Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 147 - 159)




  147. Mr Elliott and Mrs Berry, you are very welcome. Can I clear up one thing before we start, I noticed in your evidence you very reasonably pointed out that the gap between the end of the consultation period and the publication of the Bill was so brief as to cause you to think that maybe your peoples' comments had not been taken into account. I had a letter today from the Home Secretary who says, "We are still considering the comments received from organisations and individuals as a result of the publication of the White Paper and will wish to consult further on some aspects of our proposals". It seems that the jury is still out.

  (Mr Elliott) That is very helpful.

  Chairman: We are going to start off with some questions on the National Policing Plan, Mrs Prentice is going to help us there.

Bridget Prentice

  148. I notice from your original submission you say you are in favour of the National Policing Plan, can you tell us a little bit about the plans that are already produced locally and why you are supportive of a National Policing Plan? What does that add to what happens locally?
  (Mr Elliott) There are plans produced locally. One downside of the National Policing Plan is that it might make life a little more bureaucratic, there is a danger in all that. A National Policing Plan would help to coordinate some larger issues which are across-force issues. It could not be too complicated because there will obviously be local priorities required as well. We are concerned about added bureaucracy, but equally we can see a role for the National Policing Plan that would help coordinate, perhaps, drugs or other issues which are across borders?

  149. What happens locally at the moment?
  (Mr Elliott) Locally at the moment all forces produce a policing plan to the chief constable of the Police Authority and those are adhered to and put together by the chief officer and the local police authority.

  150. Are there other people involved in those when the chief constable puts together this local policing plan?
  (Mr Elliott) The chief officer will obviously take soundings from within the force and the police authority from the public to try and reflect both internal and external priorities.
  (Mrs Berry) There are a variety of different consultations which take place at force level before the business plan is put together, they would obviously take account of the local consultation with the public in the community. They also talk to staff associations within the force and the police authority and then the final plan is put together and submitted to the Home Office.

  151. If I can turn to performance indicators, I know you have some worries about performance indicators. How do you think this affects the Basic Command Units? How does it affect individual officers?
  (Mr Elliott) First of all, I think there are too many performance indicators and that makes life somewhat bureaucratic sometimes. Unfortunately it also means that we chase targets rather than chasing what should be done, you chase what can be measured rather than what might be required, and that affects the individual officers. Quite clearly individual officers are targeted towards trying to meet some of the performance indicators, so it can frustrate police into being uptight to meet targets. You may pull people off street policing to reach a particular target, that might be one of the consequence of performance indicators. Over-bureaucracy is one issue which I think is costly in terms of trying to meet the targets, too many targets is a second and, perhaps, it does divert people in some areas away from the public and what might be required in terms of street police.

  152. Do you think there are too many targets? Let me ask you, which ones would you remove if you had the power to do so?
  (Mr Elliott) There are round 150 odd targets in the Police Service and it is difficult to enumerate the ones that I would personally remove. I think there are too many targets looking at quantity rather than quality issues. I think it is qualitative issues that are as important to the public as quantitative issues. I think basically we need to look more towards qualitative as well as quantitative targets.

  153. Do you think that is why some officers might concentrate too much on filling their basket with targets?
  (Mr Elliott) I am sure that is a factor.
  (Mrs Berry) The general feeling amongst a lot of police officers is what gets counted gets done. If it is very cosmetic and, as Clint has said, a quantitative measure then the outcome that might cause is not taken into account. Of great concern to us is that the visibility of police is not necessarily one of the quantitative performance indicators that is taken into account and, therefore, over a long period because chief officers have had to make decisions on where they put limited resource, and then they are not being judged on visibility, that is why we are seeing more police being taken off the streets, rather than on the streets, and going into areas where they can produce the figures that the performance indicators require them to. Until such a time as there are performance indicators on the visibility of police on the streets and then see what outcome that type of performance indicator presents in a qualitative way then, I think, we will continue to have some of the problems with performance indicators.

