Earlier this month Irene Curtis who is currently the president of the Superintendents’ Association, declared there were too many chief constables and too many police and crime commissioners.
She believes having 43 police forces in England and Wales is inefficient and this number should be reduced. There was a time when I would have disagreed with her view and argued larger, more remote police forces would deliver a poorer local policing service.
I now have the view that instead of just reducing the number of forces, there should be just one police service for England and Wales.
The current structure wastes an awful lot of money, with 43 chief officer teams, 43 headquarters and at times, 43 slightly different ways of implementing solutions to deal with the same issues.
Also, the austerity cuts have reduced the operational capability of many forces leaving some vulnerable in their ability to deal with the demands of day-to-day policing, let alone major incidents.
Most of the serious criminal threats facing this country are either global or national issues. For example, terrorism, fraud, cyber crime, travelling foreign criminals, drugs, sexual exploitation. Central to tackling all these issues is the management of intelligence and the 43-force structure inhibits the smooth flow of intelligence between forces, partner agencies and other countries.
The creation of a single force would cost an absolute fortune, in terms of rebranding, IT and communication systems and general restructuring costs and could take at five to 10 years for such a large organisation to be fully operationally effective. There is no reason why that interim period of change should leave the country any more vulnerable to current serious threats than it is now. The main concern for most people would be whether such a large police service could provide a caring and involved local policing service. Again, there should be no reason to worry, local officers would still police local communities and the levels of neighbourhood policing, response policing or roads policing could be maintained and even improved.
Any future vision for the police should also include the co-location and co-ordination with the other emergency services into a national body which could produce even further efficiencies and improvements in services.