walkaboutFollowing the recent publication of Policing For A Better Britain, Tony Prosser draws comparisons with the Fire Service and looks at ways the services can work together in an exclusive feature for February's FIRE Magazine (click here to subscribe):

The publication of Policing For A Better Britain, the report of an Independent Police Commission for the future of policing in the UK, was published in November 2013. The Commission states that this report was: ‘as wide reaching as that of the Royal Commission on the police taken in 1963 (and that the commission is a Royal Commission in all but name)’.

Lord Stevens, the former Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police Service, led the Commission, which was introduced under the Labour government in 2010. Set against the background of unprecedented economic turbulence and social change, including an increasingly sophisticated public, new social media and demographic changes, it identifies eight areas which should be considered for future improvements. The Police Service in the UK is already undergoing continuous change including the introduction of police and crime commissioners, and a new series of recommendations is likely to be one of the last things they require this time.

The Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) in the UK is no stranger to inquiries (sometimes set up as commissions or more often as review bodies) including the recent ‘parting shot’ by Sir Ken Knight, the first Chief Fire And Rescue Adviser (CFRA). Given the potential for “read across” from the Police Service into the FRS, some of the recommendations made in Lord Steven’s report make interesting reading that could be seen as an indicator of where both police and fire services could be driven in the future.

The first theme explored by the Commission is developing the social justice model of neighbourhood policing which broadly tries to set out the role for the police including prevention of crime, harm and disorder as well as the more traditional crime fighting role. The Fire and Rescue Service already has its prevention role well defined within the Fire And Rescue Services Act 2004 and embodied within the national frameworks (although prevention is less well emphasised in the current version) and services’ integrated risk management plans (IRMPs).

In recognition of the key role that responding to actual crime plays in reassuring the public, the Commission recommends introducing standards including a guaranteed level of neighbourhood policing, emergency response and reporting of crime and activity levels. In some ways, the FRS are already ahead of the game as IRMPs already take this into account by setting local standards in response, although sometimes through “policy based evidence” (see pg 37) approach (and based upon resource availability which is dependent on funding availability) rather than through factual risk assessment.

Recognising the effectiveness of the Crime And Disorder Act 1998, the Commission says that it wants to protect and even extend the remit of the Act and increase police accountability through better community safety partnerships. During the time of plenty, 2004-2008, many effective partnerships were forged between police and fire and rescue services which helped achieve massive reductions in acts of criminal damage. Many of the reductions in arson were due to close cooperation between police and fire and the setting up of arson reduction task forces, as well as working with other organisations.

With the police and crime commissioners having budgetary responsibility for the crime reduction in an area, it is entirely possible that a route to prevention-based activities in police jurisdictions could have a significant role for fire and rescue services, particularly through the provision of commissioned activities on behalf of the police. Lord Stevens has identified principles to consider when outsourcing some areas of police operations which include the need for democratic debate and political choice and that private sector involvement should enhance policing rather than undermining it. With the appropriate lobbying and persuasion there is a potential role for the FRS to support the PCC and the police within its crime prevention and other community safety role.

Development of effective partnerships is seen as key and it is recognised that the involvement of ‘ordinary citizens’ is essential. This is something that has been bandied about for several years in many public service debates. How does a public organisation engage with its community to develop networks of individuals so they can become active citizens, responsible in part for their own well-being rather than being just customers of services and passive actors within the social framework?

Active citizens take ownership of their lives and become less dependent on a societal network of protective services, reducing the burden on those services and allowing them to respond to those in greatest need. This discussion, as with many other aspects raised in the report, suggests there is degree of aspiration which can only be hoped for...

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Download Policing For A Better Britain at: http://independentpolicecommission.org.uk/uploads/37d80308-be23-9684-054de4958bb9d518.pdf