This is the second in a series of posts on the seminal Policing for a Better Britain report.
A practical approach
For me, one of the attractive features of the Stevens Report – as Policing for a Better Britain is also known – is that it combines an analysis of fundamental principles such as defining the role of the police with concrete recommendations to address specific problems.
The chapter focusing on effective partnerships is typical in this respect. What could have been a section full of platitudes actually covers a wide range of vital issues, looking separately at:
- Partnerships with local authorities and local citizens
- Relationships with the other main criminal justice agencies
- The digitisation of the service
- Relationships with the private sector
The Stevens Report recommends that as part of a commitment to strengthening neighbourhood policing, police and local councils should involve ordinary citizens in policing, identifying this police-public relationship as key to effective crime control. Much of the report is dedicated to the need to improve public confidence in the police, a theme that we will return to in the coming weeks.
Criminal justice partners
Relationships with other criminal justice agencies have been a hot topic ever since the responsibility for prosecuting criminal cases was transferred from the police to the newly formed Crown Prosecution Service in 1986.
The report makes two key recommendations. Firstly, that the College of Policing should improve the quality of police training in criminal law and criminal procedure with particular attention to the rules of evidence. Secondly, the report suggests that the Home Office should set out “a coherent set of principles for dealing with offenders and offending outside the criminal justice system” – in an attempt to harmonise police-led restorative justice and gain public confidence for “Street RJ”.
Since the report looks explicitly at the future of policing, it’s no surprise that there is emphasis on technological improvements. Again, it makes two very strong, practical recommendations:
- All forces should move rapidly towards enabling the electronic submission of case files to courts and prosecutors
- There should be a new national initiative (with local contact points) to act as a portal for the reporting of online crime – the Stevens Report envisages that such a portal would be developed by a third party agency supported by the industry, banking and corporate social responsibility from affected businesses.
The private sector
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:
- How policing services are provided is a matter for democratic debate and political choice
- The coherence and effectiveness of policing should be enhanced rather than undermined by private sector involvement
- The use of the legal powers of the warranted constable should only be exercised by the public police
- Functions that rely on trust and legitimacy should normally be carried out by the public police
- The symbolic function of the police as guarantors of social order and legitimate governance should not be undermined
When you look at the issues raised by the Stevens Report, it’s not surprising that it has gained the tag of being the “most fundamental review of the police for 50 years.”
This series of posts will continue in the New Year, when we look at the report’s recommendations on “achieving better democratic governance.”