Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 100 - 119)



  100. Do you have a copy of the Bill in front of you?
  (Mr Morris) I do not, I am afraid, no, it is the one thing I did not bring.

  101. It is Schedule 5, paragraph 2(2). Could you elaborate the last point you were making?
  (Mr Morris) If you do not have a power of arrest and you unlawfully detain someone, then certainly in civil law you could be sued in exactly the same way as a police officer who did not have a power when they made an arrest. So our concerns are, to start with how well trained will these people be about the extent of their powers; will they be different across various countries and force areas, and if they are, I think the public will be confused which would be an appalling state of affairs. Then you have this when would a person believe they are being detained rather than just being asked simple questions? If it is not made clear, the 30 minutes is practically meaningless. I think the point was asked—I am not sure if it was you, Madam—at 31 minutes what happens? Do you let somebody go or if you keep hold of them are they then being unlawfully detained? If the superintendent on a BCU is responsible for these people we see our members getting taken to court because somebody has made a mistake and it is 31 minutes instead of 29 minutes and 30 seconds.

Mr Cameron

  102. I was wondering whether you agreed with what Sir David said about Community Support Officers. He said, and I think I wrote it down correctly, "if there is money for this we could do better things with it", i.e he would prefer something different from Community Support Officers. Is that your position?
  (Mr Morris) If you gave the police chief constables the opportunity to spend the cost involved, they may not all necessarily leap into street patrol wardens. I think then you would have to look at if they were under-performing that the Standards Unit would ask the question "Why not". It is becoming increasingly obvious, I think, that the financial burden on forces at the moment is such that in some in particular the precepts are going to have to go up considerably and they may wish to think about balancing the cost of an officer with the cost of civilian support staff. Unfortunately that means they may not hit the targets on the number of recruits. I suspect, quite strongly, in fact I know, that the Home Secretary would be displeased with that.

  103. The other thing he said about Community Support Offices was he was worried that if you had a bad situation that occurred and all you had available as a Basic Command Unit was Community Support Officers should you send them to that difficult situation: a burglary, robbery or mugging? You would have to make a choice, you would have to. You would be putting untrained or less trained people into a difficult situation. Is that your view?
  (Mr Morris) Yes, I think we would find that highly unacceptable. That does not mean to say we cannot do better with the resources we have got. There are some very interesting new ideas coming forward from forces now about how they deploy their current strength. One of the problems, of course, is that we have tried to respond to every call from the public whether it is an emergency or whether indeed we should go at all. I think we are going to have to be quite strict about what we are deploying officers to. It could well be that we could be better with that, so that we do not deploy the people who have not got the training to deal with robberies and leave that to the police officers but there are things which officers go to now that we ought to be deploying community wardens to.

  104. Okay. So you are both saying there are difficulties with Community Support Officers. They beg the question what is a proper copper? Is that such a big problem that you would not go ahead with it or would you go ahead with it and have the extra numbers if you were in a position to say so?
  (Mr Morris) I really wish I was here in a couple of weeks' time because I am going to America for a week to have a look at four cities and how they have been doing it. The ideal questions that I have already formulated are: what powers do you have, how does it work, how do you work with the police, what is the relationship with the other agencies in an area and so on.

  105. Perhaps you could write to us when you get back?
  (Mr Morris) Yes, I would be delighted to come back.


  106. What would be very helpful is if there are any additional points you want to make after your visit, write us a letter.
  (Mr Morris) Certainly, I will do that. At the moment, a lot of this is the unknown. The tendency with the unknown is to fear it, it might be completely unfounded. We are trying not to look backwards and pretend that all is well with policing but we are conscious of the problems which can accrue if you do not plan something sufficiently.

Mr Cameron

  107. Perhaps one last question. Sir David seemed fairly keen on the accredited warden schemes, this is local authorities employing wardens, and he said the police would be willing to train them in some circumstances. He seemed very warm about that, would you take the same view about that?
  (Mr Morris) Yes. I think that would be quite important. We have reduced the number of assaults on our officers, not just by good equipment but by good training, in fact staying out of trouble and dealing with the public in a way that is non confrontational and so on. We need to help other agencies because otherwise we will end up with assaults on wardens in the proportions we had once with police officers which would be tying up our officers dealing with that and increase the crime rate not inconsiderably.

Angela Watkinson

  108. There seems to be a difference of opinion amongst ordinary policemen, if I can call them that, and divisional commanders and the hierarchy in the Metropolitan Police as to the value of beat policing. It seems to me that the introduction of street wardens is almost replacing that at a lower level. How do you view the efficiency and the ability to respond to crime with beat policing, bearing in mind the ability to man a three shift system throughout an entire area with policing cars, which is a more commonly used method these days, and the very high level of demand from the public to see visible police officers on the beat?
  (Mr Morris) If I can start by saying that I have only worked with the Metropolitan Police on attachment so my detailed knowledge of them is probably not good enough to give a comprehensive answer, or a fair answer. They do have particular problems that the rest of us do not have. Their position is unique in the United Kingdom. Having said that, I think most of us recognise because of the use of cars and the way we have tried to respond to everybody's needs, whether it is a policing need or not we have tried to respond to so many of them, we have a whole generation of officers whose beat skills are, to be fair to them, deficient because we have never trained them. If you ask many officers now to go and walk a beat they may find it difficult to understand what is expected of them, whereas when they are sitting in a car and the radio dictates where they go next it is fairly easy to know what you are expected to do. That is not the same for all forces and many forces are trying to address that, not least Lincolnshire recently have been talking about new courses for beat skills because officers need to have a new purpose when they are out on the streets. It is quite ludicrous that we can put officers on the streets and they can do nothing but wander around for eight hours. They must have a purpose. We must direct them. A lot of that could come from the community and it could be that the purpose is to reassure but even that is not satisfied just by being there. There is a lot more that we could do. The community wardens may fulfil some of that but from some of the evidence I have seen from the general public, and I confess a lot of it is anecdotal from the press and other places, the public see the police officer as providing the reassurance and not the warden, but that could be just a matter of time. Again, that is a question that I would like to put to my colleagues out in the United States.


