British Police: Wikis

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Mounted officer of the Metropolitan Police at Buckingham Palace, London

Law enforcement in the United Kingdom is organised separately in each of the legal systems of the United Kingdom: England & Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (administration of police matters is not generally affected by the Government of Wales Act 2006).


Jurisdictions and territories

In the United Kingdom, every person has limited powers of arrest if they see a crime being committed[1] - these are called 'every person powers', commonly referred to as a 'citizen's arrest'. In England and Wales, the vast majority of attested constables enjoy full powers of arrest and search as granted by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. All police officers are "constables" in law, irrespective of rank. Although police officers have wide ranging powers, they are still civilians and subject to the same laws as members of the public. However there are certain legal restrictions on police officers such as the illegality of taking industrial action and the ban on taking part in active politics.

Types of law enforcement agency

There are four general types of agency, the first mostly concerned with policing the general public and their activities and the rest concerned with policing of other, usually localised, matters:

  • Territorial police forces, who carry out the majority of policing. These are police forces that cover a 'police area' (a particular region) and have an independent Police Authority. The Police Act 1996, the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 and the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, prescribe a number of issues such as appointment of a Chief Constable, jurisdiction and responsibilities, for police forces in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.
  • Special police forces, which are national police forces that have a specific, non-regional jurisdiction, such as the British Transport Police. The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 refers to these as 'special police forces'.
  • Non-police law enforcement agencies, whose officers are not police constables, but still enforce laws.
  • Miscellaneous police forces, mostly having their foundations in older legislation or Common Law. These have a responsibility to police specific local areas or activities, such as ports and parks and before the passing of recent legislation such as the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 were often referred to as 'special police forces'; care must therefore be taken in interpreting historical use of that phrase. These constabularies are not within the scope of the legislation applicable to the previously-mentioned organisations but can still be the subject of statutes applicable to e.g. docks, harbours or railways. Until the passing of Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, the British Transport Police was such a force.

Cross-border powers

Territorial police constables have certain powers of arrest in countries other than the one they were attested in. The are four main provisions for them to do so - arrest with a warrant, arrest without a warrant for an offence committed in their country, arrest without a warrant for an offence committed in another country and mutual aid. Note: this section applies to territorial police constables only, and not to others - except the British Transport Police, whose also have certain cross-border powers in addition to their natural powers.

Arrest with warrant

Certain warrants can be executed by constables even though they are outside their jurisdiction: arrest warrants, warrants of commitment and a warrant to arrest a witness (England, Wales or Northern Ireland) a warrant for committal, a warrant to imprison (or to apprehend and imprison) and a warrant to arrest a witness (Scotland).[2] A warrant issued in one country may be executed in either of the other two countries by a constable from:[2]

  • the country in which it was issued, or
  • the country in which it is being executed.

When executing a warrant issued in Scotland, the constable executing it shall have the same powers and duties, and the person arrested the same rights, as they would have had if execution had been in Scotland by a constable of a police force in Scotland. When executing a warrant issued in England & Wales or Northern Ireland, a constable may use reasonable force and has specified search powers provided by section 139 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Arrest without warrant: offences committed in home country

If a constable suspects that a person has committed or attempted to commit an offence in his country, and that person is now in another country, he may arrest (and in the case of a constable from Scotland, detain) them in that other country.[3]

A constable from England & Wales is subject to the same necessity tests for arrest (as under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) as he would be in England & Wales, a constable from Scotland may arrest/detain if it would have been lawful to do so in Scotland and a constable from Northern Ireland is subject to the same necessity tests for arrest (as under Article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989) as he would be in Northern Ireland.[3]

A person arrested under the above powers:[3]

  • in Scotland, shall be taken to the nearest convenient designated police station or to a designated police station in a police area in which the offence is being investigated (England & Wales or Northern Ireland),
  • in England or Wales, shall be taken to the nearest convenient police station (Scotland) or to a police station within a sheriffdom in which the offence is being investigated (Scotland), to the nearest convenient designated police station (Northern Ireland) or to a designated police station in which the offence is being investigated (Northern Ireland), or
  • in Northern Ireland, shall be taken either to the nearest convenient designated police station (England & Wales) or to a designated police station in a police area in which the offence is being investigated (England & Wales) or to the nearest convenient police station (Scotland) or to a police station within a sheriffdom in which the offence is being investigated (Scotland).

