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Last week PSUK were invited to the Westminster Legal Policy Forum Keynote Seminar on the future of policing - accountability, cost and effectiveness. Which was kind of cool, and kind of scary. I went on my own as they could only afford to fund one delegate (and we couldn't afford the £90 concession ticket or whatever it was) and Denny had been to one on his own last month on DNA databases. It was very interesting, and I've written a couple of articles in response to the discussion:

The future of policing: trust and accountability

Last Thursday I had the privilege of attending the Westminster Legal Policy Forum Keynote Seminar on the future of policing - accountability, cost and effectiveness. A briefing document from the event, including a transcript of all speeches and questions, should be available on this page in about a week. The session raised a lot of issues worth discussing, so I'll follow the structure used on the day: this article will cover "trust and accountability", and a follow-up article will cover "engagement, cost and effectiveness".

These events provide a forum for policy makers to hear speakers who are close to the issues, and receive feedback from interested parties. It's worth mentioning, I think, that the Forum organisers sought out this site and personally invited its editors to this event. Tickets are prohibitively expensive for individuals or volunteer organisations, but they are willing to fund attendance for a single delegate if necessary. I think it demonstrates something positive about our government that they go out of their way to invite challengers to their policy debates.

Unfortunately, that open-minded spirit did not extend to the discussion itself. It began with some back-patting comments from the Chair and Stephen Kershaw, a Home Office representative, introducing themes such as the need for an "emotional connection" between the public and police force, accountability being devolved to a more local and personal level, "value for money", visibility and impact, workforce efficiency, reducing bureaucracy, and collaboration and partnership. There was lots of jargon - these topics have clearly occupied policy-makers for months, if not years. It is clear that the police are working very hard to improve the service they offer. But it seems to me that a considerable proportion of that effort is misguided or wasted - a theme I will return to in my next article. Read more »

The future of policing: collaboration and social media

My brother has always wanted to be a policeman. He'd make a great copper - he's approachable, sensible, tolerant and pretty much unflappable, and he wants to improve social justice and make a difference in the world. Unfortunately, his application to join the force was rejected because of something he had said online. They weren't specific, but made reference to "comments which were detrimental to the reputation of the force." He expressed surprise at the idea that there were members of the police force whose job consisted of googling potential applicants to see if they'd ever mentioned Her Majesty's Constabulary in a less-than-positive light.

Writing about the police

It's not particularly surprising, however, when you consider that journalists in training are advised to use extreme caution when reporting on the police, who apparently have a track record for being trigger-happy when it comes to suing the press for libel. That the police are more inclined than any other UK public body (and most private ones) to pursue libel cases on and off-line seems to be common knowledge in certain sectors. I couldn't find any publically available guidelines to press or statements from the police outlining this strategy - but most journalists and lawyers who deal regularly with the police will be aware of it. At the Westminster Legal Policy Forum Keynote Seminar on the future of policing - accountability, cost and effectiveness which I attended last Thursday, I spoke to a solicitor who confirmed this impression. "It's appallingly detrimental to freedom of speech", he told me. "It's hard to speak out when you have the whole police force breathing down your neck." Read more »

Now that Denny's running for Parliament, he's taking a back seat in the maintenance of Police State UK until after the election. Given I'm already running three other businesses in addition to my political volunteer work, and that I'm also helping him with his campaign to some extent, I really don't have time to step up my involvement in PSUK; I've been spending more time on it over the last two weeks, but that really isn't sustainable. This means we are looking for contributions even more than normal. If you care about politics and civil liberties in the UK, please consider writing something for us - it doesn't have to be complex. I've written some guidelines for articles to help people get started. If you're interested but there's some barrier preventing you from contributing, let me know and I'll do what I can to help.

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