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Single chief will suit island well

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SOMEWHAT drowned out by the uproar over mortgage interest relief, the Home Department last week announced a radical idea of its own.

SOMEWHAT drowned out by the uproar over mortgage interest relief, the Home Department last week announced a radical idea of its own.

A single chief is to run both the police force and the Guernsey Border Agency.

It is a bold step which seeks not only to save a high wage but also improve accountability and strengthen the links between the two law enforcement bodies.

Inevitably, the focus at this stage is on who will end up in the top job, a position of huge importance for the island.

There are two candidates – the current chiefs of the police and the GBA – and both have their supporters.

It would be a pity, however, if personalities were allowed to dominate discussion at this point to the exclusion of debate about what the move will mean for the Bailiwick.

For while it is important who gets the job, in the long term the merging of the two roles itself is of far greater significance, not only for law enforcement but for the States as a whole.

If this is to be the forerunner of a series of such chief officer mergers – as has been indicated – the States has finally shown that it is willing to think and act innovatively and not slavishly follow UK practice.

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One of the advantages of being a small island must be that we can make such bold moves and do what makes sense for our community.

With the right individual in place, capable of handling the twin demands of the two forces, there is the opportunity to run law enforcement in a radical new way tailored to the island's needs.

Backed by a single political body, the new chief can ensure that some of the inevitable rivalries and jealousies where cases cross boundaries between the two organisations do not arise.

He or she can also ensure that best practice wins the day, regardless of whether it stems from the GBA or police.

And the flexibility of having so many officers, with a greater variety of skills, at the new chief's disposal can only help in the ongoing fight against crime.

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