Sir Hugh Orde speech at Leading Change in Policing Conference
(Checked Against Delivery)
Home Secretary, you are most welcome.
The public sector is facing the most challenging times in living memory, and policing, as one of the most essential yet “unprotected” departments is facing substantial cuts. Which, however defined, will impact on the number of staff we employ.
We are determined to preserve the service to the public. But as the service of last resort, we are going through a period of substantial change. Changes to accountability, changes to central structures and changes to pay and conditions.
Change which, if mismanaged, could threaten the impartial model of policing that has existed for 180 years and is revered across the world.
I intend to raise a number of these critical strategic issues today, but before I start it is important to reflect on the success of policing over past years. For it is upon these sure foundations that we stand today.
The British Crime Survey has provided a consistent check and balance on police recorded figures since it began way back in 1982. Its strength is its consistency over time, it removes traditional arguments from those who wish to challenge the value of statistics.
The facts are hard to argue against. They include all BCS crime -which includes that not reported to the police - halved since 1995. Let me repeat: that is a 50% reduction over the last 15 years.
Meanwhile satisfaction our service continues to move in the right direction. IPCC statistics, in one of their independent surveys make clear that over three quarters of people who came into contact with the police were happy with their treatment.
That kind of record cannot be achieved by any organisation which is unable to adapt, to change and improve itself in light of circumstances and demands.
When I hear suggestions that the police service is unreformed, I simply know that does not match reality.
When I hear suggestions that we are an organisation no longer respected by the public, I know that is fundamentally wrong.
It would be quite impossible for 140,000 officers, and falling, to police a nation of 62.5 million inhabitants, without the continued consent and support of the vast majority of law abiding citizens that we protect.
When the leadership of the Service is described as self-appointed and self-interested, I know that is a false and foolish commentary on the commitment of chief officers I represent to serve the public, a dedication which is mirrored across every rank of our police service.
But we need to look forwards into the future and recognise that while the task continues, we are policing in very different times.
I see three critical factors shaping the landscape ahead.
First, the Government’s commitment to reform against the tight timescales.
Second, the massive degree of uncertainty presently existing at the centre with the National Policing Improvement Agency being dismantled, the National Crime Agency being constructed, pay and pensions reviews and the Neyroud report, together with the significant issues in relation to police governance emerging from the new legislation.
All of this must be urgently addressed in the immediate future, and the impact assessed. The non-negotiable territory remains protecting citizens and protecting operational independence.
Third, money, (or lack of it) which is driving a very focussed review of everything we do and indeed how we do it.
So it has been a busy year! In fact that is probably a classic understatement.
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill makes its way through the Houses of Parliament, and it remains a rocky road. Given the demise of the NPIA we are being required to consider options for a fundamental re-engineering of the many essential national policing services, including IT, leadership development and training, and indeed operational support.
The National Crime Agency plan is now in the public domain, but many uncertainties remain as to exactly what it will do and how it will work with forces.
The Neyroud review of police leadership and training is published, and the responses duly submitted.
Part 1 of the Winsor review on pay and conditions is also out and progressing through the Police Negotiating Board and the Hutton review on pensions is also published.
Let us remember, all this change is being delivered against in-year cuts last year and this, as well as a 20% cut in the police budget that leaves many centrally provided activities completely unfunded and orphaned into the future.
But it is not simply the changes in policing which generate risk. As partner agencies contract in parallel, it is entirely foreseeable that additional pressure will be placed on front line staff, our crime fighters becoming increasingly tied down with the vulnerable.
Home Secretary, you noted recently that we have a model of police accountability designed in the 1950s and a model of police pay designed in the 1970s.
Indeed, it was Lord Edmund Davies elevated police pay out of poverty and created a system that survived for three decades.
You might have added that we have a model of policing structures designed in 1962. It is slightly confusing that while politicians of all parties refuse to consider the option of structural change within policing - but not, we note in respect of other criminal justice agencies such as the now-regionalised Crown Prosecution Service and Courts and tribunal service. It does feel that history is being used as justification for changing some parts of the policing model but not other.
So the 44 force model structure will remain, with its consequent inefficiencies. There are increased risks for the Service as we seek to adapt to 21st Century threats across artificial boundaries, with associated calls for greater inter-operability and indeed collaboration.
If we cannot reorganise, so be it. We will do our absolute best to drive cooperation and drive collaboration where in our professional judgment it will help to maintain service delivery against a reducing spend.
Numerous successes are already being delivered: Kent and Essex providing an award-winning example of sharing practices around support services and serious crime. And most recently, Gwent, South Wales, Greater Manchester Police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency putting an organised gang of heroin smugglers behind bars through the work of their regional task force. You were kind enough to acknowledge some of these successes, Home Secretary, in your speech at Reform last week.
In short, we have a change programme that at one end will produce some of the most radical changes to policing and police governance since 1829, while at the other it will, without question, reduce police and staff numbers and pay.
That is a huge challenge for ACPO, as the leaders of the service. It is worth reflecting on the current views of the leaders I have the privilege of representing.
