Bringing in private companies to reform police services will “improve morale” among officers, the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police has claimed.
Chf Const Chris Sims told a committee of MPs that pay cuts and criticism from politicians and the media has left the rank and file feeling under siege.
And he told MPs the force was set to sign a deal with private sector partners to support its work – and that this would improve working conditions for officers – and overall morale.
Earlier plans for a wide-ranging public sector partnership were scrapped following widespread opposition.
The force had considered working with businesses such as security firm G4S and outsourcing specialists Capita, with Mr Sims suggesting their role could stretch to securing crime scenes or analysing CCTV footage.
But these proposals, backed by the Home Office, were rejected by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones, a former Labour councillor, when he was elected in 2012.
However, the force has continued to work on less radical options including bringing in a private sector “innovation and integration partner” to provide technology, and is currently in talks with Accenture and KPMG.
The firm chosen will also help the force develop ways of providing services when funding is being cut, according to West Midlands Police.
Mr Sims told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee that morale among officers was falling.
He said: “I think there are two things behind the morale issue. One is that pay and conditions have been eroded, as they have bene in other parts of the public services, and people at the front end can see no end to that process.
“The second is unsurprisingly, if you turn the television on night after night after night and there are issues critical of policing at every level then that does have an impact on the way people view the value that others place on their occupation.”
He added: “We want to take forward real police reform. Not the politics of landscape change or governance. We want to actually change the way policing works.
“We are at the latter stages of a procurement process to enter into a partnership with the private sector.
“The first stage of that work will begin in May. It is designed to change the operating model of policing, to uplift the technology available to officers, to change the way we work with the community. This should help to improve morale.”
“I can’t talk to pay levels. I can’t really combat the tide of what I will say is political criticism but I do think where we can collectively work together is to move forward the way that we operate.”
Earlier in the hearing Mr Sims said he planned to apologise to Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative MP for Birmingham Sutton Coldfield, who was forced to resign from his Cabinet job after he was accused of abusing police officers as left Downing Street. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating claims that three officers, including one employed by West Midlands Police, gave a misleading account of a meeting with Mr Mitchell shortly after the reports of the incident emerged.
Mr Sims said: “I haven’t met Mr Mitchell yet. I had an appointment with him that Mr Mitchell was unable to fulfil. I spoke to him on the phone and I am due to meet him in about three weeks time.”
However Commissioner Bob Jones, who was also giving evidence to the inquiry, said he would not be apologising.
Mr Jones also repeated his call for his own £100,000 salary to be cut. He said he should be paid the same as an MP, around £65,000. The Commissioner was a “figurehead” and he actually had more responsibilities when he was a senior councillor on Wolverhampton City Council, he said.
Mr Jones said: “The actual decision making is fairly limited... the urgent quick decisions are those of the Chief Constable.”