The calendar has been full this month; we have had our own conference (a successful and informative event that started a debate with PCCs), and many other events hosted by interested parties in both the public and private sector. Each one with a different focus, each one with its own burning questions.
The ensuing discussions and debates have certainly served to remind us all of how busy the timetable is – and how much work there is left to do. To take one example: the House of Lords is currently dissecting, line by line, the legislation around the National Crime Agency. My colleagues Jon Murphy and Mick Creedon are working closely with Keith Bristow on how we collectively focus on the most dangerous criminals in the country, through co-operation and proper tasking across all agencies and forces. This change alone will be a step change to our policing model.
But it is by no means the only change. I have taken many questions over recent weeks on how the shifting pieces in the policing jigsaw all fit together. The challenge lies in the complexity of the policing mission and how it will be delivered with the proposed new structures.
Recent developments around HMCIC have shifted the balance again as, in keeping with many inspectorates, it moves away from a leadership model based on a sworn officer to a body that will have a very different, more regulatory, feel. It is entirely the Home Secretary’s prerogative to choose who inspects the police, but we do need clarity on who advises the Government on operational matters following this decision. Whoever speaks on behalf of the service must be seen as legitimate, capable of speaking for the 44 Chief Officers and have the confidence to represent them in the routine, as they get on with running their forces.
It is for this reason that I feel we are reaching a point for some clear and unambiguous conversations around who does what in the new landscape. ACPO remains at the centre of this debate. Although the Government is cutting funding in December, I am confident that as the essential ‘glue’ in the system, that by bringing together chief officers, holds, and legitimises the National Policing agenda, we will continue to operate beyond the horizon for some time.
There are of course many other players on the new national stage. The Director General of the NCA is a chief constable (at the moment), has a direct line relationship with the Home Secretary; and will be on hand to provide advice. But if that is to be the arrangement we need to understand how it plays out across the wider service. The Police Professional Body (PPB) will also exist. But rooted in the totality of the police family membership, it will simply be unable to fully represent the views of the leadership of the service, and on some occasions the two may be in conflict. Where we do appear to have clarity is around the role of ACPO Chief Constables’ Council, which will remain firmly within ACPO.
So work continues apace! I do believe that the policy making aspects of ACPO’s Business Areas fit properly into the new Professional Body. However, I think there is a growing realisation that a substantial percentage of the work undertaken by Business Areas is operational and as such must remain outside that structure, firmly in the grip of ACPO. We must ensure that as much clarity as possible is achieved here and Business Area leads must be able to operate on a day to day basis through both ACPO and the PPB when appropriate.
Government will continue to need to know the views of all 44 forces collectively, since 44 forces is the model we currently have. I am pleased to note that there is now a corresponding transitional body in the form of the Association for Police and Crime Commissioners to represent PCCs collectively – they too will need a joint voice on national issues and we fully support this move.
So there is still a huge complexity of work requiring a settled home in the new landscape and it is the job of myself and others to find it. The ACPO press office took calls, to take a single day last week, on the policing approach to anti-social behaviour, drug driving and plastic bullets. That’s just in a few short hours. The answers to the questions arising from those calls could all be found through the vast resource of operational knowledge that can be drawn from across the service, at all ranks and grades, through the ACPO business areas and portfolios. Would a standards and accreditation body, be able to provide operational commentary in the same fashion, grounded in real-time expertise? I am not convinced. The Royal College of Physicians doesn’t speak for Radiologists, Radiologists don’t speak for Nurses and so on and so forth. If a Royal College for Policing is to speak for the whole service then it needs the buy in of everyone.
We must be positive in driving this forward - the recognition and respect that a Royal College could confer on policing is an enormous opportunity and the fact that it will be service owned is hugely significant. A body that can draw together the knowledge of chief officers, the operational leadership of the Superintending ranks and the knowhow of Federated officers would be hugely valuable.
I am therefore keen to up the pace on progress with the Professional Body. The NPIA will cease to be as of December, but the IT successor body ‘Newco’ isn’t expected to be in place until the following summer. The Association’s central funding runs out at that time too, that is no secret. We can’t leave an empty space, it’s not right for the service, it wouldn’t do for the Government and we wouldn’t be doing right by the citizen.
So we must fit into a coherent picture and that means bringing together ACPO, the Superintendents’ Association, the Police Federation, all the relevant police staff associations, the PCCs (as soon as they’ve sat down) and government stakeholders. We must bolt down the detail as soon as possible. It was once said the challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.