Coaker: Police reforms “radical” despite govt backdown

Suggestions the policing and crime bill is toothless following the dropping of plans to make police authorities directly elected have been denied by Home Office minister Vernon Coaker.

Speaking at a briefing for journalists before the bill’s publication today, Mr Coaker said police forces faced a “pretty radical” set of reforms even without the directly elected police authority plans.

And he insisted the commitment in the Queen’s Speech – “to further increase the effectiveness and public accountability of policing” – was being met.

“What we’ve done is a sensible decision in the light of the representations we’ve had,” he said.

“There’s massive reform going on at the moment.”

He cited the national pledge, mandatory public meetings and Jan Berry’s work on bureaucracy as examples of these changes, rejecting the suggestion the police were the last unreformed public service.

Measures included in the policing and crime bill reinforcing this process include placing a duty on police authorities “to have regard to the views of the public” and requires HM inspectorate of constabulary ensure this is assessed.

The appointments panel for chief officers will have its status and independence strengthened and collaboration between police forces at regional and national level will be boosted through a clarified framework.

Mr Coaker suggested London mayor Boris Johnson was partly to blame for the collapse in support of plans to create directly elected police authorities.

He said the government had decided to abandon these plans because of “real concern” over fears of the police’s “politicisation” from senior police officers and local government officials.

Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair was forced to resign from his post earlier this year after the London mayor lost confidence in him.

“Concern has been around increased politicisation. Events in recent weeks have heightened these,” Mr Coaker added.

The arrest of shadow immigration minister Damian Green is also thought to have had an impact on public opinion forcing the government to drop its largest proposed measure for the bill.