The shape of the future

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  • This article was downloaded by: [North Dakota State University]On: 08 October 2014, At: 07:05Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    The shape of the futureStephen Savage & David O'Dowd CBE, QPM, BA, MSc, CIMgtPublished online: 13 Mar 2008.

    To cite this article: Stephen Savage & David O'Dowd CBE, QPM, BA, MSc, CIMgt (1998) The shape ofthe future, Criminal Justice Matters, 32:1, 4-7, DOI: 10.1080/09627259808552744

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  • s s I think my Association* * (ACPO) has got to stop

    putting its head in the sand aboutthe size of forces..,, for too long wehave been saying no amal-gamations at any price... there'sgot to be some way in which weface the reality - small is notbeautiful. % %

    The shape ofthe future

    Stephen Savage considers thechanging geography of policegovernance.

    The political geography of Britishpolicing is in flux. The establishedstructure of the British policeservice, based upon 43, oftenfiercely independent, police forces(with another eight for Scotland)is under challenge. The quotationabove comes from a chiefconstable of a middle-sized forcein England who, in response to aquery about the future of Britishpolicing1, predicted a significantchange to the existing geographyof policing in England and Wales.The spectre of continuingcentralisation and, perhaps of moreimportance, regionalisation, seemsto loom large.

    As debate about the future ofBritish policing continues2, it isinteresting to speculate about thefuture geography of police govern-ance in Britain and the impact ofpossible structural reconfigurationof the police service nation-wide.How pervasive are the forces ofcentralisation and/or regional-isation? What threats do theypresent? How might the emergentsupra-local structure of policing,national and regional, articulatewith present arrangements for po-lice accountability? What will be-come of that sacred cow of Britishpolicing, the principle of 'con-stabulary independence"! I willconsider these questions against

    "There's got to be some way in which weface the reality - small is not beautiful."

    the backcloth of both centralisationand regionalisation.

    The onward march ofcentralisation?The view that British policing hasbeen undergoing a process ofcentralisation, with a consequentdiminution of its 'local' tradition,now has the status of a truism inpolice studies discourse3.

    On top of longer termcentralising developments, such asthe growing influence of HerMajesty's Inspectorate ofConstabulary and the growinginfluence of the Association ofChief Police Officers (but seebelow), has come the Police amiMagistrates' Courts Act 1994(PMCA), with its nationalobjectives for policing and the newtypes of police authority, heraldingfor some the final nail in the coffinof local policing - theestablishment of an effective 'statepolice'. Alongside the PMC A, arange of national police agencieshas been created, the NationalCriminal Intelligence Service(NCIS), the National Crime Squadand the National Directorate ofPolice Training.

    All of this might seem to pointto what Simon Jenkins has calledthe 'nationalisation' of a once localpublic service4. What is more,almost without exception, theprocess of centralisation has beenpresented in a negative light - inthe zero-sum game, the growth ofcentral influence and power hasbeen at the expense of localcontrols and influence overpolicing. This is despite the factthat, prior to these developments,there was little evidence ofcommentators celebrating theeffectiveness of local policeaccountability under the previoussystem. But is it possible that the'centralisation thesis' has beenoverstated? There are someimportant counter-arguments.

    Firstly, it has become apparentthat the twin 'evils' of PMCA, thenational police objectives and thenewly constituted police authori-ties, might not be the subversive,counter-democratic, forces theywere feared to be. As Trevor Jonesand Tim Newburn have argued5,the potential for increased centralinfluence contained within the na-tional police objectives has not, todate, been apparent in the objec-tives themselves. These have, sofar, been uncontentious and fur-

    thermore were drawn up only af-ter close consultations with bod-ies outside of central governmentitself - the local authority associa-tions, ACPO and so on. Jones andNewburn have also argued, on thebasis of their research, that the newpolice authorities are, in somecases, more assertive than theirmore 'democratic' predecessors.

    ACPO researchResearch undertaken by myself,Sarah Charman and Stephen Copeon the role of ACPO reinforces thatview. Many ACPO officers we in-terviewed stated that some of themembers of the new police au-thorities, particularly the 'inde-pendent' members, were morechallenging and interventionistthan those they had experienced inthe past. Local policing plans, aseach year passes, may more andmore reflect local influence andpriorities. While a centralisingmachinery certainly is in place,countervailing mechanisms mayalso be at work.

    Secondly, some of the morerecent 'centralising' developmentshave institutionalised newaccountability mechanisms whichmay help disperse, rather thanconcentrate, influence overdecision-making. The new national'thematic' agencies such as NCISare to be accountable to 'serviceauthorities', bodies representingthe major 'stakeholders' in nationalpolicing policy, with a statutoryresponsibility for ensuring theeffectiveness and efficiency of theagency in question. One feature ofthe service authorities is theconstitutional status granted torepresentatives of local policeauthorities - nine of the seventeenmembers are selected by theAssociation of Police Authorities.Only one member of the serviceauthority is a Home Officerepresentative.

    There is of course the dangerthat the service authorities will be'toothless tigers' and that back-stage agendas will dictate events.However, the framework theycreate is one which establishes amore formal involvement ofrepresentatives of local authoritiesin consultation over policingpolicy on a national level than wasthe case before. In time this maylead to a net increase in the extentof influence exerted by locally-based organisations over

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  • nationally-based policingactivities. There has been littlescope for that in the past.

    Thirdly, one furthercountervailing force to thecentralisation process lies withinACPO itself. Commentators havetypically viewed the growinginfluence of ACPO as one furtherdimension in the process ofcentralisation*. However, as wehave argued elsewhere7, it is alsopossible to see the strengtheningof ACPO as one means of resistingcentral control and

    'nationalisation'. In a sense, themore effective ACPO becomes ininfluencing its membership, themore it can persuade its constituentforces to toe a 'party line' onpolicing policy and followcommon policies, the weaker thecase for replacing the currentstructure of 43 separate forces witha national police force. As one ofour respondents put it:

    "/ see (ACPO) as being theonly sensible counter to a nationalpolice service and I see it as anecessary bulwark against over-centralisation."

    In effect, this is to say that theconcentration of power withinACPO acts as a counter-weight tothe concentration of power withincentral government. So be it.However, we should not feeltotally comfortable with this. Towhom is ACPO accountable? Weknow that as a body ACPO has noformal status within anaccountability relationship, yet itsnational influence over policing

    policy is substantial. Perhaps theestablishment of a serviceauthority, or something similar, forACPO itself, again containingrepresentatives of the local policeauthorities, would be one way offurther dispersing power andinfluence down the line to the locallevel. The 'tripartite* structure,chief constable, Home Office,local authority, has never been asadequately reflected at nationallevel as it has at force level; aservice authority for ACPO wouldin part address that problem.

    Taking these points together itshould be apparent that the"centralisation thesis' can beoverstated, or at leastoversimplified. Countervailingtendencies are apparent within thegeography of police governance;the uni-directional model of everincreasing centralisation ofgovernance is in need ofqualification. One further reasonfor this is emergence of anothersupra-local level of policegovernance: regionalisation.

    Towards regionalgovernance?Whereas much attention has beengiven to the centralisation of po-licing and police governance, lit-tle has been given to what may be-come a much more significant de-velopment in the geography ofpolice governance, theregionalisation of policing in Brit-ain. This should not be equatedwith or seen as necessarily consist-

    ent with, centralisation.Stronger regional governancecan mean weaker centralisedgovernance. There are pow-erful indications that the drifttowards regional policing isan emerging feature of thelandscape of policing.

    Our research on ACPOincluded a 'futures*dimension. We asked asample of ACPO'smembership (41 in total)what they saw as the mostlikely shape of Britishpolicing as it moved into thenew millennium. Over half ofthose interviewed anticipatedthat regionalisation would beone likely or possible featureof the policing map in the nottoo distant future. Onemember put it boldly:

    "In the year 2010 Iwouldn 't be surprised if wehave got W regions, a boss

    in charge of each region and a bossin charge of each force."

