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The BBC's June Kelly
"Reforming the Police will be tough"
 real 56k

Home Secretary David Blunkett
"Morale can drop when people feel afraid within the service"
 real 28k

Rick Naylor, Police Superintendents Association
"I think we can definitely do business with Mr Blunkett"
 real 28k

The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy
speaks to Chief Constable Denis O'Connor, Surrey Police and Chief Constable Norman Bettison, Merseyside
 real 56k

Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Blunkett reveals police reform plans
Home Secretary David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett is meeting all 43 police chiefs
Home Secretary David Blunkett has promised chief constables and police authorities "dialogue not diatribe" in his programme of police reform.

In his first meeting with all 43 police chiefs in England and Wales, Mr Blunkett set an autumn deadline for the changes to be agreed.

He told the behind-closed-doors meeting, which also included delegates from the Police Federation and Superintendents' Association, how he wanted to sweep away outmoded attitudes.

The home secretary wants to:

  • Reduce the high levels of sickness among officers

  • Cut the differences in detection rates of crimes in different areas.

  • Introduce civilian investigators.

    Mr Blunkett told the gathering: "I want to work in partnership with the police service and police authorities so that we can deliver the reform programme together.

    'Full support'

    "This is dialogue not diatribe.

    "The police have my full support - they are there to keep order and protect communities."

    He wants reform to improve both police forces themselves and confidence in the service.

    Police officers
    Blunkett is promising help against police sickness
    Another of his aims is to make the recorded crime figures more effective and less variable across the country.

    He told the meeting: "We can engage now in rapid change of shifting outmoded attitudes and regulations."

    Whitehouse joke

    Some police officers are thought to be nervous about Mr Blunkett's plans for change.

    That unease was increased when the home secretary's intervention led to the resignation of Sussex Chief Constable Paul Whitehouse last month, following the fatal shooting of a naked, unarmed man.

    Mr Blunkett referred to his letter telling Sussex Police Authority to consider sacking Mr Whitehouse, as he urged his audience to speak openly with him.

    "Not that I would send a letter out immediately afterwards - that was a joke," he continued.

    Deadline

    The autumn deadline may increase tension with officers but Mr Blunkett said: "Not all our reforms require primary legislation.

    "In fact, the more we can agree, the less legislation it will take to bring about significant change.

    "It does mean being ready by the autumn with clear proposals to feed into a Police Reform Bill - an opportunity we cannot miss."


    The devil will lie in the detail

    Peter Shipley
    Association of Chief Police Officers
    Mr Blunkett is sending out the signal that the Home Office is listening and learning in an effort to pre-empt resistance to performance indicators and targets.

    He believes there are unacceptable differences in crime detection and clear-up rates and is setting up a standards unit to ensure best practice is shared between forces.

    He also wants to tackle the wide differences between some forces in pensions agreements and numbers of officers who go sick or take early retirement.

    Sickness worries

    Last year in Greater Manchester, 56% of all retirements were due to medical reasons.

    Mr Blunkett said such figures made "no sense" to the public.

    "If today there was a 1% improvement in absence there would be 1,200 officers extra available on the beat or in the police station.

    "What's the point in having people assigned to neighbourhood policing when up to 50% of them are off sick in one particular police area?"

    He wants an occupational health service to be set up to give help for local officers and provide important back-up.

    Another controversial changed broached by Mr Blunkett was his desire for more civilian investigators in the police force.

    That would include accountants to examine fraud cases and Mr Blunkett also wants to expand the use of private security firms in policing.

    Devil in the detail

    Peter Shipley, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said there was a role for private companies but warned it was a sensitive issue.

    Mr Shipley said the "devil will lie in the detail" of the reforms but was confident officers could work with the home secretary.

    Chief constables leaving the meeting reacted positively to Mr Blunkett's message, especially his desire to consult them about the changes.

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    See also:

    26 Jun 01 | UK Politics
    Blunkett lives up to hard man image
    15 Oct 00 | Education
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