The Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons has now issued its report: ‘Evaluating the New Architecture of Policing: The College of Policing and The National Crime Agency’, the final publication resulting from the Committee’s ongoing work designed to assess all aspects of the UK’s current policing landscape. As a result, the Committee has made several recommendations on issues including proposed force mergers and the Policing Code of Ethics, its overriding conclusion being that the ‘new landscape of policing’ is not yet complete.
“Since 2010, the Home Secretary has set out an ambitious plan for the new landscape of policing,” stated Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. “However, more progress has to be made in order to de-clutter the landscape and ensure that the organisations created meet the rapidly evolving challenges facing 21st Century policing. Force mergers are clearly back on the agenda.”
Vaz continued: “The College of Policing was a great idea that has both vision and purpose. However, numerous hurdles, weak foundations and an unrepresentative Board have hindered its ability to function to its full potential. In time, the College has the power to fashion a new concept of policing. For the local bobby, he or she needs a certificate of policing that’s affordable, an oath that is binding, ethics ingrained within the DNA and training that’s practical. However, at the moment none of this exists.”
Moving on to the National Crime Agency, Vaz explained: “The Agency has been a success, and indeed has proven to be more responsive and more active than its predecessor SOCA, but it’s not yet the FBI equivalent that it was hailed to be. Its reputation has been damaged by the unacceptably slow response to the backlog of child abuse cases sent to it by Toronto Police. The National Crime Agency simply must establish practical benchmarks against which its performance can be assessed. Its current asset recovery is not of a sufficient volume when set against its budget of half a billion pounds.”
Recommendations made by the Home Affairs Select Committee
The Home Affairs Select Committee’s report contains several recommendations, as follows:
“We are concerned that some police forces believe that they will not be able to operate in their current form while making further efficiency savings. Potential savings from collaboration between forces and between the Emergency Services at a local level have not yet been fully realised and this offers the best opportunity to achieve further efficiency gains. We recommend that, where pre-existing alliances have proven successful, and there is local support, police forces should be allowed to merge.”
The College of Policing
“The College of Policing has a vision and purpose and has delivered good work on guidance and standards. However, the foundations on which the College was built were not as firm as they should have been. As a consequence of having to overcome initial hurdles, the College is not achieving the outcomes that it should. There is much to be done for the College to become the type of institution that it was originally hoped it would be.
*A lack of face-to-face training will leave officers ill-equipped to engage with communities. The College, and police forces alike, should not lose sight of the value of face-to-face training in groups. Interpersonal skills are paramount in policing and officers regularly have to deal with highly challenging situations where they rely entirely upon their people skills. This cannot easily be developed online.
*We remain of the view that the cost of obtaining the Certificate in Knowledge of Policing, which in some police force areas is a pre-entry requirement, is dissuading talented and diverse recruits. This type of pre-recruitment qualification, which may be prohibitively expensive for some candidates, may stifle diversity.”
Policing Code of Ethics
“The Policing Code of Ethics needs to be in the DNA of police officers. A policing Hippocratic Oath is required. We recommend that everybody who is bound by the Code be required to acknowledge it formally by signing a copy of the Code and swearing an oath to Her Majesty The Queen. The Code of Ethics should incorporate the disciplinary code, in turn following the example of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, so that breaching the Code automatically triggers an investigation.”
The National Crime Agency
“We are not seeing the level of performance we would expect from the National Crime Agency (NCA) as it’s not recovering assets in sufficient volume to justify a budget of half a billion pounds. The NCA must improve drastically in this area so that the returns achieved equate to the resources made available to it. Furthermore, the NCA needs to produce and make public benchmarks whereby its performance can be assessed.
“The NCA must address the backlog of abuse inquiry cases which it inherited from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) with the greatest of urgency. It’s very concerning that, when CEOP received intelligence from Toronto Police, no action was taken.”