The British policing model traces its lineage through several centuries. A defining moment in its development came in 1829, with the establishment by Sir Robert Peel (then Home Secretary) of the Metropolitan Police (MPS). This 'new police' was established under a core set of 'Peelian Principles , still recognisable and highly cherished in contemporary British policing. Peel's conceptualisation of the 'police mission' being that of crime reduction and preservation of order, delivered by 'citizens in uniform', in a constabulary structure, 'policing by consent' through public support and accountability, established the fundamental characteristics of British policing . The model today can be thought of spanning four conceptual tiers, namely the transnational, national, regional and local.
Inter and intra-tier concerns include governance and accountability, legitimacy, performance, training and professionalism, ways of working (including policing strategies, information sharing and multi-agency collaboration), workforce diversity and skills, criminal intelligence and crime analysis, demand and supply-side management (such as crime reduction and organisational sizing) and operational culture . Tautological it may be that policing is a function of the police. It is however important to recognise and consider the effects of pluralisation and the continued extension of the 'police family' in the context of each tier. In this sense, policing is definitionally nuanced, services being delivered by public, private and third sector organisations in addition to traditional policing 'institutions' .
The transnational operating context of British policing is that of globalisation and global capitalism, free trade, European Union (EU) expansion, the information revolution, transnational crime and terrorism, international conflict, climate change, population mobility and displacement, refugee crisis and economic migration. Nationally, the operating context spans multiculturalism and challenges of social cohesion , the rise of identity politics and secularism and declining relevance of class . Regionally and locally, urban transformation, demographic change and internal migration, austerity, industrial decline , an aging population and straining public services provide a context in which policing is increasingly delivered through multi-agency response.
To help 'constrain and tame' this complexity, the key structures of the British policing model are first sketched, bottom up, from local to regional to national to transnational foci. This sketch is to a level sufficient to identify the key challenges for critical discussion, and is (by intent) not exhaustively descriptive. Having constructed and ascended the multi-tier model and recognising the hegemonic and pervasive nature of globalisation ; critical analysis of the challenges faced from new crime patterns and evolving communities then follow in reverse order (descending from the transnational context back to the local).
Beginning at 'ground level', the British policing model is constructed from a base of 43 constabularies in England and Wales. Each constabulary (typically organised at county or metropolitan level) is horizontally integrated across multiple public and private sector agencies, delivering service to diverse communities. Each constabulary enjoys a high degree of operational independence, overseen by a Chief Constable who in turn is accountable to an elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
Working alongside their PCC, Chief Constables must ensure they have sufficient capacity to deliver locally and as part of an integrated pan-national (and increasingly pluralised) policing response. The Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR) provides a 'frame of reference'. This illustrates the scale of challenge facing Chief Constables, namely the breadth of local policing demands and the 'capability surplus' that must be ready to supply into the national system if called upon. The role of the PCC raises questions about the potential dangers of political interference and the virtues of greater public scrutiny of police performance .
Local policing services are delivered by (predominantly unarmed) sworn officers, Special Constables, Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), private contractors (particularly in back-office and outsourced functions) and a swathe of private sector security personnel. A range of policing strategies are pertinent including Community Oriented Policing (COP), Problem Oriented Policing (POP) and Intelligence Led Policing (ILP) . The extent to which policing strategies are harmoniously and synergistically aligned and 'fit for purpose' within diverse operating contexts must be considered.