Police force structure 'obsolete'
26.2.02 hosted news
Police forces in England and Wales are the most expensive in the world but risk losing the battle against rapidly changing crime without dramatic reform, a report has said.
Scotland Yard must orchestrate efforts to tackle serious and organised crime nationally in the same way as it co-ordinates counter-terrorism work, academics at think-tank Reform claimed.
Many regional forces should be split into smaller units, creating up to 52 more constabularies, because they are too big to combat local crime and low level offences effectively.
The report, A New Force, found the current 43 forces operate as inefficient and expensive fiefdoms run by chief constables who are only accountable to weak police authorities.
Academics said the cost of policing for each taxpayer was higher than every other developed country in the world and has increased by more than £4.5 billion (43%) since New Labour came to power 1997. They said not enough had been done to address a lack of national co-ordination on serious and organised crimes such as gun violence, drug smuggling and people trafficking.
Reform claimed the "makeshift structure" of policing was "opaque and unaccountable" and sweeping changes in accountability and transparency were needed to tackle all levels of offending.
It labelled the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) a "self-perpetuating oligarchy" of senior police officers who would soon gain even more power under the Policing and Crime Bill.
Elizabeth Truss, deputy director of Reform, said: "The threat of crime is changing and growing but the police response has been hampered by the obsolete structure of 43 regional forces. England and Wales need a national lead force on serious crime such as gun crime, drugs and people trafficking. The Serious Organised Crime Agency is the wrong answer to the right question. The Metropolitan Police is the de facto national force and needs to be formally responsible."
A Home Office spokesman said: "We make no apologies for investing record sums in the Police Service in England and Wales. The 60% increase in funding since 1997/8 combined with historically high numbers of police officers, staff and police community support officers has helped deliver very real benefits - crime has fallen by over a third in the last 12 years and the risk of being a victim of crime is historically low.
"We are building on these successes by slashing red tape to get more officers on the beat, scrapping all top down targets except one - to increase public confidence, and making sure the police answer to the public, not Government. This focus on common sense policing shows we trust the expertise of police officers to get down to business focusing on the issues that matter most to communities - driving down crime and driving up public confidence."
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