Dec 29 2012
Public confidence in the police force has been shaken due to a "dangerous cocktail" including the "plebgate" affair and the results of the Hillsborough Inquiry, a senior Labour backbencher has said.
Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which will begin an inquiry into police accountability, integrity, internal corruption and malpractice next month, said it is a "defining moment" for the service. He called on Prime Minister David Cameron to host annual summits with senior officers and called for "a new Magna Carta" for policing.
In the Sunday Express, Mr Vaz said recent events had dented the public's confidence in the police.
Writing about the alleged altercation between former chief whip Andrew Mitchell and police officers at the gates of Downing Street, dubbed "plebgate", Mr Vaz said: "What appears to have happened to Andrew Mitchell could well have been a Christmas special script. The chief whip had to resign following a 60-second 'incident' in, of all places, Downing Street.
"Take a police officer apparently masquerading as a member of the public, a confidential log book finding its way into the public domain, add the results of the Hillsborough Inquiry, which have resulted in thousands of serving and former police officers being investigated, and the fact that 26 out of the 43 police forces do not have a permanent chief constable, and you have a dangerous cocktail."
Mr Vaz also pointed out that morale among officers is even lower as they feel like they lack Government support. He criticised Home Secretary Theresa May for trying to enforce radical changes on the police force without having a proper dialogue with officers.
He acknowledged existing police structures needed to be reformed, but said Mrs May's changes were "too rapid and too far-reaching".
In his article, Mr Vaz rounded on the Government for altering police officers' pay and conditions while trying to implement reforms. "One of the first rules of management is to ensure that during a period of radical change you carry your workforce with you. Unfortunately this has not happened," he wrote.
"With these profound changes taking place the last thing you should do is start to alter the pay and conditions of those who will implement the reforms without entering into a proper dialogue with them. The Government was wrong to change police pension arrangements retrospectively. It was unfair and forced out a number of experienced officers," he added.
Mr Vaz's committee will next month launch an inquiry into issues of police training, accountability and integrity and into the effectiveness of the processes for dealing with internal corruption and malpractice in the force.