PermaLink My first few weeks10/13/2008 12:31 PM
I am now six weeks into the job of Chief Constable and am thoroughly enjoying it. Greater Manchester is a huge area and with more than 13,000 staff it takes a while to get around and meet people. I have been visiting police stations and departments, meeting leaders of other agencies and community representatives as well as trying to get out on patrol as often as possible.

I have been struck by the professionalism and dedication of GMP staff and their desire to do their best for the public. Unfortunately, as has been publicised, there is a world of bureaucracy, centrally imposed targets and inefficiencies, which get in their way.

In the first few weeks in post, I have seen many examples of excellent arrests, great bravery and courage. Officers have been stabbed and shot at, but they have not flinched in carrying out their duty. They want to be out on the streets in the faces of local criminals and directly serving the public not sat in front of computer screens.

It is important to say that policing is a serious and complex business. We have enormous powers over people's lives and liberties, and it is only right that we have to justify the use of those powers. It is important to properly record and evaluate information we gather on suspected offenders and vulnerable people, and where appropriate to share this with other agencies.

Much of the bureaucracy is generated by a performance regime, which treats minor events in the same way as serious ones. It is generated by a risk averse, 'watch your back', culture that tries to ensure that mistakes that happened in the past do not happen again. Much bureaucracy is also generated by the demands of the criminal justice system.

What are we doing about this in GMP? The Government have announced that we will be allowed to introduce a shortened version of the report for minor crime offences and a shorter stop and search form. There will also be an end to the stop and account form. This is when an officer has to fill in a form when they stop and talk to the public in specific situations. In future only the person's ethnic origin will have to be recorded. We will be introducing in the future mobile data terminals to allow officers to be able to access, and enter, information when they are out on the streets, which means they don't have to return to the police station.

Many officers are frustrated by the target regime and the way it limits their discretion in dealing with minor offences. They feel this often means rather than give a youngster a talking to they have to issue a fixed penalty notice or an official caution so it counts towards the detection target. This in turn has an impact by criminalising many young people.

I have decided, in discussion with the Police Authority, that we need to give clearer guidance to officers about performance priorities. The most important thing is to concentrate on reducing crime and ensuring people in Greater Manchester are safe and feel safer. It is also crucial that we are out on the streets reducing anti-social behaviour and nuisance. Detecting crime is obviously important in bringing offenders to justice and in gaining satisfaction for victims, but we need to concentrate on serious offences and the most persistent offenders. I do not want officers to pursue minor offences just to meet a target. This does not mean that minor offences are not important but rather that officer actions should be governed by their professional judgement, and whether it is a priority for local people.

The central target regime and league tables have produced benefits for policing but their time has now past. Performance and accountability are still important but we want to concentrate on those issues most important to local people an on giving back discretion to officers.

Peter Fahy
Chief Constable

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