Listen to the professionals says ACPO President Sir Hugh Orde

Sir Hugh Orde
Sir Hugh Orde

When it came to Policing Reform, The President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Sir Hugh Orde, encouraged David Cameron, the Prime Minister, to follow his recent comments; “that listening to the professionals and being flexible is strength.” Sir Hugh Continued, “It may now appear sensible to give serious consideration to reviewing and taking stock on just how many loose ends, some of them critical to policing, remain before deciding on whether the overarching plan is achievable within the current timescales.”  Speaking in the opening address at the Leading Change in Policing conference, today at the Harrogate International Centre, Sir Hugh added; ”Recently NHS reforms were paused, sentencing changes reassessed and other proposals reviewed to allow for reflection and change. Unless greater clarity emerges in the very near future I fear that we run the risk of compromising the safety of citizens and damaging a service which has been at the forefront of protecting the public for so many years.”

“The public sector is facing the most challenging times in living memory, and policing, as one of the most essential yet “unprotected” departments is facing substantial cuts. Which, however defined, will impact on the number of staff we employ.We are determined to preserve the service to the public. But as the service of last resort, we are going through a period of substantial change. Changes to accountability, changes to central structures and changes to pay and conditions. Change which, if mismanaged, could threaten the impartial model of policing that has existed for 180 years and is revered across the world.I intend to raise a number of these critical strategic issues today, but before I start it is right to reflect on the success of policing over past years. For it is upon these sure foundations that we stand today.”  Sir Hugh continued.

Sir Hugh said that he saw three critical factors “shaping the landscape ahead.” Namely;

  • The Government’s commitment to reform against very tight timescales,
  • The degree of uncertainty created by the reform, and
  • The lack of money which is “driving a very review of everything we do.”

Sir Hugh said “First and foremost, we must focus relentlessly on keeping people safe, which relies on the balance of local streets and neighbourhoods policed in a visible and responsive way, while action against national and international criminality is resourced and unceasingly enforced. Secondly we must ensure our clear professional opinion is articulated to Government as it pursues its change agenda But clarity is essential – and it is not yet evident.I believe the British model of policing is precious and so well respected by our colleagues overseas because it starts from the position of impartiality and independence balanced by robust and independent oversight.Consequently, it remains the model that much of the world aspires to imitate. If a government should wish to interfere with that basic principle, then it is a matter for others to decide on the merits of the case. “However we owe it to our profession and public to ensure that we bring to the attention of government any issues where changes will prevent or reduce our ability to deliver that impartial service based on our best professional judgement.

“My commitment as President of ACPO is to continue to do that across all the areas of change I have touched on, which leads me to a final observation.Looking across the change agenda simply within our world, notwithstanding the obvious implications of the other cuts and reforms, I see too many unfinished bits of business. Much of NPIA remains homeless, critical national services will soon be entirely unfunded, the NCA legislation is not yet in draft form or to be laid in this session. The ambitions of the Neyroud review cannot be achieved quickly and ACPO’s future remains uncertain.

“The Policing Reform and Social Responsibility Bill is at report stage, the number of amendments tabled suggests some Lords are worried too. Indeed it is becoming clear that the Bill will not receive Royal Assent until the autumn.In such a huge and radical programme of reform it is hardly surprising there is some lack of clarity. Yet the potential impact of failure in any policing discipline is, by definition, likely to be very serious.

“The Service understands the Government’s determination to deliver a substantial programme of reform across the public sector, but we cannot afford to get policing wrong, and the risks are great.We have a police service that is admired throughout the world. It is not perfect but it has cut crime, protected the UK from numerous terrorist plots, bought serious offenders to justice, policed serious public disorder, and continued to deliver the bedrock of our policing model- Neighbourhood policing- across the country; and done all of this ethically upholding human rights. As I travel around the country and talk to those who deliver this service, I remain entirely confident that, notwithstanding the challenges they remain absolutely committed to protecting their communities, that is what they always have done and will always continue to do.”

Concluding his speech Sir Hugh Orde said “On the Queens Police Medal is an inscription; it reads “to protect my people”. Policing is an honourable profession and those within it are honourable people who join to keep fellow citizens safe. Of one thing you can be certain, Home Secretary that determination will not change.”

ACPO Website