In a cleverly crafted speech in Hackney this morning David Cameron let fly with his first serious policy initiative, policing reform. He wants more bobbies on the beat, working practice reforms in return for greater investment, and greater local democratic control. This latter part, a key element of the Patten reforms in Northern Ireland, also seems to be the heart of the Tory intiative:
…the principles of local democracy, accountability and strong leadership should be universal. Already there is evidence that proactive, neighbourhood policing can deliver solutions that work in the UK. In London, an increased police presence on the streets after the terrorist attacks of 7/7 led to a significant fall in crime… …leading the Guardian to admit the value of high profile, visible patrolling. The Metropolitan Police has a Safer Neighbourhoods initiative. Each ward has a dedicated team of police and Community Support Officers responsible for the reduction of crime and disorder in their area… It’s already yielding results here in Hackney. And in Middlesbrough, Ray Mallon’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach has cut crime by over a third in two years.
He goes on to put some meat on the bones:
Instead of police chiefs answering to central government, I want them to be formally accountable to local communities. We would scrap the national Policing Plan and all of the associated apparatus of central control. The police would continue to have operational independence, which would be properly defined. Local politicians would under no circumstances be permitted to direct the arrest of an individual or the initiation of a prosecution. But they would be empowered to set strategic objectives for the police and ensure that those objectives are met… …with the ultimate sanction of being able to hire and fire the Chief Constable.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty