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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

We have a problem, Houston...

This morning, I was pointed to a rather nasty and crass article by Richard Littlejohn: Stranded on the road to nowhere in which he (briefly) notes the tragedy for the people who died or who were involved  in the tragic car crash on the M6 on Christmas Day. But then goes onto say "We all appreciate that in the event of a fatal accident the emergency services must be given room to do their job. But patience begins to wear gossamer thin when the road remains closed for hours on end for no good reason."

Thus begins what can only be described as fatuous rant against the police, fire and highways agency officers (and possibly others who were there too) who attended the incident and performed a very difficult but professional job.

This article was published on the 27 December, before the dead had even been buried. 

I struggle to find the words to describe how appalled I am by this article. @NathanConstable has written a fine and restrained blog about the article and I commend his piece to you. It is measured and factual, explaining probably what happened and just why the road had to be closed for so long.

In truth, I expect very little from Richard Littlejohn. But this article sinks lower than many other pieces I have read of his. To repeat, this article was written and published before the two small children and their Auntie had even been buried. I know this because a friend of mine went to the funeral yesterday. (My friend is a thoroughly decent public servant who, without even questioning I am sure, has given up much of his Christmas holiday to be with the family.)

But what worries me even more, are the comments left on the article's website by members of the public. Here are the two which received the highest numbers of positive ratings:
Good article as usual Rich, we are all fed up with the self importance of these public servants closing down motorways unnecessarily for hours on end. (+rating of 863)
So true, the police are coining the overtime while strutting about like pipsqueak Mussolinis. No wonder they've lost the support of decent people who see this but zero action on real crime (+rating of 514)
And here are two which received the highest numbers of negative ratings:
Does anyone really think the police and other services wanted to be there on Christmas Day? Especially when fatalities happened! I strongly suspect they wanted to be at home eating turkey with their families, like most of us. They all do an amazing job and are very brave. DM - don't write about this rubbish again please! (-rating of 456)
What a vile piece of writing.... No compassion at all ....shut up (-rating of 421)

I really cannot believe somebody is using a fatal road traffic accident to have yet another stab at the Police. Do you know how Accident Investigation works? If it were members of your family involved, would you not be asking the Police questions, like how fast was the car going, was it driver error, what other evidence do they have for the reason for the crash? Was there a problem with the car? Alot of these things have to be done before the vehicle is moved. You'd all be quick enough to jump, and criticise them, if they were unable to give you the answers. It takes time to investigate an accident, if you were late for your Christmas Dinner, so what, at least you got there (-rating of 283)
What does this say about our society that such comments receive the positive and negative ratings that they did. We have a problem, Houston... if public feel this way about the police and fellow emergency services.

I look forward to strong and positive leadership from the PCCs involved (that would be the Thames Valley and Staffordshire ones) declaring their sincere condolences to the family involved and asserting the valuable, professional and difficult jobs that the police and partners do. (There is nothing as yet on the Thames Valley PCC site nor on the Staffordshire site yet either.)

But all of us have a responsibility, I believe. We can all explain to our family, friends and colleagues about the complex and difficult tasks faced by public servants almost everyday of the week. I hope this blog adds to that.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Who sets the priorities... really?

I have been doing some research into the controversial story about the RSPCA and the hunting conviction this morning. It seems as if the Crown Prosecution Service were given all the diligently collected evidence but chose not to prosecute (resources.. priorities… politics…?) As a consequence the RSPCA pursued a private prosecution against members of the Heythrop Hunt who were convicted a few days ago. I imagine that the RSPCA assumed they would be awarded costs, but the judge decided not to:

Judge Pattinson said: “It is not for me to express an opinion...” before swiftly doing so. “But I do find it to be a quite staggering figure.” He also suggested that “members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed”. (Link here)

Some (pro hunting, I believe) MPs are now seeking a review by the Charity Commission as to whether charity rules were broken by the RSPCA. (Link here) Other aspects of the story can be found here, here and here.

