Independent Advisory Groups provide the Hampshire Constabulary with feedback on how best to serve their communities. The Groups are made up of independent citizen volunteers who meet regularly to discuss issues of policing and law enforcement.
Problems and Purpose
Independent Advisory Groups were established in the UK following the miscarriage of justice in a case of racially-motivated violence in 1993. Made up of volunteer citizens, Groups were an effective way of connecting local police with those they serve. IAGs meet regularly to discuss issues of policing and provide officers with constructive feedback and suggestions on how to improve community law enforcement.
Background History and Context
The establishment of Independent Advisory Groups was pushed following the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report of 1999, published as ‘The Macpherson report’. Stephen Lawrence was the victim of a racially provoked knife attack carried out by five white youths, while he was waiting for a bus in Eltham, South London, in April 1993. No one was convicted of his murder, but as a result of persistent campaigning by his parents, an inquiry was ordered by then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, led by Sir William Macpherson. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report was hailed as the “defining moment in police relations with Black and minority ethnic groups” (Rollock, 2009:2). It concluded that there had been a significant miscarriage of justice; identifying systematic failures in the case and neglect by the police towards the Lawrence household.
Following this, police authorities as counties developed their own structures in order to implement departmental changes based around the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, implementing strategies to best fit their geographical and socio-economic areas. For instance, one UK county constabulary – Hampshire, concentrated on key areas including; arrest and custody issues, critical incidents, hate crime, and anti-social behaviour (Hampshire Constabulary n.d:2).
While this new service was gradually established over ten years, the implementation of the Equality, Diversity and Human Rights (EDHR) Strategy 2009 triggered new steps, allowing policing in the community at local levels with new amendments (Association of Chief Police Officers 2011:9). The EDHR strategy which was triggered following a 2008 policing Green Paper, set out areas for policing improvement. This included the papers vital ‘vision’ to promote equality, diversity and human rights. It was seen as vital at this time due to new and emerging communities, the effects of globalisation, technology and rising international terrorist threat (ACPO, APA & Home Office 2009).
Recently however, authorities have noted that IAGs may have lost sight of their role within the policing community (College of Policing 2015), and the police continue to be criticized for appearing out of touch with society (Workman-Stark, 2017:45). As a result, new developments have been pushed through by the College of Policing to reengage the place of IAGs in democratic innovation. Police have, for their part, reviewed the aim of IAGs in order to keep with the new expectations given by the College.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
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Participant Recruitment and Selection
To encourage confidence of communities in the IAG members, the CoP advised that front-line staff and community members should nominate citizens capable of the role (College of Policing 2015). However in practice, citizens will elect themselves following guidelines and a two-page application submission before delegation from a police constable. In relation to the EDHR Strategy (2009), the CoP also emphasise the importance of using targeted recruitment, specifically applying to the youth, by aligning with local cadet forces, as well as ethnic minorities, the LGBT+ community, and the disabled. An annual review of IAGs considers whether the current members represent the community. For this reason the CoP advise that IAG positions are only for a limited time, for the group to be regulated in accordance with the evolving influence of “immigration, globalisation, and education”, although members can re-apply for their position (College of Policing 2015:12). The current diversity of an IAG can only be viewed by other IAG members as this is a closed platform. It is also noted that IAG members will be reimbursed for their travel to and from meetings. While there is no specific government funding for the IAG process, all running costs must be found from existing police budgets (Spokesperson 2017).
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Independent Advisory Groups meet on average 4-6 times a year at local police bases. Here the role of IAGs is to represent themselves and not the views of particular groups in the community. IAG members will offer their different views to help the police “understand the impact on communities, during critical incidents, provide advice in relation to investigations, promote culture awareness and challenge our assumptions” (Marsh in Hampshire Constabulary n.d:2). IAGs will concentrate on discussing the sub-matters that each police institution wishes to deliver on. These should reflect the same areas chosen best for each country constabulary’s geographical and socio-economic situation. For instance, within Hampshire Constabulary, Southampton police concentrate on youth, while Portsmouth concentrate on analysing the conduct and behaviour undertaken by police on instances of hate crime. The Portsmouth IAG members will be given the details of a recent case relating to hate crime. They will then be given the opportunity to voice their opinion; whether the case has been dealt with correctly by police, and if not where improvements can be made. Police briefing documents on the matter emphasise the importance of members giving individual independent advice, in line with the EDHR vision. In-depth documents and statements elaborating on the deliberations, decisions and public engagement process of IAG meetings are recorded as minutes and shared on a platform only accessible to IAG members, due to the sensitive nature of the information (Spokesperson 2017). The Association of Chief Police Officers Stakeholder Engagement Portfolio encourage IAG’s to benefit from their support and feed back results to the association on results. Information collected from meetings is finally then passed on to the EDHR strategy, to be fitted into one of its three key areas; Optional Delivery, People and Culture, and Organisational process (ACPO 2011:9).
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The advice given by the IAG members in each meeting is either taken on board or not, as decided by the police constable(s) present at the meeting. This decision, either way, is reported to the IAG members and constables must justify why this decision has been taken. If this advice is acted on by the local policing authorities, the local delivery and performance will be judged by the Equality Standard for the Police Service (ESPS) and by inspections carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) (ACPO 2011:12). Currently, there is no official report documenting the influence, outcomes and effects of IAGs in the last two years (Spokesperson 2017).
