Examination of Witness (Questions 20 -
THURSDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2002
20. Thank you for that. I would like to ask
about the Standards Unit and Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary.
We put the question to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, "What
is the new Standards Unit going to do that HMIC cannot do"
and he said "I do not know". Do you share that view
or do you know what the Standards Unit is going to do?
(Sir David Phillips) I am aware of what its terms
of reference are and they are great and considerable. I think
I would come at it from a slightly different way. We have argued
for a long time that we do not have a sufficient mechanism within
ACPO not only to develop and propound good policy but to make
sure, as far as we can, that it reaches all corners. The need
for there to be a better mechanism to spread good practice I think
is identifiable. Whether or not that could be done through the
Inspectorate is another question. There is some ambiguity of role
in this sense for an Inspectorate or a Standards Unit. If you
are on the one hand required to be the auditing authority, the
body which will move in when there is apparent poor performance
but, on the other hand, you are also the body which identifies
good practice and you introduce it. The difficulty is that you
are seen with caution and suspicion on the one hand but then you
are expected to be received with open hands on the other. This
is what always makes that role a difficult one. This is not simply
a police issue, I think it is true of all organisations, somehow
you have to find a way round this. I think the thing that perhaps
concerns me about the Standards Unit is the extent to which the
involvement of ACPO and its policy making activity is recognised.
My greatest concern in the Bill is the way that policy is likely
to be formulated.
21. By the Home Secretary, is that the concern,
or by the Standards Unit?
(Sir David Phillips) The Home Secretary through the
Standards Unit. If you look at the Bill, the Bill says that policy
will be created as codes or as regulations and that this will
be drafted by the training department. The training department
will take notice of whoever they wish to consult. The nearest
that we get to a mention of ACPO is we are one of those who they
may wish to consult. Now, historically, we have been the authors
of operational policing policy, mainly because if anything goes
wrong operationally we are the people who have to appear in the
coroner's court or who are vicariously liable for the actions
of our officers following our operational directives. It may be
an issue of parliamentary draftsmanship that because we do not
exist as a legal entity we cannot be referred to on the face of
a Bill but that seems to me an insufficient reason to deal with
this matter. If you were to take it literally it looks that we
might be one of the very few agencies who resign their policy
making function to its training department in entirety. It is
quite important, I believe, that operational policy receives the
professional support of the professionals in the service. I am
quite sure that the Home Secretary intends that to be the case
but it is not on the face of the Bill and if you look at the Bill
it does not give us much of a role at all. It is a concern to
me that in some fashion or other there needs to be a recognition
that operational policy has the professional support of the service.
Take, for example, if we are to stop a suspect armed vehicle on
the motorway. In those sorts of tricky situations clearly the
policy on those matters will be based heavily on our experience
of doing those things. It seems odd that in the way this has been
structured the training department, who may or may not be police
officers, will write the policy for those things which will later
be approved and whoever they think should be consulted will be
consulted. As I say, it may be an issue of construction but I
think it is an issue that we should have concern about.
22. That is a much bigger issue for you than
whether there is HMIC and the Standards Unit, it is more that
relationship between ACPO and the Standards Unit and who is writing
policy, is that right?
(Sir David Phillips) The greatest issue for me in
the Bill is this question of operational policy. This is the territory
that ACPO have been hugely involved in. Personally I have been
involved in writing policy in respect of covert policing operations,
in respect of major crime inquiry, homicide inquiry. Intelligence
issues is another matter very close to my interests. I can see
the virtue in there being codes of practice around, for example,
intelligence issues because if we are to have an intelligence
system we have got to be able to share information. That means
that it has to be collected against the same standards of probity
and against the same criteria for recording everywhere, so you
need to have a common system. Having the Home Secretary's approval
of a code seems to me to be a sound idea, it is just how that
code gets to be constructed.
Mr Cameron: Thank you very much indeed.
23. Do you foresee a day when the Standards
Unit and the Inspectorate are merged?
(Sir David Phillips) I think that is quite possible,
24. Is it desirable?
(Sir David Phillips) I have got to say it looks rather
ambiguous to us, as I am sure it does to the Inspectorate. Whom
am I being inspected by? What is the difference of role? I would
have thought that if it was not the Inspectorate's job to identify
good practice then what are they there for?
