Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440
THURSDAY 7 MARCH 2002
440. You are?
(Dr Henig) Can I say our view is that individual measures,
many of them, can be justified in isolation but when you put them
all together then you are changing the nature of the tripartite
relationship. I think that is how we view it. It is the accumulation
that is causing the balance to change rather than any individual
provision. The feature about 29 which perhaps more than anything
else caused us worry was the direct exercise of this from the
centre could possibly introduce politicisation as well as more
centralisation. That did worry us very much because one of the
things which some of us do remember in the past is evidence where
there was danger of politicisation. One of the things that the
Association is very concerned about is whatever legislation goes
through it should not enable any politicisation to come in. This
idea of being able to suspend a chief constable directly from
the centre did raise with us some concerns about the possibilities
of politicisation, which did worry us. I just mention that at
441. So your two concerns about this area of
the Bill are that it could politicise the role of either the police
authority and/or the Secretary of State in a way that should not
happen and that it is part of a centralising agenda on the part
of all Ministers or just the Home Secretary?
(Dr Henig) No, I think added to other measures, this
legislation shifts the balance and draws in powers to the centre
which at present are exercised locally.
(Ms Leech) I think there are two tiers to it, if you
like. We believe that this Home Secretary clearly does have a
desire to pull to himself sufficient powers to operate the levers,
as Dr Henig was saying earlier. To that extent we believe that
there is an overt centralising agenda by the current Home Secretary.
That is tier one, if you like. Tier two is that actually the legislation
as it is currently drafted enables a future Home Secretary to
go way beyond that in terms of the potential to have a much more
centralising agenda. It is so broadly drawn that whilst one can
have a view that this Home Secretary is legitimate in what he
wants to do to take more powers to the centre, for the future
this legislation enables a future Home Secretary to go much further
than that and pull further power into the centre, and that is
our concern about the Bill.
442. Why do you think that this Home Secretary
feels so obliged to do that? Is it because the present system
is not working?
(Ms Leech) I think he has a view that the best way
to tackle what we all want to achieve, which is improvement, is
through operating levers from the centre. We take the view that
the improvement we all want to see, and we want to work in partnership
with the Government to deliver, will only be delivered locally
because it is local police forces that are out there delivering
policing, it is local police authorities who are out there day
on day overseeing that process and trying to drive up standards.
Police authorities want to work in partnership with Government
to do that. We see areas where the Government and the centre can
add real value to that but we do not believe ultimately that you
can deliver improvement on the ground locally from the centre.
443. This is my final point. Can you point me
to the number of improvements that have resulted since the police
authorities have been established that could convince the Home
Secretary that he does not have to take further levers of power?
(Dr Henig) Certainly I think the best value programme
over the last two years has yielded a whole range of measures
which have brought about improvements which have been, if you
like, certified by the Inspectorate who obviously look at these
things. That process has not been going for quite three years
yet, two and a half years. It has not gone very far but it has
already yielded significant improvement in a whole number of areas
of policing operation. I think there is evidence on that level.
I also think that the police authorities in themselves have an
improvement programme which the Home Secretary has been made well
aware of, we have certainly tabled all the documentation, that
we ourselves accept that we need to raise our game, we have never
made any secret of that. We have an improvement programme which
is being fully supported by the Home Office. We want to improve
our capacity to be able to achieve that delivery locally together
with the Home Secretary. We cannot work independently and in a
sense nor can the Home Secretary, we have got to work in partnership.
I think our concern is to improve that partnership and to improve
our own capacity to be able to deliver locally in conjunction
with the Home Secretary doing his job centrally. We have no problem
with the Home Secretary's strategic delivery, I suppose it is
this issue of what then becomes micro-management from the centre
and what we think we should be doing in the localities working
with him. We want a strong and constructive relationship.
Chairman: Turning now to Community Support Officers,
444. You are quite happy, are you not, with
the introduction of Community Support Officers?
(Dr Henig) Where do you want us to start?
445. That was not meant to be a provocative
question but from your memo you say your organisation welcomes
the fact the provisions are included and you do not seem to have
anything against the idea in principle.
