In the Media

President's speech to ACPO conference 2012

PUBLISHED May 22, 2012

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Welcome Home Secretary. Thank you Ian Hopkins for welcoming us to Manchester.

This is my fourth summer conference Home Secretary, and your third! That has to be a record, although of course, not a double act, and we have not always seen eye to eye over that time. However, that is the great strength of British Policing, the clear distinction of roles but a shared commitment to keep the public as safe as we can with the resources available.

You are most welcome and on behalf of ACPO can I thank you for joining us this morning and agreeing to take some questions later.

When I addressed my first ACPO conference shortly before leaving Northern Ireland in 2009 and taking up this post in a full time capacity, my theme was the complexity of policing. My view was, and remains, that the huge social, economic, cultural and technological changes taking place in our country and across the world are continually placing new demands on the way in which we try and guarantee the safety and security of our citizens, whilst always respecting their individual rights and freedoms. The impact on our policing model is considerable, but poorly understood and seldom well communicated.

What distinguishes our police service, however, is the unflagging determination of our people to approach challenges with positivity and commitment, and to do their level best to keep people safe, even when under extreme pressure.

Much has changed in the intervening period: indeed, in my view policing is on the cusp of the most significant period of change in its history since Peel. But looking at the state of the police service in 2012, what is absolutely constant is that commitment to serve our communities. That is what the office of constable is all about. Indeed you reinforced and clarified that specific point at the Federation Conference last week; the bedrock of British policing remains and will not change in any way.

There are, without question, many colleagues worried and uncertain about the future of policing and their future within it, which we must address. But, notwithstanding or ignoring the discourteous and inexcusable conduct of a few at that conference, whose behavior simply took the focus away from the real concerns many officers and staff have, I do not believe the outstanding men and women of this service will step back from protecting the public they serve, because put simply; that is why we all joined.

Our model of policing, which remains revered across the world, has at its core the local. It is all about what happens on the streets and how safe people feel in the communities they inhabit. We absolutely understand this, and that's why Chief Officers are fighting to maintain the reassuring presence of police officers, PCSOs and Special Constables in our neighborhoods, to tackle crime and anti social behavior, against an increasingly difficult financial backdrop.

But the "policing paradox" is between the Government's desire to recognize the importance of the local level by pushing power downwards, and growing recognition that to responsibly and capably police national and international threats such as terrorism, organised crime, and other, invisible, "21st century" threats, central coordination is critical.

The National Crime Agency led by Chief Constable Chief Bristow, will be part of the answer to this dilemma. More organised crime fighting to fight more organised crime makes absolute sense. It offers huge potential to strengthen our response. Keith will have our full support in his mission. But the legitimacy of an operational link to local police forces, upon which the NCA will rely for co operation, intelligence and resources, is equally vital. And so too is the body which provides it: ACPO. We do this by drawing together independent operational leaders. I remain clear that in a 44 force model - that in extremis has to operate as one - there will remain for the forseeable future a critical role for ACPO if the citizen is to be reassured that they will be kept safe from both local and national threats.

By way of example, last year we had the riots in August; more recently the country faced a potential fuel crisis from a strike by tanker drivers. Media coverage and commentary led to a massive surge in demand and served as a stark reminder of the potential damage such a strike could do if called.

As ever, we in the police service faced the position of being in the middle of those exercising their rights to withdraw labour, those wishing to work, the protection of all, and the facilitation of the Government's plan to ensure emergency supplies were available. A complex mix indeed.

To deal with all of this our resident expert ACC Charlie Hall from Norfolk stepped out of his day job and committed huge time and effort to ensuring the service response was co ordinated, consistent and well informed. He tested our own resilience plans and supported me in COBR. He liaised with the military, he arranged briefings for the Policing Minister and brought together Gold and Silver commanders so we could reassure government that all necessary plans were in place.

On Good Friday, far from pottering in his garden shed, Charlie was with Chief Constable Tim Hollis and General Nick Parker in Grantham! They were there with hundreds of soldiers, ensuring the training and co ordination of our respective operations was seamless. When, fortunately the strike was called off, he ensured all the learning and debriefings were circulated and then went back to his day job! Well he almost did but then a flash walk out of prison officers for a few hours required his immediate attention!

