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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Building a police profession

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This approach clearly brings benefits to police officers in terms of elevating their professional status and celebrating the high standards already embraced by many. The flipside of the coin is that there would be much more openness about the inner workings of the police, particularly in terms of misconduct and press relations.
This is the fifth in a series of posts on the seminal Policing for a Better Britain report.

Call the Professionals

Much of the Stevens Report (as Policing for a Better Britain is commonly known) is focused on ensuring that the quality of policing is more consistently high, while at the same time improving public confidence in the police.

The report seeks to address both these aims by recommending that the police are professionalised. This would ensure, so the report argues, a high calibre of officer, appropriately rewarded and fully accountable to the public.

The report believes that the College of Policing:

“has a vital leadership role to play in developing the police into an evidence-based profession.”

Chartered Police Officers

The Stevens Report envisages a new professional police service which would share many of the characteristics of other recognised professions such as medics, lawyers or accountants and makes a number of specific recommendations:

  • Chartered police officers should be the basis of a new police profession. All existing police officers will be registered but must demonstrate that they are properly accredited within five years.
  • The College of Policing would hold a publicly available register of all chartered police officers.
  • There will be a presumption of total transparency – with open, public hearings for decisions on serious misconduct.
  • Police officers found guilty of serious misconduct will be struck off the register.
  • There will be a new code of ethics to set standards of professional behaviour.

The report makes specific recommendations about the relationship between the media and the police, which it says are in urgent need of improvement. It recommends:

  • New media guidelines which rebuild trust and confidence and encourage, not restrict, two-way openness and contact; and
  • Streamlined and minimal requirements to record but not restrict contact with journalists

Is this professionalised approach the right way to modernise our police service?

This approach clearly brings benefits to police officers in terms of elevating their professional status and celebrating the high standards already embraced by many. The flipside of the coin is that there would be much more openness about the inner workings of the police, particularly in terms of misconduct and press relations.

What do you think?

Do you think a professionalised police service would be a step forward or would it place a barrier between officers and the communities they serve?

Please share your views via the comments section below.

 

Related posts you might like:

Can we afford the police service we need?

One of the difficulties in getting a more efficient police force that spends a larger proportion of its funds on policing rather than administration is getting rid of an excessively bureaucratic culture. The Stevens report treads a fine line here as some its remedies, to my mind, seem to imply introducing a number of new systems which will struggle to streamline procurement and cut waste.

Read More »

Do we need a national police service?

The report asks how we reconcile the need for police services to be locally accountable while facing up to the fact that the current structure of 43 separate forces in England and Wales is no longer cost effective, nor equipped to meet the challenges of organised and cross-border crime.
This is a challenge which also faces the modern probation service.

Read More »

Raising police standards and tackling misconduct

This seems to be a particularly bold and radical approach to addressing two separate problems. The Stevens Report makes a very strong recommendation that this new ISPC should be entirely independent of the police service. This seems to me to be absolutely right in terms of the investigation of serious complaints. However, although the inspection function would benefit from a broader perspective, surely the intimate knowledge of police officers is absolutely key to make inspections a helpful and constructive exercise, rather than just a bureaucratic requirement?

Read More »

A new deal for the police

The report acknowledges the Winsor review, supports some aspects of it and rejects others. It criticises the way that Winsor has been handled and says their needs to be much more engagement and discussion with police officers themselves. It’s attitude to Winsor is summarised as…

Read More »

Police Governance – replacing Police and Crime Commissioners

There is a strong emphasis throughout the report on community engagement and neighbourhood policing and there is a specific recommendation to ensure that accountability goes down to the neighbourhood level by establishing “participatory budgeting units” to ensure greater local community involvement in allocating resources.

Read More »

Creating effective Police partnerships

It should be remembered that “Policing for a Better Britain” was commissioned by the Labour Party and it is, therefore, no surprise to see the issue of privatisation tackled head-on. The report is not against privatisation but recommends that outsourcing should only be considered by reference to five key principles:

Read More »
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