(Dr Henig) I think there is a part of the country,
namely London, where clearly Community Support Officers are something
which is supported by the Metropolitan Police Authority and the
Metropolitan Police. Clearly in London there is a desire to have
Community Support Officers. There is, as far as I am aware, no
other part of the countryand I am trying to think of my
colleagues herewhere there is a desire to have Community
Support Officers. There are a number of significant concerns in
fact that we do have about Community Support Officers, both in
terms of their capacity to deliver effective policing, the powers
they might have, the cost and more significantly, and I think
this is a concern to us, that in this provision in the legislation
at the moment there is no mention of the police authority role
here. Given that we do have this strategic responsibility for
setting the direction of policing with the chief constable, the
fact that under these proposals the chief constable could introduce
Community Support Officers without actually bringing in the police
authority, we see as totally unacceptable. But we would go further
than that and say that if there are parts of the country which
want Community Support Officers, and as I say I have mentioned
London already, we would want to go out and consult with the community.
We did this last year in terms of police recording stops, we went
out and consulted people on what they thought and we think that
with Community Support Officers we will want to consult people
before they are introduced. We would both want to have a role
in whether they are introduced or not and we will want to consult
our communities on whether they should be introduced. If the communities
went along with it, then that would be fine. As I say, in the
London situation, there appears to be a genuine consensus that
this is the way forward but we are not at all sure this is true
of the rest of the country. I think we would want to test that
and we would want provisions in the legislation to test that.
(Mr Peel) I think that is absolutely right. Our other
concern of course with these people is the powers they will have.
We are concerned if they are to have policing powers, to whom
are they accountable?
(Ms Leech) We are on the Community Support Officers
(Mr Peel) Yes.
(Dr Henig) They are employed by the police.
446. It is a fact that all of us sitting round
this side of the table, quite likely yourselves as well, know
the pressure on the police and the way in which they are constantly
being asked to respond, not only to the most major incidents of
crimes but relatively minor matters which nevertheless cause a
great deal of problems for local residents. Why should not the
police be assisted in various relatively minor matters by such
people as being proposed in the measure which is to be debated
in due course?
(Dr Henig) We are talking now about Community Support
Officers, are we, employed by the police, because I think we have
got to clarify that, as opposed to wardens and other accredited
447. We are not talking about wardens.
(Dr Henig) Fine. If we are talking about Community
Support Officers, for a start it is very clear that these are
going to be, if you like, a subsidiary tier of a police person.
There must be concerns about the sort of person you are going
to recruit here. You are going to recruit people who are not police
officers but are operating at a level below police officers. Presumably
they are going to have to be given a significant amount of training.
If they are going to be able to exercise powers they have to be
accountable in the way that police officers are accountable for
the use of those powers and I think there might be concerns that
the sort of people you are recruiting you might not necessarily
feel totally happy to give them those powers but I will leave
that one for a minute. By the time you have trained them, they
are probably not going to be that much cheaper than the normal
run of the mill police officers. I think our response to that
is why not more police officers? We are very sceptical that these
people will actually be value for money, if you like, and will
represent a value for money option. Giving them powers actually
raises all sorts of problems with us about appropriate use of
those powers, accountability of those powers, bearing in mind
all the issues about stop and search. I think we have got to be
extremely clear that they have to come under the same provisions
as regular police officers. So for all those sorts of reasons
I think we have great concerns that this does not really represent
much of a way forward. I think your suggestion is there are other
ways of meeting the kinds of problems that you are outlining other
than through this measure.
448. It sounds like almost the Police Federation,
I do not know whether that is meant as a compliment or not. In
so far as CSOs are brought into play despite the reservations
you have just expressed, as long as the police authority are consulted
that will be far more suitable. As far as I can understand from
your memorandum you are saying that the police authority should
be consulted before the chief constable appoints such people?
(Dr Henig) Yes. As I say I think we would want to
consult our communities as well. They are obviously going to be
policed by these people. Our other concerns are clearly about
the use of the powers that they will be given. We do not support
giving powers to these people.
