Police have 'lost focus' - chief constable

THE British Police service has lost its focus on the citizen and introduced “too much management claptrap”, Essex's chief constable said yesterday.

Roddy Ashworth

THE British Police service has lost its focus on the citizen and introduced “too much management claptrap”, Essex's chief constable said yesterday.

Roger Baker made his observation after becoming the first chief officer to sign a new citizens' charter which spells out what the public can expect from the police.

The charters, which the Home Office wants all chief constables to sign, were launched after the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) assigned an officer - Cambridgeshire chief constable Julie Spence - to be its “lead on citizen focus”.

Mr Baker signed the charter in south Essex, watched by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Asked whether he thought that police had lost their focus on the “citizen”, he replied: “Yes. Over a period of time. I cannot put my finger on it.

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“In some areas...we have probably introduced too much management claptrap.”

He went on to welcome the charter - called Police Pledges - and said it would give the public reference points on the standard of service they could expect and a framework within which to make complaints.

Since joining the force in 1995 Mr Baker has earned a reputation for plain speaking.

Shortly after he became chief constable he issued a warning to criminals saying if they intended to come to Essex to offend they should bring a toothbrush “because you won't be going home.”

He also branded lawbreakers “thick” and, in his first week, ordered his officers to conduct a blitz of 600 outstanding arrests.

However, his policy of sending officers to meet every victim of crime has not been without some critics, from both inside and outside his Essex force.

In September Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary questioned Mr Baker's approach and noted that some of his officers felt that taking statements was “not always necessary” and may be “time-consuming”.

Yesterday the Home Secretary would not say if she thought all victims should be visited but did say he was “doing a very good job”. She added: “I think what Roger Baker is doing is working.”

Mr Baker said he was delighted Ms Smith had chosen to visit Essex to announce the priorities.

He said: “We fully support the pledge which has a real focus on face to face contact, providing reassurance through positive and consistent feedback and ensuring the needs of the public are met.

“We in Essex are working hard to not only achieve and maintain these standards of service but we also aim to exceed public expectations where we can.”

He added: “Essex is a low crime area, we are not complacent but we are going in the right direction to make Essex the safest county in the country.”

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