25. It might be argued, might it not, that given
the huge variations in sickness rates, detection rates, retirement
rates, from one force to another that the Inspectorate has not
really done its job as well as it should have done? Do you think
there is anything in that?
(Sir David Phillips) I would like to say some words
about comparison because it is sometimes unfair and invidious,
particularly in respect of things like detection rates. In respect
of have they done a good job or not, surely the issue is if they
are not doing a good job then make sure they do, not necessarily
provide them with a competitor. I am not certain that a free market
in inspection is the best way to approach inspection.
26. Can you see an argument that since these
huge differences, and everybody understands there are some reasons
for the differences, have persisted over a long period and the
Inspectorate has not put a stop to them or improved them significantly
that another body might be necessary?
(Sir David Phillips) I can see that there is a greater
need for a body to work with us in identifying better ways of
doing things and helping in the promulgation of policy. For a
long time I have argued that there should be far greater correspondence
between the Home Office's investment in these things and ACPO's
investment in these things. We have developed business areas around
things like investigations, road policing and so forth, you would
think that there would be a corresponding organisation within
the Home Office. If we had corresponding arrangements it might
be better because there is a public interest that I recognise
in many of my operational policies, so I do not have a difficulty
with that. If it was to deal with apparent failings then surely
that is what an Inspectorate is for and maybe the Inspectorate
might need a special unit within it which is particularly skilled
at examining these problems. I do want to say that there is a
great danger in comparing statistics without context. One of the
issues in our response to the White Paper isI do not shy
away from these comparisonsif we are to make more of them
we need a more sophisticated basis for understanding these things.
The bald statistics may not tell the story. If we take, for example,
detection rates, a lot will depend upon how the crime figures
themselves are made up. If the bulk of your crime is attacks upon
vehicles and minor damage nowhere in the world is there a higher
detection rate for minor damage. If there is a differential between
forces they have to be looked at with care. Likewise
27. Is there a common standard?
(Sir David Phillips) Is there a common standard for
28. Yes, now.
(Sir David Phillips) In my view, no, I do not think
there is sufficient interpretive sophistication around statistics.
29. Should not the Inspectorate have been making
sure that is happening?
(Sir David Phillips) Perhaps so. I have been arguing
for a long time, and to the Home Office, that the current nature
of crime statistics is misleading. There are political difficulties
where I recognise that if you change the counting rules one side
might say "you are fiddling the figures". That should
not be a reason for us to continue with an absurd set of crime
statistics. The crime statistics are legal, not social. If I look
at violence I want to distinguish between homophobic violence,
domestic violence, stranger related violence, I do not want to
distinguish between whether it was a section 45 or some technical
level of violence under a piece of legislation that is 140 years
old, and yet those are the statistics. I can see no particular
reason why we should give the same weight to homicide as to minor
damage when we count them up and aggregate them. I think we could
have a far better way of taking an index of crime performance.
What we have got now I think creates more public alarm than need
be because in many areas of crime, crime has been falling and
the police have been very successful in reducing those levels
of crime. The increases that we have seen have been largely about
recording more minor assaults and more minor damage, hence the
public gets a false impression of what is really going on in the
30. You would expect the Standards Unit to take
an early interest in that?
(Sir David Phillips) I am sure they will.
31. What about one or two of the things that
have been widely portrayed as scams, such as TICs, taking into
consideration? There was some fuss about that in Kent but that
was before your time. Do they still feature?
(Sir David Phillips) There are very few offences taken
into consideration today given the nature of the process. That
is one reason why I am concerned about the current emphasis on
detection rates. I believe that my job is to reduce crime and
if we are good at that, and I think we have been, it is because
through the intelligence systems we have developed we have focused
on the people who commit the most crime. Those people are usually
the ones who are best practised at avoiding detection and probably
you will have to set a trap to catch them. So you catch them for
one offence knowing they have committed many and hopefully you
do something which interrupts their pattern of offending. If I
was going to be judged by detection rates I would dispense with
all that because the investment in catching prolific offenders
would give me a poor statistical return, I would concentrate on
shoplifters or minor assaults or juveniles. I think we need mature
ways of judging police forces because sometimes performance indicators
can skew behaviour and produce some of the practices, like the
one you have referred to, which are not professional and have
no value as far as the public interest is concerned.