(Ms Leech) The point underpinning our arguments about
consultation with the police authority is, as Dr Henig said, so
that the police authority which is the responsible body for doing
so can consult with local communities. Clearly the introduction
of CSOs goes to the heart of how you are going to police. People
ought to be able to express their view as to whether they want
to see CSOs in uniform alongside police officers, how they feel
about that, how they feel about how they might be used and so
on and so forth. The police authority is the vehicle for having
that debate in the communities because that is what they are there
to do. They are there to set the overall strategy and tone for
policing in the area. I think the second point is that the police
authority would be responsible also for overseeing how the individual
force would cope with the various issues that Dr Henig has raised
in terms of how the CSOs are going to be trained, how they are
going to be directed, how they are going to be deployed, whether
they would have the appropriate skills to deal with the powers
they are given and so on. I think another issue, which I suspect
you will say I am also sounding like a Police Federation advocate
here, is whether or not you can legitimately define circumstances
in which you can say you do not need full police powers and training
to deal with these particular issues, you can do them with a subset
of powers, or whether actually in practice it is not possible
to make that clear distinction between certain types of things
that CSOs can deal with as opposed to things that only police
officers can deal with because in practice you are out there in
public dealing with a particular situation which may or may not
develop into something far more serious or something different
which you do not have either the skills, the training or the powers
to deal with. I think what we are saying is you need to debate
those issues, you need to have a clear path as to how you deal
with them, what your strategy for dealing with them is, you need
to make sure all the appropriate checks and balances and mechanisms
are in place and that is appropriately the job of the police authority
to have that debate with the chief constable and to engage with
the community to understand what their views are on these issues.
449. Would it be correct to say that you are
not objecting in principle, Dr Henig, but that in fact it is more
a question of making sure the people appointed are well trained,
there is an accountability structure and the powers are limited
but, as I have said, from what you have indicated it is not a
matter of principle that you are totally opposed to CSOs?
(Dr Henig) No. I think it has got to be appropriate
to the particular area. As I have tried to indicate it may well
be that these people would be appropriate for policing in London.
There seems to be some evidence that is the case. There may be
other parts of the country where it may be appropriate if local
communities and the police authority feel that is the case.
450. What about your own area where you are
(Dr Henig) I am extremely worried about the power
of detention. I am extremely worried actually about giving a non
police officer the power of detention because I have seen some
of these street situations and I do not know about your area but
in my area there is a lot of alcohol related disorder because
it is a town with a lot of students. I could see grave problems
if a non police officer had a power of detention. I could see
all sorts of flash point situations arising which would in the
end cause more police time to be wasted by the police having to
come and deal with these problems. I would need a lot of persuading.
I am not saying I could not be persuaded but I would need a lot
of persuading that it would be effective. To me the test is "is
this going to be effective in dealing with the problems in my
area" and in my area I might find other ways which would
be more effective than this. You are right, I would not rule it
out completely and if there were parts of the country who felt
this was a useful way of adding to their policing then I would
say to them "that is fine, that is your choice". To
me that is what local policing means, that different areas might
find different models appropriate.
451. If the law is such that CSOs come into
being, it is not likely that the chief constable, and the same
would apply to the deputy chief constable, would appoint CSOs
without consulting the police authorities. Am I right?
(Dr Henig) Can I add a note of caution. I am not a
totally suspicious person, I am not even a totally cynical person,
but what does worry me is that it would be possible for a Government
to so organise finance and to so ring-fence finance that there
would be a certain amount of finance that would be available for
Community Support Officers which authorities could buy into, but
if they did not want to they did not have to, so those parts of
the country, possibly London, who bought into this ring-fencing
would get the Community Support Officers and those of us who did
not want them would not but that money might be top sliced and
we would therefore be worse off. What I do not want is for this
to be underpinned by a financial regime that actually achieves
by the back door what is not being achieved at the front door.
That is my concern. My concern is not about being forced to have
these officers up front because my chief officer team and the
police authority would work very well on saying "is this
appropriate or not", I am sure they will in Essex too, but
the financial regime might be stacked in such a way that the choices
facing us might be quite difficult ones.
452. I am sure that you have discussed that
with the Home Secretary, or will do so.
(Dr Henig) It is something we need to be alive to.
453. Yes. Can I ask you finally, the existing
schemes for traffic and community wardens, are they working well
(Dr Henig) Certainly in the area I represent across
Lancashire we have got some extremely innovative schemes which
are working extremely well. My part of the country has just seen
six traffic wardens recycled, if I can put it in those terms,
into community wardens and that is working extremely well. The
scheme is just being evaluated as we speak by Lancaster University.
