The extent to which our various police services are able to cooperate and remain flexible depends on the idea that each of the 41 forces is largely autonomous but also that they are instructed to cooperate with one another using terms such as mutual aid. However one would expect and perhaps demand that the national picture of resources and capacity is being overseen by the Home Office with a view to ensure that the individual decisions are effective and indeed that the best practice is understood by the Government on behalf of those of us who pay the bills. However any hope of this seems to have been dashed, not just for me but for a man who used to head up the Metropolitan Police, Paul Condon. As a member of the House of Lords, Lord Condon asked a written question on 8th June:
The question was answered on behalf of the Government by Lord Ahmad who is described as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Countering Extremism) which must be one of the longest job titles available. His response was: The Home Office does not collect this information. Decisions on the local deployment of assets and resources, including marine units, are for individual chief constables working with their police and crime commissioner.
The idea that our national capability in terms of such a strategic resource is entirely dependent on the judgement of individual Chief Constables and the Police and Crime Commissioners whose accountability is local in nature is very disturbing. Clearly water based and marine policing does not take place in a vacuum. The role of the coastguard and the Royal Navy, along with other agencies such as the RNLI and coastwatch and even agencies such as Street Pastors all have a bearing on some of the elements that will be a factor in how our coastline is policed, such as potential suicides, boating theft and other maritime crime. However if the Home Office is not gathering information, why not? they are after all responsible for border controls as well as policing.