Academic journal article Review of European Studies

UK Policing and Change: Reflections for Policing Worldwide

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

UK Policing and Change: Reflections for Policing Worldwide

Article excerpt

Abstract

Policing does not exist in a social, political or economic vacuum. The change of Government in the UK and the current global economic situation has brought about the publication of several major official reports and media announcements concerning a shift in policing priorities and the delivery of policing services in England and Wales. Such changes, combined with other events has allowed those who wish changes to be introduced to the accountability and governance process of policing throughout England and Wales much more momentum, more general support than hitherto seen coupled with a more robust licence to implement reforms. Discussion surrounding the proposed reforms allows for deeper explanation and understanding of their impact, in particular the way in which such changes may impact on wider society. This may affect the way the police organisation operates and provides service to its customers, In turn influencing the sometimes delicate balance in relationships between community, partnerships and the police.

Keywords: Police reform, Accountability, Customers, Big society, Policing

1. Introduction

Policing in any country does not exist in a social, political or economic vacuum (Dölling 1993) and no one can be in any doubt that the police service in England and Wales, alongside other countries is currently undergoing a major transformation. Framed against a major economic downturn, organisational changes and proposed reforms to pay and conditions, the British police service is attempting to align itself to a more streamlined approach to delivering an effective, efficient and economical product to the community and others with whom the police interact. Driving these changes are a large number of important official reports and publications that will have a major impact upon thinking about the reformation of the police. Some are more wide reaching than others, whilst some are specific in content. However, they all have a common factor that of influencing policy decision makers in the way they consider the restructure of the police organisation should take place. The scale and drive of the changes envisaged for policing is unprecedented as organisational, structural and indeed philosophical ideas of how the police in this country carry out their business will be challenged and re-framed. The purpose of this article is to consider the major elements and fundamentals currently underpinning the proposed changes and reform, which will have resonance with policing agencies in an international context.

2. Police Reform: Change, Resistance and Uncertain Consequences

British policing has been shaped by earlier 'cycles' of reform (Reiner 2010; Savage 2007). In its everyday sense, reform suggests change or modification of a structure, approach or system without altering the fundamental social or political order underpinning it. More recently, police reform in the UK has been described as 'a programme of change instituted during the second term of the New Labour government after the 2001 general election signalled by a White Paper, Policing a New Century: A Blueprint for Reform' (Newburn 2007: 731). This reform in the main revolved around policing as being involved in wider participation with partners and communities on diverse matters. Currently, the present government, supported by key stakeholders such as Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC), is signalling an intention to achieve what appears to be a fundamental change in policing: the official talk is of the need for 'radical' reform, system 'redesign' and organisational 'transformation' (HMIC 2010; Home Office 2010a). McNulty and Ferlie's (2004) work suggests some difficult and arguably uncomfortable lessons for would-be agents of change in the policing context. The potential for significant 'gaps' to open up between aspiration and achievement have been identified with multiple factors having the capacity to modify the process of change. …

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