Speech at the Dalston Youth Project, Hackney
"I'm delighted to be speaking at a meeting organised by Crime Concern.
Your organisation forges partnerships between the community and crime fighting agencies
You recognise that when it comes to fighting crime, we're all in this together.
That embodies my belief in the value of shared responsibility.
CRIME: THE SCALE OF THE PROBLEM
Nothing affects people's quality of life more than crime.
And today, we have the highest crime rate in Europe apart from Sweden.
Our citizens are more likely to be victims of crime than in any developed country except Australia.
The police recorded 5.6 million crimes last year - ten times the number in the 1950s.
According to the British Crime Survey, there are over 10 million crimes.
The Government uses it to claim that crime has fallen in recent years.
But the Survey leaves out a huge number of crimes, in particular those against children and shoplifting.
The independent think tank Civitas estimates that the total number of crimes may be four times as high as the official British Crime Survey figure.
But however crime is counted, the big picture is clear.
Crime is at historically high levels.
Violent crime and antisocial behaviour are wrecking lives and communities.
And it's the least well-off in society who suffer the most.
Crime Concern has pointed out that an estimated 40 per cent of recorded crime in England and Wales takes place in 10 per cent of neighbourhoods, predominantly the poorest ones.
I refuse to accept that today's level of crime is an inevitable fact of 21st century life in Britain.
I spoke last week about the need to give much more power to the voluntary organisations and social enterprises that can turn communities around.
In that way, we can address the long-term causes of crime.
I've long supported reform of the criminal justice system, and tougher sentencing powers to act as a deterrent.
But today I want to focus on the police and the need for police reform.
The truth is we won't deal with crime until we reform the police.
This is widely understood, but not acted upon nearly enough.
The police know it. The public know it. Politicians know it.
I don't want the Conservative Party to shy away from difficult subjects and tough decisions.
We need to take tough decisions about police reform if we're going to be genuinely tough on crime.
This is a key issue and that's why I've appointed Nick Herbert as Shadow Minister with specific responsibility for police reform…
…he will be consulting widely on our proposals, engaging with the public and police professionals of all ranks.
The police have been well resourced in recent years.
Spending on the police has increased under governments of both parties.
It's now £11 billion a year, or £500 per household.
But there's little evidence that the performance of the police has improved in line with this increase in resources.
This year, each police officer, on average, will make under 10 arrests.
That's not even one a month. Think about it.
Yet one police constable in Nottinghamshire, PC Coetzee, arrested over 300 suspects last year.
Today, fewer than one in four crimes is detected, down from 31 per cent in 1999.
This means that there were at least four million undetected crimes last year...despite the extra money and the continued growth in CCTV surveillance.
Police forces differ widely in their effectiveness.
Detection rates for burglary vary from over 43 per cent to under 8 per cent…
…and for robbery between over 50 per cent and under 15 per cent.
The Conservative Party has always valued and supported the police.
But there cannot be a blank cheque.
More resources must be matched by better performance.
The public expects value for money.
THE NEED FOR POLICE REFORM
So the need for police reform is clear.
The question is what is the right direction for that reform to take?
My view is clear: it's time for a fundamental shake-up of policing in this country.
You can't be tough on crime unless you're tough on police reform.
First, police forces must be made more accountable to local communities.
Second, police pay and conditions must be modernised to ensure much better police performance.
That means, amongst other things, making it easier to sack bad officers.
LABOUR'S APPROACH: CENTRALISATION AND BUREAUCRACY
Labour's approach has been the direct opposite.
Instead of local accountability, we have seen massive centralisation.
Instead of modernisation, we have seen an extension of bureaucracy.
Before I set out my plans, let's look at the two elements of Labour's approach.
LABOUR'S POLICE CENTRALISATION
The Government says it doesn't want a national police force.
But it's steadily taking more and more control of local policing.
This trend will be reinforced if the Home Secretary implements his scheme to amalgamate police forces into regional units.
His scheme is being driven through too fast, without proper debate or consultation, and reckless of the cost.
The Association of Police Authorities estimates these to be between £500 and £600 million.
They also point out that police forces could increase their efficiency by sharing services - a solution that I back.
But the most serious objection to police force amalgamation is the implication for local accountability.
Local police will be directed by Chief Constables who could be hundreds of miles away from the communities they serve.
Take the proposed South West region.
People living in one part, the north of Gloucestershire…
…are actually closer to the Scottish border than they are to people living in another part, the south of Cornwall.
The Government's response to these concerns is what looks like a gimmick.
"People's courts" will be convened to arraign local commanders.
This is phoney accountability.
It gives the illusion of community empowerment…
…while giving communities no formal power at all over local policing.
