Headlines: September 3rd, 2001

A search has been launched to find a head for the new Police Standards Unit within the Home Office and reporting to the Home Secretary. Adverts describe the person being sought as ‘someone with a record of improving performance across complex organisations, managing change positively and effectively and able to deliver real results’. The advert makes it clear that only leaders of the highest calibre are recruited for modernising public services.The new unit will be given the task of driving up performance across the police service. It will be a think tank taking in and refining ideas, finding out what works and disseminating proven good practice. As the ideaspowerhouse, it will spearhead reform of the police service.

An early input to the Standards Unit will be the current study getting views from the frontline. Police constables are being asked about their working day. Bureaucracy is recognized as a problem and the study is seeking to find out why police officers are held back from effective policing by unnecessary paper work or blockages in the system.It is also looking for ways in which new technology can reduce paperwork. The Unit will also draw on the work of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Senior police officers have expressed concern about increased central direction resulting from the setting up of the Standards Unit. They have been assured that operational matters will remain the responsibility of Chief Officers, but it is clear that the Unit will have a significant influence on the way that individual police forces are managed.

The model for the Standards Unit was developed by the DfEE, as it was titled, while the present Home Secretary David Blunkett, was Education Secretary. The Unit successfully drove up standards in primary education, particularly by spearheading the ‘big idea’ of the literacy and numeracy hours. The ‘big idea’ for the police service has yet to emerge.