At the recent Home Affairs Committee’s session on the College of Policing (February 12), it was evident that there are high expectations all round for the College. Rightly so, it represents a fantastic opportunity for policing. But there is still a degree of confusion around who does what in the new national landscape.
This is hardly surprising – the landscape has seen lots of change in very little time. Over the past three months, Police and Crime Commissioners have been elected, and they are already getting organised at the national level. This is something we as chiefs saw as critical, but adds another new body to the equation in the form of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC). The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) has left the scene and, the College has just been born. More widely, numerous functions including IT, forensic and procurement have returned to the Home Office, and the National Crime Agency (NCA) continues to take shape. While we still await legislation to be enacted for two of these bodies, we need to move on quickly to ensure that the opportunities to develop a professional college for all colleagues are not lost, and that the real value it will bring to the landscape is made explicit as soon as possible.
Looking back to initial statements made around the genesis of the professional policing body, the current plan is significantly different and significantly better. These advances being achieved through debate and engagement with the Government to ensure it had the best chance of success. The appointment of a highly experienced leader from the service and a highly qualified Chair, together with a Board of Directors that spans the policing family and beyond, provides clear evidence of commitment to an inclusive structure that will represent the totality of policing. The decision by the Home Secretary to keep the Home Office at arms length from the board is to be supported, as is the aspiration that in time it should seek to become the “Royal College of Policing”.
In their most recent session, the Home Affairs Committee enquired into the relationship between the College and ACPO. This is an area where there is a strong willingness to work together and emerging clarity over who does what - a result of continuing close engagement.
The transfer of all non-operational business area work into the new governance structure has already taken place, and the first meeting of the professional committee which brings together business area leads takes place in the near future. While the band of Chief Officer volunteers who lead will continue to draw on expertise from across the service in an identical way, the work will progress under Alex’s Chairmanship instead of that of ACPO Cabinet.
ACPO Chief Constables' Council will now meet more regularly to ensure that all operational policing matters that fall outside the College’s scope are swiftly dealt with, ensuring citizens are protected through collective action against national threats, and that papers from the College requiring sign off to deliver a consistent approach across our devolved policing model are presented to Chiefs in a timely fashion. Operational matters requiring the voice of service leaders will continue to be handled through ACPO press office ensuring proper transparency on matters in the public domain, whilst policy issues and college business will be dealt with under the college banner.
Policing is a profession and needs to be recognised as such. But membership of a profession carries with it responsibilities and standards and codes of behaviour which will – and should - be top of the College agenda. The Home Secretary’s statement to the House on Tuesday mentioned a Code of Ethics, something I strongly support and, in keeping with the Patten Report, introduced myself into the PSNI. It was delivered to the whole organisation through a 2-day training programme which allowed every officer and member of staff to understand and discuss its importance before, in an act of symbolic but real significance, signing for their own personal copy. This may be the way to go here.
So much to be done but I believe the College has the potential to become a worldwide centre of excellence that complements the worldwide reputation of the British policing model.