This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Deputy Dawg

There are mounting concerns about the appointment of deputy and assistant Police & Crime Commissioners with accusations of cronyism and the cavalier use of public moneys. This morning, the Times published a story (behind their paywall) about "New police commissioners appoint ‘cronies’ to top jobs". Tempting though it is to get into unpicking each of the decisions that have been made by PCCs and Police & Crime Panels in recent days, I don't think that is a helpful way forward.

I say this, because there now seem to be a legion of people out to make the jobs of PCCs as difficult as possible combined with many commentators who are only now waking up to the fact that these positions exist, and the powers that they have. I am in the 'let's try and make the PCCs as effective as possible' camp since I think that we owe this to the people who depend on the police and crime agencies to do a good job.

Carping on about how poor a governance model this is and how PCC salaries should be paying for constables instead etc. frankly gets us nowhere now. Indeed this activity distracts from proper scrutiny of what the PCCs are doing and achieving with public money. This is where the attention of the concerned critics should lie in my opinion. (For example I wrote to my PCC Anthony Stansfeld ten days ago asking him: "I have been examining all your pledges made during the campaign - to reduce crime and drive up detection rates / to maintain the balance between urban and rural policing / to ensure that the Police budget is targeted effectively / to protect vulnerable people / to ensure the Police act firmly and fairly, using good judgement to deal with the public politely, gaining their respect and acting with integrity.... Please would you inform me when and where you will publish baseline & tracking data for all these pledges so that the Thames Valley voting public may observe your progress towards meeting your pledges over the term of your office." I have not received a reply yet.)

Moreover, I am proud to be one of a small band of people who are actively seeking to support PCCs in their task (both in my own right as an experienced organisational development adviser and through CoPaCC as I have outlined below). In my view, anyone with a concern for what the police and related agencies do, is morally obliged to try and make this model of governance work in order to create a just future, fair for all. There will come a time to examine fully this governance model and probably replace it with something better. But that time is not right now, in my opinion.

But to return to the issue of the Deputy and Assistant PCC positions. Anyone with an ounce of nous knows that the PCC job is huge one and will need a considerable team to make it work. True, some PCCs still think it is a part time job but anyone who really believes in public engagement and real democracy knows they have their work cut out! So the question facing all PCCs (among a whole raft of them...) is "what team structure do I need in order to carry out my role and implement my manifesto commitments properly?" Some PCCs have answered this question swifter than others and time will tell whether the structures they have created will work well or not. (I put up my starter for ten below, some weeks ago.)

But for those who are still ruminating on what structure to have, may I ask this question: what design principles need to underpin your organisational structure? In other words what will the structure need to achieve and be known for in order for it (as a structure) to be judged a success? (This is a similar question that an architect would ask you when designing a new home for you: form follows function...)

In my professional experience, many people when they come to carry out a restructuring or creation of a new structure ignore the 'form follows function' rule that I think works well. Instead they follow the 'form follows folk' rule and create a structure around the people that they want. I hope that PCCs choose to follow the former not the latter approach and construct their 'Office of PCC' structures in a logical, considered and focused way.

Of course my Secret PCC had other matters on his mind....

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