Policing for the People
This week I published proposals for a major shake-up of the police. As Shadow Minister for Police Reform, I have been leading a Taskforce to look at why officers spend more time on paperwork than on patrol.
Sussex Police have tried hard to develop neighbourhood policing, but still only 5.2 per cent of their officers are dedicated to it.
My team has spent hours in police stations, talking to officers and analysing the causes of bureaucracy.
Our 250-page report shows that there is huge scope for efficiencies. Civilian staff could do clerical jobs. Antiquated computer systems could be joined up so that data doesn't have to be keyed in more than once. Unnecessary forms and time-consuming reporting to the Home Office could be swept away.
Working practices should be updated to reflect changes in society. Talented people, such as ex-army officers, should be able to enter senior police ranks directly, and a new cadre of paid police reservists, similar to the Territorial Army or retained firefighters, could boost manpower.
Today's high-tech criminals don't respect force boundaries. Either police forces must co-operate more effectively, or a new national Serious Crime Force should work alongside them, tackling terrorism, drug dealers and major crime.
I want to replace worthy but invisible police authorities with a police commissioner elected by local residents. I like what I've seen in New York and Chicago, where police chiefs are held to account by elected Mayors - who themselves answer to the people.
Recently I met with Storrington residents to discuss their concerns about antisocial behaviour in the village. Like every other village, they want to see more police on the streets.
That's why I've called my report "Policing for the People". Some have described the ideas as radical. I say that putting bobbies on the beat is simply common sense.