Analysis and Lessons Learned
In terms of participant selection, what is being undertaken by police authorities differs to what the EDHR envision and the CoP would advise. In instances such as Southampton, citizens are not nominated to apply through the community, they must self-apply through the constabulary’s website. This excludes any process of election or delegation via the community, excluding citizen participation. This may not have been implemented the way it was intended because the right people were not being recruited, made more likely by the fact that the police in this case are attempting to reach out to the youth. The youth are more accessible to the police via the internet and community officers would have had less of an opportunity to gain a relationship with the youth if they for instance students. Equally community support officers may not have time to build relationships with members of the community due to public sector cuts and increasing crime rates. Although each step in the IAG programme individually has a high possibility of being successful (such as recruitment via officers and community awareness), adding more decisions to the programme collectively increases chance of failure (Pressman and Wildavsky 1973). Additionally, as IAG’s are not allocated government funding, budget restrictions limit the forces ability to hold a local community election. More so, the community may not be aware of the opportunities due to a general lack of interest in the police or through poor advertising for the position. In 2017, 67% of people questioned by Ipsos MORI (2017) said they are not very much or not at all informed on what the police are doing. 75% said they were interested in police activities but 65% had done nothing in the last 12 months to personally find out about their local police. Furthermore, 91% of respondents said they could not recall being asked by the police for their views. This questions whether the police are reaching out to enough of the public. A possible cause for this is that while there may be one goal for IAGs, there are multiple paths and decisions within the system which this may delay proceedings or prioritise certain processes (Pressman and Wildavsky 1973). This is resulting in a breakdown of communication between police authorities and the community, emphasising that police continue to appear ‘out of touch’ with their citizens. While there is no evidence proving if travel reimbursements are being given as stated by ACPO (2011), if the decision of a constabulary was not to reimburse due to budget restrictions, this can affect attendance of applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Following on, when comparing the briefings for IAGs 2011 and 2015, before and after the re-design, there is no mention of what key areas associations have approached differently. This suggests that the same mistakes will be made again and IAGs will fail to effectively, introduce innovations into policing within the community.
Throughout the 2011 and 2015 documents, emphasis is drawn to accentuating the importance of individual opinion. The process allows for significant deliberation, decisions and public engagement in the sense that full consideration of opinions can be spoken within a small group, face-to-face environment, however there isn’t a range of ‘competing arguments’ because nothing is being competed for as a final collective decision. This allows for political equality to be kept, and participation of a “significant proportion of the citizenry” can be kept (Fishkin 1995:34). Along with non-tyranny, this criteria is routinely satisfied in small case democracy; it allows for more effect decision making at a local level, as well as giving “stronger incentives for participation and for serious discussion of collective problems” (Fishkin 1995:56). With this in mind however, participants are still a small proportion of the community they are representing. This also undeniably means that only a small majority of advice and opinions can be taken forward and used accordingly. While IAG members’ opinions are highly appreciated, there is nothing legally binding that grants members of IAGS any more significance than a standard citizen articulating with a policeman in the street. Although is it supporting a case for democratic innovation, there is not enough legal innovation to push authorities to address an issue if it isn’t in the constabulary’s interest. This is because the police are ultimately a public sector organisation, controlled by the government. Without government support, police authorities would not receive their funding, and could therefore not carry out their duties, resulting in IAGs struggling to be a priority. This would restrict the people’s ability to scrutinise and build trust and confidence in the political process, limiting the necessities of any democratic innovation (Warren 1999 cited in Smith 2009:25).
There is no documented instance in the last two years (2015-2017) reporting the effectiveness of IAGs, and when outcomes are produced, they are not accessible to the wider public. The opportunity for citizens to engage and scrutinise is necessary for the community to have a significant effect on public decisions (Smith 2009:25).
Association of Chief Police Officers. (2011). Independent Advisory Groups. <http://library.college.police.uk/docs/appref/independent-advisory-groups.... [Accessed 8/11/2017]. [BROKEN LINK]
Update: similar information can be found at http://library.college.police.uk/docs/appref/independent-advisory-groups...
Association of Chief Police Officers, Association of Police Authorities and Home Office. (2009).Equality, diversity and human rights strategy for the police service. https://www.cityoflondon.police.uk/about-us/equality-and-diversity/Documents...
College of Policing. (2015). Independent Advisory Groups. <https://www.college.police.uk/What-we-do/Support/Equality/Documents/Independent...[Accessed 8/11/17].
Fishkin, J. (1995). The Voice of the People. London: Yale University Press.
Hampshire Constabulary. (n.d). Independent Advisory Group Members. <http://archive.hampshire.police.uk/internet/about-us/join-us/independent.... [Accessed 8/11/2017].
Update: similar information can be found at https://www.hampshire.police.uk/police-forces/hampshire-constabulary/areas/careers/careers/independent-advisory-groups/
Ipsos MORI. (2017). Public Views of Policing in England and Wales 2016/17. <https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2017-07/public-views-of-policing-2017-hmic.pdf>. [Accessed 8/11/2017].
Pressman, J ,L, and Wildavsky, A. (1979). Implementation. London: University of California Press.
Rollock, N. (2009). The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 10 Years On. [online]. Available at: <https://www.runnymedetrust.org/uploads/publications/pdfs/StephenLawrence...[Accessed 8/11/17].
Smith, G. (2009). Democratic Innovations. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Spokesperson. (2017). Email to Niamh Ward, 23 October.
Workman-Stark, A, L. (2017). Inclusive Policing from the Inside Out. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. Available at: <https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=VnwlDgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&sou.... [Accessed 8/11/2017].