It's about public relations, not police performance.
LABOUR'S POLICE BUREAUCRACY
As well as centralisation, the police under Labour have been subjected to an ever increasing weight of bureaucracy.
We've seen endless targets, plans and agencies designed to regulate and direct the police.
There's a National Policing Plan…
…a Policing Performance Assessment Framework…
…and Public Service Agreements.
Police forces are now statutorily required to produce strategic plans.
They're overseen by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Audit Commission and the Police Standards Unit.
There's a National Centre for Policing Excellence, shortly to be subsumed into a National Policing Improvement Agency.
And last, but by no means least, there is the Home Office itself.
As David Davis has said, all this inspection and regulation is like trying to drive a car with the bonnet up.
OUR REFORM AGENDA: ACCOUNTABILITY AND MODERNISATION
In contrast to Labour's approach, our plans for police reform will be based on clear Conservative values:
...and sharing responsibility.
Real local accountability to give local communities control over local policing.
And real modernisation to give police forces more responsibility for enforcing the law.
BENEFITS OF LOCAL ACCOUNTABILITY
First, I want to explain why local accountability is so important.
Last week, two leading US police chiefs visited London.
Both of them have records which demonstrate the power of local accountability and neighbourhood policing.
As police chief in New York City, Bill Bratton famously worked with Mayor Guiliani and delivered, within a decade, a 60 per cent fall in crime.
Now, as Chief of Los Angeles Police Department, he has repeated his success.
In just two years, overall crime has dropped by 13 per cent, homicides by 20 per cent, and response times have improved dramatically.
Yet he now has 100 fewer police officers than he started with.
In Lowell, Massachusetts, Superintendent Ed Davis achieved the fastest fall in crime in the US.
He decentralised his force, trained them in community policing, and put them on the beat.
He transferred routine administrative tasks to civilian staff, freeing officers to tackle crime.
Of course, our culture and traditions are different to those in the USA.
But the principles of local democracy, accountability and strong leadership should be universal.
Already there is evidence that proactive, neighbourhood policing can deliver solutions that work in the UK.
In London, an increased police presence on the streets after the terrorist attacks of 7/7 led to a significant fall in crime…
…leading the Guardian to admit the value of high profile, visible patrolling.
The Metropolitan Police has a Safer Neighbourhoods initiative.
Each ward has a dedicated team of police and Community Support Officers responsible for the reduction of crime and disorder in their area…
It's already yielding results here in Hackney.
And in Middlesbrough, Ray Mallon's 'zero tolerance' approach has cut crime by over a third in two years.
I'm delighted that Ray is with us here today.
He's living proof of the value of local accountability and strong leadership in the fight against crime.
We look forward to hearing his perspective shortly.
So there is evidence in the UK that local accountability leads to beat-based policing…
…and that beat-based policing leads to less crime.
How can we ensure that virtuous circle exists right across the country?
NEED FOR LOCAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Historically, a tripartite arrangement governed policing in this country.
The Home Secretary set national priorities and provided funding.
Police Authorities appointed Chief Constables and held forces to account.
Chief Constables were operationally independent, answering - in Lord Denning's famous dictum - only to the law.
But in the last decade, the balance of power has changed fundamentally.
The cherished independence of Chief Constables has not protected them from increasing central direction.
But it continues to make them relatively immune from local pressures.
The public has very little real say over how policing is conducted.
Police Authorities are relatively powerless, and they're virtually invisible to the public.
LOCAL ACCOUNTABILITY: OUR POLICY DIRECTION
I want to change all that.
Instead of police chiefs answering to central government, I want them to be formally accountable to local communities.
We would scrap the national Policing Plan and all of the associated apparatus of central control.
The police would continue to have operational independence, which would be properly defined.
Local politicians would under no circumstances be permitted to direct the arrest of an individual or the initiation of a prosecution.
But they would be empowered to set strategic objectives for the police and ensure that those objectives are met…
…with the ultimate sanction of being able to hire and fire the Chief Constable.
There are various options for achieving such local accountability.
Police Authorities could be directly elected.
They could be replaced by an individual who is directly elected, like a police commissioner.
Or elected mayors could fulfil this role.
The essential principle is that voters should have a direct relationship with the person or body who appoints the Chief Constable…
…matched by a direct and transparent funding arrangement so that they can judge the effectiveness of the policing they're paying for.
Of course, we would want to retain an independent inspectorate of constabulary to guard against corruption and to monitor standards.
We would also consider what powers, closely defined, should be reserved to the Home Secretary…
…to co-ordinate policing in certain circumstances, for example in the case of a national emergency.
And some policing functions should be conducted at the national level, answering to the Home Secretary.