  109. We perhaps do not have to go as far as the United States because there are a number of examples in this country where local authorities are already running warden schemes successfully.
  (Mr Morris) There are. To be honest, the brutal answer is someone has invited me. I am not paying, so I am going to go. Monstrous, I know. My Association does not have to pay so we are taking the opportunity to explore it. There are some circumstances where the wardens are in place and we are getting mixed messages. Some of it is they are doing a good job but they do not reassure, they still want to see officers, and in others, because they never see an officer, it is a blessing to see anybody patrolling. My confusion is if it is supposed to be a cheaper version of patrolling every time I see them they seem to be in twos or threes and we are trying to do the complete opposite with our staff and get them back to ones. It is not going to be cheaper, I am afraid, if they are only patrolling in twos and threes.

  110. Do you see a role for the humble bicycle in making patrolling more efficient?
  (Mr Morris) This was a holiday, I assure you, but in the United States, particularly in Washington DC, officers were on mountain bikes way before our officers seemed to be doing it. It is convenient, it can be quick around towns and busy areas. Again, we would need officers to want to do it. Some years ago when I was asked by a sergeant to get on to a bicycle I looked at him in complete horror as if he had three heads because I had never been taught to complete a beat using a bicycle. However, when he made me go to certain areas on foot, I soon realised it was a good idea to get a bicycle.

  111. Yes. You have experience of that?
  (Mr Morris) Yes. I would not say it was a fortunate one because it was rather tiring. Yes, it is a matter of learning a different way of patrolling a beat. It is like going from a car back on to foot, if you go on to a bicycle, you would not patrol a foot beat with a bicycle, it would be pointless.

  112. You would be far more flexible, would you not?
  (Mr Morris) You could be more flexible. You could cover a far greater area and get around a lot quicker.

  113. And perhaps save a little more money on all these cars with the latest gadgets.
  (Mr Morris) Again, though, you come back to the fact that the public also demand that we get to them, and of course we have made it quite clear that we will get to them within certain times. So you have to be able to balance the need for an emergency response with the need to respond within even, say, 36 hours if necessary. A lot of the things that we do, we could do on the telephone.

  114. Going now to what is missing from the Bill that you would like to see in it?
  (Mr Morris) I think it is that connection that I drew earlier which is the one that we are only one part of the criminal justice system. We are quite happy that there should be some comparisons between performance, although we are concerned about the naivety with which some of the statistics are used.

  115. You endorse Sir David's points on that?
  (Mr Morris) Yes, and the lack of understanding about the variable factors which affect performance. Having said that, if you are going to have a form of comparison then you have to understand that we are only one part of the judicial system. We would want to strengthen the role of the comparisons in terms of our partners in preventing crime and those others in the judicial system which have a duty to ensure that justice is delivered for the United Kingdom, or in this case England and Wales.

  116. What would you do to diminish bureaucracy? Have you any suggestions?
  (Mr Morris) I think of all the things, I suppose that was one area where I did not disagree with Sir David but I thought we could make a bigger impact upon it. I did not disagree with his contention that a lot of it could be eaten up, if you like, by better technology. Although I love technology myself, I am always concerned when people assume that is the first answer. For an officer to make a simple caution to have to fill in so many forms and spend so much time in the police station, really it is quite outrageous. In some cases the form filling, as Sir David said, is absolutely vital because we do have to explain to whoever asks the right questions why we use the powers that we do. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act was probably a reaction to concerns about the police not being able to explain that in the past. That being said, there are ways of overcoming the bureaucracy on the patrol officer. The dangers though are that the officers could become deskilled in terms of what happens back at the police station. Again it is vital that we look at the training and skilling of officers, that must not become a problem in itself. If they do not have the opportunity to deal with interviews and the paper work and what goes on, somewhere along the line we are going to have to make sure the training is given so that they can then progress into that role or into perhaps a CID role where investigative skills and interview skills are absolutely crucial.

  117. Are you aware of any examples of good practice in forces that have succeeded in replacing bureaucracy?
  (Mr Morris) I am only picking this up from Sir David O'Dowd's team, but I think there are clear pockets around the country where it is possible. I think the trick is going to be to pull them altogether and where lots of people have identified problems in the past and nothing has happened, to create the opportunities for them to happen in the future. There is nothing at the moment I can think of that springs to mind, I am afraid.

  118. You cannot draw our attention to any force in the country that is doing better at the moment that we might go and look at?
  (Mr Morris) I think, to be honest, it might be worth asking Sir David O'Dowd's task force, I think they are best placed. I would not want to set it in motion and find it is a blind alley.

  119. Just on the Inspectorate and the new Standards Unit, are you clear what the purpose of the Standards Unit is? Do you think it is necessary?
  (Mr Morris) Again, I would go back to what I said earlier. I think it is quite understandable that the Home Secretary not only wants to set the required standard but wants to have the ability to deal with it if it is not achieved. That said, perhaps some of us may have questioned why the HMI's office could not have been given additional powers because they are well placed to inspect and then perhaps to back up some of their comments with enforcement notices, if I can use that term.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 7 May 2002