The real problems in the police force aren’t at the lower levels. A £23,000 salary is not, to my mind, outrageous for a new recruit. No, the real problems lie further up the hierarchy. The Labour years of government saw a massive swelling of the top and middle of the police pyramid and the introduction of bureaucracy to an unprecedented level. Everything was about targets, which meant that most police-work turned into an exercise in filling out paperwork and manipulating figures. Middle-managers abounded.
That’s what really needs reforming. We need to go back to a culture of real police-work, not pen-pushing. Now, there are moves being made towards that. There are reforms being brought forward to ensure that pay is related to ability rather than time served. There are plans to allow chief constables to make redundancies and ensure the quality of officers is the highest it can be. That’s all good, common sense stuff. So why does the focus instead seem to be on the pay cuts? Inevitably, this seems to be yet another example of mis-management by Downing Street and the Home Office. Put bluntly, the Prime Minister and his advisors have no real-world experience. They’ve never run anything except charity marathons, which is why so many of our policies seem to get hi-jacked so quickly. They don’t take control of announcements; projects aren’t seen through from beginning to end; the media response isn’t anticipated.
The narrative of the police reforms should be about cutting out the dead wood and putting the emphasis on real policing. Instead, we’ll most likely be lambasted for attacking the bobbies-on-the-beat – the junior officers who do the bread-and-butter policing on our streets. All this makes me worry that David Cameron simply isn’t taking the next election seriously enough. The police are at the heart of Conservative voters concerns. We absolutely must ensure we remain the Party which voters can trust in that area. But, as he’s demonstrated time and again, the leader of the Conservative Party too often gives the impression that he’s not bothered about Conservative voters. He’d far rather pursue the fashionable causes of gay marriage and climate change, even if it means alienating the activists who are so crucial to any hope of being re-elected in 2015. The Police Crime Commissioners elections were a debacle. We cannot let these police reforms go the same way. David Cameron and Theresa May need to knuckle down and take control.