A person detained under the above powers:[3]

  • in England or Wales, shall be taken to the nearest convenient police station (Scotland) or to a police station within a sheriffdom in which the offence is being investigated (Scotland), or to the nearest convenient designated police station (England or Wales), or
  • in Northern Ireland, shall be taken to the nearest convenient police station (Scotland) or to a police station within a sheriffdom in which the offence is being investigated (Scotland), or to the nearest convenient designated police station (Northern Ireland),

as soon as reasonably practicable.

Detention under these powers, which in Scotland normally lasts for six hours, is limited to four hours.[4]

Arrest without warrant: offences committed in other countries

A constable from one country has, in the other countries, the same powers of arrest as a constable of that country would have.[5]

A constable from England & Wales has:[5]

  • in Scotland, the same power of arrest as a constable from Scotland
  • in Northern Ireland, the same power of arrest as a constable from Northern Ireland would have under Article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (necessity test).

A constable from Scotland has:[5]

  • in England and Wales, the same power of arrest as a constable from England & Wales would have under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (necessity test).
  • in Northern Ireland, the same power of arrest as a constable from Northern Ireland would have under Article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (necessity test).

A constable from Northern Ireland has:[5]

  • in Scotland, the same power of arrest as a constable from Scotland
  • in England and Wales, the same power of arrest as a constable from England & Wales would have under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (necessity test).

When a constable arrests a person in England & Wales, the constable is subject to the requirements of section 28 (informing of arrest), section 30 (taking to a designated police station) and section 32 (search on arrest).[5] When a constable arrests a person in Scotland, the arrested person shall have the same rights and the constable the same powers and duties as they would have were the constable a constable of a police force in Scotland.[5] When a constable arrests a person in Northern Ireland, the constable is subject to the requirements of Article 30 (informing of arrest), Article 32 (taking to a designated police station) and Article 34 (search on arrest).[5]

Other situations

Police forces often support each other with large-scale operations, such as those which require specialist skills or expertise and those which require policing levels that the host forces cannot provide. Referred to as mutual aid, constables 'on loan' from one force have all the powers and privileges of a constable of the host force.[6] Constables from the Metropolitan Police who are on protection duties in Scotland or Northern Ireland have all the powers and privileges of a constable of the local territorial police force.[7] A constable who is taking a person to or from a prison retains all the powers, authority, protection and privileges of his office regardless of his location.[8] Regardless of where they are in the United Kingdom, a constable may arrest under section 41[9] and may stop and search under section 43[10] of the Terrorism Act 2000 on suspicion of terrorism (defined by section 40).

Powers of officers

Territorial police constables

Police Constables and an Inspector of Greater Manchester Police on patrol in Manchester city centre after the 2008 UEFA Cup Final

Most police officers are members of territorial police forces. Upon taking an oath for one of these forces, they have all the powers and privileges, duties and responsibilities of a constable in one of the three distinct legal systems - either England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, and the territorial waters of that country. The limited circumstances where their powers extend across the border are described below.

Other constables

There are many constables who are not members of territorial police forces. The most notable are members of the three forces referred to as 'special police forces': the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary. These officers have the 'powers and privileges of a constable' on land relating to their work and in matters relating to their work.[11][12][13] BTP and MDP officers have additional jurisdiction where requested by a constable of another force, in which case they take on that constables jurisdiction.[14][15] Upon request from the chief police officer of a police force, members of one of the above three forces can be give the full powers of constables in the police area of the requesting force.[14][16] This was used to supplement police numbers in the areas surrounding the 2005 G8 summit at Gleneagles.

There are also many acts which allow companies or councils to employ constables for a specific purpose. Firstly, there are 10[17] companies whose employees are sworn in as constables under section 79 of the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847. As a result, they have the full powers of a constable on any land owned by the harbour, dock, or port and at any place within one mile of any owned land. Secondly, there are also some forces created by specific legislation such as the Port of Tilbury Police (Port of London Act 1968), Mersey Tunnels Police (County of Merseyside Act 1989) and the Epping Forest Keepers (Epping Forest Act 1878).

Thirdly, under Article 18 of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967, London Borough Councils are allowed to swear in council officers as constables for "securing the observance of the provisions of all enactments relating to open spaces under their control or management and of bye-laws and regulations made thereunder". These constables are not legally police constables and have no powers to enforce criminal law other than those afforded to every citizen. [18]

Police civilians

In England & Wales, the chief police officer of a territorial police force may designate any person who is employed by the police authority maintaining that force, and is under the direction and control of that chief police officer, as one or more of the following:

They have a range of powers given by the Police Reform Act 2002,[20] and their chief police officer decides which of these powers they may use. Unlike a police constable, a PCSO only has powers when on duty and in uniform, and within the area policed by their respective force.

