Gwent Police Federation has given a cautious welcome to a major review which calls for root and branch reform across the police service, but has warned some of its 56 recommendations would be unacceptable.
The Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, chaired by Sir Michael Barber and carried out by the Police Foundation, urges radical reform to police culture, skills and training and organisational structure.
These include the creation of a new Crime Prevention Agency, the expansion of the role of the National Crime Agency, the merger of back office functions across the 43 forces that could save hundreds of millions of pounds and renewed investment in frontline policing, training and technology to modernise the service from top to bottom.
But the review also calls for the introduction of a new licence to practise for all police officers that is renewed every five years and subject to strict conditions.
Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe said: “There is a lot that we agree with in this report, particularly the recommendations which cover public confidence, funding and visibility of police officers.
“But we do take issue with the idea of a licence to practise for our members and have always been opposed to the idea.
“Police officers take an oath when they join the service and that is for life. If their conduct falls below the standards expected of them there are already effective procedures in place to ensure they are held accountable.
“Issuing a licence to practise under the threat of revoking it every five years is not a move we would ever support and I think it could be fraught with real danger.
“But otherwise the Strategic Review looks at some very important issues which, if acted upon thoughtfully and carefully, could help restore confidence in the policing both from outside and within and that is to be welcomed.
“And I think the recommendations it makes around officer training should make people sit up and take notice.”
The report called for a complete overhaul of training so officers are better equipped to take on new forms of crime and said 40 per cent had not received necessary training to do their job well.
It recommended action to tackle a shortage of 6,851 detectives across the country, including expanded direct entry schemes to attract mid-career applicants from other sectors and a new pay supplement to attract more officers into investigatory roles.
And it said every officer should be entitled to a minimum set of hours per year reserved for learning and development.
Launching the review’s final report at an event in London, Sir Michael said: “There is a crisis of confidence in policing in this country which is corroding public trust.
“The reasons are deep rooted and complex – some cultural and others systemic. However taken together, unless there is urgent change, they will end up destroying the principle of policing by consent that has been at the heart of British policing for decades.
“Policing in this country is at a crossroads and it cannot stand still whilst the world changes so quickly around it. Now is the moment to move forward quickly on the path of reform. The warning signs if we do nothing are flashing red and we ignore them at our peril.”