Coffee House

What does new Number 10 hire mean for stop-and-search reform?

24 April 2014

As James revealed on Coffee House earlier, Max Chambers will take over from Patrick Rock on the home affairs brief in the Number 10 policy unit. One thing that will be particularly interesting to watch is whether Chambers’ appointment leads to a shift in Number 10’s stance on stop-and-search. Rock had been one of the key figures blocking Theresa May’s reforms to the power for the police, for fear that it would make the Tories appear soft on crime. So will the new adviser be more amenable to change?

I am told that Chambers is open to ideas on reform of stop-and-search and is keen to see more evidence of the need for changes. Indeed, he wrote earlier month that the greater use of stop-and-search and other proactive policing policies ‘correlates strongly with the great crime decline’, adding:

‘Policymakers would do well to remember this as they tweak with stop-and-search, though there are certainly big improvements to police practice that can be made.’

He’s clearly not won over yet. But perhaps May will, if she is able to produce persuasive evidence for these changes that she feels would have a great impact not just on the relationship between the police and ethnic minority groups but also between those groups and the Conservative party, find Chambers more receptive to her arguments than his predecessor.

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  • Minnooli

    It’s absurd to think that taming the police’s use of S&S could make the Tories look ‘soft on crime’ – one of the strong suits the Tories have is a teflon-coated reputation for being the party of law and order. The opportunity for the Tories – which May clearly recognises – is that by righting at least some of the injustices attaching to S&S as it is currently carried out by Plod, will contribute to the alleviation of the Tories’ reputation as The Nasty Party. Plus, it would be the right and decent thing to do. I hope the Home Sec gets her way with these reforms.

  • Adam Carter

    Surely I’m not the only one who thinks this is all arse-about-face?
    A Cabinet Minister, who was elected to parliament, has to hope that an office-boy, unelected by anyone, is more amenable to her arguments?
    I understand that politicians need support staff, but let’s get a clear line of responsibility and accountability here and let’s hold accountable those whom we can remove from office at the ballot box.
    The Prime Minister is responsible for the position adopted by No 10. Office-boys, whatever their grand title, cannot allow the PM to deny his responsibility.

  • Frank

    “..the great crime decline..” ha ha ha does he really trust the police statistics?
    Stop and search allows the police to feel that they are doing something. It will not however make an iota of difference to detecting any serious criminal activity (including sexual grooming), but then that is beyond most police forces. If you read the legion of reports on the shambles in the CPS, one gets the impression that the CPS’s incompetence allows many criminals to avoid conviction (so the small percentage the police do catch, then face a low percentage chance of being convicted in court)! As for the Serious Fraud Squad, perhaps Max Chambers will focus on equipping the SFO to be able to tackle corporate fraud, including adjusting the test for corporate liability.

    • In2minds

      Police statistics, how about making fiddling them a crime?

      • vfr100

        It already is, it would be a misconduct in public office.

        The better way, but sadly one that is beyond the mindset of most politicians, is simply not to make crime numbers a target of any sort but rather a measure of what’s changing and use statistical process control to show change over time and weed out normal variation in numbers.

        It’s well documented that targets only drive perverse behavior, no matter what the industry. It’s called gaming and goes on anywhere there are targets, especially if that target is incentivized too.

        If the desired outcome of policing is a safer community and confidence in the police, but they have targets around crime reduction, that desired outcome simply becomes a de facto outcome of reducing recorded crime. Needless to say part of that will be gaming the numbers.

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