Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Association of Police Authorities

  Police authorities share the objectives set out by Ministers in seeking police reform. They are fully committed to working in partnership with Ministers and Chief Officers within the existing constitutional framework, to deliver better local policing.


  Ministers have given assurances that it is not their intention to change or undermine the tri-partite governance structure for policing enshrined in the Police Act 1996, involving the Home Secretary, who is accountable to Parliament; the local police authority made up of, and accountable to, local people; and the chief constable—who has operational independence and who is appointed and held to account by the local police authority.

  The tri-partite structure is a system of carefully constructed checks and balances—which ensures that policing is not subject to partisan political control. It is a system which gives local people a substantive voice in how they are policed, and means policing is tailored to local needs and expectations.

  The Association of Police Authorities believes that the cumulative effect of the proposals contained in the Police Reform Bill (which must be read in conjunction with the wider proposals set out in the Government's White Paper "Policing a New Century: a Blueprint for Reform") would radically shift the current balance within the tripartite system—away from local people and local accountability, towards greater central direction and control by the Home Secretary.

  Police authorities are local partners of the Government. They will not support proposals which sideline the voice of local communities, by turning police authorities into local agents of Government. Police authorities also believe that the principle of the operational independence of chief officers within the tripartite framework of accountability, remains an essential bedrock of policing.

  The Home Secretary is proposing:

    —  To produce an annual national policing plan, which will not be the subject of statutory consultation with tripartite partners but which will set out

    —  The Home Secretary's 3 year strategic policing priorities

    —  The Home Secretary's Objectives under section 37 of the Police Act 1996 for policing for the year

    —  Any regulations which the Home Secretary proposes to make

    —  Any guidance and codes of practice the Home Secretary proposes to issue

    —  Such other information, plans and advice as the Home Secretary considers relevant

    —  To take powers to give directions to Chief Officers to produce remedial plans to address performance issues (without the involvement of the police authority)

    —  To take powers to direct the use of particular equipment or adoption of particular operational procedures and practices

    —  To take a power to direct a police authority to suspend the Chief Constable of a force, notwithstanding that the police authority does not judge this necessary to maintain local confidence in the force

    —  To issue statutory guidance to police authorities and chief officers on the preparation of 3 year strategy plans and to require the plans to be sent to the Home Secretary

    —  To establish a process for forming a view as to whether in his view the local plan is consistent with the national policing plan.

    —  To task the Standards Unit to intervene directly with forces and BCUs within forces on performance issues.


  The Government is proposing in the Police Bill some fundamental changes to the way in which policing is delivered including:

    —  The introduction of Community Support Officers (CSOs), designated by the Chief Constable

    —  The introduction of Community Safety Accreditation Schemes, with individuals accredited by the Chief Constable.

  Designated Community Support Officers will have powers including:

    —  powers to issue fixed penalty notices in relation to certain offences

    —  power to require a name and address

    —  power to detain a person for up to 30 minutes pending the arrival of a constable unless the person chooses to go with the CSO to a police station

    —  power to use reasonable force to detain someone

  Accredited individuals will have powers including:

    —  powers to issue fixed penalty notices in relation to certain offences

    —  power to require a name and address

    —  power to detain a person for up to 30 minutes pending the arrival of a constable (but not to use reasonable force)

Community Support Officers

  The APA welcomes the fact that the provisions are "enabling" ie it will be for each chief officer to decide whether or not to take them up. However, the introduction of CSOs has significant implications for the style and nature of local policing—matters on which it is essential to hear and reflect the views of local communities.

  As currently drafted there is no requirement in the Bill for the chief officer to seek the approval of (or even consult), the body accountable to local communities—the police authority—as to the introduction of CSOs in the area. The Bill should require the chief officer to obtain the approval of the police authority to the principle of introducing CSOs and other designated support staff and the policy and strategy for deployment of CSOs and other such staff. We would expect police authorities to consult widely with their communities before taking such a step and it is disappointing that the Government does not share our view of the importance of dialogue with local communities about the nature of policing in their area to determine their views and support for initiatives such as this.

  If provisions to allow the appointment of CSOs are to be introduced then the APA believes the following are the minimum safeguards to protect the interests of local communities:

    —  CSOs should only be introduced in an area with the full consent and approval of the police authority and after the police authority has consulted widely with local communities

    —  The accountability and direction and control of CSOs must be the same as for regular officers

    —  The role of CSOs would need to be clearly defined so that this does not lead to the development of two-tier policing

    —  CSOs must be standardised with the rest of the service to ensure that they are instantly recognisable to the public and their role is properly understood.

    —  CSOs must be suitably trained and brought within the ambit of the police complaints process

    —  The exercise by CSOs of powers to detain, stop vehicles or issue fixed penalty notices must be subject to the same recording requirements as is the exercise of such powers, including stop and search, by police officers so that proper monitoring can be undertaken to ensure that the powers are not used disproportionately or discriminately

    —  Efforts should be made to ensure that CSOs are properly reflective of the local communities they serve

Accreditation Schemes

  The APA has substantial concerns about proposals to award police powers of any sort to accredited organisations. The award of such powers raises significant questions around accountability, control, training and the community's perception of policing as a whole. It also raises questions, not addressed by the White Paper, about the legal responsibilities for acts committed by such staff.

  As with the proposals for CSOs, it is unclear to what extent giving powers to non-police officers has support amongst local communities. We understand that many local warden schemes are strongly opposed to their staff being given police powers. Much of the success of local warden schemes is due to wardens being seen as part of the community: exercising powers would identify them too closely with the police and impact on those strong community links.

  The Bill only places an obligation on chief officers to consult police authorities about establishing accreditation schemes in their area and in our view this is insufficient. The establishment of accreditation schemes in an area goes to the heart of the nature and style of local policing and is not simply an operational matter for chief officers to determine. Such a significant change in local policing should be the subject of full and open debate with local communities to ascertain their support before embarking on such a course. The provisions in Clause 34 to provide for information about local accreditation schemes to be included in the policing plan are welcome but not in themselves sufficient to achieve real consultation before schemes are introduced.

  The Bill should require the chief officer to obtain the approval of the police authority to:

    —  the principle of introducing community safety accreditation schemes

    —  the entering into of "arrangements" with particular employers

    —  the policy and strategy for giving powers to, and managing deployment of, accredited staff in the area.

  The requirements for the chief officer to be satisfied about the training of accredited staff and that adequate complaints processes be in place are woefully insufficient to meet the high standards necessary to maintain public confidence in local policing or those exercising even limited police powers.


  The Government's proposals are all uncosted. However, preliminary work suggests that the resource implications of many of the proposals are significant. The Government must give a clear commitment to finding the necessary funding.

  There is also a need for further open debate on the priority that should be given to the various proposals, assuming funding will not be available immediately for all initiatives.

  The Government should give a commitment that these issues will be able to be debated meaningfully at local level, and that new proposals will not be implemented through ring-fenced central funding pockets. This complicates unnecessarily police funding issues, prejudices the ability in practice of authorities and forces to take decisions about local policing and reduces direct local accountability.

Association of Police Authorities

February 2002

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