Scandal and misconduct have eroded public trust in the police. Radical reform is long overdue

Lord Stevens’s commission has neither crimped its ambitions nor pulled its punches

Share

The Independent Police Commission’s conclusions do not make for comfortable reading. The assessment of British law enforcement’s shortcomings is unflinching, the proposed remedies uncompromising. Given the litany of scandals with which the police have been battered in recent years, however – and the dent in public confidence that has resulted – so thoroughgoing an investigation could hardly be more needed.

The inquiry, led by former Met Commissioner Lord Stevens, is the most detailed appraisal of Britain’s police since the early 1960s; and it paints a bleak picture of a public service struggling to cope with the modern world. Against a background of profound social change – including ever-faster migration, ever-rising inequality, and the disruption of social media – forces must tackle increasingly complex challenges such as cybercrime and trafficking. And all this while budgets are slashed by a fifth and a less deferential public becomes only more demanding.

Lord Stevens’s commission has much to say in response. Among some 37 recommendations, touching everything from regulatory oversight to IT procurement, the commission has neither crimped its ambitions nor pulled its punches. The traditional 43-force structure is outdated and should be scrapped. The Police and Crime Commissioners elected last year to replace local Police Authorities are “an experiment that is failing” and should be abandoned in favour of closer ties between forces and councils. Neighbourhood policing, under threat from budget cuts, must be protected.

All are suggestions that merit attention. The priority, though, must be the proposed overhaul of the profession. Lord Stevens recommends that officers be “chartered” by the College of Policing, which would also maintain a register of members, hear complaints in public, and ensure that anyone found guilty of serious misconduct be struck off. The system would be given extra muscle by a new Independent Police Standards Commission, to replace the discredited Independent Police Complaints Commission and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Radical, indeed. But there is no alternative if public trust in police integrity is to be restored. The list of alleged transgressions is a long one, from the Hillsborough cover-up to the accusation of smears against the family of Stephen Lawrence, from the revelations of information sold to newspapers to the still-unresolved Plebgate affair (to name but a few). Taken together, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that police culture has become more concerned with protecting its own than with protecting the public. Until this situation is remedied, the extraordinary bravery and commitment of individual officers is dishonoured by the organisation in which they work, and Britain’s reputation for the best police in the world is in question.

The Home Secretary is not obliged to listen to Lord Stevens; his report was, after all, commissioned by her opposite number on the Labour benches. Nonetheless, she should. True, the Coalition has already instituted the biggest shake-up of policing for decades. But that is no reason not to press on. In fact, with no let-up in the scandals besetting the police, it is imperative to do so. And Lord Stevens has provided a welcome blueprint from which to begin.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all