For me it all comes down to priorities: both within the RSPCA and the criminal justice system (CPS & Police). Who is it that finally decides where scarce resources should be spent, and then who is responsible for the consequences…? (For your information, the RSPCA had an annual income of £116m for the year ending in 2011)

It is no surprise that this story is being hotly debated on many blogs. On the one hand the law was being broken and therefore the CPS should have pursued a prosecution. On the other hand, the CPS (and the police) have limited resources and probably prioritise crimes against people more than crimes against animals. It is probably far more complex than that of course. But in the space left by the decision not to mount a public prosecution, the RSPCA stepped into bring a private prosecution instead. Were they right to do so?

It will be interesting to see what now happens. In my experience the pro-animal campaigners are a very tenacious bunch and I would imagine complaints about the District Judge have already been submitted, alongside complaints about the RSPCA being submitted by a cross party group of MPs…

And then in amongst all this, where does the PCC sit? This issue was briefly raised during the election campaign when one candidate said that she would be asking her Chief Constable not to spend resources on policing badger culls as that would not be a priority if she were elected. But is that a strategic matter or an operational one? Is this a matter of professional judgement or political calculation? Ethics or accountancy?

I watch with interest!

(For the record, as a vegetarian, I am naturally against all blood sports and I believe the law banning fox hunting should be upheld. However this matter has more far reaching consequences in my opinion.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What does a victim centric criminal justice system look like?

I have been mulling this morning on this question - which I also tweeted:

I had no responses. I have just posted it again and at the time of writing, one other tweeter has got back to me. I will post an analysis of what other responses I get later on.

Meanwhile, I have been doing some research:

There is the The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (produced by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform in 2005). There is this web guide to reporting crimes and getting compensation with links to other helpful sites (produced by DirectGov). There is also this Victims Charter and guide to the criminal justice system from the Republic of Ireland (produced by their Victims of Crime Office). There may be other documents too.

There are also the Five Promises to Victims and Witnesses that Victim Support has asked all elected PCC's to sign. So far most, but not all, PCCs have signed up to these promises.

All PCCs have had to swear an oath of office which I have reprinted below, with added highlight:
I [name] do hereby declare that I accept the office of Police and Crime Commissioner for [police area]. In making this declaration, I solemnly and sincerely promise that during my term of office:
  • I will serve all the people of [police area] in the office of Police and Crime Commissioner.
  • I will act with integrity and diligence in my role and, to the best of my ability, will execute the duties of my office to ensure that the police are able to cut crime and protect the public.
  • I will give a voice to the public, especially victims of crime, and work with other services to ensure the safety of the community and effective criminal justice.
  • I will take all steps within my power to ensure transparency of my decisions, so that I may be properly held to account by the public.
  • I will not interfere with the operational independence of police officers.
What would help me, and perhaps others too, is for there to be an easy way to compare one PCC / CJS area with another. Perhaps if we had something like this...?

This needs work naturally, not least that I am sure there are not the correct set of parameters and of course all the boxes are empty. If you would like to work with me on refining this tool, I have uploaded a copy to my Google Drive with the link to access it here. (You will be able to read it more easily there.) And if you want to co-draft this, then please email me and we can start a dialogue.

So back to my question:

What does a victim centric CJS look like?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The policing landscape: gaps and overlaps?

Once upon a time, I suppose, everyone knew where they were. We had ACPO, the Home Office and the APA (the old 'tripartite' system) which worked in tandem with the HMIC, the IPCC, SOCA and the NPIA.

This landscape is now in a state of considerable flux with the advent of Police & Crime Commissioners, the College of Policing, the emergent National Crime Agency, the Police ICT NewCo and the fact that quite a large number of police chief officers are moving on to new pastures. (See this Police Oracle report for some helpful information.)

Some people would say that the developing landscape looks messy, incoherent, lacking in vision and without a clear strategy for the governance and proper coordination of significant national policing resources, but I could not possibly comment.

However, I would ask which people and organisations are seeking to take an overview and working out where there might be gaps and overlaps? I fear that there are a number of alternative models of the future in existence, which may not be compatible. Whilst bilateral discussions are no doubt under way and each 'hill' in this landscape is seeking to determine its place in the future, there may be the absence of a joined up plan...

I will be happy to be told that there is a joined up plan and moreover there will seamless liaison with agencies operating under the Ministry of Justice. But I fear that all the interested parties are not all talking with each other.

Perhaps now would be a time to do that?

And even perhaps now would be a time to get everyone in a single room to negotiate it all together in one big conversation? (I would be very happy to be a fly on the wall - if not design a process for such a conversation to happen...)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Scrutiny with teeth?

