The expected new regulator of policing put the Home Secretary on notice today that he would take on the Government as he promised to shine a light into the “darkest corners” of law and order in Britain.
Tom Winsor, the combative former rail regulator, criticised the current state of police leadership and the “extraordinary” antiquated state of technology in some forces during an appearance before a parliamentary committee.
Mr Winsor, 54, emerged as the Government’s choice despite being the victim of a campaign of vilification by a group of police officers enraged by his reports demanding radical reform of pay and conditions, the committee was told yesterday by Policing Minister Nick Herbert.
Mr Winsor accepted that he would have to repair the damage following the response to his 18-month review. He said that the criticism of him had been “intemperate and unjustified” and denied that he had been selected as the chosen candidate of Theresa May as a deliberate snub to the critics of his government-ordered inquiry that reported earlier this year.
“If the Home Secretary expected that appointing me would lead to the appointment of a meek and compliant regulator, then she’s going to be disappointed,” Mr Winsor told the MPs.
Mr Winsor emerged from the three-name shortlist as the government’s preferred candidate for the job of chief inspector, defeating two chief constables, and is now in line to become the first non-police head of the inspectorate in its 156-year history.
Mr Winsor, who strongly defended his ability to do the job despite not having a background in operational policing, said that he wanted to raise the profile of his team which investigates forces and their tactics. Recent reports have looked at the policing of anti-social behaviour and into undercover detective work.
Mr Herbert, today criticised the Police Federation, the organisation that represents the majority of police officers, and other anti-Winsor groups for what he described as a “quite disgraceful campaign” of vilification against Mr Winsor. “There was a campaign being run called the Anti Winsor Network … calling into question his independence and therefore his integrity. I would argue it’s completely improper.
“Stop playing the man rather than the ball,” he told the committee. “I can’t be responsible for their chosen behaviour... it’s not right way for police officers to behave and it doesn’t reflect the mainstream view of policing.”
Federation chairman Paul McKeever said his group would take a “pragmatic” approach to working with Mr Winsor despite their concerns over his anticipated appointment.
Mrs May was heckled at the annual meeting of the federation last month over Mr Winsor’s recommendations which included cuts to initial police salaries, a rise in the age in which officers can get full pensions and the right for senior police officers to be able to make officers compulsorily redundant for the first time.
Mr Winsor said today that his company did not bill for the £104,000 it was owed for his work on the review of police pay. He is now in line for a job that carries a salary of £195,000 a year.
He said the challenges for the police were “legion and significant” and said that some police leaders did not use their resources as “intelligently or efficiently” as they should. He said he had been staggered at how low-tech some forces were using “computer screens that resembled those we saw in the early 1980s.”
Mr Herbert told the committee yesterday that he expected Mr Winsor to be a “fearless guardian” of the public interest. The committee will report to Theresa May about the suitability of Mr Winsor for the job but it is anticipated that she will confirm Mr Winsor whatever conclusion they reach.