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Review says Essex Police should merge with other forces
5:50pm Wednesday 27th November 2013 in News
POLICE and crime commissioners should be abolished, and provincial forces such as Essex Police merged to form ten newregional forces, the Independent Police Commission is suggesting.
The commission’s review, led by ex-Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens, also recommends a fresh focus on neighbourhood policing among its 37 key points.
Others include a move to make officers belong to a professional organisation with its own register, similar to those for doctors and nurses.
Rogue officers could then be struck off if found guilty of misconduct.
Yesterday’s report will be considered by the Government during the next year and Labour has already said it could become the basis for its new policy on policing ahead of the next election. In the report, Lord Stevens says: “The police and crime commissioner model is systemically flawed as a method of democratic governance and should be discontinued.”
Instead, he recommends police forces should be held to account by local councils. Lord Stevens is also calling for a “guaranteed minimum level of neighbourhood policing” and for police forces to be merged.
However, he stops short of backing the idea of a single, national force.
Essex Police today declined to comment on the report.
In the past it has ruled out the idea of merging with another force, though it already has close links with Kent Police, including a joint serious crime directorate and shared admin and office set-ups.
Lord Stevens’s report states: “The present structure of 43 separate police forces for England and Wales is no longer cost-effective or equipped to meet the challenges of organised and cross-border crime.”
Lord Stevens says forces should consider amalgamating voluntarily, with the aim of forming just ten regional forces.
The report concedes there is no more money available to fund minimum policing levels or mergers, but suggests buying items such as uniforms nationally could save enough to fund more bobbies on the beat.
It warned there is a danger of “beating a retreat from the beat” under the current set-up.
Essex Police has been told by the Government it must reduce its annual budget by £78million before 2016 and has already let 400 police officers go as part of an overall staffing reduction of more than 1,000. More cuts expected in the coming months.
Lord Stevens also called for improvements in the field of forensic testing, something on which Essex Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh is already working.
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