Amidst all the concerns about PCCs appointing their mates to various deputy and interim positions, several people have raised questions about how much power the PCCs have. The Government's belief (as I understand it) is that the Police and Crime Panels will hold the PCC to account and be a public check on their power.

Below are the replies I have now received from the Thames Valley PCP in answer to my questions I posed them a few days ago. As you read through their answers... decide for yourself: is this a PCP with teeth that will be fearlessly challenge the PCC and the decisions he makes... or not?

1. How important is it to you that the PCP holds PCC Stansfeld to account for achieving the pledges on which he based his campaign?
The focus of the Panel is the fulfilment of its statutory duties. The Panel will have regard to the Commissioner’s election pledges whilst fulfilling those duties. 

2. If it is important, how will you be doing this, specifically, pledge by pledge?
Through question and answer sessions with the Commissioner in the Panel’s scheduled public meetings. 

3. From your perspective are matters relating to the deployment of police resources (temporarily or over a longer term) a matter for the Chief Constable’s operational discretion (informed by evidence and data no doubt) or is this a matter for the PCC? (PCC Stansfeld’s email seems to me to be saying both…)
This is a matter for the Commissioner and Chief Constable, the roles of whom are defined in the legislation.

4. Currently Thames Valley Police use a Resource Allocation Formula based upon Population 30%, Recorded Crime 35% and Incidents (excluding Crime and Admin) 35% (a matter I have blogged about in the past). Do you foresee the PCC having any authority over altering the nature of the existing formula?
Please refer to the response to your third question. 

5. If (say) Aylesbury Vale experienced an unforeseen and dramatic rise in rural crime (such as the rising incidence of the theft of agricultural vehicles), would you expect the PCC to react to this by asking the Chief Constable to allocate extra police officers and staff towards tackling this?
Again, please refer to the response to your third question; although regardless of what was agreed between the PCC and Chief Constable in respect to the deployment of resources, the Panel would take an interest in the Commissioner’s response to any situation that may require a temporary or permanent revision to the Police & Crime Plan.

6. As most of the PCP are councillors, do you see yourself as a body composed mostly of ‘political activists’?
The elected members of the Panel are appointed by their respective local authorities to the Panel, a body with specific statutory functions.

7. What view do you have of PCC Stansfeld’s last couple of sentences where he seems to me to say that he believes his only line of scrutiny is to the PCP and that I (as a resident, town councillor and member of a political party) am only entitled to ask him questions relating to ‘personal’ issues?
This is a matter you should pursue with PCC Stansfeld.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The end of the story?

Regular readers will know that all the while through his campaign, I raised many questions about Anthony Stansfeld's interests. Various public documents were not consistent with each other and indeed his public statements often gave further variations.

All the information I uncovered can be found here and with my last substantive blog posted just before the election in November here.

But now that Mr Stansfeld is the elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, he has published what I presume is, the definitive guide to his various interests. You can find the document here. You will note that most of the answers given by PCC Stansfeld are 'none'.

So it would seem that he has no interests any more in the businesses that he has attached to his name to in the past.

So, is that the end of the story?

Truth, leadership and PCC teams

As a leadership development adviser, I maintain a continuing interest in Machiavelli as I think he has had something of a bad press over the last few hundred years. People who are inclined to regard him as a proponent of scheming and unethical leadership have often not read his original text. If you have not read "The Prince", I recommend that you do. (I read George Bull's 1961 Penguin translation several years ago.)

Why am I mentioning this? In the last few days my mind drifted towards his advice to leaders on selecting advisers (aka deputies and assistant police and crime commissioners) and I dug out my other blog post about this:
‘A prince must therefore always seek advice… he must always be a constant questioner, and he must listen patiently to the truth regarding what he has inquired about’
I knew a Chief Executive once who was so ‘pleased’ with the results of a staff survey he had commissioned that he had the resulting report copies and all the questionnaires shredded.
  • Do you have people around you who tell you the truth? 
  • How do you know?
  • If the truth is not what you want to hear – how do you react?
  • How does your leadership inspire truth?
And on holding back the truth
‘…moreover if he finds that anyone for some reason holds the truth back he must show his wrath’
  • Within your team – what do you do to ensure full and frank discussions?
  • How do you make it clear to them that you need the truth?
My contention then and now, is that the best leaders have people around them whom they can trust to tell them the truth about what is happening and indeed them challenge them. If leaders surround themselves with 'yes' men & women, who are dependent upon their patronage, they are likely to be missing huge opportunities for the development of robust strategy.

