County-based police system should be replaced with regional or national service - senior cops
COUNTY-based police forces should be replaced with a regional or potentially even national service, senior officers have told MPs.
The current model of 43 forces across England and Wales is "outdated," "not cost effective" "and creates "inconsistencies in service" according to organisations representing senior officers.
The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) warned the current structure cannot keep up with 21st century threats and must be reviewed as part of plans to cure our ailing criminal justice system.
It and the Police Superintendents' Association (PSA) want a review and appear to favour the establishment of a smaller number of regional forces, to align with the ten existing regional organised crime units, or even a national force with regional leads.
An NPCC spokesman said: "Many forces feel that the current 43-force model leads to inefficiencies across England and Wales, as well as inconsistencies in service.
"Twenty first-century threats like cybercrime and organised criminal networks are borderless and need to be tackled at national, international, and regional levels.
“Police chiefs are not calling for immediate reorganisation or defining any one particular model at this stage. However, it would be a missed opportunity if any future review of the entire criminal justice system did not consider the matter."
Some neighbouring forces have been sharing responsibilities for a number of years already such as Kent and Essex and Norfolk and Suffolk.
Harvi Khatkar, PSA Vice President (above), said: “The 43-force model was designed more than 50 years ago, for a context that is a far cry from that in which we work today.
“If we want to be a service that can flex and adapt quickly to the changing nature of crime, demand and technology, we should look at this structure and what changes could be made in both the short and long term.
"While there is no political appetite for an overhaul of the current policing model, we should be looking for how forces can better work together, regardless of force boundaries, for greater efficiencies and to provide a better service to the public."
The NPCC and PSA both called for a review in submissions to a Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into policing.
The PSA said police forces are not required to use the same digital systems, making "cross force collaboration and data sharing difficult."
This meant recommendations about child protection data sharing made nearly 20 years ago in the 2004 Bichard Inquiry, carried out in the wake of the 2002 murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham by Stephen Huntley, were still difficult to implement, nearly 20 years on, it added.
Its submission said: "The 43-force model, which was established in the 1960s, is not suitable for today’s policing or for that of the future.
"With forces having workforces ranging from 1,000 officers to 50,000 officers, being treated as the same entity is counterproductive.
"Holistic benefits could be realised from similar geographic areas, with services coming together.
"This would clearly need a strategic consideration of what could be delivered at a local, regional, national and international level, but it is apparent that much of what is delivered at a local level could be delivered nationally in partnership, without compromising operational independence.
"The first step is to determine demand, outputs, targets and objectives. Once these are defined, along with the role of
police forces, demarcation can be made between whether a service should be delivered locally, regionally or nationally.
"Currently, there is not enough collaboration across procurement around assets such as vehicles, uniform and kit, and little consideration for how nationally procured services such as administration and finance could make radical efficiency savings," it added.
The NPCC submission said: "A modern police force should look to maximise efficiencies where possible without losing the ability to tailor approaches where there is a clear and deliberate alignment to local needs.
"Procuring and running national IT systems is a good example of a clear way to increase efficiencies and would ensure inter-operability across forces."
A Home Office spokesman said it was working to ensure the police service worked better as "one system" but said there
there were no current plans to review the structure of police forces.
He said: "We currently have no plans to review the structure of territorial police forces in England and Wales.
"We are working with the policing sector, including through the National Policing Board, to ensure it works better as one system to better protect the public.
"We are working to ensure that the sector can manage new threats, build national capability, deliver more consistent standards and seize the opportunities that digital technology and data analytics bring."