Page last updated at 13:44 GMT, Monday, 22 March 2010

Sir Hugh Orde calls for review of policing

Sir Hugh Orde
Sir Hugh said police work had changed drastically over the last 50 years.

A fundamental review of policing is needed before a crisis such as a multi-site terrorism strike happens, a senior police chief has said.

Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said changes could include a reduction of the 43 separate forces in England and Wales.

This would enable police to respond better to national emergencies and reflect changes to modern policing.

The Police Federation said consultation was needed before changes were made.

Structure change

Sir Hugh told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I think it is important to step back now and look at this rationally, rather than wait for some crisis that will drive change in a way that is probably not going to be the best way possible.

"For example, we could have a multi-site international terrorist attack on this country. I would far rather be comfortable that we have the best structure possible to deal with that threat because we have looked at it before the crisis, rather than on the back of that crisis."


Sir Hugh restated his view that the review should be ready to contemplate changes to the existing structure of 43 county-based forces, which could see the number reduced.

"The question has to be: 'Is there a minimum size of force to give it the capacity to deal with the routine of policing without having to have some hugely complicated overarching national structures to pull things together in an emergency?'" he said.

The work of police has changed in many ways since policing was last fundamentally reviewed, Sir Hugh said.

"The last time it was done was 1962. Policing has moved on - 21st century policing, the international threat, the national threat, internet crime, cybercrime.

"We are in a very different place, so I think it we need to step back and have some assessment of what is the best form for the basic structure on which we can deliver the best policing possible."

'Proper consultation'

The 1962 review led to the amalgamation of small forces and the creation of police authorities to oversee their affairs.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke's proposed mandatory mergers of police forces could have seen the number of forces drop to 17. However these plans were dropped by his successor, John Reid.

The Police Federation, which represents 124,000 police officers, agreed that a review was needed to ensure money was spent efficiently. It said the attempt at imposing mandatory mergers wasted money and was "detrimental to policing".


Chairman Paul McKeever, said: "We can, however, see the logic of forces collaborating in the provision of some back office services, large-scale equipment (such as helicopters) and parts of infrastructure.

"When it comes to collaboration of policing teams, this should never be to the detriment of frontline service provision nor to the welfare of our officers. Any change must be undertaken with proper public consultation."

Policing Minister David Hanson said the police service had undergone a radical programme of reform in recent years, making it "more capable, more community-focused, better funded and more efficient than ever".

He said the government's reform agenda was clear, as a recent white paper had included plans for neighbourhood policing, targets and cutting bureaucracy.

"Underpinning these reforms is our clear commitment to the operational independence of the police service, with forces remaining fully accountable to the public through the scrutiny of police authorities," he said.

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