Police Reform: A noxious brew of politics, regulation and special interest groups

March 7, 2013

Tom WinsorThe dilemmas of police leadership are fictionalized in a thousand police dramas. These are currently being played out in the UK following the controversial appointment of Tom Winsor, a lawyer with no service experience of police work, as Chief Inspector of Constabulary

The police forces of the United Kingdom are united mostly in a concern that changes imposed on them by outsiders will be ill-informed on the special features that make policing unique among the professions.

Inevitably, the appointment of a Chief Inspector of Police from outside their ranks [July 2012] produced initial hostility from ACPO [The Association of Chief Police Officers, and The Police Federation. And that was even before Tom Winsor got down to work.

An intellectually undemanding profession?

He was quoted as saying that the service was still based on a century-old structure and that:

“For too long policing has been unfairly regarded by many as an occupation of an intellectually largely undemanding nature .. policing today is entirely different. The attitudes of some police officers remain fastened in that mind set and I believe that is holding them back [in order that] all men and women of intelligence and good character consider a policing career on a par with law, medicine, the clergy, the armed and security services, finance and industry”.

Not the words of someone seeking a conciliatory relationship with police leaders.

The Home Secretary’s choice

Theresa May has acquired a reputation of a conservative hawk as Home Secretary, attracting controversy either deliberately or insensitively, according to your political perspective. Her attempts to reform immigration http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15649548 control procedures led to battles and blame-naming “United by love divided by Theresa May” goes one slogan against her policies. .

On the home front, her choice of Winsor is seen as an attempt to finesse the challenge of leading a campaign for police reform, by relying on the inclinations of Mr Winsor to ease the way towards unpopular legislation.

According to the BBC’s home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw

The current system sees all police recruits begin work as a constable, regardless of age, skills or experience. The Home Office proposals being put before MPs herald a fundamental change to the current system of police recruitment. It currently takes about 25 years for a newly recruited constable to work their way to the most senior level, a process that is thought to deter talented people from other professions from joining the police.
The direct-entry plans expected to be put forward follow recommendations in a report last year by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor.

Watch the watchdog

Tom Winsor may be Theresa May’s watchdog but he is no poodle. Brought in as Rail Regulator, he become involved in bitter disputes with the Government over what he considered to be efforts to undermine his authority.


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