These are very early days for PCCs and there is much water to flow under their bridges before the next election in May 2016. Three questions stand out for me:

How many PCCs will exercise the kind of 'truth seeking' leadership being described by Machiavelli above?

How effective will Police & Crime Panels be in providing 'truthful' feedback to their PCC?

If the answer to the above question is 'not very', will other networks be needed in order to hold PCCs to account for their promises to make substantive improvements in crime reduction and community safety?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Is the PCC solely accountable to the PCP?

This morning, I penned an email to the members of my local police and crime panel. I thought you might be interested to see what I have asked them:
Dear Member of the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel
Yesterday, I received an unexpected email from PCC Stansfeld as a second reply to an inquiry I sent him a couple of weeks ago. (I have blogged my original question and his answer here and here fyi). As his latest email to me mentions the PCP, I am sending it to you for information and with some follow up questions for you: 
Dear Mr Harvey,
It is difficult to produce a baseline value for the current balance between rural and urban policing. The main reason is that most Local Police Areas (LPAs) have both an urban and a rural element. West Berkshire for instance is a large rural area that includes Newbury and the western outskirts of Reading. It is only the major towns and cities that are essentially urban e.g. Reading, Slough and Oxford.
What I do not intend to do is alter in any significant way the existing balance of police numbers in the LPAs, nor would I expect to ask for this as it is essentially an operational matter.
I do not intend to enter into what will be a political dialogue with you as you are a party activist. The Police and Crime Panel will be scrutinising how effective I am in achieving my pledges. If you have a personal issue on policing I will be delighted to reply. 
Kind regards
Anthony Stansfeld | Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley 
As you know, PCC Stansfeld made a specific pledge concerning the balance between urban and rural policing in his winning manifesto. He also pledged “to ensure that the Police budget is targeted effectively”. All this prompts me to ask you a series of questions.
  1. How important is it to you that the PCP holds PCC Stansfeld to account for achieving the pledges on which he based his campaign?
  2. If it is important, how will you be doing this, specifically, pledge by pledge?
  3. From your perspective are matters relating to the deployment of police resources (temporarily or over a longer term) a matter for the Chief Constable’s operational discretion (informed by evidence and data no doubt) or is this a matter for the PCC? (PCC Stansfeld’s email seems to me to be saying both…)
  4. Currently Thames Valley Police use a Resource Allocation Formula based upon Population 30%, Recorded Crime 35% and Incidents (excluding Crime and Admin) 35% (a matter I have blogged about in the past). Do you foresee the PCC having any authority over altering the nature of the existing formula?
  5. If (say) Aylesbury Vale experienced an unforeseen and dramatic rise in rural crime (such as the rising incidence of the theft of agricultural vehicles), would you expect the PCC to react to this by asking the Chief Constable to allocate extra police officers and staff towards tackling this?
  6. As most of the PCP are councillors, do you see yourself as a body composed mostly of ‘political activists’? 
  7. What view do you have of PCC Stansfeld’s last couple of sentences where he seems to me to say that he believes his only line of scrutiny is to the PCP and that I (as a resident, town councillor and member of a political party) am only entitled to ask him questions relating to ‘personal’ issues?
I look forward to your replies. Thank you.
Very best wishes and seasonal greetings
NB Not circulated: Terry Burke or Rajinder Sohpal as I can find no contact details for them. I would be grateful if this email could be forwarded to both of them. (Also Cllr David Carroll not circulated as I presume, as appointed Deputy PCC, he is no longer a member of the Panel)
I now await their replies.

Odd how there is no way of contacting the two independent members. Indeed the site listing all the people on the panel has rather a lot of addresses not supplied. Hopefully this will change as the panel shifts up a gear in coming months.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The ordinary people test

These are exceptionally busy days for the new Police & Crime Commissioners.

