Trust in police damaged by controversies - Vaz

 

Keith Vaz: "All these factors come together to become a dangerous cocktail"

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Public confidence in the police has been hurt by a "dangerous cocktail" of controversies including the critical Hillsborough report and Andrew Mitchell "plebgate" row, a senior MP has warned.

Labour's Keith Vaz, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, also said government restructuring of the service had undermined police morale.

He called for talks between government and police at this "defining moment".

The Home Office said public confidence in the police remained high.

Mr Vaz's committee begins an inquiry into police practices next month.

This will look into issues of training, accountability and integrity, and the effectiveness of processes for dealing with internal corruption and malpractice.

Last year former rail regulator Tom Winsor wrote a controversial report into changing police pay and conditions and in June he was appointed Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales, despite criticism by the Police Federation.

Analysis

Plebgate, Hillsborough and Winsor; three words that Keith Vaz believes are linked. Three words Mr Vaz believes explains a threat to trust on the public side and low morale on the cop side.

But David Cameron and Theresa May - the police reform enforcer - won't see it that way. Yes, they know the changes they are pushing ahead with, to reform police pay and conditions, are controversial.

But they also believe that the bulk of Tom Winsor's proposals are essential to make the 43 constabularies work better with less money.

Some in government will welcome the self-inflicted damage from collusion over Hillsborough and claims that an officer lied about seeing an Andrew Mitchell rant.

But most will be uncomfortable about an erosion in trust. They need that thin blue line - especially, if, as some warn, the 2011 riots could come round again.

But make no mistake, the prime minister said any claims an officer fabricated evidence were "extremely serious."

That means the police - in London in particular - need to do all they can to ensure any wrongdoing is rooted out and exposed as the rare instance he hopes it is.

Mr Vaz told the BBC: "I believe we have the best police force in the world and the work that is being done up and down the country is cherished by local people.

"But recent events, the Andrew Mitchell issue, the results of the Hillsborough inquiry and the fact that 26 out of the 43 police forces do not have a permanent chief constable - all these factors come together and become a dangerous cocktail.

"We have confidence in the police not being as high as it should be, we have police having little confidence in their jobs, we have half of those surveyed who want to do another job.

"Taken together, this is an important moment and I feel we need to start a dialogue and be very clear over what the police's responsibilities are in the 21st century."

'Too rapid'

Tory MP Andrew Mitchell resigned as chief whip following an accusation that, during an argument while leaving Downing Street on his bicycle in September, he had called police officers "plebs" - a claim he has always denied.

CCTV footage has since emerged appearing to cast doubt on officers' version of events, and a serving Met police constable has been arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office and suspended from duty.

While Mr Vaz acknowledged that some restructuring of policing was needed, he said the government's changes had been "too rapid and too far-reaching".

Currently, almost half of officers questioned said they would prefer a different job, Mr Vaz suggested, and more than 90% felt the force lacked government support.

"As any management would tell you, you've got to make sure you carry the workforce with you. Unfortunately that is not happening and that is why police morale is at an all-time low.

"I think the government is wrong to be retrospectively changing pension conditions, as the previous Labour government was wrong to stop the annual pay rise they were entitled to a few years ago."

What was wanted now, he said, was "cool heads, strong leadership" and a proper discussion between the prime minister, force leaders, and the police association the Police Federation.

'Hard work'

Following Mr Vaz's remarks, a Home Office spokesman said surveys regularly showed that public confidence in the police remained high.

He told the BBC: "Police reform is working and crime is falling. The police budget is £14bn a year and it's only right that they should make a contribution to reducing the budget deficit.

"Chief constables are rising to the challenge of making efficiency savings and providing greater value for money.

"We have swept away central targets and reduced police bureaucracy. How the police are deployed, rather than their absolute numbers, is what is key to cutting crime."

Mr Vaz's comments come as the Sunday Times reports that the government has released new figures suggesting crime has fallen by 10% in 19 out of 43 police forces in England and Wales, despite budget cuts.

Police minister Damian Green told the paper: "These statistics prove what we have said all along. It is possible to reduce spending while maintaining and even improving the service given to the public."

The Police Federation's new chairman Steve Williams was quoted as saying: "These figures, whilst a snapshot, are testament to the hard work and dedication displayed by police officers who, when faced with challenges, rise deftly to meet them."

The Association of Chief Police Officers said the relationship between the public and police was very durable and there was evidence, such as from the British Crime Survey, which showed public confidence in policing had remained stable.

