Save the Police Service
Royal commissions are ad hoc advisory committees established by the government - though formally appointed by the Crown, hence the "royal" - to investigate any subject the administration of the day sees fit to refer to it.
They are often used for non-party political issues, or for issues that a government is endeavouring to address in a non-party political way.
In practice, royal commissions have sometimes been established to deal with issues that a government feels may be too controversial for it to be seen tackling itself. For example, in recent years some politicians have campaigned for a royal commission to examine the issue of the decriminalisation of cannabis.
The current piecemeal reform of policing is causing both confusion and concern to many people.
The size of a royal commission, its chairperson, membership and remit are set by the government. Most commissions take evidence, deliberate and then produce a final report.
The government usually outlines at the time of its establishment when it expects a royal commission to produce its final conclusions. The average duration from establishment to report is between two and four years.
But certain royal commissions can have a semi-permanent existence. For example, the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts was first set up in 1869 with the task of advising and assisting in the preservation of historical manuscripts and to publish them.
A government is not bound to accept the advice of any royal commission.
WHY DO WE NEED ONE FOR POLICING
It began with a promise. "Police on the beat, not pushing paper", thundered Labour's manifesto of 1997, as the party launched its successful bid for power.
"We will relieve police of unnecessary bureaucratic burdens to get more officers back on the beat," it pledged.
Fast forward to July 2008, when some of the Government's latest pronouncements on policing were published in the form of a Green Paper.
Chapter Two of the paper,entitled 'Professionalising and Freeing Up the Police' begins: "We ask a lot of the police and so it is critical that they are able to focus in meeting those priorities in the most efficient way possible. This means combating red tape…"
For more than a decade, the Police Federation has called for a Royal Commission on policing, arguing that the future of policing is too important to be left to headline-seeking politicians.
Politicians have, with a few notable exceptions, stoutly resisted any such move on the grounds that change is imperative and a Royal Commission would be likely to sit for two years or so.
Fragmented reform is continuing under the Coalition government with a series of damaging reports and reviews. Police Authorites are being scrapped and Police Commissioners are being introduced at great expense. Police officers are being forced to retire and vital police staff are being made redundant. Some areas are being outsourced to the private sector without considered thought as to the impact on the public.
The future of policing needs to decided properly. The service can no longer be a political football. It is now time for a Royal Commission.
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