Over the last few weeks I have been campaigning to get the volume of police guidelines cut.
The list of standard operating procedures, guidelines and "best practice" notes runs to almost 6,500 pages and has been described by Sir Paul Stephenson, Met Commissioner, as "War and Peace".
The gargantuan tome covers things like how to use handcuffs, how to dismount a bicycle safely, says officer should be careful when smashing a window to gain entry to a house and advises that when deal with mob violence at cricket matches “missile throwing could certainly constitute threatening behaviour”. While I have no doubt that some of the notes are genuinely useful many are insultingly obvious.
There is however a serious point to this campaign. I have been told by many police officers that these guidelines have become so restrictive that they stifle initiative and creates an "if the book doesn't cover it, I won't do it" mentality. This negatively effects the ability of police officers to be flexible and use the judgement.
The second problem is the cost of creating, updating, disseminating and checking compliance with this mountain of paper. When looking for officers who could and should be spending more time on front line duties I can think of a good place to start looking.
At the last MPA meeting Sir Paul agreed that the guidance had gone too far and I pledged to support any attempts to cut them. Rather than attempting to cover every possible eventuality, the police should operate within the law and have a set of guiding principles within which they use their judgment. Recruit the right people, train them well and then let them to get on with the job.
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