Acpo overhaul needed, says general's report for PCCs
An independent review has called for an overhaul of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Acpo currently operates as a limited company, but a report by General Sir Nick Parker says this is "inconsistent with public accountability".
The report also describes Acpo's structure as "complex and unorthodox" and says it is unclear how many of its 300 working groups are "relevant".
Acpo brings together top officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Most of Acpo's funding comes from Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), who asked Sir Nick to examine whether Acpo provided "value for money" and if its structure and work were "appropriate in the context of a changing policing landscape".
Sir Nick's report is meant to advise PCCs, who will produce their own report outlining their plans on 21 January.
Acpo currently costs £4.2m a year - £1.2m for running the organisation and £3m for "national policing units" such as the National Police Co-ordination Centre.
Sir Nick's report says these costs are "necessary" but there is "scope for change to increase efficiency and effectiveness".
If PCCs follow Sir Nick's recommendations, the national policing units would no longer be funded through Acpo, but would instead be paid for through police forces or the new National Crime Agency.
The report also suggests the Chief Constables' Council - the Acpo body for top officers - should be invited to "identify alternative governance and funding arrangements that enable effective operation without passing through a limited company".
It notes that chief constables need a national forum - but says Acpo's current system includes some "anomalies".
"There is a sense that for pragmatic reasons there is an inner core of more experienced chiefs who have greater influence, and this causes some to sit back and let other views prevail," it says.
Acpo currently includes officers with the rank of assistant chief constable and above, but if PCCs follow Sir Nick's recommendations it will be for chief constables only.
The report also suggests changes to the system of National Business Areas - the term for "broad areas of policing", such as drugs, where one senior officer is appointed as Acpo's national "lead".
It says the current system has "many advantages and great care must be taken not to undermine it", but there should be a review process to "ensure transparency and cost effectiveness".
On a separate point, the report adds: "It has proved difficult to establish exactly how many working groups there are (in excess of 300), which remain relevant and what the procedures are for removing those that are no longer required."
The Association of PCCs welcomed the recommendations of what it called a "thorough, perceptive and fair report" which reflected the "need for change in the new policing landscape".
It said it would consult with all PCCs, chief constables, the home secretary and various others about "managing the implementation of these changes".
Acpo's vice president, Chief Constable Sara Thornton, also welcomed the report.
"All chief officers will want to consider [the] report carefully and we will work with PCCs to take forward the recommendations," she said.