  154. Can I now turn to the new Standards Unit and your views on that? Can you tell us whether you think it will be in any way in conflict with the Inspectorate?
  (Mr Elliott) That is a really good question, because we do support the Standards Unit to drive standards up, we hope. There is likely to be some difficulty between the role of the Inspectorate and the Standards Unit. We think this needs to be well thought through, although we do see a role for the Inspectorate and the Standards Unit. It is an issue that I think would cause some difficulties in the early days, and perhaps even in the longer term, if we do not get it right.

  155. When we saw witnesses last week we suggested to them, why can the Inspectorate not become the Standards Unit, or do you think there needs to be two separate bodies, even though they may overlap?
  (Mr Elliott) I think in general terms we would support the Standards Unit as driving quality and the Inspectorate having more of a role of thematic-type inspections and the occasional in-force total inspection. I think the Standards Unit will be more targeted to specific issues to drive particular standards in particular areas.


  156. Do you see the Standards Unit replacing the Inspectorate in due course or vice versa?
  (Mr Elliott) That depends how they perform. It could well be in the long-term there could be an amalgamation. Quite clearly one of the difficulties with having two units is if they both demand different sets of figures and different sets of figures produced in different ways. It would be a nightmare if we had two different bodies doing similar jobs, producing similar figures in different way. One thing that I think we certainly need as a service to get together is to decide what figures are important and produce one set to a set standard. We have failed to do this consistently, I believe, in the time that I have been in the Service. Even simple figures like levels of sickness are not necessarily matched force-by-force in the way they are collected. One important factor for the Standards Unit would be to standardise the figures.

  157. To get comparable figures. Are you satisfied with the way the Inspectorate has done its job up to now?
  (Mr Elliott) By and large, yes.
  (Mrs Berry) If I can add to that, I think the Inspectorate have moved from having annual inspections of all forces into more thematic inspections. We welcome that because it means they can take a more focussed look at different aspects of policing. I do not think they should overlook the need to have a thorough review of forces every three years. I think the link between the Standards Unit and the HMIC needs to be very closely coordinated so they can work together. In our evidence we suggested they should be amalgamated to form one unit. We see a benefit from HMIC, not just reflecting links with retired senior officers but also the expertise coming from outside the service and combining that to be an effective Inspectorate.

  158. Has the Inspectorate been aware of kicking upstairs senior officers who have really served their time, or is that irreverent?
  (Mr Elliott) I do not think we should make that judgment, we do not appoint HMIC Inspectors. People who have wider knowledge of issues than we might have have done that in the past. I think one of the points I would like to expand on slightly in terms of the Standards Unit and the Inspectorate is that the Inspectorate is looking at thematic issues that might affect all forces on a particular topic, we would rather see the Standards Unit with, perhaps, BCU demanding that good and bad practice be spread, which is a slightly different way of looking at policing, I think, from the way the Inspectorate have traditionally done that.

Mr Prosser

  159. In your written submission you welcome the announcement of an Independent Police Complaints Commission being set up and then go on to shoot all of the provisions in the Bill down in flames. In particular in Section 8 you say, "We have concluded that the IPCC, as structured in the Bill, is a piece of window dressing designed to give the appearance of independence whilst in effect perpetuating the present system".
  (Mr Elliott) We have been in favour of an Independent Police Complaints Commission for some considerable period of time. We were drawn to that conclusion largely because what we have now does not satisfy anybody. Our real worry about the IPCC is it will not satisfy anybody because it will not deal with a wide and big enough figure of police complaints. We are estimating that about 3 per cent of all police complaints will be dealt with by the IPCC, that leaves 97 per cent not truly independently investigated. We believe that those figures should be bigger than 3 per cent and cover a bigger category than those complaints addressed in the Bill. We are complaining that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is not independent enough, which is, perhaps, not what you might expect from us. We think it should be much more independent and have a far wider remit of complaints investigation.

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