The tendering process by the joint West Midlands and Surrey Police forces, dangling the prospect of up to £3.5 billion of contracts over 10 years to private companies, has been handled ineptly.
Given the amount of public money at risk, it has reluctantly had to publish the vague tender document in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The Guardian has published Key extract of contract note for bidders for police services
Instead of concentrating on uncontentious areas to potentially save money on, such catering or motor vehicle maintenance, they have idiotically included a list of "services" which impinge on what should be the core functions and duties of the Police, whilst at the same time not actually promising the private sector that an unspecified number of these service areas are not actually up for being privatised.
The activities involved are covered by the 'Police Activity Glossary' (PAG), which identifies the activities each police force conducts. Bidders should note that not all these activities will necessarily be included in the final scope, and that each police force will select some activities from these areas where they see the best opportunities for transformation. A revised version of the PAG is as follows
Without a clear definition of exactly what they want, is it any wonder that billions of pounds of public money is wasted by public bureaucrats when awarding contracts to the private sector ?
- Assure Service - Manage performance, maintain professional standards, assure compliance, manage risk, provide legal services
- Bring Offenders to Justice - investigate crimes, detain suspects, non-judicial disposal, develop cases, support prosecution
- Deal with Incidents - Respond to incidents, manage scenes of incidents, investigate incidents, manage major incidents, support victims and witnesses
- Lead Service - Support the Leadership of the organisation to develop strategy, policy and plans, manage change, and manage partnerships
- Manage Public Engagement - Patrol neighbourhoods, manage public relations, manage customer relationships, report on performance, manage contact
- Manage Resources - Manage suppliers, manage finance, manage people, manage ICT, manage fleet and livestock, manage equipment, manage facilities
- Protect the Public - Manage high risk individuals, improve communities, protect vulnerable people, disrupt criminal networks, manage planned operations, protect vulnerable places, manage licensing, manage road safety
The only vaguely acceptable area on this list for the use of private sector partners is the "Manage Resources" activity.
West Midlands Police have also been spinning nonsense like "front line services will be preserved" or "the Chief Constable will still be accountable" etc.
The regular, sworn Police constables, are barely trusted by the public to conduct do these tasks competently, honestly and impartially, why should anyone trust a private company to do so at all ?
What profit motive is there for a private company to actually reduce crime and therefore the the need for their services ? N.B. the same can be asked of any of the public sector Police bureaucracy as well - they have no effective interest in reducing their own budgets and empires either.
What public accountability is there for when, not if, things go badly wrong with a private sector contractor, which inevitably must look to its own profits first, before any "public service" ethos comes into play.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (the publicly funded, but unaccountable private company whose current or former members might might well be tendering for "Lead Service" activity contracts ) has weighed in with a Press Release:
While there are a number of tasks in a criminal investigation, such as gathering CCTV evidence or checking phone records, which do not necessarily need to be done by a police officer, the investigation itself would always be overseen by a police officer in much the same way as a doctor oversees treatment of a patient although other healthcare professionals carry out particular tasks
Yes these tasks such as "checking phone records" absolutely must be done only by proper Police constables. Private sector companies or even civilian police employees should not be trusted with access to such potentially sensitive personal data.
Abuses of Communications Data by Police officers are already bad enough - letting presumably lower paid civilian workers or private sector company employees have access to these systems will make it even easier for "News of the World" / private investigators style abuses