It is that commitment and specialisation that explains why we have over 350 expert groups, ranging from DNA to wildlife crime, crime prevention to traveling paedophiles, all ready to act, and deal with the huge operational complexity of modern policing. Whilst they are led by Chief Officers, they draw the wisdom from all ranks and grades of the service, and often include outside experts. Most of the time they operate in the background; quietly keeping up to speed with developments, working with partners, exercising and testing, and in perpetual readiness to act when called upon.

That is a unique model, it is in essence a band of volunteers delivering National Policing capability through ACPO, which acts as the glue that holds it all together. Whilst it relies entirely on volunteers and good will, it has without question delivered on behalf of the public. Indeed the riots, the torch run currently going around the country, and the Olympics which are 66 days away provide other recent examples of 44 forces working as one with the leadership, support and guidance of chief officers.

The national and regional response to terrorism is also led through this structure. As is ensuring that the public are properly informed and reassured when national issues around policing operations, policy and practice arise, by providing a national communications capability - as we are doing currently around issues of retention of forensic samples following homicide or suspicious death.

So Home Secretary, your recognition of the essential need for an independent Chief Constables' Council is hugely welcome in the new policing landscape. But our current role, as I have briefly described, is far wider and we look forward to continuing discussions concerning the relationship between the professional body and ACPO, of which the Council is integral to legitimacy and authority.

That is not to say that the current model is perfect by any means: a point I made to the Home Affairs Select Committee soon after taking over. Indeed our joint request to HMCIC Sir Denis O'Connor to review how the new structures all fit together and the role of ACPO looking forward is most welcome and timely.

I met with Sir Denis and Sir David Omand, who will be working with him, last week. I hope the review can move forward quickly. That having been said we must do nothing that gets in the way of
current operations, be they the Olympics or terrorism. I am grateful for and fully support the decision that the well established and highly regarded ACPO TAM model must be left untouched for the foreseeable future.

It seems to me that there are a number of clear options to examine for the future that range from a more structured and statute based federal body at the centre through to an atomised model of many different structures and leads at the other. The one non negotiable is that any review must improve on the current structure and not compromise the safety of citizens.

There is already work in progress, led by CC Mike Cunningham on transparency, which I look forward to sharing with you Home Secretary and HMCIC in the very near future. It is clear that over time, as ACPO took on more and more responsibility - normally at the request of others or in the absence of any other body willing to deliver - legitimate concerns have grown about governance and the legal structure of a Company limited by guarantee.

This needs to be dealt with once and for all, and I see this report as the catalyst for change. Indeed, the plan to create the Police Professional Body as a similar legal structure in the short term may provide some learning for us around a different board structure than the one we currently have.

So against this rapidly changing backdrop, the decision by Government to cease funding this Association in December is precipitous. There must be a plan to legitimise the way in which the service responds and mobilises in a coordinated way to threat, risk and harm.

It seems to me that the review by HMIC must include proper funding recommendations if we are to secure a model that has some certainty going forward. Mindful of all the other changes and in particular that of governance, I believe such funding should be top sliced, as if all forces benefit, all should contribute. In times of national emergencies, opting out of the collective response cannot be an option.

Professional Body

I firmly believe the Police Professional Body is a huge opportunity. For the sake of absolute clarity, let me first recognize the immense professionalism and ability of our current workforce, sworn and unsworn. They have delivered and continue to deliver reductions in crime - 3% last year, 6% the year before - with less resources.

It is disappointing to hear debate in the police service where at times the message taken away is that we appear to be apologising for being professional. We should be proud to be part of the best police service in the world - in the Prime Minister's words - and recognise the skills of our officers.

This new organisation is not a threat; it is a huge opportunity. It will be led by the service, and supported by a Chair and Board that represents the whole police family and citizens. It will build on the work of the NPIA, but take on wider responsibilities around the development of national policy where such work is required and, in high risk areas of policing, non negotiable. Where local freedom is equally essential, it will ensure best practice is available for all to consult. Even I can get quite excited about this!! Don't panic that is not indication of an impending application!!

Technical skills and qualifications are not an either/or alternative to values and human qualities but an essential response to the need to keep people safe. They should always be underpinned by the values and the ethos of the office of constable.

