Accountability : a study of police and government in the United Kingdom
For over twenty-five years there has been a debate on the control of the police in the United Kingdom which has increased in intensity such that "law and order" and "police accountablility" have become political issues which have a significant place in party manifestos and conference agenda. During the 1980s severe public disorder occurred in Great Britain, either in the form of alleged racial disturbances provoked by insensitive policing or as a result of "picketing" during the Miners' Strike of 1984/85, both of which resulted in the deployment of large numbers of police using new and expensive techniques. As a result, Chief Constables were seen by some to be both operationally and financially unaccountable to their Police Authorities and political control was thought to be the remedy against arbitrary and largely uncontrollable law enforcement by powerful and unacceptably independent men. On the other hand, examples of irresponsible Police Authorities attempting political manipulation of the police, particularly during the Miners' Strike, were highlighted by those who saw danger in allowing party politics to intrude upon impartial and politically independent policing. Academic examination of the activities of Police Authorities tended to indicate that they had not functioned as satisfactorily as it was envisaged by a Royal Commission Report (Cmnd 1728) of 1962 and the Police Acts 1964 and 1967. Additionally, persistent and unresolved conflict remains between some Chief Constables and their Authorities. An examination of this debate and some suggested remedies has been undertaken. In particular the situation in Northern Ireland has been considered because its peculiar political difficulties have evinced a system of control of the police which may commend itself to the mainland. Also the special position of the Metropolitan Police has been examined. Recommendations for resolving the perceived difficulties are offered in conclusion.