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Police commission: Neighbourhood policing under threat

media captionShadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper: "We understand that resources are pressured"

Neighbourhood policing is under threat in England and Wales as police "retreat to a discredited reactive approach", a report is to say.

The Independent Police Commission will say that every neighbourhood should have a guaranteed level of policing.

The commission, which will publish its report on Monday, was set up by Labour in 2011 under former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens.

Labour said it would now consult on the report's recommendations.

The commission will say "bobbies on the beat are disappearing and neighbourhood policing must be saved".

It describes the neighbourhood model as the "building block of fair and effective policing".

The report will make 37 recommendations, including:

  • A national procurement strategy to increase the amount of collaboration between forces - to include standardised uniforms
  • Electronic submission of case files to courts and prosecutors
  • Mobile access to intelligence, including the Police National Computer
  • Cybercrime experts to be recruited directly into police forces
  • Restrictions on the use of private companies such as G4S and Serco for policing functions

According to the commission, figures from the House of Commons Library show there were 10,000 fewer front line officers in England and Wales in 2013 than in 2010 - a drop of 8.3%.

'Beating a retreat'

Lord Stevens, the Met Commissioner who introduced neighbourhood policing into London, said every local area should be given a guaranteed level of neighbourhood policing, as well as guaranteed response times when a crime is reported.

image captionThe commission will say police forces must promote "community wellbeing"

Police should investigate every reported crime, he said, but if this is not possible the victim should be told why.

The "plebgate", Jimmy Savile, and Hillsborough controversies had tarnished the reputation of the police service, he warned.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Lord Stevens warned that officers were "beating a retreat from the beat".

"In the course of our two-year independent commission on the future of policing, we have seen that neighbourhood policing is under threat and the police are at risk of retreating into a discredited reactive model," he wrote.

"The commission is clear that neighbourhood policing is the bedrock on which the service must be built."

Lord Stevens also condemned the government's police reform programme as "confused", "fragmented" and "unfocused".

'Working with communities'

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Labour had asked Lord Stevens to examine what could be done "without additional resources".

"There is a retreat going on from neighbourhood policing, a retreat from the bobbies on the beat," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme.

She accused her Conservative counterpart Theresa May of seeing policing merely as "crime fighting".

"In fact policing is about prevention of crime, working with communities, respect for law and order and respect for public safety," she said.

The report will call for "a set of national minimum standards of police service which everyone should be entitled to receive" and which police forces "must deliver".

"The neighbourhood remains the key building block of fair and effective policing and it is vital that visible, locally responsive policing is protected in times of fiscal constraint," it will say.

The report will recommend that the law should be changed "to make clear that the purpose of policing is to promote public safety and community wellbeing, thereby preventing crime as well as reacting to crime".

According to the commission, this was achieved in the legislation creating a single national police force for Scotland.

The report will call for stronger links between the police and other organisations, including giving neighbourhoods and councils more say over local police priorities.


Labour announced the review at its 2011 party conference, saying it was time for a "serious vision".

Crossbench peer Lord Stevens stressed the commission, which included police figures, academics and judges, would be non-political.

At the time Nick Herbert, the then policing minister, said Labour's decision to establish an inquiry was "an abdication of any kind of political leadership" and the government had a "coherent package of reforms".

The overall structure of the police service was last examined by a royal commission in 1962.

Lord Stevens was the head of the Metropolitan Police between 2000 and 2005.

More on this story

  • Viewpoints: How should the police best use limited resources?

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