Concerns about officers having to pay for their core training need to be nailed once and for all. That is not part of any plan I have seen, and indeed, the future direction of this body will be in the service's hands.

We have to recognise that how this body is funded will be core to determining its ability to succeed. Again, this is work in progress, but I can see no way of it ever becoming entirely cost neutral in terms of central support. In order to move forward quickly, I see the appointment of the Chair and Chief Executive as critical.

I still believe that we should as a Service work together to keep Bramshill, whose international reputation for policing excellence is well worth fighting for. It is far more than just an old mansion, and I am grateful to you Home Secretary for opening the door on such a possibility.

So what success would look like? A Professional Police Body led by the service, delivering national training standards and with capacity to make a difference. Add to this proper support for business areas and a clear link to ACPO via Chief Constables' Council - which will have to endorse and implement the PPB policy. This is a good start.

Clear governance arrangements that involve the wider police family and those who represent the public will ensure we maintain an outward looking focus in all we do. I think this is all achievable and wish to place on record my thanks to all my colleagues and the other associations who are working with the Policing Minister to turn this vision into reality.

The timescales are, in my view, optimistic and challenging. In the first instance we must concentrate on the essential and then build into the future and create a body that is as admired and respected across the world, as is the model of policing it will be supporting.

I now want to move to some very difficult territory; the cuts to the service and the Winsor reviews.

Home Secretary, you heard at first hand last week the concerns of the police federation. You have also heard from chief officers - and heard us say that we understand the police service has to carry its share of the public sector cuts.

No chief officer is in any doubt about the anxieties and strength of feeling among police officers and staff facing changes to their pay and pensions and their genuine worries looking forward. Indeed the research undertaken by PMAS provides compelling evidence of this.

But officers are equally concerned about their ability to deliver in the face of these cuts. All their concerns must be resolved as best they can through the negotiating machinery to get a fair outcome against the very difficult financial backdrop.

Our job is clear: it is to lead the service and focus on how we can drive out cost wherever we can to protect the service we deliver.

That is why I return again - though you will not thank me for it - to ACPO's view that the inefficiencies within our current 44 force model lead with inescapable logic to the need for a review of the best fit to deliver policing.

I recognise there is no political will on either side to confront this question. That is for politicians to explain not me. In the meantime we will get on with the job, but collaboration is not as efficient or consistent as amalgamation. The obvious risks are a patchwork quilt of sub optimal solutions which don't provide the public with consistency or value for money. We are having to make things work in spite of, and not because of, the current structure.

I have lost count of the number of private companies that tell me we are close to impossible to do business with, or at best extremely complicated. Collaboration requires the agreement of Chief Constables and Police Authorities, it also requires agreement on what is and what is not in play, not to mention the complexity of differing financial arrangements across forces. I am told several prospective Police and Crime Commissioners, if selected, will campaign on a no privatisation platform, so agreement may get more, not less difficult in the future.

So whilst Scotland presses forward with a single command, based on a clear political decision to strip out separate organizational overheads and amalgamate, we will continue to deal with 21st century threats with a model of policing designed in 1962 before colour television was invented. That simply cannot be right, and by way of reassurance, local policing can be delivered across larger geographic commands. If Scotland can do it, so can we.


So, as we look forwar
d into even more challenging times we should recognise that the police service, which we in this room have the honour of leading, is delivering. Home Secretary, both you and the Prime Minister have acknowledged that the police service is getting on with the job, and continues to bring down crime. We would like to hear more of that welcome support, as recognition of achievement goes a long way. Looking forward the Government must think very carefully about any further cuts in future spending reviews, bearing in mind the predictable increase in demands on policing if both the recession continues to bite and other partners contract.

We will lead the service through this. In my position I am well qualified to report that the strength in depth of police leadership in this country is second to none. Not only do Chief Officers lead at a force level, they lead at a national level too. Indeed we have delivered, and are without question part of the solution to the ongoing challenges and changes we face.

We face a new reality, where the whole deal for police officers and staff of all ranks is less certain. Where the pressure on the front line is relentless, and where we as leaders have to pull together - with all our staff - to keep our focus on keeping people safe.