No matter how experienced they were in their previous roles, I am imagine they are all on a very steep learning curve. Moreover, there will be a legion of people wanting some of their time in order to start building long term relationships of trust and mutual influence. Added to this will be the fast moving conveyor belts taking them towards producing their budgets, precept proposals and policing plans (and the conveyor belts may not be all heading in the same direction let alone towards the manifesto pledges on which they were elected).

If I were a PCC, I would imagine that I could well feel as if my time were not my own any more.

Nonetheless, I would like to ask all PCCs a question: how many conversations have you had in the last two weeks or so with 'ordinary' people? By ordinary I exclude anyone holding an official position as officer or member relating to your task as PCC. By ordinary I include a real live victim of crime, or a person from residents' association, or a parent of young person mixed up in crime, or a student who is afraid to walk to college etc.

How many conversations?

And how will you continue to have these conversations, if not many more of them, as you get ever deeper into the small 'p' politics of your job? Have you arranged a schedule of surgeries in the localities that you now look after? How are you going to find out what the 'ordinary' people who elected you, want, hope and need from the police services and crime agencies that you now oversee?

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....

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In an ideal world...

In an ideal world we would not need the police.

People would spontaneously and happily regulate themselves, only acting in the best interests of themselves and all those around them. If conflicts occurred at all, people would sit down over a cup of tea, listen to each other and find a reasonable solution that all parties could live with if not totally support. People would not abuse those who were vulnerable, they would not steal, be violent to others or commit fraud... and when they got drunk, they would simply tell good jokes and go somewhere quiet to sleep off the alcohol. All drivers would stick to the speed limits, leave sufficient stopping distance between themselves and the vehicles in front and generally be courteous and tolerant road users.

In an ideal world...

Newspapers would report the news fairly and without bias... and offer a range of opinions to help readers make up their own minds. The interests of the proprietors would be secondary to a focus on finding the truth about hypocrisy, corruption, fraud and sneaky behaviour by those who have power or influence. Newspapers would challenge people to think about ethics and the hard choices we face as a society, as well as entertaining people with witty, charming, insightful and beautiful articles. Phones would not be hacked, grieving families would not be doorstepped aggressively and salacious or grubby stories would not be leaked to the press by public servants, unless there was a real concern for the public interest.

In an ideal world...

Self regulation would work and the Press Complaints Council or variations on that theme would be enough.

But sadly, we do not live in an ideal world so we need the police and we now need a "robust independent self-regulation of the press of a kind that has not been provided or suggested by the industry up to now".

To go on: "Liberty is in complete agreement with the Judge's view of the necessary characteristics of such a body whose board must be independent of current editors, owners and politicians. It must set and promote ethical standards, handle complaints and crucially offer a swift and cheap alternative to court action for members of the public whose rights (e.g. privacy and reputation) have been violated. No statute is needed to create such a body and editors and proprietors should take the Leveson characteristics and seek to build one without delay." (Full text here)

Let us ensure that the Leveson Report is fully implemented - because we do not live in an ideal world - as some newspapers have made abundantly clear. You can sign the Hacked Off petition here:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Digital democracy & community engagement

Yesterday I was alerted to a new report written by Public-i about how PCCs have the opportunity to grab with both hands the possibilities of social media and Web 2.0 to tap into the needs / wishes / wants of the communities they serve. (The report was commissioned by the APCC and published by them here in full). I have only read the summary of the report, but I commend the whole report to you.

Without doubt, in my opinion, the boldest and the best PCCs will be actively seeking ways of reaching out to their hundreds of thousands (and millions in some cases) of constituents to listen to what they think are the key policing priorities, among other communication objectives. In other words they will be seeking to build dialogues with their communities. There will be PCCs who will only be seeing the web as a means to transmit messages and thus missing huge opportunities to engage and learn. (I hope there will be no PCCs who will ignore the web altogether...)

But also, let us not forget, that PCCs will still need to be out there and meeting people in the flesh. How they meet people will be critical to the success of these new positions, in my opinion...

Yesterday I attended a meeting which was billed as a consultation. Many people (approximately 80 I reckon) had given up their own time to be there: to listen, learn and be listened to. A good array of sandwiches was put on and then at about 12.30, the chair of the event announced the start of the event.

