Police forces which perform well should be given foundation status to free them from the bureacratic burden of meeting targets, a senior police figure has said.
Forces should be allowed to decide their own financial and operational priorities to free up more time and money for frontline policing, according to the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), Ken Jones.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “It would mean a lot of money being freed up for frontline policing. It would mean a lot of people whose jobs are now currently engaged in gathering data on behalf of regulatory bodies and government actually being put at the service of local people.”
Under the scheme, forces would still have to follow a centrally controlled procedure on national matters like counter-terrorism and organised crime, to prevent a “free-for-all”.
Up to four forces, including Durham, have expressed an interest in taking on foundation status, according to the BBC, which reported the idea was being considered for inclusion in the Home Office’s upcoming Green Paper on police reform.
The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said it had been calling on the government to cut bureaucracy and allow frontline officers to exercise their discretion, restore commonsense policing and quit chasing targets instead of criminals, for two years.
However, federation vice chairman Simon Reed was not sure what value foundation status would add.
“As to forces having foundation status, I do not understand what Acpo means, as chief officers already have autonomy over how they allocate budgets and deploy resources. Targets could be abolished overnight we don’t need a new initiative with a new name to return to traditional policing methods and allow officers to use their judgement and experience to tackle crime.
“Perhaps this is part of Acpo’s hidden agenda to remove national standards for training and equipment? A move that will be extremely detrimental to policing and one we will fiercely oppose.”
The NHS was the first to introduce foundation status to its best performing hospitals in 2004, where central government decision-making was devolved to ‘foundation trusts’ to give back control for financial and operational decisions.