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
    +2

    Comment number 563.

    Who cares what Vaz says, just look at his past history to see what kind of awful person he is. I can't even understand how he's still an MP

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 562.

    You'd have thought that Vaz had learnt lessons about making false allegations about Police officers; making false expense claims; abusing his authority to aid in the immigration of friends; playing the race card to subvert investigations and several other examples of his less than honourable conduct. Vaz talking about honesty... yeah very funny!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Vaz

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 561.

    What is particularly rich is that Vaz was an influential figure in the Labour party who failed to intervene in the working of one of Britain's most powerful 'unions' (the Police Federation) over a 13 year span. At least May (let's be fair here) had the courage to do what no other Home Secretary in generation had the balls to do...take on a powerful vested interest.

  • Comment number 560.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 559.

    Sadly in my opinion, it did not need these events to lose any trust with the police force. I have witnessed with my own eyes a number of events which have done that. They appear only to be interested in meeting crime statistic's, low level crime is more often than not ignored. The point is that once this occurs, the low level crime has a habit of esculating into something far more serious.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 558.

    All coppers are cowardly bullies who join the force to get a little power. They always make sure they outnumber thier victims by at least 3:1 before attacking them with their Tasers, pepper sprays and dogs. I recently had one in my house saying some extremely offensive things about Hilsborough - we physically threw him out like the piece of cowardly vermin he was. Copper = SCUM!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 557.

    Don't see where the high public opinion for the police comes from. I've never been in trouble but when youths gate crashed a party the police were obstructive rather than helpful. Had friend given a heavy interrogation due to an unsubstantiated claim and another arrested for drunk driving when they slept in their car as they lost their house keys! All law abiding.
    Too much power for plods

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 556.

    We know that the Police have been a joke since the scandals of the 1970s and the racism of the 1980s and 90s. However, what is particularly galling about all this, is the fact that the odious Mr Vaz has to come out whingeing about the Police. He and his mates in the Labour Party, had 13 years to do something about it. They did nothing, apart from make decent coppers' jobs harder. He's a hypocrite.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 555.

    Several members of my family are/were police officers. I have been told of several police officers who are leaving to become train drivers because the pay is better. No monder morale is low. The vast majority of the general public have no idea what being a police officer is actually about. One family member was stabbed in the stomach, a collegeue of another was shot dead. Anyone fancy it?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 554.

    Keith Vaz and the BBC trying to attack the Police on "trust"?.

    Why have the BBC spent almost £300,000 of license payers' money preventing the publication of the Balen Report?.

    http://www.thecommentator.com/article/1565/exclusive_bbc_spends_a_third_of_1_million_concealing_middle_east_balen_report_

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 553.

    523.
    insert_name_here
    "The level of conspiracy necessary for Hillsborough was astonishing.
    Is widespread masonic membership a coincidence?"

    Completely - and the same goes for the incredibly normal identical parallel in the courts and politics.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 552.

    Regardless of party lines, all these lot want to do is to privatise the Police Force, and will stoop at nothing to meet their ends. It's an absolute gold mine to the likes of G4S and politicians who have shares in the company. The Police/G4S officers will then become like a private security outfit, being payed near minimum wage. Crime will go through the roof, which they'll say needs more G4S

  • Comment number 551.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 550.

    You either pay for decent coppers now or pay the cost for bad ones in the long term. Which is going to be cheaper!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 549.

    Another example of the insatiable thirst for publicity of this power crazy politician. Of course the police need to be reformed and Winsor is the man to do it, but to link a recent event at Downing St with events of nearly 25 years' ago is dissemblance of the highest order.

    Show the man a band waggon and watch his eyes sparkle as he seeks a way of jumping on it!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 548.

    Not just the rotten Police the whole currupt system covering up for one another, pressure from Politicians on the CPS delayed watered down cases, Police appointments for Phone hackers non existant accountable bodies.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 547.

    The public are disillusioned with police that crippled with Nu Labour paperwork and Tory funding cuts. However, it does seem to have become the credo of the Police to walk away from much crime rather than addressing it, and they should be ashamed of that. Maybe this was started because society was blamed rather than the criminal, leading to a lack of accountability and punishment, so why bother?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 546.

    My Late Father said when talking about the police when I was a kid (40 or so years ago) "It takes a thief to catch a Thief", However over the years I have felt that not to be the general case. I have read the comments here and what surprised me is NOBODY has said they would do this job of work, I for one as a retired nurse would NOT do it anymore now that I would do Nursing.

  • Comment number 545.

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

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 544.

    I continue to be astonished that gullible Joe Public still believe that Westminster Government runs this country.

    Sadly they do not. There are shady men behind the scenes who really pull your strings. Mates of Dave and other unelected folk. Big money who want more, much more, and as much as they can steal

    As long as Joe Public argues within the cage then the stealing will continue

 

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