Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 18:49 UK

Police forces reform must be tackled, says think tank

Police constables on a passing-out parade
Previous merger plans failed over the way they would be funded

The next government must face up to the need for police reform and change the way forces are structured, an independent think tank has said.

The Royal United Services Institute said the current system is failing because criminals do not recognise forces' often arbitrary borders.

Increased collaboration was a poor substitute for full mergers, it added.

Some chief constables back force mergers but the idea was scrapped four years ago amid a row over the costs.

The Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) said policing needed urgent reform to tackle terrorism and organised crime at the same time as improving efficiency and cutting costs.

'Political will'

It said mergers had been brushed over by many politicians because the issue was not seen as a vote winner.

Rusi's report said: "It will be for the next government - whoever comes to power - to see the need for this and to generate the political will to actually make it happen.

"Were these changes accepted and implemented, there is little doubt there would be huge future benefits."

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), has said he believed larger forces were "the way to go".

The cross-party Home Affairs select committee of MPs also said the government must reconsider merging forces.

The Home Office scrapped tentative merger proposals in England and Wales in 2006 after rows over whether the police forces or central government would pay for the plans.

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