June 08, 2006

What should we do next?

From the news items we've posted here so far, a pattern starts to emerge.
  1. Some forces are too small to deal with big crimes effectively (e.g. Cambridgeshire with the Soham murders)

  2. Some police technocrats see force mergers - or even a national police force - as the answer

  3. But there is an issue of accountability too. There are strong arguments for making the police more, not less accountable to the communities who pay the police to protect them.
Some forces favour mergers. Sometimes their police authority does, sometimes it doesn't. What public consultation have these forces done? What was the result? What do local MPs think?

All opposition MPs seem to be against these proposals, as do some Labour MPs. We haven't yet found one MP who's come out in favour of them.

So here's a possible checklist
  • Does your police force favour a merger? If so, what do the police authority say? What was the outcome of the public consultation?

  • What are the local MPs' views? - especially if they are Labour.

  • What are the local council's views?
If you get answers to these questions, please tell us and we'll post them here.

Nor do we think the north Wales force should be allowed to forget its change of position. Initially it said it favoured merger with Cheshire, because most of the crime came from that direction. But it accepted politics wouldn't allow the sensible decision so it is now talking with other Welsh forces.

As well as accountability, there is a big issue of cost. Who is going to pay for these mergers? The unlamented Mr Clarke seemed to think that sleight of hand would suffice, but police forces pretty soon exposed this.

Maybe we need two tier police forces, with a serious crimes squad straddling several county forces. This would be cheaper, and preserve what local accountability there is - and with this structure it would be easier to enhance democratic accountability.

For instance, how much tax does your own community pay to the police, and what do you get in exchange?

There are questions to be asked of the police and of politicians. We hope this blog will encourage our readers to ask them. And to tell us the answers.

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