Letter: Chief police officers respond positively to Sheehy

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The Independent Online
Sir: In her article 'Plodding response to reform' (24 August), Alison Halford sought to accuse senior police managers of obstructing proposals for better management of the service. She referred in particular to the recent Panorama debate on the report of Sir Patrick Sheehy, and how, in her view, 'nothing materialised other than an arrogant refusal even to contemplate the need for change'. As the chief police officers' representative on that programme I began to wonder if she and I had been in the same studio.

Given the brief duration of the programme and the large number of contributions, I believe I still made it clear that the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) accepts the need for change and welcomes many of the Sheehy proposals as the basis for a positive debate that will contribute to the substantial change programme that is already taking place and in many instances generated by the police service itself.

I am heading a team of officers who are considering the Sheehy proposals in detail and preparing a response that will be submitted to the Home Secretary. That process is ongoing, but I can confirm that we believe many of the 272 recommendations offer substantial potential benefits and we are likely to endorse them. Indeed, a good proportion of them are derived directly from proposals put forward by ACPO in its evidence to the inquiry team.

Again, in her article, Ms Halford refers to chief constables as having 'little record of innovation'. May I suggest to her that in saying this she appears to be at odds with the Home Secretary, who only a few months ago complimented the police service for 'being in the vanguard of change amongst the public services'. She also ignores the generous acknowledgements of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary that the police were ahead of the Citizen's Charter and going in the direction that they would wish.

Not surprisingly I don't support much of what Ms Halford has to say, but if she finds herself unable to accept my comments perhaps she may wish to contemplate the words of Sir Patrick Sheehy, who in chapter one of his report said: 'across the range of police duties, the best of chief officers and their management teams have worked hard to introduce and implement quite radical changes so as to enhance service to the community and gain greater value for money'.

I can fully understand the concerns of police officers who are worried about how the proposed changes will affect their job security and standard of living. They have a great deal of responsibility and often work under very difficult and dangerous circumstances. They deserve to be properly recognised and rewarded for this and may be assured that we will have their interests at heart when submitting our proposals to the Home Office.

As managers of the police service, our task now is to grasp the opportunity of the wider debate that the Sheehy report has offered, to endorse those parts that we believe are beneficial and to put forward constructive alternatives where necessary. But above all, to continue the current programme of change to the ultimate benefit of the public we serve. You can be certain that we shall do so.

Yours faithfully,


Chief Constable of Hertfordshire

County Police Headquarters

Welwyn Garden City,


25 August

The writer is chairman of the Personnel and Training Committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers.