Monday, 2 June 2008

Well done Surrey Police - Hampshire should follow

The country’s most successful police force is leading a revolt against Home Office targets that it says stifle officers with form-filling bureaucracy. Surrey Police will be joined this weekend by the Staffordshire, Leicestershire and West Midlands forces in returning to what they call “commonsense policing”.

The forces will abandon government performance measurements that require them to record playground fights as criminal offences. Instead, they will give the bobby on the beat the discretion to treat minor offences as minor offences. A child who accidentally damages a neighbour’s greenhouse with his football is now more likely to be given a telling-off than a conviction for criminal damage.

The red-tape rebellion reflects a growing frustration across police ranks with Whitehall demands that they count every incident that occurs, every action they take and the details of every person spoken to. Senior officers fear that the fixation on “sanction detection” and “crime recording standards” is driving talented officers out of the service.

A right-wing think-tank, Civitas, says police often choose to tackle trivial offences instead of serious crimes to help them meet government targets. The Civitas pamphlet said the trend meant many 'law-abiding middle-class' people no longer trusted the service.

The Police Federation agreed that officers were "struggling to bring some common sense to a... target-driven culture". But the Home Office said it did not expect officers to hit targets at the expense of tackling serious offenders. A spokesman said the government's crime strategy was designed to "free up the police so that they are able to focus on serious crimes and local priorities". There were now fewer central targets, he said, adding that those announced last October gave more prominence to tackling serious crime.

Civitas said police forces, and the government, risked alienating the public by concentrating on "easy-to-deal-with offending" like speeding. The pamphlet, written by journalist Harriet Sergeant, said many officers were expected to complete a certain number of "sanction detections" a month, either by charging, cautioning or fining an offender. Arresting or fining a normally law-abiding person for a minor offence was a good way of achieving this target and pleasing the Home Office, the booklet said.

The author said performance-related pay bonuses of between £10,000 and £15,000 a year for commanders who managed frontline officers partly depended on reaching targets for sanction detections. "In order to meet targets, police are now classifying incidents as crimes that would previously have been dealt with informally, classified differently or ignored," said the pamphlet

Cllr Clifford say: I am 100% in agreement with Surrey Police - for two reasons.

1. The Police are fighting with one hand behind their back thanks to some irrelevant targets. (Some targets are good let us not forget - ie burglary etc)

2. This will give more power and discretion to neighbourhood policing. In effect bringing power to make policing decisions at a local level, by local people. Power to the people!

Well done Surrey - I call on Hampshire to do the same.

In Empress we have a model of how Neighbourhood partnership Policing should work. Our two local beat officers working with the local councillors have achieved a great deal in the last 12 months.

1. Doubled Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators in the ward.

2. Tackled anti-social behaviour in Cove Green

3. Built a cyclepath route to address a problem near a bridge.

4. Identified an area to provide additional free youth facilities for young people in the town centre.

5. Improved parking in Empress Estate and made it safer.

6. Stopped parking meters going into Salisbury Road car park.

7. Established regular 3 month meetings with local residents, businesses, school and church representatives.

8. Set 3 local priorities that local people wanted tackled - and more importantly getting them done.

9. Police and Councillors meeting once a month to discuss new issues and progress current work.

10. Increased confidence in Police and Councillors as residents see we do not just talk about issues - we work together and take action.

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