Until 1991, most parking enforcement was carried out by police-employed traffic wardens. Since the passage of the Road Traffic Act 1991, decriminalised parking enforcement has meant that most local authorities have taken on this role and now only the Metropolitan Police employs Traffic Wardens, combining the role with PCSOs as "Traffic Police Community Support Officers".

In Scotland, Police Custody and Security Officers have powers similar to those of detention officers and escort officers in England and Wales.[21] Similar powers are available in Northern Ireland.[22]

Accredited Persons

Chief police officers of territorial police forces[23] (and the British Transport Police[24]) can also give limited powers[25] to people not employed by the police authority, under Community Safety Accreditation Schemes. A notable example are officers of the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, who have been given powers to stop vehicles.[26] However, this practice has been criticised by the Police Federation who described it as 'half-baked'. [27]

Members of the armed forces

In Northern Ireland only, members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces have powers to stop people[28] or vehicles,[29] arrest and detain people for three hours[30] and enter buildings to keep the peace[31] or search for people who have been kidnapped.[32] Additionally, commissioned officers may close roads.[33] They may use reasonable force when exercising these powers.[34]

Under the Customs Management Act 1979, members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces may detain people if they believe they have committed an offence under the Customs & Excise acts, and may seize goods if they believe they are liable to forfeiture under the same acts. [35]

Other civilians

Many employees of local authorities have powers of entry relating to inspection of businesses, such as under the Sunday Trading Act 1994[36] and powers to give Fixed Penalty Notices for offences such as littering, graffiti or one of the wide ranging offences in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. Further such powers may be given under local bylaws or local acts of parliament.

When carrying out an investigation, staff of the Independent Police Complaints Commission have all the powers and privileges of constables throughout England and Wales and the territorial waters.[37] Similarly, staff of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland have certain powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Application to the Police Ombudsman) Order (Northern Ireland) 2009[38]

Employees of the Serious Organised Crime Agency can be designated[39] with the powers of a constable,[40] Revenue and Customs officer[41] and immigration officer.[42] These designations can be unconditional or conditional: time limited or limited to a specific operation.

Employees of the UK Border Agency may be Immigration Officers and/or customs officers. They hold certain powers of arrest, detention and search.

In England & Wales, water bailiffs employed by the Environment Agency have certain powers in relation to enforcement of fishing regulations. Scottish water bailiffs have similar powers. There are also seven types of court officer - two in Scotland and five in England & Wales, commonly referred to as 'bailiffs', who can enforce court orders and in some cases arrest people.

Traffic officers are employed by the Highways Agency and maintain traffic flows on trunk roads and some bridges and tunnels. There are different types of traffic officer, and they are appointed under separate Acts. They have limited powers to direct traffic and place road signs.

Wildlife inspector have certain powers of entry and inspection in relation to wildlife and licenses relating to wildlife.

Employees of public fire and rescue services have extensive powers in the event of an emergency, and more limited ones in certain other circumstances, such as investigations into fires.

Prison officers have all the powers, authority, protection and privileges of a constable when acting as prison officers.[43]



In England and Wales a Police Authority, normally consisting of three magistrates, nine local councillors and five independent members, is responsible for overseeing each local force. They also have a duty under law to ensure that their community gets best value from their police force.

In Northern Ireland the Police Service of Northern Ireland is supervised by the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

In Scotland each police force is overseen either by the local authority (for Fife Constabulary and Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary) or by a joint board of the relevant authority for all other forces.

Two of the three special police forces in Great Britain, (the British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary) had their own police authorities set up in 2004. These forces operate across national jurisdictions but their normal responsibility is to the activities they police, i.e. the railways and the civil nuclear industry.

Police harbour patrol boat in Poole Harbour, Dorset

Her Majesty's Inspectorates of Constabulary

Her Majesty's Inspectorates of Constabulary (HMIC) are the official bodies responsible for the examination and assessment of police forces to ensure their requirements are met as intended.

There are two similarly-named organisations:

Crown dependencies and overseas territories

The Crown dependencies and British overseas territories have their own police forces, the majority of which utilise the British model. Because they are not part of the United Kingdom, they are not answerable to the British Government; instead they are organised by and are responsible to their own governments (an exception to this is the Sovereign Base Areas Police - because the SBAs existence is purely for the benefit of the British armed forces and do not have full overseas territory status, the SBA Police are responsible to the Ministry of Defence). However, because they are based on the British model of policing, these police forces conform to the standards set out by the British government, which includes voluntarily submitting themselves to inspection by the HMIC.


