Questions raised over role of CID: Terry Kirby reports from the Association of Chief Police Officers' autumn conference in Preston

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The Independent Online
PLACING more police officers on the beat may not be so crucial in the fight against crime as a greater investment in scientific support, chief constables were told yesterday.

Kate Flannery, a senior official of the Audit Commission, told the Association of Chief Police Officers that the commission's study on the work of the CID was raising important issues about its role.

She said it could be argued that improvements in detection would not come from increasing the numbers of detectives but through properly resourced and managed technical and intelligence functions. More bobbies on the beat, whatever contribution they made to public reassurance, may not be the most effective weapon against crime.

She told the conference that it was possible the pendulum of police practice was swinging towards quality of service issues at the expense of the detection of crime. This might lead to more detectives paying visits to the homes of victims rather than solving crime, but the public might find it difficult to accept in the long term if crime levels were not reduced.

The study was also showing that some forces were directing CID work away from the retrospective aspect of crime and towards pro- active targeting of known criminals. It was also emerging that while some forces had carefully documented categories of crime or criteria for CID involvement, others relied upon the judgement of experienced detectives. The crime allocated to a detective in one force might be routinely investigated by a uniformed officer in another.

Brian Johnson, president of the association, warned that the police service was still apprehensive about the relaxation of European Community border controls, due to take effect at the beginning of 1993. He said a balance had to be maintained between economic consideration, the free movement of EC nationals and the security of the UK's frontiers.

'If we are to retain those very real advantages we presently possess, any relaxation of the Customs, immigration authorities and police roles and responsibilities could have a damaging effect on an ability to exercise control over the entering and movements of the criminal, drug trafficker and terrorist fraternity.'

Mr Johnson said that although the police had been involved in extensive discussions with all the bodies involved, there was still confusion about precisely what would happen. They were seeking more information.