Headlines: June 12th, 2003

Home Secretary David Blunkett has called for a re-think of the way that police services are governed. Findings from research conducted bythe Home Office working with the Association of Police Authoritiesshowed the public had little understanding of just how the police were accountable. Mr Blunkett said that it was deeply concerning that people do not understand the current accountability arrangements and do not feel that they can influence how the police are run.Police governance is part of the wider reform agenda to promote social order, the development of a just society and reform of the criminal justice system. Mr Blunkett has called for the police, police authorities, Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships and others who care about policing to join in the debate on how community involvement and accountability can be strengthened. The focus of the debate will be how to develop a society in which individuals and their families are empowered, enabled and supported by government to take part as active citizens in shaping what happens in their community.

One option being considered is to have a directly elected element in police authorities or even to elect all members of the authorities. The scope of responsibility for new style authorities will also be debated. Responsibility could be restricted to police services, or it could be widened to include all crime reduction activities which are being driven by Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships.

Other elements of the reform agenda include pioneering US-style community justice centre pilots to help shift the focus of the criminal justice system to engage more in crime prevention and problem-solving alongside it’s role in bringing criminals to justice.

A Home Office pamphlet “Civil Renewal: a New Agenda” sets out details of the proposed reforms. It is available at www.homeoffice.gov.uk