    In most cases, the emergenceof regionalisation was associatedwith force amalgamations,something, of course, alreadypotent within PMCA. Talk of forceamalgamations, of course, is notnew. There have been suspicions,for example, that plans had beendrawn up by HMIC in the late1980s for a reduction in thenumber of forces from 43 to 20 orso forces. However, the 'regionalagenda' is about more than thecoupling of forces this way. As thequotation above indicates, it is alsoabout an additional tier ofgovernance over and above thatoperating at police authority level- a supra-local tier. Ironically, thismay be made more likely becauseof the strengthening of governanceat the 'micro-' level of policing.The rise of 'geographic policing'or 'basic command units' (BCUs)has, in concentrating more powerat the local level, created scope fornew forms of governance at theregional level. These relativelyself-contained policing units,equivalent in size to the old policesub-divisions, have become theaccepted basis for the localdelivery of policing servicesvirtually across the country. Giventhat the BCUs involve managerialresponsibilities which have beendevolved from force headquarters.

    the necessity for a fully equippedcentral service for each and everyforce along present models isdiminished: localisation of policemanagement opens the door to thereduction in the number of forceheadquarters and, in turn to theregionalisation of policing.

    The regional agenda,following this logic, is thereforedriven in part by the resource-case.Under the ConservativeGovernment, interest in possibleregionalisation was linked to thepursuit of economies of scale andrationalisation or resources.However, an additional thrust hasnow been provided by the politicalpush for regionalisation underLabour in the form of regionalassemblies and devolution. Theidea of a 'Welsh police force' or a'South-East police force' is not afanciful one. This might notinvolve the disappearance of theexisting police authorityboundaries - after all, theGovernment plans to reform theCrown Prosecution Service alongexactly these lines. It wouldinvolve, however, new forms ofgovernance and require newmechanisms for accountabilityand, not least, new forms of powersharing.

    ConstabularyindependenceThe ramifications of the process ofregionalisation would stretch farand wide. One area of particularinterest would be the status of thesacred principle of constabularyindependence. Attempts to extendthe influence of local bodiesoutside of policing over policingpolicy have in the past beenrebutted on the grounds that theywould 'conflict with the chiefofficers' independence*. EvenACPO's activities and attempts tobring its members into line havebeen resisted on this basis. Fewdare to even appear to tread in thisarea, not even the Home Office.

    Perhaps it is time to look atconstabulary independence less asa sacred principle guiding policingand more as a form of seniorofficer discourse, to see thediscourse of 'independence' as ameans of defending space. Thatdiscourse has had substantialpower as a buttress against

    "The idea of a 'Welsh police force' is nota fanciful one."

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  • interference with the autonomy ofchief officers to make decisionsconcerning their forces. In otherwords, independence is invoked tomaintain the managerial closureand control of the chief, againstincursions from outside bodies.The growth of regionalisation willinevitably challenge that discourse.Regionally-based policies anddecisions would force chiefconstables to accept interferencefrom 'above' in a way not seenbefore. In turn, this might open thePandora's Box of 'operationalindependence' and force thosecharged with developing policingpolicy to ask some awkwardquestions, not least where the linebetween 'policy' and 'operations'can be drawn.

    The changing geography ofpolice governance is, therefore, notjust about structural change in theway policing will be managed anddelivered in the future. It is aboutwho will 'own' policing and abouthow power over policing can beshared. Coupled with the equallychallenging development ofpartnerships and local authorityresponsibility for communitysafety, processes such asregionalisation will establish newframeworks for the way in whichwe think about policing. ^ _

    Stephen Savage is Professor atthe Institute of Police andCriminological Studies, Universityof Portsmouth.

    Footnotes:1. From an interview undertaken aspart of a research project on thechanging role of the Association ofChief Police Officers. The researchwas based on over 100 interviewswith ACPO members, key roleholders, and a range ofrepresentatives of bodies associatedwith policing, such as the HomeOffice, HMIC, the AuditCommission, and the PoliceFederation.2. Morgan, R and Newburn T(1997) The Future of Policing(Oxford: Oxford University Press)3. Reiner, R (1991) ChiefConstables (Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press) p.271ff4. Jenkins, S (1995) Accountable toNone: The Tory Nationalisation ofBritain (London: Hamish Hamilton)5. Jones, T and Newburn, TPolicing After the Act (London:Policy Studies Institute)6. Rutherford, A (1993) CriminalJustice and the Pursuit of Decency(Oxford: Oxford University Press)7. Savage, S., Charman, S, andCope, S (1996) 'Police Governance:the Association of Chief PoliceOfficers and Constitutional Change'Public Policy and Administration Volll.No. 2p92-106

    Inspectingconstabularies

    David O'Dowd looks at thechallenges facing the Inspectoratetoday.