Throughout the United Kingdom, the rank structure of police forces is identical up to the rank of Chief Superintendent. At higher ranks, structures are distinct within London where the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London Police have a series of Commander and Commissioner ranks as their top ranks whereas other UK police forces have assistants, deputies and a Chief Constable as their top ranks. All Commissioners and Chief Constables are equal in rank to each other.

Uniform and equipment

A Bedfordshire Police Vauxhall Astra patrol car. The Astra is the most popular patrol car in service with British Police

Uniforms, the issuing of firearms, type of patrol cars and other equipment varies by force. Unlike police in other developed countries, the vast majority of British police officers do not carry firearms on standard patrol; they do however carry Extendable "Asp" or fixed Monadnock PR-24 batons and CS/PAVA spray.

There are, however, exceptions. Every territorial force has a specialist Firearms Unit[44] which maintain Armed Response Vehicles to respond to firearms related emergency calls, while one territorial force (the Police Service of Northern Ireland) and two of the special police forces, (the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police) being routinely armed. The British Transport Police is the only police force in the country without firearms officers, relying on the local territorial force should an armed incident occur on the railways.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) firearms unit is called CO19 (formerly SO19), but every force in the United Kingdom apart from the British Transport Police has firearms trained officers available should the need arise. Metropolitan and City of London Police operate with three officers per Armed Response Vehicle (ARV). Each unit comprises a driver, a navigator, and an observer who gathers information about the incident and liaises with other units. Other police forces carry two Authorised Firearms Officers instead of three. Armed Police carry a combination of weapons, ranging from German Heckler & Koch MP5 carbines, Heckler & Koch MSG901 Sniper rifles, Heckler & Koch Baton Guns (which fire baton rounds) and Heckler & Koch G36Cs to a number of specialist weapons such as the Remington pump-action shotgun.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith recently unveiled new plans, for England and Wales, to train and arm response officers with Tasers, rather than just specialist firearms teams.[45][46][47]


In the 19th and early 20th centuries most forces required their recruits to be at least 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) in height. By 1960 many forces had reduced this to 5 feet 8 inches (173 cm), and 5 feet 4 inches (163 cm) for women. Many senior officers deplored this, believing that height was a vital requirement for a uniformed constable.[48] Some forces retained the height standard at 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) or 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm) until the early 1990s, when the height standard was gradually removed. This is due to the MacPherson report of 1999, as the height restriction was seen to discriminate against those of ethnic backgrounds such as the Chinese, who are generally much shorter. No British force now requires its recruits to be of any minimum height.

Organisation of police forces

As all police forces are autonomous organisations there is much variation in organisation and nomenclature, however outlined below are the main strands of policing that makes up police forces:

  • All police forces have teams of officers who are responsible for general patrol duties and response to emergency and non emergency calls from the public. These officers are generally the most visible and will invariably be the first interface a member of the public has with police. In general terms these officers will normally patrol by vehicle (though also on foot or bicycle in urban areas). They will generally patrol a sub-division or whole division of a police force area or in the case of the Metropolitan Police Service, a borough. Nearly all police officers begin their careers in this area of policing, with some moving on to more specialist roles. The Metropolitan Police Service calls this area of policing 'Response Teams', whilst other forces use terms such as 'patrol', 'section' and other variations.
  • Most local areas or wards in the country have at least one police officer who is involved in trying to build links with the local community and resolve long term problems. In London, the Metropolitan Police Service addresses this area of policing with Safer Neighbourhood Teams. This entails each political ward in London having a Police Sergeant, two police constables and a few PCSOs who are ring fenced to address problems and build community links in their respective wards. Other police forces have similar systems but can be named 'Area officers', 'Neighbourhood officers', 'Beat Constables' and a number of other variations.
  • Criminal Investigation Departments (CID) can be found in all police forces. Generally these officers deal with investigations of a more complex, serious nature, however this again can differ from force to force. Most officers within this area are detectives. Depending on the force in question this area of policing can be further divided into a myriad of other specialist areas such as fraud. Smaller forces tend to have detectives who deal with a wide range of varied investigations whereas detectives in larger forces can have a very specialist remit.
  • All police forces have specialist departments that deal with certain aspects of policing. Larger forces such as Greater Manchester Police, Strathclyde Police and West Midlands Police have many and varied departments and units such as traffic, firearms, marine, horse, tactical support all named differently depending on the force. Smaller forces such Dyfed Powys Police and Warwickshire Police will have fewer specialists and will rely on cross training, such as firearms officers also being traffic trained officers. The Metropolitan Police, the largest force in the country, has a large number of specialist departments, some of which are unique to the Metropolitan Police due to policing the capital and its national responsibilities. For example, the Diplomatic Protection Group and Counter Terrorism Command.


