say in policing but a far more active role in the decision making process concerning them. Over the years we have seen nothing but rhetoric concerning the empowering of communities... when it comes down to action I'm afraid we are still lagging behind in the courage, vision and honesty needed to bring real inclusion about.
There are several levels communities can feed into the policing process and they should be encouraged to do so as only when community members feel a sense of ownership and direct responsibility for their neighbourhoods will crime be reduced.
More bureaucracy. It's a wonder that the police manage to do anything. It will only tie up more resources as more procedures and paperwork is introduced.
It's time that this happened. Democracy seems like a far better way of making the police "representative" of the population than the well-intentioned but misguided initiatives of the past.
Brendan Fernandes, UK
This is an excellent idea! It will force the police to catch criminals. All we need to do next is sort out the courts who let the criminals right back out again.
A Brian, UK
If this generates a better community spirit, a pride in your local town and so encourages people to help the police then it will be good thing. However, I can see it simply being a pointless PR exercise, and the solutions generated being hindered by having to be politically correct.
Kath M, UK
Just another sound bite I'm afraid. The problem with putting police on the beat is that it doesn't raise any revenue for the exchequer, unlike traffic cops. That's why it'll never happen. And that's why our streets are becoming less and less safe. If police would return to the friendly neighbourhood bobby approach, they might in time regain a little of the respect they have lost through sitting in cars, hiding in the police station etc.
A great idea if the committees will be made up of genuine members of the public interested in tackling crime, and not dominated by pressure groups or lawyers concerned solely with political correctness or criminals' 'human rights'.
This is a ridiculous idea. Policing should be standardised across the country. What are we going to end up with - one thing is ok in one town but not in the next? We won't know where we are!
Richard Speight, S.Yorks, UK
Judging by previous comments on other subjects there is a risk of these boards being packed with people telling the police to ignore all motoring offences and to clamp down on any teenagers they don't like the look of. If that happens is a dreadful idea. On the other hand if they attract people who genuinely want to work with the police to make communities safer it could work. There is certainly a need for better relations between the police and the policed.
Another great way to waste our money.
Tyler, United Kingdom
Yes, communities should have a say provided it is the communities who elect the members of the various quangos. The main problem being pressure asserted by various sections of the community in addressing issues that only affect them.
T Newman, UK
Another pointless exercise in PR. With human rights law, a legal system overly concerned with offenders rights and a soft approach to juvenile crime, the police cannot act as most people would like. And does anyone actually believe that they will stop the obsession with speed cameras and try catching true criminals?
John C, Bath, England
This is a Conservative policy, announced by Oliver Letwin at the Party Conference only a few weeks ago. It is good to see Labour implementing sensible policy even though they have to copy Conservative policy to do so. It is interesting as well that when the Conservatives announced it, it was caricatured by the media as 'elected sheriffs'. Shame the media don't undermine Labour policy in the same way, particularly when it is the same policy!
Peter Cox, UK
Yes they should, I don't think I know anyone who doesn't think policing has become too focused on the motorist and less on the 'real' criminal such as murderers, thieves and rapists. If more resources were put towards solving serious crime and policing the streets rather than on petty motoring offences lining the pockets of local government with fines, then the UK would be a lot safer place. I'm sure if answerable more to Joe public then this is the way policing will head - back towards what it should be there for making the UK streets safer to walk and worrying less about someone doing 34ph in a 30mph zone!
Sounds like a great idea, police being forced by the community to tackle crime instead of speeding motorists. Sadly it will probably turn out like our MP's, you vote for them then they totally ignore the will of the people.
I work hard, I don't commit crimes and I pay my taxes and rates to have an effective police force. I don't really have the time to go along to pointless meetings where the idle few will complain about having to obey the law. The police need less targets, less bureaucracy, less meddling, and more freedom to get on with the job of policing. All that will happen with this proposal is that criminals will gain yet another source of excuses from some liberal quango committee, while the rest of our lives are made hell by their ever-increasing impunity. I expect the police to deal with crime, I don't need a "community advocate" to tell me the criminal needs counselling.
Yes, communities should have a say, but isn't this what we pay the government for; to organise the policing of our country?
Anna B, UK
What would certainly help is if there were to be a body before which the public could go and demonstrate that a crime had been committed. That body could then compel the police to investigate. If they failed, sanctions up to and including imprisoning the chief constable should be available.
This would address the main problem at present, which is that so many crimes are simply recorded and not investigated.
David Jackson, UK
The police need to get out of their offices and get on to the streets. Each station has its own canteen where police eat at public subsidy. Why can't they eat in local restaurants and takeaways like they do in America?
Kerry, London, England