History shows the benefit of separate Yorkshire police forces - Yorkshire Post Letters

From: Michael Meadowcroft, Waterloo Lane, Leeds.

Police form a line around the English Defence League in City Square, Leeds, in October 2009. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

I am puzzled that Councillor Nigel Boddy (The Yorkshire Post, March 18) describes himself as a Liberal Democrat but wishes to amalgamate police forces across the North of England.

He bases his argument on economic grounds but Liberals, whilst of necessity concerned about public finance, believe that considerations of pluralism and of the accountability of the police are paramount.

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There are very real dangers resulting from the concentration of police powers into fewer forces.

I served for a number of years as a Liberal Councillor on the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police Committee and I know at first hand the vital importance of having separate police forces as part of a democratic local authority able to work holistically with other services, such as planning and economic development, that impact significantly on policing.

I also saw the advantages of separate forces.

For instance, the palpable deficiencies of the West Yorkshire force’s pursuit of the Peter Sutcliffe would have continued but for the sharp eyes of South Yorkshire police officers.

Also at the time of the miners’ strike in 1984 the South Yorkshire force took a very abrasive attitude to the miners, which was exacerbated by officers from the Metropolitan force, whereas the West Yorkshire Chief Constable refused to have Met officers and instructed his officers to communicate with the strikers on the front line.

As a consequence, the two forces’ later relationships with the miners were significantly different.

How much worse it would have been if there had been a single force that may well have taken the South Yorkshire line?

The various Scottish police forces in Scotland were amalgamated into a single force in 2013.

Liberal Democrat colleagues in Scotland tell me that the single force is nowhere near as responsive and effective as their previous local force. In July 2015 a woman in a car accident in

Scotland was not found for two days because the police officers involved were from quite a distance away and were unfamiliar with the area. The woman might well have survived had there been a more local police force.

There are practical arrangements for police co-operation across forces and the last thing we need is more power being put into the hands of a few less accountable police forces.