Sir: If the Tories’ reputation on crime lies in the hands of these innovative supercops, then it will be sadly doomed, no matter how enterprising they may be (‘Rise of the supercops’, 5 August). Whether we like to believe it or dismiss it as woolly liberalism, the police and courts have a limited impact upon crime. The reality is that crime is driven by powerful social and economic forces, not the effectiveness of the local constabulary. In a liberal democracy, leaving the police to deal with any complex social problem, particularly one as diverse and intractable as crime, is fraught with danger. The police do have an important role to play but so do many others. This was well understood by New Labour, whose ‘tough on the causes of crime’ approach succeeded in stripping the Conservative party of its law-and-order credentials.
The effective answer is to ensure all of our public agencies, from education to health and local government, work together. The police should ‘bring policing to the table’ (i.e. the basics of arrest, search and patrol) rather than becoming part of an indistinguishable blob committed to ‘public safety’. Bringing these rigid, often self-serving hierarchies together with a sharp and single focus is a lot less appealing to politicians than talking tough and reminiscing about the apparent success of a US police chief more than 30 years ago. It is, however, the only way to manage crime in the long term.
Sir: I was pleased that Katy Balls recognises that we have some first-class chief constables in the north of England. However, their qualities first have to be identified by the police and crime commissioner for the area when he or she appoints them, and they have to be backed up as they take whatever decisions are necessary to get their force out of special measures.