    Established in 1856 underthe County and BoroughPolice Act, the HMInspectorate of Constabulary hasbeen examining the efficiency andsubsequently the efficiency andeffectiveness of the Police Servicefor nearly one hundred and fiftyyears. The original three HMInspectors (HMIs) wereintroduced to assess the state ofefficiency of all the new policeforces, with the exception of theMetropolitan police. Those forcescertified as efficient would thenreceive an Exchequer grantamounting to one quarter of thecost of pay and clothing. Althoughthe role has expanded over theyears, in many respects the

    "It is particularly important that theservice develops leaders of the calibre tomeet the challenges of taking aprofessional service into the nextcentury/*

    essential function remains thesame - to provide accountability tothe Government and therefore tothe public, that the money grantedto the police forces of England andWales, now some 7 billion a year,is used to provide an appropriateand efficient policing service.

    Although the organisation hasgrown since 1856, it is stillrelatively small, consisting of 5HMIs and 4 Assistant Inspectorsof Constabulary, each with a teamof police and support staff. Two ofthe Assistant Inspectors have anon-police background who, inline with the Citizen's Charterprinciples, broaden theprofessional base of theInspectorate and provide anindependent perspective. In totalaround 95 staff divided betweenfive locations, annually inspect anincreasingly complex service thatemploys over 180,000 staff.

    Current roleIn 1994, the Police and MagistratesCourts Act (now incorporated intothe Police Act 1996) significantlyreformed the governance andmanagement of the Police Serviceimpacting on all three partners ofthe tripartite structure. Policeauthorities were given greaterstatutory powers andresponsibilities and their structurereformed to allow them to exercisethose powers more effectively. Oneof these new responsibilities wasto produce a costed annual policingplan containing both locally andnationally set objectives andperformance targets. The Act alsotransferred the control of policeforce budgets from localauthorities to the new free-standingpolice authorities, so providingchief constables with greaterfreedom to manage their ownfinances.

    The reforms were notrestricted to members of thetripartite structure alone. The roleof HMIC was extended through astatutory duty to report on not justthe efficiency but also theeffectiveness of forces, and for thefirst time the Metropolitan Policecame under the aegis of theInspectorate whereas previouslythey were inspected by invitationonly. Following these changes therole of the HMIC is summarisedas:

    To promote efficiency andeffectiveness of policing inEngland and Wales through theinspection process, to facilitate the

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  • spread of good practice and toprovide advice and support to thetripartite partners on policingissues whilst maintainingindependence of judgement andthe highest of professionalstandards.

    The inspection process is thecornerstone of the Inspectorateactivity and the reforms promptedchanges to the Inspectorate'sannual inspection programme inorder to best be able to report onforces' performance under the newregime. From 1994, the inspectionprocess was separated into threedistinct formats:a) Primary inspection: an in-

    depth examination of the forceover the whole breadth of itsactivities undergone onceevery three years.

    b) Performance review inspec-tion, which is shorter and morefocused on actual performanceof the force which is under-taken in the interim years.

    c) Thematic inspection, whichexamines a single functionacross a number of forces andcomments solely on theeffectiveness of that function.

    The introduction of thePerformance Review Inspectionhas increased the emphasis on theuse of performance data as part ofthe inspection process.Performance management hassteadily developed within thePolice Service over the past tenyears and from the outset HMIChave been heavily involved in thedevelopment of performancemeasures.

