WITH hindsight, it’s regrettable that the then Labour government didn’t have the political willpower a decade or so ago to advance the merger of Britain’s police forces.
Tony Blair and Charles Clarke, the then Home Secretary, recognised at the time that there would be a practical need for greater collaboration because artificial force barriers don’t stop criminals in their tracks. Others disagreed.
And while there have been many occurrences in the intervening period when neighbouring forces, and regions, have pooled their resources, they only now have the confidence to highlight such examples.
In the week when the merger of the Devon and Cornwall force with Dorset moved a step nearer in the South West, it’s surprising that it has taken this long for the seven chief constables, crime commissioners and chief executives of the seven constabularies in Yorkshire and the North East to attend a meeting hailed as ‘historic’ by attendees.
Like those Yorkshire local authorities now looking to work together on the issue of devolution because it is in the best interests of the whole county to do so, such gatherings between police chiefs – and the resulting message that this sends out – will only help to encourage those in lower ranks to do likewise.
And while they’re right to highlight the issue of cyber-crime, and specifically the need to harness the very latest IT intelligence in order to identify those who are using the internet to defraud the unsuspecting, or lure the most vulnerable and under-aged, policing leaders should not be afraid to see if there are other areas where there’s scope for greater co-operation.
After all, every duplication of senior leadership positions – or resources – is one less officer on the beat building links with a law-abiding public concerned at the perceived remoteness of today’s police as the thin blue line becomes stretched by spending restraints.