EMPAC is presenting key new research on public accountability in policing at the Public Policy Exchange Conference, on the 11th May. Alongside EMPAC will be House of Lords Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Dr Rick Muir of the Police Foundation and Dr Mike Rowe of the University of Liverpool.
Following the conviction of serving officers Wayne Couzens and David Carrick, an internal Metropolitan Police Service review identified a further 1,633 cases of domestic abuse or sexual offences against 1071 officers and staff. The Institute of Race Relations in 2022 identified an increasing number of officers found to be sharing racist and far-right content online.
The Police Foundation in the same year published 56 recommendations to reform police culture (which EMPAC contributed to), and the Met was placed in ‘special measures’ for the first time in its history. NPCC national recommendations on vetting and the Met’s Turnaround Plan were overshadowed by the devastating Baroness Casey Review (2023), which prompted a global response.
Although the Home Office is now reviewing the police disciplinary system to ensure the police are fit to serve the public, and the College of Policing are consulting on refreshing the Code of Ethics, this new research challenges thinking around the ‘service’ of the police to the public given a direct lack of transparency and public accountability.
The current Police Minister has come under recent Parliamentary criticism over new public order powers concerning protest, and increasingly there are questions over to what extent policing by consent has any tangible connection to the public service that many commentators are insisting is essential for trust and confidence.
Policing by consent, which relates to public transparency, accountability and legitimacy needs to be democratic if it is to be concerned with policing for the public, as a public good, rather than policing of, or at, the public.
Drawing on the fundamentals of quality strategy setting, as espoused by Professor W. Edwards Deming (2013), and the importance of strategy materialising into focused performance (Seddon, 2005), the new research identifies a clear gap in the role of the public, and an increasing gulf – structurally, and culturally – between what policing could be and the reality of policing by coercion.
Given perceptions, and evidence, of policing closing ranks on corrupt and complicit practice, the refreshed importance of democratic solution focused, local policing is endorsed as vital for the future, with clearer roles for the security service and the National Crime Agency, to ensure that the demise of local policing over the last decade does not happen again. That reduction in local policing has resulted in a triaged reactive agency and an entire generation growing up with no experience of a local policing relationship.
Reforms needed now should focus on local transparency, accountability and legitimacy, starting at the neighbourhood level, and these will challenge the existing working practices of both policing and the current commissioning arrangements.