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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Police forces face shake-up
Boston police
Commissioner Evans says he will miss his force
A US police chief has been put in charge of the department which aims to improve the performance of forces in England and Wales.

Commissioner Paul F Evans, 54, will lead a team at the Police Standards Unit - a division of the Home Office set up by the home secretary in July 2001.

The commissioner - who will be paid up to 132,250 (US$210,277) a year - oversaw a drop in violent crime to its lowest level in 30 years in his native city of Boston, Massachusetts.

The announcement came as Home Secretary David Blunkett told a private meeting of England and Wales' 43 chief constables to prepare for far-reaching reforms.

He said the reforms would come from grassroots level rather than being imposed by Whitehall.

But Police Superintendents' Association president Kevin Morris told delegates at their conference in Newport, south Wales that Prime Minister Tony Blair - not the police - needed to solve the problem of drug-related crime.

We all like a drink but we do it in the right time and the right place
Police Superintendents' Association

Mr Morris called on the government to honour its 1997 election pledge to boost spending on drug rehabilitation for addicts before they commit crimes.

He also called for officers to be breathalysed before being allowed out on the beat.

A Police Advisory Board working group is preparing a report on the issue of drugs and drinking in the police for later this year.

Association president elect Chief Superintendent Rick Naylor said: "We are not trying to be killjoys.

"We all like a drink but we do it in the right time and the right place.

Fatal accidents

"There would be nothing worse than a superintendent going to command a firearms incident if he or she is impaired by alcohol."

His track record is extremely impressive and he is ideally placed to lead the unit's work
Home Secretary David Blunkett

Ch Supt said: "We have a lot of officers that get in to road accidents and sadly some of these are fatal to members of the public and officers.

He added: "All we are saying is that police officers have a duty of care to the community.

"They need to be fit to go out and do their job."

Earlier Mr Blunkett told a meeting in central London he wanted forces to delegate responsibility and increase accountability.

He said: "We can only grow if we challenge existing barriers to fighting crime by ensuring that local people have a greater say in how their communities are policed and engage fully with the police.

"This is particularly true in tackling anti-social behaviour and low-level crime."

But Mr Blunkett added: "Serving the community cannot be at the expense of tackling the terror threat and fighting organised crime.

"The world is changing and we must change with it by setting up the right structures, mechanisms and expertise to allow us to stay one step ahead of serious, organised criminals."

Mr Evans replaces Kevin Bond, a former police officer and business executive who left the Police Standards Unit in April.

"His track record is extremely impressive and he is ideally placed to lead the unit's work," Mr Blunkett said of Mr Evans.

Policing is not the same both sides of the Atlantic
Police Federation

The BBC's home affairs correspondent, Rory Maclean, says the commissioner has achieved good results in Boston which Mr Blunkett hopes he will be able to mirror in UK.

"Under his leadership, violent crime was cut by 34%, burglary by 40% and murder by 68% since 1995," he said.

The Police Federation cautiously welcomed the appointment.

"Whilst he has made a significant contribution to reducing crime in Boston, it is worth remembering that policing is not the same both sides of the Atlantic," federation chairwoman Jan Berry said.

The UK Police Standards Unit is responsible for carrying out the government's pledge to reform policing across England and Wales.

"I'm looking forward to the challenges of England but really going to miss this great city and the great men and women who police it," Mr Evans said in Boston.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"To make the police more accountable to the people they serve"

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