Deaths after contact with the police

The police service in the UK is sometimes criticised for incidents that result in deaths due to police firearms usage or in police custody, as well as the lack of competence and impartiality in investigations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission after these events. The Economist stated in 2009:

Bad apples ... are seldom brought to justice: no policeman has ever been convicted of murder or manslaughter for a death following police contact, though there have been more than 400 such deaths in the past ten years alone. The IPCC is at best overworked and at worst does not deserve the “I” in its name.

The Economist[49]

Controversial shootings

The policy under which police officers in England and Wales use firearms has resulted in controversy. Notorious recent examples include the Stephen Waldorf shooting in 1983, the shooting of James Ashley in 1998, Harry Stanley in 1999, Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 and Abdul Kahar in 2006.

Deaths in police custody

In 1997/98, 69 people died in police custody or following contact with the police across England and Wales; 26 resulted from deliberate self harm.[50]

There are two defined categories of death in custody issued by the Home Office:[51]

Category A: This category also encompasses deaths of those under arrest who are held in temporary police accommodation or have been taken to hospital following arrest. It also includes those who die, following arrest, whilst in a police vehicle.

  • s/he has been taken to a police station after being arrested for an offence, or
  • s/he is arrested at a police station after attending voluntarily at the station or accompanying a Constable to it, and is detained there or is detained elsewhere in the charge of a constable, except that a person who is at a court after being charged is not in police detention for those purposes.

Category B: Where the deceased was otherwise in the hands of the police or death resulted from the actions of a police officer in the purported execution of his duty.

  • when suspects are being interviewed by the police but have not been detained;
  • when persons are actively attempting to evade arrest;
  • when persons are stopped and searched or questioned by the police; and
  • when persons are in police vehicles (other than whilst in police detention).

Recent issues

Evidence of corruption in the 1970s, serious urban riots and the police role in controlling industrial disorder in the 1980s, and the changing nature of police procedure made police accountability and control a major political football from the 1990s onwards.

  • The coal miners' strike (1984–1985) saw thousands of police from various forces deployed against miners, frequently resulting in violent confrontation.
  • The presence of Freemasons in the police caused disquiet in the early 1990s.
  • The Fettesgate scandal in the early 1990s concerned the theft (and allegedly the subsequent recovery) of sensitive documents from the Edinburgh headquarters of Lothian and Borders Police. Nobody has ever been charged, and, at least publicly, no officer was disciplined.
  • The perceived absence of a visible police presence on the streets also frequently causes concern. This is partially being addressed by the introduction of uniformed Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), following the passing of the Police Reform Act 2002, although some have criticised these as for being a cheap alternative to fully-trained police officers.[52]
  • Recent undercover TV programmes BBC's The Secret Policeman[53] and the Channel 4 Dispatches programme Undercover Copper[54] raised questions of standards within UK police forces.


Despite attempts to end racism and what the Macpherson Report described as "institutionalised racism" in the police since the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence, there have been ongoing problems. At the same time, some commentators and academics have claimed that political correctness and excessive sensitivity to issues of race and class have reduced the effectiveness of the police force, not least for people living in deprived areas or members of minority groups themselves.

In 2003, ten police officers from Greater Manchester Police, North Wales Police and Cheshire Constabulary were forced to resign after a BBC documentary, "The Secret Policeman", shown on 21 October, revealed racism among recruits at Bruche Police National Training Centre at Warrington. On 4 March 2005 the BBC noted that minor disciplinary action would be taken against twelve other officers (eleven from Greater Manchester Police and one from Lancashire Constabulary) in connection with the programme, but that they would not lose their jobs. In November 2003, allegations were made that some police officers were members of the far-right British National Party.


