Page last updated at 21:34 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Police 'must trust public more'

Louise Casey
Louise Casey is in charge of building trust in the police

Police have a "weird" attitude to communicating with the public and must learn to trust them more, senior Home Office adviser Louise Casey has said.

Officers "dashed on to Crimewatch" to appeal for witnesses but when it came to updating people on the outcome of cases it was "radio silence," she said.

The result was a collapse in the trust the police need to do their job.

Ms Casey, the government's ex "respect czar", has been put in charge of building confidence in the police.

In her first speech in the new role, she told an audience of senior police officers and council leaders, including several chief constables, they had to have a "huge sense of urgency" about "putting the public first".

According to a recent government survey just 33% of the public had confidence in the criminal justice system.

Crime 'myths'

Most people believed criminals were allowed to "get away with it" and the police were more concerned with the rights of perpetrators than victims, Ms Casey told the Ipsos Mori event.

Justice isn't done unless it is seen to be done
Louise Casey

The problem was particularly acute in deprived areas and was undermining confidence the police needed to get people into the witness box, she added.

But when the police had successes, they failed to tell the public about them which perpetuated "myths" about crime.

When a crime is committed "everybody dashes on to Crimewatch", she told the police officers in the audience, "but the moment the offender is caught and dealt with it is radio silence.

"I can not tell you how weird that seems to someone from the outside."

'Vigilantism'

Ms Casey said that in her view "justice isn't done unless it is seen to be done".

And she rejected fears that more publicity around cases would lead to "vigilantism" saying "people hide behind these things as excuses" .

The police had to trust the public to deal sensibly with information and learn to communicate better with them.

"The justice system isn't yours as paid workers, it actually belongs to the public and that is why you have to trust them more and that is why you have to win back some of their confidence," she told the police officers in the audience.

In Ms Casey's role, as the government's neighbourhood crime and justice adviser, she has drawn up a new "policing pledge" requiring forces to sign up to national standards.

These proposals will only serve to confuse the public
Margaret Eaton
Local Government Association

Signed by every force in England and Wales, it includes a police commitment to setting priorities with local communities and updating them on progress at least once a month.

It also requires officers to respond to calls concerning agreed priorities within an hour and neighbourhood policing teams to spend at least 80% of their time "visibly" working for the community.

It has been criticised by pressure group the Taxpayers' Alliance for wasting time and public money on "stating the blindingly obvious".

But Home Secretary Jacqui Smith hailed the scheme as a way of improving transparency and accountability.

She also defended proposals for elected representatives to sit on local police authorities to raise their profile and make them more accountable - saying she thought the majority of authority members should eventually be directly elected.

She hit back at claims that elected representatives did not always speak for everyone in the community.

"People with bizarre views can be elected and that is a challenge for us as a democracy but I have faith in the public who I think will elect the person who is going to represent them best," she told the meeting.

But the proposals were attacked by the new chairman of the Local Government Association, Margaret Eaton, who said councils had a "legitimate fear that directly elected crime and policing representatives would undermine the successful partnerships and the relationships we have developed so far."

She added: "These proposals will only serve to confuse the public."

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