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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 18:46 GMT
'Radical' police reform unveiled
David Blunkett tours a north London estate on Wednesday
Blunkett envisages a bigger role for civilians
A new force of Community Support Officers (CSOs) with powers to use reasonable force to detain suspects is to be created as part of a "radical" police reform agenda.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said the CSOs will be matched by a commitment to meet targets for police numbers a year early.

Main proposals
New powers to civilian support officers
New occupational health unit to tackle sickness
Powers for intervention in failing forces
'Outmoded' practices to be scrapped
Extra powers will also be granted to traffic wardens and, in a move bitterly opposed by the Police Federation, security guards in specific locations.

"Our endeavour is to face down the anti-social and thuggish behaviour which bedevils our streets, parks and open spaces," Mr Blunkett told MPs during a Commons statement.

Most of the reforms have been welcomed by groups representing police officers as well as the opposition parties, although there are concerns over some proposals.

Central to the reforms, which affect only England and Wales, are a range of measures to improve performance and consistency in forces across the country.

High bills

A new independent police complaints commission will be created as well as a centre for policing excellence to identify and spread best practice.

As part of a determination to reduce high bills from sick leave and early retirement an occupational health unit will also be set up.

The home secretary sought to reassure the police that there was no intention of interfering in their day-to-day operational independence.

But "new powers of intervention" were announced for where "inconsistent and failing provision" was providing inadequate service.

Police morale

"Where action is needed it's our duty, the duty of the government, to respond," Mr Blunkett declared.

However, in a bid to boost police morale he also announced that, as a symbol of the government's support, the police service as a whole was to be awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal.

Other proposals include:

  • Police officer numbers to reach 130,000 by spring 2003

  • Establishment of central police training and development authority and a national centre for policing excellence

  • A "drastically accelerated" special constable recruitment drive

  • Updating roles of the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service

  • Increase in civilian staff and extend civilian and computer processing of paperwork

  • Improve rewards for officers with most dangerous, difficult or unsocial jobs

  • Increase specialist investigation teams and create cadre of speciality detectives

  • Introduction of new three-tier approach to ensure best practice with mandatory national standards, codes of practice and local guidance

    Police Federation chairman Fred Broughton reserved particular criticism for the proposal to allow security guards to have police powers.

    "This extension of police powers to the commercial security industry challenges the basic concept of policing by consent.

    Efficiency drive

    "This major constitutional change alters the relationship between the citizen and the state regarding their liberty."

    But the federation said it welcomed moves to increase efficiency, enhance occupational health and recruit more officers.

    Chief Superintendent Kevin Morris, Superintendents' Association president, said: "We will work together to resolve some of our concerns where they exist."

    He warned that it was important "that the public are left in absolutely no doubt" about the extent of new powers available to non-police officers.

    Performance measures

    Sir David Phillips, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said they supported "much" of the reform package.

    But he said forces should be judged on their performance by "sophisticated" means and not on a "few simplistic indicators".

    Responding to Mr Blunkett's statement in the House of Commons, shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin welcomed the determination to cut "excessive bureaucracy".

    But he warned: "Hiring people to support the police is one thing, hiring people to pose as policemen when they are not policemen is quite another."

    Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes welcomed "without reservation" many of Mr Blunkett's proposals.

    But he referred to "rather troubling apparent inconsistencies" when the home secretary talked about "no interference but some intervention".

    The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
    "Thousands are to be recruited"
    Home Office minister John Denham
    "There are a range of jobs that do not require a fully-qualified police officer"
    Police Federation's Fred Broughton
    "There is going to be a mixed reaction to the proposals"
    See also:

    05 Dec 01 | England
    Wardens welcome patrol reform
    02 Dec 01 | UK Politics
    Plan to reform 'failing' police
    29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
    Police anger over Blunkett reforms
    12 Jul 01 | UK Politics
    Blunkett reveals police reform plans
    11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
    Top police recruits to be fast-tracked
    05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
    Blunkett's bold plans for police reform
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