Saturday, 17 November 2012

Tom Windsor; The Future of Policing

(This article is from the archive, and was originally published in an abridged form by Liberal Conspiracy) As a Train Driver, I never thought I would be talking about parallels between railways and policing. Of course, both fulfil vital social functions, and without either, the economy would plunge into crisis, but the two sectors are not natural bedfellows. Today though, the government have decided Tom Winsor, professional bureaucrat, corporate lawyer, and self-crafted enemy of the rank and file is the best possible choice for the post of Chief Inspector of Constabulary, despite the fact that, under the guiding force of their own hand, the government are overseeing a period of unparalleled instability, with root and branch reform of police pay and allowances, 20% cuts, and the operational car crash that is the Police & Crime Commissioner, whilst the nearest Windsor has ever come to police service is swinging his corporate axe at the pay packet of the nearest constable. As well as being an astonishing gesture of governmental ignorance to the real concerns of those policing our streets, this is also indicative of the Tory viewpoint of public services as a whole. Of course, Windsor is responsible for the controversial report into Police pay and conditions, whereby he essentially labelled the majority of officers ‘overpaid and underproductive’, attacking the custom of protecting Police from redundancy, choosing to ignore the effects that their vital and dangerous job has on their personal lives and their families. Windsor does have form in the area of favouring labyrinthine road maps of institutionalised bureaucracy at the expense of shaping regulatory framework to serve the human interest. As rail regulator, he presided over one of the most ridiculous systems of penalty and fine attribution, whereby rail operators ended up having to employ more people to deal with arguing over who was responsible for delays to trains than they did to actually oversee the delivery of the service to the passenger! Windsor’s time as rail regulator was a display of inflexibility, undying servitude to the letter of an almost incomprehensible regulatory framework, and a missed opportunity to promote positive change in an industry massively in need of re-focussing towards the customers it serves, rather than the private fortunes it bankrolls. The Windsor report was a display of dogmatic bobby bashing conducted for the benefit of the right wing gutter press and Tory faithful, and was another missed opportunity. Even the most short-sighted veteran of policing couldn’t deny that that the service would benefit from reform, provided that reform is concentrated on necessary areas, in a considered way that works, and that it is implemented in an atmosphere of consensus. The way in which the Windsor report essentially wagged a lecturing finger at our brave Police clearly exposed the government’s thirst for confrontation with the Police Federation. Legislation prevents the police from taking industrial action. The vast majority of officers readily embraced this restriction as a condition of serving their communities. In return, it has been long since been the case that, as warranted servants of the crown, serving Police Officers cannot be made redundant. On balance, it seems a fair enough trade off to me. However, if the government follow through with the Windsor report, and make it possible to lay off Police Officers, will our police be afforded the right to strike in return for giving up their protection from redundancy? The inflammatory approach of government to the Police is an extension of their disdain for organised labour across the public sector. Thatcher had the acumen to identify the benefits of garnering the support of rank and file officers during her time in office by ensuring that pay, conditions and equipment were improved markedly. Theresa May and David Cameron are once again showing that, whilst they share Thatcher’s hatred for ordinary working people, they can only dream of having the ability to transform that hatred into the kind of dogmatic policies that still stain our communities to this day. Appointing Windsor will not give independence to governmental scrutiny of police operations. After all, Windsor has already shown contempt for serving officers in his report. It will equip the government with a statistical baton with which to attack the Police Federation, and Chief Constables who oppose this lunacy on the grounds of principle. Unions and the public have a duty to support disgruntled Police Officers on this. Whilst there is nothing wrong per se in utilising the innovative ideas of outsiders to improve any service or industry, those changes must be implemented democratically. After all, if we do not object when the government ignore the principles of consent and cooperation when fundamentally changing the working lives of our police, how can we then protest if those rank and file officers police us without the obligation that comes with applying those same values to their everyday work?

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