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 863.

    Mr Vaz you have zero credibility to be able chastise the police force when you are a part of a group that plundered the public purse with spurious expense clams. Also the home secrteary at the time was party to withholding part of the police pay rise whilst her husband was at home using my money to watch porn onTV.

    Mr Vaz I suggest you leave public life as soon as possible.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 862.

    Keith Vaz, "Who are you!" & why is the BBC giving this MAN so much airtime! A quick look at his wiki page, I can see there is so much wrong with this man I don't know where to start! You were suspended from parliament in 2002 for trying to stitch up a retired Copper! You obviously have taken the Micky with your expenses! & I wont get started on your views of Homeopathy being provided by the NHS!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 861.

    These are fine words from politicians who have lost all credibility and respect of the public because of their eye watering dishonesty and blatant frauds, mr vaz needs to get his own house in order before pontificating about others

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 860.

    'Pleb'gate, or better 'gategate', as far as i can see, only drags on because Mitchell is seething at having been driven out of his job, and can now call in favours from fellow MPs and journalists. The testimony of two policemen, who recorded the details in the police log, is definitely worth considerably more than that of one embittered politician. Vaz is just taking the side of his colleague.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 859.

    830 Paul......Your welcome to dagenham. Anytime. Fact

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 858.

    847.chrisk50. Agreed with everything you said until your last sentence when you revealed a very nasty side.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 857.

    >778. Outraged
    >As a serving police sergeant with over 20 years experience I can say
    >that morale is at an all time low ,

    Sympathy for that. Cut-backs for everything important for society; hand-outs / blind eyes turned for richest.

    >the police service is hamstrung by ridiculous rights for suspects and
    >general human rights.

    'Hamstrung'?!
    Surely protecting human rights is the *role* of police!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 856.

    Here`s a tip for any police working tonight... stop sitting at your desk posting comments to this site. Get out there and do your best to reduce crime. I know it sounds radical, but we`re paying you to work.

  • Comment number 855.

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

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 854.

    If they wanted respect maybe they should have done something about the crime I attempted to report to them three times, as it stands I think they're pretty much proved all they give a toss about is enforcing easily enforced laws (like motoring offences), and getting paid a vast amount for doing it. They'll get no respect from me.

  • Comment number 853.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 852.

    As a farmer I once met a policeman who had left our industry to join. I shook his habd telling him he had my respect for being prepared to more or less wear roundells front and back on a weekend night in one certain local town. Certainly NOT a job I would fancy besides their problems give them some respect and support.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 851.

    The police force have an impossibly difficult task. They have to deal with drunks who has soiled themselves. Violent criminals. Rude and agressive public. On top of this they have armchair critics who are ready to pounce at the slightest error.
    I wonder how many of these critics could survive as a working police officers?
    We should support our police force, quite literally the best in the world!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 850.

    After gleefully smashing picket lines, whilst being paid inflation-busting rises (45% rise, given by Thatcher), the police were the tool used to crush unions. Now the majority of us go to work with no rights at all. And now the policemans` union, The Police Federation, wants to be listened to by the Government? The police are not just corrupt, they`re hypocrites too.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 849.

    @809 - almost no Chief Constables have moaned about the cuts. Their careers are more important and portray a positive public view. Don't upset the Home Office if you want to be Sir or HMIC

    Officers and staff (the latter actually losing jobs) on the ground however are the ones bearing the brunt of the cuts and may vocalise their view, mainly by seeing and understanding the issues 1st hand.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 848.

    Like most public services, there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians. It is time to put more personnel on the front line in all aspects of public services, get rid of all the infernal paperwork, administrators and accountants. That applies to the police, the Nhs and education. Time to let those on the frontline do what they do best!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 847.

    Any comment from Keith Vaz must be taken with a pinch of salt, with a history like his I would remain quiet, very quiet.

    Parliamentary expenses - charging for rent on premises that he owned.
    claimed for a flat in London when he lived 45 mins away from
    Westminster.
    and much more

    We don't need criticism from the likes of him, when an indigenous members of the state have their say.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 846.

    Stopped reading when Keith Vaz was involved....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 845.

    829 Gustheblind

    But previous succession of govt, and police chiefs. Decided they would blow most of their money on CCTV.
    Majority of police don't care, or are told not to.
    The puppet masters want there to be policing only for the rich and famous. Nowhere else. Then when the UK is fully lawless, offer us plebs micro chipping, as if you nothing to hide etc. 1930s Germany anyone?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 844.

    Quite amazing how only pro police comments have been chosen by the Editor just shows how honest, straight and decent our journalists, and by extension the news reporting services are.

 

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