    In the mid eighties, a range ofpolice data including the deploy-ment of staff, activities, outputsand outcomes was first collected

    from forces on an annual basis.Following this in 1993, in collabo-ration with the Audit Commissionand the Home office, the PoliceService Suite of Performance In-dicators was launched whichaimed to provide highlighted per-formance indicators on each of thecore service areas. Later, the Po-lice and Magistrates' Courts Act1994 introduced key national ob-jectives with their associated per-formance indicators determined bythe Home Secretary. The Inspec-torate was tasked with publishingthe national data and interpretingthe results, the vehicle for this be-ing the HMIC Annual Report.

    So over the years, althougheffort is made to ensure that onlydata required for supportinginspections is collected, thedatabase (the HMIC Matrix ofindicators) has developed into avast and complex source of PoliceService data. It has outgrown itscurrent software, but work isprogressing to replace it with asystem that will allow moresophisticated and flexible analysisof the data. One of the problemsintegral to databases of this size isto ensure accuracy andcomparability. This is recognisedas vitally important. Constantliaison with the Service is essentialin order to maintain and ultimatelyto try and improve the quality ofthe data collected, therebyallowing meaningful comparisonsto be made.

    The use of performance datais important in any inspection offorces, but it is equally importantthat an holistic view is taken withthe assessment of other aspectssuch as leadership, integrity,accountability and the publicinterface. The Inspectorate is

    uniquely placedto offer adefinitive viewon policingissues. Whilstretaining a highdegree ofindependence,the deploymentof senior staffensures that ahigh level ofknowledge, skilland experienceis brought tobear with anunparal le ledunderstandingof policingissues. It is

    particularly important that theservice develops leaders of thecalibre to meet the challenges oftaking a professional service intothe next century. Consultation withchief constables has confirmed thevalue of an independent andprofessional assessment of forceperformance through a regularinspection programme.

    Spreading good practicethroughout the Service continuesto be a high priority for theInspectorate and, as such, greateremphasis has been placed onundertaking thematic inspectionsas an effective method ofidentifying and disseminating thisto the police forces.

    With such regular contact withall forces and the first-handknowledge and experience ofpolicing issues, the Inspectorateprovides a source of professionaladvice to all members of thetripartite system and otheragencies. The Chief HMI acts asthe senior professional policeadviser to ministers and as suchplays an important part,influencing policy making in apositive and constructive way forthe Service.

    Recent developmentsThe growing recognition of theinter-relationship of the separateelements within the criminal jus-tice system and their ability to im-pact dramatically on each other,has highlighted the need for inter-agency collaboration. Conse-quently, in seeking to promote po-lice effectiveness and efficiencyHMIC has increasingly involvedexperts from other organisations intheir thematic inspections such asthe Probation Service, Crown

    Prosecution Service, Inspectorateof Prisons, Commission for RacialEquality and Social Services In-spectorate. In addition, the Inspec-torate works in close liaison withother agencies such as the AuditCommission, the Police Com-plaints Authority and the Associa-tion of Police Authorities.

    With the increasing pressureon budgets, the need to ensurevalue for money is obtained inevery aspect of policing isparamount. This has been one ofthe Inspectorate's prime aims overthe past few years. The three yearthematic inspection programmewas targeted on those areas whereit was considered the greatestscope for obtaining improvedvalue for money existed. Thisincluded police sickness, ITproject management and anoverview of good practice andfurther potential for value formoney. Increasingly theInspectorate is making progress incosting its activity andencouraging forces to cost theirsin far greater detail.

    Future developmentsThe pace of change within policingwill continue. Changes in theapproach to policing predicatechanges in approach to methods ofinspection. Police authorities, likelocal authorities, will be requiredto work within the parameters ofthe Government's Best Valueinitiative. Best Value will entailfurther collaborative work with theAudit Commission and drawHMIC into a prospective role ofcertification when historically thetask has been ex post facto review.

    The shifting focus from crimedetection to crime reductionthrough statutory partnerships willrequire nuances to inspectiontechnique. The introduction bystatute of multi-disciplinary YouthOffending Teams again will leadto future collaboration betweenprofessional inspectorates andother agencies.

    These are dynamic times forthe agencies of social control andsocial support. It is right thatHMIC, at the leading edge ofprofessional inspectorates, is intune with that dynamism.

    David O'Dowd CBEr QPM, BA,MSc, CIMgt is HM ChiefInspector of Constabulary.

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