32. You speak very persuasively on that analysis
of statistics which brings me, in a sense, to the next part of
questioning. I am going to ask you about Clause 6 of the Bill.
Do you not think that it is a bit of a pity that we should have
to have Clause 6 in the Bill which is about the regulation of
equipment? Is there not something absurd about the fact that different
police forces use different equipment and they cannot work together
if they have to? What is the obstacle between police forces which
stops them using the same equipment? If you were in the army and
you were testing a new weapon, you would decide which was the
best one and you would not have a multiplicity of different ones,
(Sir David Phillips) I am not sure we are quite the
same as the army in this regard. Equipment probably plays a lesser
part in our affairs and there is probably less of a need for standardisation.
You can see why in an army it might be essential that kit is standardised
so that in a catastrophic situation, when regiments become mixed
up or whatever, you can re-form and share what is left. Nonetheless,
I take your general point, I think we should be moving towards
standardisation of equipment and, by and large, we have set up
informal ways of doing so. Most of our people who are involved
in equipment purchase seek to form groups so they can get a good
price when they buy things. We have increasingly been doing that
with the vehicle fleet so that we can deal with fleet suppliers
and buy vehicles with built in wiring so we do not spend a lot
of time customising them and the rest. I think these provisions
are not necessarily to say we are failing to do it and, therefore,
there must be a power to cause us to do it. I think the Home Secretary
has in mind that around some things there may be public sensitivity,
in particular weaponry, in particular things likeI do not
knowCS gas, whatever, where there does seem a good reason
to have a common standard. With 43 police forces it is conceivable
that you might have 40 who say "Yes we agree with this"
and three which do not or you might have police authorities that
are very reluctant about certain kinds of equipment. I think that
is more likely to be a sort of reserve power. I rather imagine
that if the power is in place, and indeed, in a sense, it is really
a restatement of a previous power, there will be little difficulty
in getting conformity. The area where this is of greatest significance
is information technology. The reason why we have not got common
information technology is not churlishness, it is simply that
we never started from a common position. We have never really
had the ability to provide common equipment. A very big part of
our contribution to the modernisation programme is the recommendation
of Project Valiant, which is our effort to produce a ten year
plan so that eventually all police forces have a common information
technology arrangement, so that we find the means of delivering
that because ACPO's position is we need to be able to share information.
The arrangements we have now are costly and unsatisfactory. We
have to find a route towards a common information technology strategy
and one which is common with the criminal justice system as a
33. Thank you for that. I am pleased to hear
it is not churlishness because, as you say, if we are to share
intelligence then clearly having 43 different IT systems is not
the best way of going about that, perhaps. Can you give me some
other examples of why it is necessary for the Home Secretary to
direct chief constables, not so much about the purchase of equipment
but about having coherent and consistent practices and procedures?
Why are chief constables not doing that off their own bat?
(Sir David Phillips) I am sorry, could you explain
34. It says in Clause 7 of the Bill that the
Home Secretary will direct chief constables about looking at "coherent
and consistent practices and procedures". Why have chief
constables been reluctant to draw on best practice in the past?
(Sir David Phillips) This is where, as I said earlier,
I expressed some concern. Let me say something about ACPO. ACPO
is not a staff association. This is a body which is there to promote
exactly those things where we need common practices, procedures
and standards to develop those things. We spend a huge amount
of our time doing that. Really we have no staff, we have no people
beyond our administrative staff. So it involves leaders of different
committees and portfolios and so forth in using the resources
of their own force, usually, to work on a national project to
produce something and that is what we have done over the years.
We have done our best to produce common policies. If I can give
you some examples. I put together, when I was Chairman of the
Crime Committee because I felt the need to deal with this issue,
both a public code of practice in respect of informants, covert
activity and all those kinds of things, and common working practices.