At the beginning of 2005 it was announced that the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) had signed an eight-year £122 m contract to introduce biometric identification technology.[55] PITO are also planning to use CCTV facial recognition systems to identify known suspects; a future link to the proposed National Identity Register has been suggested by some.[56]

Freedom of speech

A number of recent cases in which the police have intervened in matters of free speech have also given rise to allegations that the police are in danger of becoming thought police. In December 2005, author Lynette Burrows was interviewed by police after expressing her opinion on BBC Radio 5 Live that homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt children.[57] The following month, Sir Iqbal Sacranie was investigated by police for stating the Islamic view that homosexuality is a sin.[58]

Photography of police

Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 came into force on 15 February 2009[59] making it an offence to elicit, attempt to elicit, or publish information "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" about:[60] a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces; a constable, the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, or Government Communications Headquarters. Any person found guilty faces 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.[60] It is a defence for a person charged with this offence to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.[60]

Policing of protests

In April 2009, a total of 145 complaints were made following clashes between police and protesters at the G20 summit.[61] Incidents including the death of 47 year old Ian Tomlinson,[62] minutes after an alleged assault by a police officer,[63] and a separate alleged assault on a woman by a police officer,[64] has led to criticism of police tactics during protests.[65] In response, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson asked Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) to review policing tactics,[66] including the practice of kettling.[67]

Fixated Threat Assessment Centre

The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre was set up in 2006 to identify and address those individuals considered to pose a threat to VIP's or the Royals. On 25 June 2007 Minister of State for the Home Department Tony McNulty outlined the purpose of the FTAC:

''The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) was established in order to better protect the public and vulnerable individuals in response to evidence that a significant proportion of people who engage in bizarre communications or contact with prominent people in public life are severely and acutely mentally ill and urgently need professional help. A small but significant number of such individuals can pose a risk to the public, the prominent person, and themselves, particularly in environments where there are armed police officers. The Home Office, the Department of Health and the Metropolitan Police Service agreed to establish a joint police/mental health unit, on a pilot basis, to assess and manage the risk posed by such individuals. Where appropriate, FTAC will introduce (or reintroduce) the individuals into existing community mental health care through established pathways. If offences are disclosed, and the circumstances warrant such intervention, consideration will also be given to a criminal investigation.

Since its creation in October 2006, FTAC has dealt with 168 cases. FTAC does not detain people in psychiatric hospitals. When it encounters an individual in need of mental health care it alerts their general practitioners and psychiatrists, who then provide appropriate help under existing legislation. FTAC may make use of police powers under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 to take a person who appears to be suffering from mental disorder, and in immediate need of care or control, to a place of safety. When people are removed to hospital under section 136, they are examined by a registered medical practitioner and interviewed by an approved social worker, not associated with FTAC, in order to make any necessary arrangements for their treatment or care.

Proposed mergers for England and Wales

In 1981, James Anderton, the then Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police called for 10 regional police forces for England and Wales, one for each of the regions which would be adopted as Government Office Regions in England, and Wales.[68]

A 2004 proposal by the Police Superintendents Association for the creation of a single national police force, similar to Garda Síochána na hÉireann was rejected by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and the government has thus far agreed.[69]

In September 2005, in a report[70] delivered to the then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary suggested that the forty-three force structure in England and Wales was "no longer fit for purpose" and smaller forces should be forcibly merged. As of 2005, nineteen forces had fewer than 2,000 regular officers, and the report suggested that forces with 4,000 or more officers performed better and could deliver cost savings.[71] Forces were asked to produce proposals for mergers, within Wales and the English Government Office Regions. Nearly all the existing forces were under the 4,000 limit, with only the Metropolitan Police, Greater Manchester Police, Merseyside Police, Northumbria Police, Thames Valley Police, West Midlands Police and West Yorkshire Police over the limit - see Table of police forces in the United Kingdom for a full list.

Draft options were announced in November 2005.[72] The Home Office offered money to police authorities that decided to voluntarily merge ahead of schedule, and was consequently accused of attempting to "bribe" unwilling Chief Constables into compliance.[73] The proposals were debated in the House of Commons on 19 December 2005.[74] Most Chief Constables and police authorities did not back the measure,[75] and some suggested that cross-regional mergers would make more sense (for example, Hampshire Constabulary in the South East suggested it could merge with Dorset Police in the South West, whilst there was also a suggestion of North Wales Police increasing co-operation with Cheshire Police)[76]

On 6 February 2006, preferred options for several regions were announced by the Home Secretary in a Written Ministerial Statement,[77][78] and set a deadline of 24 February for forces to agree to the mergers. By this dead-line the only merger to have the agreement of all forces involved was the Cumbria/Lancashire merger. Cheshire was opposed to a merger with Merseyside, and West Mercia and Cleveland were holdouts in their regions, whilst all the Welsh forces opposed the creation of a single Welsh force.[79] The Home Secretary had the power to order the Cumbria/Lancashire merger to proceed by statutory instrument under the Police Act 1996, and also to force through the contested mergers, given a four-month consultation period. In a Written Statement made on 3 March 2006,[80] he announced that the Lancashire/Cumbria merger could be ordered in May, and that the consultation period on the others was starting, and would end on 2 July 2006. The new forces would come into being on 1 April 2007.[81][82]

