Thursday, 27 January 2011

A new direction for the Police ? Sir Hugh Orde on the future of ACPO and comments about protests and undercover officers

Sir Hugh Orde - President of the Association of Chief Police Officers - has set out a view that there is a "strong case" for looking at reconfiguring Police structures to match evolving threats and risk to the public in the 21st century - see ACPO website - " Opportunity to set a new direction."  Sir Hugh clearly sees a future role for ACPO as a forum to enabling a corporate approach by which standards guiding Policing can be established or developed.   He also sees it having a future as a coordinating body when an "effective, coordinating policing response" is required.   He argues for a clear accountability structure and wishes to move ACPO away from limited company status.  Finally, he defends undercover police work which
has given rise to some adverse media comment recently.  The small community of officers tasked to carry out this exceptionally challenging job place themselves in real danger, day in, day out, dealing overwhelmingly with dangerous individuals in the higher echelons of criminality and such officers would not dream of working beyond their authorisations.

No sensible person seriously doubts the dangers of undercover Police work or that such work is necessary but it is clearly not confined to investigation of just the "higher echelons of criminality" and there are some serious questions about just what is "authorised."  The recent protesters at Ratcliife-on-Soar cannot fairly be placed in the higher echelons of criminality.  It is also difficult to see how ACPO is democratically accountable.  To whom does it answer?  This is not at all clear.

Sir Hugh has also been mentioned in the media for views about the Policing of protesters - see The Guardian 27th January 2011.   According to the article, Sir Hugh argues that more extreme tactics may be needed to counter the threat posed by student protesters.  He is concerned at how protests can be organised via media such as Facebook and says that some organisers do not engage with the Police.  He defends tactics such as "kettling" and even the use of horses if proportionate.  His further concern is that the standard of policing across the UK is being jeopardised by the government's refusal to modernise the way the police forces are split across 42 parts of the UK.  The latter seems to be quite a shot across the bows of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill currently before Parliament which, if enacted, will lead to electorally accountable Police Commissioners.

Addendum 28th January 2011:  It appears that the Egyptian government has ordered Egyptian internet serviecs providers (ISPs) to cease routeing all networks - The Guardian 28th January.   Could it be that the Egyptian government fears that the internet is being used to organise protests?  This seems likely.  It is clear from Sir Hugh's comments (above) that there are similar fears in high places within the U.K.

1 comment:

  1. On January 20th I posted...."To an outside observer the very fact of such an organisation albeit involved in some matters of a highly sensitive nature appearing to be outwith the common or garden structures erected to ensure accountability is disquieting."

    It is heartening that you also are uncomfortable with the current position. You quote Sir Hugh Orde as saying, "He argues for a clear accountability structure". And what about his position before press and public began sniffing around? It never ceases to amaze [me] that action by many in authority is stimulated only by outside pressure. There is a moral deficit in the behavioural patterns of some of the "great and the not so good".