A spokeswoman said: "Police officers and staff take huge pride in the job they do and while this is a time of reform and tough financial decisions, their commitment to serve the public remains absolutely wholehearted."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 543.

    Ah, Mr Vaz, you are so keen on bringing up old news regarding the police. Perhaps the BBC should report once more on matters relating to you ? He's known as Vazeline apparently in the Commons as nothing sticks to him. I certainly have more faith in the police service than with Vaz and numerous other MP's.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 542.

    All right-thinking police officers feel contempt for colleagues who let down the 99% who regularly maintain higher ethical standards than almost any other profession. It's SO depressing that we are being judged today because of something that happened over 20 years ago, or something incredibly foolish done by a single individual. We have the best police service in the world. Don't destroy it!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 541.

    Footballexpert - Easy 'copout' police pay has never been linked to buying them to break strikes, cycnical view of the bobbybasher. Recognised in the 70's the poor pay & conditions were linked to corruption and poor candidates, sound familiar? The job demands a huge sacrifice from those who do it, fancy G4s doing the job? This country will get the Police Service it deserves with folk like you...

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 540.

    The public lost trust in the police long before the recent controversies.
    We`ve had to live with having no police presence on the streets, the closing down of local police stations, no local phone number to contact them, and the police showing no interest in solving "petty" crime.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 539.

    I would hazard a guess that a significant proportion of the people posting negative comments about the police here have an axe to grind, e.g. maybe they've been breaking the law themselves and but can't see the error of their ways?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 538.

    Bit like the pot calling the kettle black. Public trust in all positions of authority has been tarnished. We all need to ask ourselves the J.F. Kennedy imperative more often.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 537.

    Crime rate is falling so don't be alarmed by the political scaremongering on here and elsewhere.

    Happy New Year!

  • Comment number 536.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 535.

    As a serving police officer with 24 years experience and serving at the rank of sergeant, i see morale across the service at an all time low, officers are now not volunteering for public order units, firearms officers are questioning whether they want to carry firearms. I would say to any Government reform yes, but involve us in that reform not do not impose it on us. Be careful what you wish 4

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 534.

    If Vaz is so keen on cleaning up corruption, he ought to seek the arrest of this current government who have armed and funded foreign fighters of a sovereign nation = Syria = war crimes and seek to jail those responsible for the invasion of Iraq by his own part members who are responsible for 1.4 million dead in Iraq. Then we'd have some *real* confidence in the Police

    Until then, shut up.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 533.

    When exactly are we going to get a Police force that is properly accountable for its actions? At present accountability is a dishonest facade as anybody will tell you who has actually tried to report a crime. Of the 4 or 5 times in my life when I needed help from the Police to deal with a crime they have not been promptly available, and on one occassion allowed a criminal to walk away!

  • Comment number 532.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 531.

    516 Harry Lime said. 'Crime doubled under the Tories the last time they were in.'

    That was because there was so much stealing going on. Not only at the top of the class order but also at the bottom. The supposed Great and Good set the example then the nation followed.

    Now here we are sitting amongst the ruins !

    And now the very same naughty rascals are back in misgovernment? Astonishing!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 530.

    Politicians calling Police over trust.
    I've heard it all now.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 529.

    In other news, George Bush is criticising Obama for the Iraq war.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 528.

    The Police must hang these officers out to dry to salvage some respect. Every officer is tarnished by the actions of these few. If the P are seen to delay decisive action police officers every where will lose credibility and respect of the public.
    Being a P officer is a very rewarding privileged position, they need to get rid of weak minded people

  • Comment number 527.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 526.

    I am a law abiding citizen as taught to me by my parents but in all my 60 years as a citizen of the UK I have never had any trust in the police in any way whatsoever. It has always been known that they are corrupt in every force throughout the UK. Why is it such a surprise now!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 525.

    511 "football expert" - The reason policw re quite well paid now is due to historic low pay. As a 1970's school children, my sister and i qualified for free school meals due to our police officer father's low pay. My fatherwas also on the receiving end of quite a lot of sneering comments about other peoples tax bill being bigger than his salary, etc.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 524.

    The Police in the UK do it by Public Consent. MP's (Parliament) are supposed to represent the interests of their LOCAL CONSTITUENTS AND THE U.K. Well, I don't know about you, but I'd say that the higher % of people support Coppers. Remember MP's, with FPTP you very rarely represent 40% of your Constituents...That puts you on thin ice my Pedigree Chums...

 

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