Cameron: Police not govt must be tough on crime

Central government cannot “deliver” a low crime rate, Conservative leader David Cameron admitted today.

However, he insisted the Conservatives did “know how to cut crime” and outlined a number of reforms designed to strengthen communities and local police forces in combating crime.

Mr Cameron was speaking as the Conservative’s police reform taskforce published its interim report into the police service in England and Wales. The taskforce outlined four sweeping reforms which it claimed would improve safety across the country.

Pushing for a ‘joined up’ approach to Conservative policy, Mr Cameron argued crime and policing are intrinsically linked to other recent Tory focuses such as the family and quality of life.

“There is no greater assault on people’s quality of life than crime and the fear of crime and so fighting crime is right at the top of our quality of life agenda,” he said.

Mr Cameron called on all people to address crime: Parents have a responsibility to raise their children with discipline and the right values, he argued, while all citizens must uphold order in public places.

At the same time central government must enable people to avoid crime, he argued, through measures aimed at poverty, family breakdown and unemployment.

However, Mr Cameron still portrayed the police as central to any crime policy, admitting “you can’t fight crime” without an effective police force.

“It’s quite clear what the police should be doing,” he said. “Not filling in forms, driving round in cars or hassling law-abiding people so officers can hit government targets. The police should be out there doing what they want to be doing – stopping crime from happening and catching criminals when it does happen.”

Mr Cameron continued: “But that clear, focused, crime-fighting responsibility has got lost in a Labour sea of red tape, and targets, and management consultants, and reorganisations. So instead of responding to the demands of working people for tough, beat-based community policing, today’s police officers respond to ministers in Whitehall.”

The Conservatives pledged “tough and radical” reforms to put the police back on the streets.

The taskforce recommended the 43 English and Welsh police forces be restructured to encourage more cooperation to fight serious crime, or a serious crime squad will be necessary.

The police force must also be professionalized, with a flexible, well-trained and motivated workforce. To enable this, the Conservatives call for performance related pay, real prospects of promotion and a Sandhurst-style training academy to attract future leaders.

Police must also be ‘freed’ from Whitehall bureaucracy, the taskforce recommends. Where appropriate, this could see civilian staff employed to do some tasks.

Finally, the police must be made fully accountable. In exchange for being freed from central paperwork, the police must be seen to improve services, the taskforce acknowledged. Communities have a ‘right to policing’ the group argued, and this includes the right to summon senior officers to community meetings and hold them to account.

Mr Cameron unveiled the Conservative’s policing reforms as all three major parties launched their campaigns for the local election. All are attempting to establish themselves as the party of law and order.