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'Inflexible police regulations need reform'

Met Commissioner says that current structures prevent the reform that the service urgently needs

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has called for fundamental reform to police regulations, stating that they are outdated in the modern world.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner (pictured) said in a recent speech that regs are "unhelpful and stand in the way of the transformation policing urgently requires".

Describing how the police service can overcome the huge financial challenges it faces, he outlined a number of measures, including reform to employment regulations for officers.

He said that they currently add costs to disciplinary processes by allowing officers to have access to a QC during gross misconduct hearings, forcing constabularies to appoint similarly priced representation.

He added that policing needs to "change its employment practices to adapt to the digital world. We can't adapt when we're locked in a system that doesn't give us the flexibility to change we need."

A spokeswoman for Sir Bernard clarified to PoliceOracle.com that he wants to start by questioning whether each specific issue "needs to be governed by regulations, or whether force policy or wider employment law would provide an appropriate framework."

Regarding the lawyer issue, she added that the force always wished "to ensure that officers had appropriate representation in any disciplinary situation".

In the speech, Sir Bernard said he still supports the principle that officers of the Crown should not be ordered to arrest anyone.

Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said it would be difficult to see an alternative to police regulations that would give officers the workplace protection they need.

He said: "The office of constable lies at the heart of British policing. It allows officers to be independent and to fully uphold the law, for example by refusing unlawful orders.

"Police regulations are inextricably linked to this legal status; officers do not have contracts of employment and all the industrial rights that would entail."

The last major reform of police regulations took place under Home Secretary David Blunkett, who introduced PCSOs into the service - something which Sir Bernard said should be reconsidered due to financial constraints.

Academic and former Gloucestershire Chief Constable Tim Brain said that, while he agreed that it was hard to remove badly performing officers under current regulations, he was unsure an alternative system would fare better.

"The Met Police, being the biggest force and accounting for a quarter of officers, are often falling foul of employment tribunal judgements, so would employment law be any better?

"I also think it is reasonable for officers to be afforded the same level of legal representation that other employees can access."

Among the other measures called for in the Commissioner's wide-ranging speech was direct entry at "a senior level" to bring in people with specific skills to help tackle cyber crime.

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