A second batch of merger proposals were made on 20 March 2006, with the Eastern, East Midlands and South East regions covered. A deadline of 7 April 2006 was set for responses, after which it was expected that the process above would be followed.[83][84][85] The following day, the Home Secretary proposed a merger of all four forces in the Yorkshire and the Humber region.[86] The consultation period on this second batch of mergers started on 11 April 2006, and would have finished on 11 August, with a target of 1 April 2008 for the mergers coming into effect.[87]

Greater London

Metropolitan Police officers on patrol in London's Trafalgar Square.

Upon the publication of the proposals, the Greater London area was not included. This was due to two separate reviews of policing in the capital - the first was a review by the Department of Transport into the future role and function of the British Transport Police. The second was a review by the Attorney-General into national measures for combating fraud (the City of London Police is one of the major organisations for combating economic crime).[88] Both the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, and the Mayor, Ken Livingstone, stated that they would like to see a single police force in London, with the Metropolitan Police absorbing the City of London Police and the functions of the British Transport Police in London.[89] However, this met with criticism from several areas; the House of Commons Transport Select Committee severely criticised the idea of the Metropolitan Police taking over policing of the rail network in a report published on 16 May 2006,[90] while the City of London Corporation and several major financial institutions in The City made public their opposition to the City Police merging with the Met.[91] In a statement on 20 July 2006, the Transport Secretary announced that there would be no structural or operational changes to the British Transport Police, effectively ruling out any merger[92] The interim report by the Attorney General's fraud review recognised the role taken by the City Police as the lead force in London and the South-East for tackling fraud, and made a recommendation that, should a national lead force be required, the City Police, with its expertise, would be an ideal candidate to take this role.[93] This view was confirmed on the publication of the final report, which recommended that the City of London Police's Fraud Squad should be the national lead force in combatting fraud, to "act as a centre of excellence, disseminate best practice, give advice on complex inquiries in other regions, and assist with or direct the most complex of such investigations"[94]

Merger Abandonment

On 20 June 2006 the new Home Secretary, John Reid, announced that the contested mergers would be delayed for further discussion,[95] and no mergers would be ordered before Parliament's summer recess on 25 July other than the agreed Lancashire/Cumbria one.

On 11 July 2006, it then emerged that the entire proposal for police mergers might be ended, following the decision by the only two forces to have agreed to amalgamation, Cumbria and Lancashire, not to proceed.[96] The announcement of this was followed by the head of the ACPO stating that "The necessary financial support has not materialised and mergers, including voluntary ones, will not take place".[97] On 12 July 2006, the Home Office confirmed that the mergers were to be abandoned, with the entire proposal taken back for consultation[98]

Other police forces

Policing in Scotland and Northern Ireland does not come under the purview of the Home Office, and so would have remained unaffected by these proposals. Likewise, the major non-territorial forces (British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary, Ministry of Defence Police) are responsible to other government departments, and so would not have been affected by this review.

List of proposed mergers

Note: these mergers have all been suspended in the long term while a further review and consultation into policing in England and Wales takes place

Region Proposed force
Eastern Merge Bedfordshire Police, Essex Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary
Merge Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Norfolk Constabulary and Suffolk Constabulary
East Midlands Merge Derbyshire Constabulary, Leicestershire Constabulary, Lincolnshire Police, Northamptonshire Police and Nottinghamshire Police
London London not included in the review of policing, so City of London Police and Metropolitan Police unaffected.
North-East Merge Cleveland Police, Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police
North-West Merge Cumbria Constabulary and Lancashire Constabulary
Merge Cheshire Constabulary and Merseyside Police
Greater Manchester Police unchanged
South-East Kent Police unchanged
Merge Surrey Police and Sussex Police
Hampshire Constabulary unchanged
Thames Valley Police unchanged
South-West[99] Option 1: Merge Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, Gloucestershire Constabulary, Dorset Police and Wiltshire Constabulary
Option 2: Merge Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Gloucestershire Constabulary, Wiltshire Constabulary and Dorset Police
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary unchanged
Wales Merge Dyfed-Powys Police, Gwent Police, North Wales Police and South Wales Police
West Midlands Merge Staffordshire Police, Warwickshire Police, West Mercia Constabulary, West Midlands Police
Yorkshire and Humberside Merge Humberside Police, North Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police

