COMMONS

"Alarming" inconsistencies in policing across forces must be addressed

09 July 2016

The Home Affairs Committee says there is an "alarming lack of consistency across forces" in England and Wales, which are still failing to embed the College of Policing's Code of Ethics. If policing is to move on from controversies and scandals such as Hillsborough and undercover policing then reassuring the public of the integrity of those involved must be the first priority.

Report findings

Code of Ethics

The Code of Ethics should be viewed by serving officers as having the equivalent status of the Hippocratic Oath. The Code and Conduct regulations should be consolidated and made enforceable, under the control of the College of Policing.

Recruitment

To further address the national inconsistencies in policing there must be a standard recruitment process with standard entry requirements for someone wishing to become a police officer in England and Wales, as is the case in other sectors such as the UCAS system.

The Committee supports the Scottish model of training all new recruits at the same place, by the same people, with best practice and national standards embedded from the very beginning of a police officer's career.

Secrecy over international police training contracts "totally unacceptable"

The Committee also brands the Foreign Office's refusal to provide details of the College of Policing's contracts for providing assistance and training to overseas regimes "totally unacceptable".

Based on this, the Committee questions whether the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance guidance is "fit for purpose". To ensure that there is proper transparency and accountability, the College must be open about the nature of the international work that it provides.

Foreign governments should confirm in writing the purposes of the training and that UK Government should secure a written guarantee that the training will not include any purposes we deem unethical, particularly following serious concerns with training programmes in Saudi Arabia.

Overseas training

The College of Policing has been put under pressure by the Home Office to raise revenue, including through providing overseas training, and the Committee support its efforts in doing so. The UK brand of policing is rightly respected internationally and should be disseminated as widely as possible.

However, the Committee says the provision of training on the basis of opaque agreements, sometimes with foreign governments which have been the subject of sustained criticism, threatens the integrity of the very brand of British policing that the College is trying to promote and "smacks of hypocrisy".

Key facts

The Committee says: 

  • Current police procurement is clearly inefficient and it is "astonishing" that forces cannot agree common standards for procurement. The College of Policing should as a minimum take on an advisory role in the procurement of specialist equipment.
  • The College of Policing should be given the legal power to hold a register of people who work in policing and responsibility for admitting and striking people off that register and, where appropriate, to license individuals to work in particularly high-risk aspects of policing.
  • The College's power to set regulations and standards should be extended to civilian staff.
  • It is unacceptable that the Board of the College of Policing has not been able to increase its ethnic minority representation and the Committee expects this and the skills gaps that have been identified to be addressed urgently.
  • The Government must remove the Treasury constraints on the College charging an appropriate amount for the training it provides.
  • The College should consider whether there is anything more it can do to help countries that have experienced terrorism, like the attack near Sousse in Tunisia in June 2015. The consequences have been devastating for the Tunisian economy and those whose livelihoods depended on tourism. Such assistance should be part of the UK Government’s bilateral support to Tunisia to improve its security to a level which would facilitate the regeneration of tourism.

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The College of Policing continues to be a vital part of the new landscape of policing. However there is an alarming lack of consistency across Police forces, and the College of Policing faces significant challenges in implementing a national approach to raise standards. A Police Officer in Leicestershire should be judged by the same criteria as one based in Suffolk. There should be no "postcode lottery" in how we are policed.

There is much to learn from the Police Scotland model of one recruitment process and one training college. The implementation of regional training hubs in England and Wales, overseen by the College of Policing, would ensure consistency in the training of new recruits. The College should also have an active advisory role in police procurement, which continues to be inefficient.

Budgetary pressures on the College of Policing means it needs to increase revenues, and does so by providing assistance and training to foreign countries. We welcome this, however the Foreign Office should not be hiding details of our contracts with foreign regimes, some with highly dubious human rights records, behind the guise of 'commercial sensitivity'. There is no justification for this.

For a Foreign Secretary to act in this manner and tell the British Parliament that he will not disclose such important information is totally unacceptable. Withholding the terms of the provision of training threatens the integrity of the very brand of British policing that the College is trying to promote, it smacks of hypocrisy."

Further information

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