Police reform: the Lord Stevens’s report has much to recommend it – until he drops the baton

He has tackled issues at the heart of Plebgate - but his restructuring plans don’t add up

Related Topics

Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, has done two important things by asking Lord Stevens for advice on how to reform the police. She now has a plan for raising the standards of the profession, and she has mobilised a coalition of interests in support of her reforms - including the Police Federation, second only to the British Medical Association in the ferocity of trade-union defence of its members’ interests.

John Stevens was a good Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, 2000-05, and so he has huge credibility. His proposal to require officers to register with the College of Policing goes to the heart of the Andrew Mitchell business, which looked too much like an attempt by serving police officers to force an elected representative out of office.

It means that there will be an independent investigative authority with the power to “strike off” officers found guilty of misconduct. It will also set up a mechanism for continuing professional development, a concept familiar to other professions such as medicine, law and teaching.

That is the first important bit of the Stevens report. The second bit is the backing for it from the Police Federation. I understand that the Federation was initially hostile to the ideas put forward by Stevens, who took the precaution of consulting widely over two years. Part of that consultation included opinion polls of the serving police officers, and when the Federation was presented with evidence that its members overwhelmingly supported the Stevens reforms, it changed its tune.

Thus Cooper has resolved the central dilemma of public service reform, which is how to avoid alienating the producer interests while ruthlessly promoting the interests of the consumers of public services. The consumers of law and order services want visible neighbourhood policing, which is what Stevens did when he was Met Commissioner, and what he criticises the coalition for undermining, and which he proposes to restructure the police force to restore. The greatest problems of Blairite reforms of the NHS and schools came from the hostility, or sullen acquiescence at best, of doctors, nurses and teachers.

How long the Police Federation’s support will last is another question. The producer interests in public services tend to align themselves with the opposition party until it gets into government and becomes the main enemy. But it is better to start with the coppers’ trade union on side or at least neutralised rather than backing the Conservatives.

Those are the important bits, and it is as well that Stevens gets them right, because the rest of his report most disappointing. He wants to abolish directly elected police commissioners, but doesn’t know what to replace them with, offering three options, all of which involve going back to putting local councillors back in charge. He says that everyone agrees that the current division of England and Wales into 43 police forces is no good, and "makes a clear recommendation that change is essential". But then he gives three mutually incompatible options and suggests further consultation.

Hopeless. Surely if there is one thing we have learned about taking imperfect institutions apart, it is that you don’t do it unless you have a clear idea of what is wrong with them and why another arrangement would be better.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map