Searchlight Magazine

Lord Wasserman: privatisation guru

Insiders say the bright spark behind the police commissioner idea is Gordon Wasserman.

Recently made a Tory peer, Wasserman, 74, is a government adviser on policing and criminal justice. His influence however goes back to the Thatcher era when he was spotted by politicians as a “one of us” official in the Home Office.

He was actually an economic adviser to the Home Office. Born in Canada, he was educated at McGill University in Montreal before moving to Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship.  He joined the civil service and by 1973 had become the head of the Urban Deprivation Unit dealing with problems in Britain’s inner cities.

In 1981 Wasserman became Assistant Under Secretary of State and director of social policy in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet. He later became the Assistant Under Secretary of State for Police Science and Technology. He took an interesting one-year sabbatical working for the National Council for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense Fund in New York.

2012-10-lord-wassermanAfter leaving the Home Office he returned to North America where he set up private companies to advise on technical and management structures for the Police Commissioners of New York City and Philadelphia, the Chiefs of Police of Miami and a number of other cities, the government of the United States (Department of Justice) and several other national governments. He developed a reputation as an expert in using science and technology in policing.

It is highly likely that he introduced New York police boss Bill Bratton to the Home Office. Last year it emerged that Prime Minister David Cameron was keen on Bratton taking the top job in the Metropolitan Police Service. The move was opposed from all directions, but his name keeps popping up as one of those with an eye on the commercial opportunities resulting from the privatisation of the police and other parts criminal justice system being promoted by Home Secretary Theresa May.

In July 2010 the government announced the abolition of the National Policing Improvement Agency, which among other things ran major national police IT programmes. Last year Theresa May announced plans for a police IT company to assume responsibility for a range of IT-related functions and appointed Wasserman to chair a board to oversee its creation. The company, launched in July 2012, is currently jointly owned by the Association of Police Authorities and the Home Office but will be handed over to the police and crime commissioners following their election in November.

Members of both government and opposition in parliament were shocked when remuneration of £500,000 a year was mentioned for the person who gets the job of heading the new company. When it was pointed out that this was more than three times the Prime Minister’s salary, the weak response was that it included bonuses.

Wasserman’s performances in the policing debates in the Lords and in private meetings leave an impression of a bad tempered and slightly strange man.

© 2013 Searchlight Magazine Ltd, PO Box 1576, Ilford IG5 0NG

Top Desktop version