SIR Ian Blair, the Commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, has not had an easy time since he took over the job last year and this week in the BBC's Richard Dimbleby memorial lecture he sought to share his problems with the public, asking in effect, What kind of a police service do you want? The public's first reaction will probably be of amazement and pleasure that they should be asked at all but on reflection they may wonder how they can possibly answer the question without being given a great deal more information than they have at present about the responsibilities and resources of the existing police services and the relationship between the police and the government. Does Sir Ian want the public to say which crimes they most want pursuing or which type of policing they prefer? Will they, for instance, have the chance of saying that noisy neighbours, public aggression and other forms of antisocial behaviour are more important than the petty pursuit of minor motoring offences? Or has Sir Ian in mind wider issues such as the merging of some existing forces and the need for far greater cooperation between different specialisations within the police service and relevant external organisations? The most difficult issue that Sir Ian has had to face since he took office is the shooting by police of the innocent Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell underground station in July. The result of the inquiry into this incident is still awaited but in the meantime many people have been astonished that the police have been operating a “shoot to kill ” policy for some time without any public or parliamentary approval. Is Sir Ian interested in open discussion of such policies before they are put into practice? There has been a huge increase in the amount and kinds of services required of the police in Britain and Sir Ian is right to think that further demands should bear some relationship to what the public perceive to be the main role of the police. However, if his initiative this week is not to be seen merely as a public relations gesture, it will have to be followed up by intensive consultation with organisations representative of the public interest, with the media and, of course, with parliament.


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