Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 12:53 UK

Call for foundation police forces

Ken Jones, Acpo president
Ken Jones wants police officers to spend less time on paperwork

The best performing police forces should be given "foundation" status to make them more independent, a senior police chief has said.

Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the BBC some forces should be able to set their own priorities, guided by local people.

But he said matters such as counter-terrorism must be centrally controlled to prevent a "free-for-all". The government said it was "determined to cut red tape" affecting police work.

Acpo, which represents police chiefs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has submitted the proposal to the Home Office for further consideration in the forthcoming Green Paper on police reform.

'More risks'

The idea of giving foundation status to top performers originated in the health sector.

Foundation hospitals are still part of the NHS, but can set their own financial and operational priorities and are run by an elected board of governors.

Four English police forces are already piloting a so-called "common-sense" approach which gives individual officers greater discretion about making arrests.

For the issues that bother people like me and you, in our street, that should be down to us
Ken Jones, Acpo president

But Mr Jones said it was time to take "a few more risks".

"If a force is performing well we could say, 'Actually, we'll just leave that force to plough its own furrow and we'll see where it goes,'" he said.

"We in Acpo are actually convinced and 100% confident that more performance, more efficiency, would then follow and fundamentally, more confidence in the public."

Mr Jones said creating foundation forces would allow resources to be diverted away from administration into front-line policing.

"It would mean a lot of people whose jobs are now currently engaged in gathering data on behalf of regulatory bodies and government actually being put at the service of local people," he said.

'Neighbourhood priorities'

Foundation status would allow forces to take greater notice of the concerns of local people, but Mr Jones said it must not become a "complete free-for-all" that would be "inefficient".

Let local Police decide what is the priority for their local area in consultation with local people.
Jim, Leicester UK

"For the issues that bother people like me and you, in our street, that should be down to us frankly to sit down with our local team, to do a deal with them about what it is they think is important and then for us collectively to monitor how that's done," he said.

"We ought to trust the public and neighbourhoods [to] direct their priorities, but I would insist that to guard against a free-for-all there has to be a standard approach to many other things, for example, the way we handle intelligence - organised crime and counterterrorism."

Simon Reed, vice chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, responded to Mr Jones's call for the introduction of foundation forces.

He said: "For over two years now we have been calling on the government and chief officers to cut bureaucracy and allow frontline officers to exercise their discretion, restore commonsense policing and quit chasing targets instead of criminals.

Chief constables already determine how they spend their resources
Tony McNulty, Home Office minister

"As to forces having foundation status, I do not understand what Acpo means - chief officers already have autonomy over how they allocate budgets and deploy resources.

"Targets could be abolished overnight; we don't need a new initiative with a new name to return to traditional policing methods and allow officers to use their judgment and experience to tackle crime."

A handful of constabularies - including Durham - are understood to be interested in becoming the first foundation forces, but Mr Jones says he believes there is resistance among officials in Whitehall.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said the government was considering Acpo's suggestions.

"We're determined to cut red tape and ensure police officers are best placed to make decisions about local policing," Mr McNulty said.

"That's why we've already transformed how we measure them - slashing the number of central targets and freeing them to respond to local priorities.

"Chief constables already determine how they spend their resources and we are also working on a pilot project with four forces about further measures to cut bureaucracy."

Policing report targets red tape
05 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
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16 Oct 05 |  Health

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