The National Association of Retired Police Officers (NARPO) has been watching with interest the recent developments in policing and was surprised not only at the Home Secretary’s choice of candidate for Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMCIC) but also at the comment that he was head and shoulders above any other candidate.
Our surprise was not in any way intended as a slight on Mr Winsor but was driven more by our understanding of the role of HMCIC. What has been clear to NARPO, and we think many others who understand policing, is that HMCIC is more than just a regulator. In the past HMCIC has been seen as both a regulator and an advisor on key policing issues. We do not see how someone without any police experience can fulfil this dual role.
The facts seem to indicate that in both the choice and description of Mr Winsor as preferred candidate, the Government are clearly signalling their intention to make a significant change to the role of HMCIC to a role more independent of the police, but will it be more independent of Government?
The consequences of such a change, without any meaningful discussion or consensus either inside or outside policing, are far from clear. What is clear is that this is not the only significant change to policing in England and Wales proposed during the life of this Coalition Government. Much of the debate about change has been masked by arguments around the personalities involved in the process or the level to which measures are needed to meet the deficit reduction program. It is surely time that there was a much more public debate about the effects of these changes on policing.
Eric Evans, the President of NARPO said, ‘We recognise the Government has a right to seek to appoint their preferred candidate to be the next HMCIC but much of the debate both around the preferred candidate and policing changes has been around personality rather than issues. NARPO believe that very few members of the public fully understand many of the issues around policing changes. The introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners for example is a key policy but few members of the public understand their role. In Britain we police with the consent of society, the public should understand and consent to major changes to the way that policing is delivered and in its governance.’