People do have free movement from the European Union. A passport would be checked, but once they are here, they have the right of residence.
When it comes to issues of checking out true identities and past offending behavior, we run into problems. There is no European database. We have only just now created a national database for capturing and sharing information.
We have come up with the structure of the Counter Terrorism Network [with] centers based in five forces; we have one here in Manchester, which has specialist units. We do have a fairly good structure where we can make a good connection between international, national and local level police quickly. We think this setup is very important to keep that link.
Our officers are trained to a particular level [insofar as] gathering intelligence and [knowing] what to look out for; in higher risk areas, they receive more training. A particular rural force might not see the need to train in terrorism, but on the whole, the forces have held onto the national standards.
LET: What about general training?
PF: When we develop national policy, we have a national training program behind that. If you want to be a firearms officer or a counter terrorism officer, there is a system of accreditation. We have done a lot of work to achieve national standards and this has been accepted by all the forces.
Our government has issued the strategic policing requirement [that] forces have to maintain a strategic capability—major public disorder, national emergencies, organized crime, firearms, terrorism. It says that you have to play your part in times of national need.
LET: What is the biggest issue facing U.K. police forces?
PF: The key issue for us is around workforce reform. Most of our budget is spent on people and we are facing real challenges. Maintaining the morale of our staff when there are changes to pensions and a pay freeze is a major challenge. Everything we do requires a higher level of expertise; it’s about recognizing that we have to change our pay system to recognize expertise rather than rank.
Many thanks to Sir Peter Fahy for taking the time to talk with LET. Look for more law enforcement personalities in coming issues.
Keith W. Strandberg is an American freelance writer and award-winning screenwriter/producer of feature films living in Switzerland. He was a former contributing editor for LET more than a decade ago and is happy to be back writing for the magazine.