Border and Immigration Agency/UK Border Agency

As part of the wide ranging review of the Home Office, the then Home Secretary, John Reid, announced in July 2006 that all British immigration officers would be uniformed. On April 1 2007, the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) was created and commenced operation. However, there were no police officers in the Agency, a matter that attracted considerable criticism when the Agency was established - agency officers have limited powers of arrest. Further powers for designated officers within the Agency, including powers of detention pending the arrival of a police officer, were introduced by the UK Borders Act 2007.[100]

The Government has effectively admitted the shortcomings of the Agency by making a number fundamental changes within a year of its commencement. On 1 April 2008 the BIA became the UK Border Agency following a merger with UKvisas, the port of entry functions of HM Revenue and Customs. The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) "...will bring together the work of the Border and Immigration Agency, UK Visas and parts of HM Revenue and Customs at the border, [and] will work closely with the police and other law enforcement agencies to improve border controls and security."[101]

Within months of this, the Home Secretary revealed (in a 16-page response to a report by Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of UK terrorism legislation) that the Home Office will issue a Green Paper proposing to take forward proposals by the Association of Chief Police Officers (England & Wales) for the establishment of a new 3,000-strong national border police force to work alongside the Agency.[102][103]

National Crime Force (England and Wales)

In April 2007, the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron announced the Conservative Party's proposals for reform of policing. These included:

  • Replacing police authorities with directly elected police commissioners. These individuals would have control over budgets and target setting, with the Chief Constable retaining operational control of policing.
  • Giving the public the right to discuss local policing issues with their local police officers at regular meetings.

In addition, the proposals made clear that on the issue of serious crime the 43 police forces in England and Wales would either have to have greater cooperation, or that the serious crime elements of their function would be invested in a National Serious Crime Force.[104]

Police pay

The decision by the Home Secretary to refuse to implement, in England and Wales, the recommendation of the Police Arbitration Tribunal of a 2.5% increase in pay has caused widespread anger, especially as this decision stood in sharp contrast to the decision of the Scottish Government to fully implement the award for police officers in Scotland by backdating it to 1 September 2007.[105] By instead implementing the award with effect from 1 December 2007, the Home Secretary effectively reduced it to 1.9%, claiming that this was necessary in order to control inflation, despite the fact that police authorities had already made provision for the full 2.5% increase from their revenue budgets.

Overseas police forces in the UK

There are certain instances where police forces of other nations operate in a limited degree in the United Kingdom:

  • The Police aux Frontières or PAF (French Border Police), a division of the Police Nationale, is permitted to operate in regard to Eurostar rail services through the Channel Tunnel. This includes on Eurostar trains to London, within the international terminal at St Pancras Station, at Ebbsfleet and Ashford International railway stations, and at the Cheriton Parc Le Shuttle terminal (alongside French Customs officials). The PAF also operate at Dover Ferry terminals. This arrangement is reciprocated to the British Transport Police, UK Border Agency, and UK Customs Officers on Paris bound trains and within the terminal at Paris Gare du Nord, Coquelles (Le Shuttle), Gare de Lille-Europe, Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid and the Calais, Dunkerque, and Boulogne ferry terminals.[106] The French police officers are not permitted to carry their firearms in the London Terminal; the firearms must be left on the train.
  • An Garda Síochána na hÉireann (The Irish Police), under a recent agreement between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, have the right, alongside the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, to carry out inspections of the Sellafield nuclear facility in Cumbria.[107]
  • In 2006 a small number of officers from the Policja (Polish Police) were seconded to the North Wales Police to assist with the supervision of foreign (largely eastern European) truck traffic largely on European route E22 (the A55 road).[108] The Chief Constable of North Wales has publicly stated (November 2006) that he is considering directly recruiting a small number of officers from Poland to assist with policing the substantial population of Polish people that have migrated to his area since Poland's accession to the EU in 2004.[109]
  • Military Police of forces present in the UK within the terms of the Visiting Forces Act 1952 are permitted to travel to/from relevant premises in uniform and their (usually distinctive) vehicles will occasionally be seen. Their powers (including the carrying of firearms) are generally limited by that and other legislation to those necessary for the performance of duties related to their own forces and to those possessed by the General Public.

See also






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External links

National Police Resources

Staff Associations

Complaints against police

Non-official and Independent Sites

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