In putting those things together we included the Crown Prosecution
Service, the Customs Service and so forth. So far as I am aware
those arrangements are adhered to. To some extent they have been
overtaken by the regulation and Investigatory Powers Act but that
was partly based on the codes we had written. Likewise the investigation
of homicide, rape and other major crime now follows a very clear
plan laid out in the policies we have written. ACPO has produced
huge amounts of policy. Our difficulty is keeping it up to date,
keeping it fresh, because if we take something like covert policing,
any case before the criminal courts tomorrow can change the rules
and therefore we need to change our rules to take cognisance of
that. How do you keep it up to date? There is a danger of these
things being piecemeal because there is not a central provision
of trained people to write the policy, if you will. We were at
one with the Home Secretary in recognising that we needed something
which would allow us better to formulate policy and in the Bill,
the vehicle that they have determined upon is the CPTDA, the central
police training organisation. My concern is not whether that is
being done but that we are not recognised properly in the Bill
as having a critical role in providing the professional endorsement
of that policy. Policy is complex often, if you are going to write
policy around something and then provide a doctrine which is going
to be taught to your officers this requires careful composition
and has to be attentive to what you learn. I see the need, and
I do not resist the need for the provision. It is how it is recognising
the role of the chief constables and ACPO in supporting it.
35. In a sense you are reiterating what you
were saying about the Standards Unit?
(Sir David Phillips) Yes.
36. If ACPO was seen to be more involved, either
because it was written into the face of the Bill or made clear
in the explanatory notes, or wherever else it should be made clear,
you would be happy with that system because there would be a cohesion
around the country on the policy areas?
(Sir David Phillips) At the present time ACPO's policy
is placed before the Chief Constables' Council where all the chief
constables of the country meet and if we endorse something we
stick to it. Effectively it is not the case that we are an anarchic
organisation, each chief constable pursuing different policies,
by and large there is conformity. In some areas there needs to
be more stricture around that conformity and, indeed, intelligence
procedures might be one example. We do not resist the Home Secretary's
signing off policy, if you will, it is simply that somewhere or
otherWhen we legislate we always have to be concerned about
the worst case scenario. You could read the Bill and see that
operational policy could be written without any reference to police
Bridget Prentice: Thank you.
Chairman: We will pursue that point with the
appropriate ministers. Mr Winnick has some questions about complaints
37. Do you feel, Sir David, that the independent
police complaints commission will be accepted or recognised as
being more able to deal with complaints, which perhaps from your
point of view may not be so appropriate, as the Police Complaints
(Sir David Phillips) In a sense I suppose time will
tell. I think it will largely depend on how effective it is, whether
it is seen to be fair by all parties rather than whether it will
or not simply from its constitution. My impression about police
complaints is that they are investigated generally with extraordinary
thoroughness. The difficulty is in convincing people that police
officers investigating other police officers is going to be as
objective as you would hope it would be. That is the difficulty.
It is a difficulty of confidence and public perception. We have
to remember too that it is not necessarily the perception of the
general public. The sense of injustice is one that rankles with
people. I have always understood in my police career how bitterly
people feel about injustice. I think it is in our interests that
the complaints system gets us off this hook, if you like, that
the most serious complaints should be looked at by people, those
who feel a sense of injustice, the public are confident are completely
outside the influence of the police themselves. I do not have
a difficulty with that at all, in fact I have always supported
38. So what it would mean, in effect, is that
the police element would be totally removed, would it not, once
such an authority or commission, as it is described, comes into
(Sir David Phillips) In respect of some levels of
complaint I think. It would be very difficult to investigate the
police without the co-operation of the police because you may
not know where things are. This is the issue I have raised many
times about disclosure. People talk about disclosure in criminal
cases as if there is a particular file and if only we could page
through that file then we would know what we need to know. In
reality, of course, the issues which are in question have traces
and provenance all over the organisation conceivably. If you want
to have an effective investigation you need the co-operation of
the police. I imagine that those investigating complaints independently
will still need the active support of police complaints and discipline
departments in their endeavours to secure documentation, to make
sure the early steps are taken to preserve scenes and the like.
I am confident that the police service will be positive in their
approach to this new organisation.
39. That is an interesting comment and one which
will be welcomed because there may be a feeling that the police
would resent, not where you are Chief Constable, such an independent
investigation into allegations which may be false or otherwise,
who knows, and therefore the degree of co-operation which one
would like to see may not be forthcoming. Are you really persuaded
that that is not going to be the case?
(Sir David Phillips) I am confident it will not be
the case. Bear in mind injustice can also be felt by the police
and the police officers themselves may welcome independent investigation
of these issues.