The evidence seems to suggest that these people are providing
a lot of reassurance in the area and are doing an extremely good
job. They are employed by the police whereas a lot of the community
warden schemes are employed by the local authorities. The evidence
that we have in our part of the country, and I think it is true
of others, is that they do provide a lot of reassurance and they
do deal with a lot of the things that you were alluding to, which
is the lower level of disorder, quality of life issues, which
police do not always have the time to deal with because in their
priority system they obviously respond in terms of the priorities
of calls being made. We find wardens extremely useful in providing
(Mr Peel) In Essex we are just going through a parking
decriminalisation exercisea horrible phrase but there we
areand as a result of that traffic wardens are becoming
local authority employees. Starting in Southend on 1 April we
will have a scheme whereby local authorities are having street
wardens. They have taken over the traffic wardens and turned them
all into street wardens. That is a scheme funded by the local
authority. We do have three schemes, in fact, Basildon, Harlow
and Mr Russell's Colchester, where in fact there are Government
grants to do just that. We believe that will work extremely well.
Certainly where it is already happening with traffic wardens it
is working well. Those are local authority employees working in
close communication with the police.
David Winnick: Thank you.
454. Dr Henig has in part pre-empted my questions
but I wonder if I could press you a little further on the power
of CSOs to detain people who may be deemed to be guilty of disorderly
conduct for 30 minutes, if they can. Can you foresee what will
happen? Are they going to be required to declare this 30 minute
limitation on their powers to the person concerned? What happens
in the 31st minute? Also, if you would like to add to the comments
you were making about funding. Are chief constables going to retain
the option of employing four fully fledged police officers or
six Community Support Officers?
(Dr Henig) The second part I was referring to before.
We do have concerns that there are ways of making police authorities
go down some roads rather than others by the financial regimes.
If you actually look at the funding for policing this year, more
and more funding for policing is actually being ring-fenced. This
is a trend that is there already and we are worried about how
that might be used in connection with these provisions. As far
as the half an hour is concerned, clearly the sort of people who
are going to be detained are, by their very nature, likely to
be abusive or likely to be drunk or likely to be difficult people,
the sort of people we see in the town centre, they are not going
to be amenable presumably otherwise they are not going to be detained.
455. It is quite a tall order to detain people
for 30 minutes.
(Dr Henig) I obviously have not got the expertise,
I have never been a police officer, but as a lay person it seems
to me if you are not careful this could be a recipe for chaos
because it could be a worse situation than you have got now because
you might then have to take officers off the duties they are doing
to come and help these people. I think that is what would worry
456. That is the point I am trying to draw out.
(Mr Peel) It could well take police officers off the
duty they are doing because in 29 minutes they would think "ah,
I have got to get down there quickly to see and arrest this individual".
It could be counterproductive.
457. On the issue of Community Support Officers,
my own chief constable in Kent, Sir David Phillips, has told me
that if he had the resources to take on extra CSOs he would take
on extra civilians instead, put them in the police stations and
release what he calls proper policemen on to the beat into the
communities. I take from your gestures that you have some sympathy
(Dr Henig) We would be very supportive of that. We
do actually support further civilianisation in a number of areas.
He has also suggested civilisation in the custody area.
458. That is right.
(Dr Henig) And I think on that one we are very much
in tune with the ACPO President in saying there are areas where
further civilianisation will release police officers for operational
duties. This is not a new process, civilianisation in different
forms has been going on for the last 10 or 15 years. There are
ways in which I think we can recruit civilian expertise into the
service which would enhance the quality of the service as well
as releasing police officers. I think David Phillips has a lot
of very good ideas about that which we fully support.
(Mr Peel) Providing, of course, he can actually do
it. In this Act, fortunately, at the moment it is an enabling
power. As long as he can do it, that is fine.
459. That was the next part of my question.
So presumably he is relaxed at the moment in that it is an option
that he can take up or leave, but I have taken your point about
ring-fencing and financial constraints which could press authorities
into Hobson's Choice. Are you making recommendations that the
Bill should ensure that choice remains untethered by financial
(Ms Leech) We have welcomed the fact that these are
enabling provisions and we are very clear that they must remain
such. So long as they do, in a sense that is the legislative protection.
I do not think it would be possible to frame in legislation a
clause to the effect of tethering the Home Secretary's hands in
terms of his annual statement on the police settlement to the
extent that we are talking about. Our view is as long as the legislation
is enabling, and we hope and expect the Home Secretary to confirm
that the intention is that it should be genuinely enabling during
the passage of the Bill, then we will expect him to hold to that.