We have, for example, proposed a national border police force.
The fight against terrorism requires national co-ordination.
And we support the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
MODERNISING THE POLICE
So, making the police accountable to local communities is the first vital part of the police reform we want to see.
The second is to ensure that police chiefs can manage workforces which are professional, flexible and incentivised to do their job - fighting crime.
That means real modernisation.
Police officers are relatively well paid - better, in fact, than teachers or nurses.
That is a proper reflection of the value which society places on them…
…and the nature of their work, which is often difficult and dangerous.
We should never forget the risks which police officers run for us.
Recently we saw the moving funeral in Bradford of WPC Sharon Beshenivsky, a trained officer of only seven months who was shot dead when she answered a call to a robbery.
I pay tribute to her courage and that of all the officers who have been killed or injured while seeking to protect us.
So police officers should and will remain well rewarded.
But it's time to examine what reforms are needed to equip the police to meet today's challenges.
PAY AND CONDITIONS
We should start with the reform of police pay and conditions.
In this area, I think there are five priorities.
Today, officers tend to be paid according to length of service or seniority, not in relation to skills, competence and performance.
So first, we need local flexibility for pay and conditions.
An officer who has given good service, and for whom it would be better personally and for the force if they moved on, has a huge incentive to wait around until thirty year's service is up before getting a pension
So second, we need further reform of police pensions so people can join and leave the force at the right time and the right level.
We must get rid of that pensions cliff-edge.
Chief constables will tell you that today, an underperforming police officer is almost unsackable.
So third, the police should have modern employment contracts so bad officers can be sacked.
Considerable progress has been made in relation to medical retirements and the days lost through sick pay - but much more needs to be done.
So fourth, we must tackle the issue of a relatively large number of officers kept on restricted duties, on full pay.
Some officers today have second jobs.
In one force, as many as one in fifteen are in this position.
So the fifth priority in reforming police pay and conditions should be to insist that policing is a full-time occupation in all but exceptional cases.
As well as reforming pay and conditions, we will also look for more flexibility in the structure of policing.
Today's police family no longer consists only of regular police officers.
Community Support Officers have begun to change the public face of policing and the nature of the workforce.
Local authority wardens are proving popular in their communities.
Support staff are increasingly being used to release officers for frontline duties.
Chief Constables should have greater discretion over the structure of their workforce so that they, rather than the Government, can decide the right balance of staffing in their forces.
More flexible policing structures will also require a new flexibility in police recruitment.
Scientific and technological advances will mean that, increasingly, we will want to recruit professional experts who are now key in the fight against crime.
So enhanced entry schemes should make it possible for talented people and professionals to join the police later in their careers and at all ranks.
The police should be able to attract recruits of the highest calibre from all backgrounds…
…and to provide the continuous training and career development which highly motivated people need.
MY OFFER TO THE POLICE
Of course, I know that police performance is not held back simply by outdated pay and conditions, structures and recruitment.
The police are also held back by outdated working practices, and increasingly by bureaucracy imposed by central government.
So today I make this offer to Britain's police.
You make the changes which will improve police performance.
And we will stop the centralisation, bureaucracy and political interference that gets in your way.
We have to cut back the bureaucracy which prevents police officers from doing their job.
It's a scandal that only 17 per cent of a police officer's time is spent on patrol.
Arresting a suspect keeps officers off the beat for an average of 3½ hours.
We want police officers to fight crime, not file paper.
We will review the bureaucracy generated by legislation such as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
We will also end the requirement on police officers to record every stop they make, filling in a foot long form which takes seven minutes to complete.
Recording a search is absolutely justified.
It is essential that the police build and maintain the confidence of ethnic and other minority communities, and I applaud their determination to do so.
But recording every stop is an unnecessary barrier to effective policing.
These and other reforms are long overdue.
Good police officers will gain from reforms that recognise and reward success.
There are many fine police officers in Britain, and senior officers of the highest calibre.
Many are trying to do the things which I have talked about today.
I want to make the changes that will help them in their efforts to provide an effective, 21st century service.
In that way we will rebuild the bond of trust between the police and the public.
The fight against crime is our shared responsibility as a society: we're all in this together.
We need thoughtful, patient, long-term action to tackle the causes of crime.
We need reform of the criminal justice system and tougher sentencing.
But we cannot be tough on crime unless we tackle the issues which are holding back police performance.
This is the most difficult and controversial part of the crime agenda.
But the Conservative Party I lead will not flinch from saying what needs to be said, and doing what needs to be done.
Tough on crime; tough on police reform.
Unless we have the courage and the determination to pursue radical police reform, we will never build the safer communities we all want to see."