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
We have been absolutely consistent on accountability. One of the great strengths of our policing model is that operationally independent chiefs make professional decisions and are then held vigorously to account. The current model of 17-19 members is to be replaced by one person who must be elected for each force area.
That is a substantial shift in both scale and politics, and it is Government which must take responsibility for its idea and deliver a workable system through due process.
Our role is to ensure that we have absolute clarity on how it will work, without placing the public and their safety at the disadvantage of policing compromised by political interference with professional judgments.
In stark terms, that is to say that the Government’s commitment to preserve operational independence places clear requirements on the legislation.
Fanciful claims around who will decide on public order tactics, deployment and national threats need to be clarified once and for all, and the ownership of assets likewise.
The national policing effort to which all chief constables contribute must be protected. Work on both a protocol and a strategic policing requirement are underway. We are working closely with Government to achieve those checks and balances in relation to appointment and dismissal of a chief.
An update on when the strategic policing requirement will be published would be welcome. It will be impossible to protect citizens if chief officers are unable to move resources or assets in keeping with their best professional judgment.
Impartial policing depends on these principles. When a directly elected individual is introduced it becomes critical to ensure the system does not fall out of balance.
Until all three pieces of work are available it will not be possible to form a view on whether they are sufficient to ensure that impartial policing, strongly accountable yet free from improper interference, can be delivered.
The national landscape: NPIA
The Government also bears responsibility for the decision to wind up the National Policing Improvement Agency. The Home Secretary has made clear the determination to achieve this by the end of 2012.
The institution was only 4 years old, its creation an attempt to bring some order to the chaos of disparate national policing functions that were better dealt with in one place on behalf of 44 forces.
It could be described as collaboration through statute. I do think that as it developed over time its value has been becoming clear and self-evident to the service which had been sceptical at its inception. In the last couple of years it has consistently hit targets in the face of severe cuts.
Its critical services include Airwave, the Police National Database, National DNA database, Central Witness Bureau, Missing Persons Bureau, Serious Crime Analysis Section, National Firearms Licensing Management System, Fingerprint Identification Database, Automatic Number Plate Recognition data centre.
It also includes all Leadership training and the whole national training estate. It is simply unthinkable to propose that we become the only modern police service in the world without a national training college.
We are working closely with NPIA and the Home Office to find new parent bodies for all these orphans, but we are in need of a serious reality check. The proposals for an IT body led by Lord Wasserman remain in embryonic form. The leadership and training functions are not even at that stage and the remainder are largely homeless. All of these represent significant risks to the Service.
These dilemmas are made worse by the NPIA’s rapidly shrinking budget, creating a situation where national policing services are not only homeless but unfunded looking forward. For example, the Police National Database has seen its funding burden shift directly to forces, at a cost of £5.6 million, to date, with more likely to come.
This was unplanned expenditure at a force level, of which no account had been taken in making 20% cuts to the Home Office grant. Neither Chief Constables nor Police Authorities were aware of this additional burden until we realised we had to fund this in a different way.
The solution will have to be top slicing to fund those services essential to public safety and national security, and I sense equal reticence from Government and Police Authorities and Chiefs to do much more than this.
Either way, in the absence of new money the cash will come from force budgets and all that can give is headcount. NPIA estimate that the bill for unfunded essential services amounts to £50m by 2014-15. Which, in the most stark and simplistic terms, equates to roughly 1,000 police officers. We have to work very cleverly to mitigate the impact.
I am enormously grateful to colleagues for the huge amount of work they are doing to support Government work streams on these issues, and to those police authorities who in turn support them.
We will strive to make it work. But the service cannot be responsible for the decisions which led to these circumstances.
I am yet to be convinced that a larger number of institutions, their scope as yet undefined, delivering bits of business with less money is going to be more efficient or less complicated.
The national landscape: National Crime Agency
As the NPIA disappears, the NCA plan is now revealed. Indeed, some parts of the NPIA with a clear link to organised crime may find a home here, when such a body exists to receive them.
The service has long argued for an effective national agency to support the delivery of the UK effort against internationally and nationally organised crime.
There will be a critical settling-in period for the new organisation during which it must establish effective links with the service. Previous experience tells us that this all takes time.
The national landscape: ACPO/Neyroud
It is not so long ago that the key discussion at an ACPO council, attended by all chief officers, was on command and control in the event of a terrorism incident outside London.
It falls to operationally responsible professional police leaders to plan sadly for the unthinkable. And huge effort has been made addressing interoperability of the service mindful of lessons from the experience of 7/7 and the intelligence picture.
In what circumstances should local chief constables who hold direction and control in their force areas, cede responsibilities to the National Coordinator in New Scotland Yard? How are tactics and training coordinated, resources procured and deployed, intelligence and expertise shared across the country to protect the public from this national threat?
That was but one example of the essential space that ACPO currently occupies within the British policing model. All the leadership around that table, upon which I rely completely to deliver this huge agenda and advise the government, also has a day job managing large and challenging forces.
National coordination, which ensures we are organised to deal with everything the public expects of us, is achieved through this band of volunteers as I describe them. It is part of the historically understood role of territorial chief constables.
