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
    +1

    Comment number 683.

    This will always make a good story - 2 of the most untrustworthy (police)and inept (any committee made up of MPs) organisations trying to sort out law and order.

    Vaz is quite simply useless in this role, commands no respect from the public given his own history of dodgy activities.... Was he a policemen at some point?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 682.

    I've read a lot of comments that say; "we have the best Police in the world." I find it hard to agree.
    Firstly, I am not familiar with every Police force in the world.
    Secondly, my experiences with the Police have been anything but positive. This is not down to the cuts, (although it can't help) the Police have been unhelpful for a long time.
    Though maybe it depends on where you live in the UK

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 681.

    It is not often that i feel the need to post on any forum, however sometimes it's difficult to remain the silent minority.....my suggestion is simple, Mr Vaz and those currently berating the Police Service should have their own pay and conditions turned on their heads....and then they should put on the uniform and go and deal with the difficulties on the streets..oh no, just stay in you office!!!!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 680.

    I have only called upon the Police for help twice in my life. On those two occasions the police let me down badly. On one of those occasions I believe that they actually hindered my case.

    I will NEVER trust the Police again or go out of my way to help them.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 679.

    And why did BBC put this non-story at first place on the news this morning?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 678.

    I have not had 100% confidence in the honesty or impartiality of our police for many years, at least since the Miners strike when they were used by the Thatcher government as a weapon to break the unions and put all they had into it, but I trust politicians a damn sight less, especially Tories but also the rest of them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 677.

    I am quite sure that it is a tiny majority of officers whose misconduct reflects badly on the rest of the serving police officers. If what was reported to have been said at the gates of Downing Street was leaked by someone who apparently wasn't even there - what action did those officers present take to refute those allegations? I am a supporter of the police, but my faith has taken a knock.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 676.

    669thelostdot

    I just wonder about my own incident with a neighbour breaking the flashing on our house and generally trying to walk all over us. Police wouldn't log until I complained, and then have just said we have to clear it up ourselves and fix it. Presumably then if he broke a window the same logic applies?
    ===
    IANAL, but think you need to prove intent, else it's a civil matter. Ask the CAB

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 675.

    Warwickshire/West Mercia Police = “Alliance Plan” - merging of services. @ 90 Officers likely to go by 2016. West Mercia facing 60. Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) = chop 235 officers; Warwickshire set to lose 170. Threat of job loss, merging, overwork.
    Officers must feel stress & strain of these proposals, & less pride in what they do, or how they do it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 674.

    If the existence of the Black Police Associations is not evidence of a racist culture within the Police then I do not know what is.

    How can any white person have faith in the Police when that organisation exists?

  • Comment number 673.

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

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 672.

    So - less is more?Whoever's trying to push this tosh presumably has form for selling snow to eskimos.Not so long ago, a certain political party made it a point of pride to write in their manifesto they would would employ more police, as opposed to the other shower who always wanted to cut numbers.The reality is recorded crime figures are falling in western economies & nobody knows why.Go figure!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 671.

    The police need to get back to walking the beat and get to know its public, as the old fashioned bobby was well respected and could prevent many crimes from happening.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 670.

    Vaz has some issues of trust himself - remember the Hinduja affair? And his suspension from parliament in 2002 after bresling its code of conduct?

    Let a more credible politician speak and then maybe I'll listen.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 669.

    I just wonder about my own incident with a neighbour breaking the flashing on our house and generally trying to walk all over us. Police wouldn't log until I complained, and then have just said we have to clear it up ourselves and fix it. Presumably then if he broke a window the same logic applies? Difference between breaking a window and flashing? Ever heard of the night of broken glass?

  • Comment number 668.

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

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 667.

    There are too few Police officers to do the job properly and too many new laws. The officers do not have enough time in the day to deal with every offence and therefore mistakes are made. Sadly the few bad pennies tarnish the lot, but that should not detract from the fact we still have the best police service in the World.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 666.

    This is publicity seeking Vaz putting down a marker for an inquiry into police practices beginning next month of which he will be Chair.

    Inquiries are supposed to start with an open mind and, through analysis of the evidence given, come to a conclusion.

    Vaz has already made his mind up and for that reason he should be removed.

    There a other reasons, but they would be for another day.

  • Comment number 665.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 664.

    For once I have to agree with Mr Vaz. However, the lack of Public confidence in the Police pales into insignificance when compared to the lack of Public confidence in MP's, the Lords, local councillors & MEP's.

    So please Mr Vaz tell your worthless colleagues on both sides of the house to sort themselves out before there is a revolution in this country.

 

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