To preserve this capability, support from the centre, from police authorities and their successor organisations, must continue in a seamless way. It is not helpful, and frankly irresponsible, when some authorities choose to withhold funding of ACPO yet continue to benefit from the services we provide.
I am grateful to you, Home Secretary, for your support in underpinning my offices in the short term. However I am clear that the risk of trying to hold together a historic and disintegrating system of funding is no longer sustainable.
This is too important to public safety to rely on ad hoc funding. We need to put national support on a formal footing. Top sliced funding before next March or there will no longer be effective national coordination of policing in this country.
We are working very closely with government to address this objective. I am beginning to think that ACPO - in whatever future form - may need a statutory footing as part of the new central policing arrangements.
In relation to the Neyroud report, we await the results of public consultation, now closed. But for the first time in our history there is a huge opportunity to get policing recognised as a true and genuine profession.
I struggle to see how anyone could argue against formalising this reality. The service now is completely different one, and far better, to the service I joined and it is a fundamentally better one.
The quality of our staff is high and the commitment of our officers, at a time of great uncertainty, unequalled. The routine delivery of our service is I believe to a high standard given that we police a far more complex world than the one I started policing in 1977.
Professionalism does not mean abandoning the “art” of policing that is so evident in the British style, built on neighbourhood policing.
The opportunity, I think, to develop and build a professional institute lies in its promise to adapt what we value most in the British model, to ensure it is able to move forward to meet the challenges of the future.
The Winsor and Hutton reviews will take money out of police and police staff pay. The potential impact of a pay freeze, cuts to allowances, increased pension contributions and inflation on the livelihood of our officers is a clear concern.
Every Chief is fully aware of the real fears and concerns of officers and staff as we strive to modernise the structures, many of whom we have sadly lost as cuts start to bite.
Changes must be fair - and we will continue to press this point.
The negotiations are now in the Police Negotiating Board and we must await their outcome. We will fully engage with Tom Winsor in relation to part two of his review to ensure that he understands the unique office of constable that forms the backbone of the service.
So, where does this whistle stop tour of the current police landscape leave us?
First and foremost, we must focus relentlessly on keeping people safe, which relies on the balance of local streets and neighbourhoods policed in a visible and responsive way, while action against national and international criminality is resourced and unceasingly enforced.
Secondly we must ensure our clear and honest professional opinion is articulated to Government as it pursues its change agenda
Clarity is essential - and it is not yet sufficiently evident.
I believe the British model of policing is precious and so well respected by our colleagues overseas because it starts from the position of impartiality and independence balanced by robust and independent oversight.
Consequently, it remains the model that much of the world aspires to imitate. If government should wish to interfere with that basic principle, then it is a matter for others to decide on the merits of that case.
We owe it to our profession and public to ensure that we bring to the attention of government any issues where changes will prevent or reduce our ability to deliver an impartial service based on our best professional judgement. My commitment as President of ACPO is to continue to do that across all the areas of change I have touched on, which leads me to a final observation.
Looking across the change agenda, simply within our world, notwithstanding the obvious implications of the other cuts and reforms in all our other partner agencies, I see too many unfinished bits of business.
Much of NPIA remains homeless, critical national services will soon be entirely unfunded, the NCA legislation is yet to be put into draft form or to be laid in this session. The ambitions of the Neyroud review cannot be achieved quickly and ACPO’s future remains uncertain.
The Policing Reform and Social Responsibility Bill is at report stage, the number of amendments tabled suggests some Lords are worried too. Indeed it is becoming clear that the Bill will not receive Royal Assent until the Autumn.
In such a huge and radical programme of reform it is hardly surprising there is some lack of clarity. Yet the potential impacts of any failures in any policing discipline is, by definition, likely to be very serious.
Recently NHS reform were paused, sentencing changes reassessed and other proposals reviewed to allow for reflection and change. I agree with the Prime Minister that listening to the professionals and being flexible is without question a strength.
It may now appear sensible to give serious consideration to reviewing and taking stock on just how many loose ends we have which remain, some of them critical to policing, remain before deciding on whether the overarching plan is achievable within the current timescales.
Unless greater clarity emerges in the very near future I do fear that we run the risk of compromising the safety of citizens and damaging a service which has been at the forefront of protecting the public for so many years.
The Service absolutely understands the Government’s determination to deliver a substantial programme of reform across the public sector, but we cannot afford to get policing wrong, and the risks are great.
We have a police service that is admired throughout the world. It is not perfect but it has cut crime, protected the UK from numerous terrorist threats, bought serious offenders to justice, policed serious public disorder, and continued to deliver the bedrock of our policing model- Neighbourhood policing- across the country; and done all of this ethically while upholding human rights.
As I travel around the country and talk to those who deliver this service, I remain entirely confident that, notwithstanding the challenges they remain absolutely committed to protecting their communities, that is what they always have done and will always continue to do.
On the Queens Police Medal is an inscription, it reads quite simply, “to protect my people”. Policing is an honourable profession and those within it are honourable people who join to keep their fellow citizens safe. Of one thing you can be certain, Home Secretary that determination will not change.