We were then talked at for over 80 minutes solid, leaving less than 10 minutes (within the formal allocated time) for 'Q&A'. I was not the only one who a) highlighted that this was not a consultation meeting and b) it was a real & palpable lost opportunity. (I am being oblique here as I do not wish to name the organisation in question. But essentially a way forward was being described and the very people who could help with the implementation of that strategy were in the room but were not given the chance to offer their ideas.)

I was immensely frustrated! As were many others, I believe.

How many other meetings or events or conferences are just like this one? We are in the middle of a severe economic crisis in the UK and beyond into the world. If I am being bold, I regard it as immoral that meetings can still be organised to tackle some aspect of this crisis but the process of the meeting inhibits full debate, suppresses creativity and/or fails to harness the brainpower, expertise & commitment in the room. It is quite simply wrong, dammit!

Now I do not accuse the conveners of these meetings to be so wrapped up in their power & egos that they are malevolently constructing meetings to force their views of the world on to other people.

Instead I prefer to consider that people just do not know that there are a 1000+ ways to make meetings more productive for all concerned. However, they just slip into the usual way of doing things, usually with good intent. But we all know that if you always do what you have always done you will always get what you have always got...

And so I appeal again (yes I have written about this before - here for example), please if you are convening a meeting of any kind... if you think that:
  • the world is a scary, complex and fast changing place that needs new ways of organising / allowing more of the 'right' things to happen...
  • most meetings, events and conferences set up to find those 'right' things and take them forward just don't do it very well...
  • somebody's 'platform power' often means that many others lose power and voice, but that it doesn't have to be this way..
  • there is often so much attention paid to inputs/outputs that lasting outcomes (and the imagination to take us there) hardly get a look in...
  • you would like to find out more: learn, share and support other people who think like you....
... then contact me or a 1000 other good facilitators around the world who can help you make a real difference to your meetings. Please!

I sincerely hope that PCCs will use their power to ensure that the public engagement meetings that they are involved with are full of innovation, conversation and, indeed, palpitation! Good meetings excite people with dynamic ideas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Yesterday, saw the first meeting between the 41 PCCs and the Home Office team of ministers and civil servants. The tweets from some of the people involved revealed a packed and interesting meeting, I wish I had been a fly on the wall!


In response to Sue Mountstevens' question, my father once won a local TV competition for suggesting collective nouns. As a headteacher himself, he won with a 'roll of heads'... So in the family tradition, may I propose 

A whirlwind of PCCs

  • That is probably how is feels right now for the PCCs, their Chief Constables and the Home Office...
  • It is the hope that PCCs will bring a breath of fresh (and swirling?) air to public engagement with police priorities and new levels of accountability
  • And that somewhere 'over the rainbow' is even more community safety, less crime and fear of crime...

Or do you have a better collective noun for PCCs? If so, please share below. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Balancing rural and urban policing

I have had a reply back from PCC Stansfeld regarding my question about his pledge on maintaining the balance between urban and rural policing. Here it is:
Dear Mr Harvey
I intend to keep the present balance of police numbers between Local Police Areas (LPAs) unchanged.  It is not possible to give the baseline breakdown between urban and rural areas as many LPAs have both rural and urban areas within them.  For instance West Berkshire is essentially small towns and rural areas, yet it contains the western urban areas of Reading.  Milton Keynes again is both rural and urban, as is Buckinghamshire.
What I don’t envisage is moving numbers of Police between LPAs , either from or into, more rural or urban areas.
Anthony Stansfeld | Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley 
Now of course, this raises lots of interesting questions:
  1. Is it for the PCC to decide on the numbers of police officers deployed around their area? 
  2. Might the Chief Constable have a view that this is an operational matter?
  3. If it not possible to give a baseline breakdown between urban and rural areas, how will he assert that this pledge has (or has not) been kept come 2016?
  4. There are 14 local police areas in Thames Valley which could probably all be described as containing both urban and rural zones although the mix would vary. Is he really saying that he does not foresee any movement between these LPAs in the next 3.5 years, even if crime rates vary differentially?
I shall watch how this all plays out. Interesting.

Impartiality and PCCs

The election is over. The PCCs have begun work. They have all sworn an oath of impartiality. So does that mean we can now leave politics aside until 2016?

In my view: yes and no.

There are many people (including about a 1/3 of the PCCs) who believe that party politics (if not politics in general) has nothing to do with the governance of policing. I have argued here and elsewhere over the last few months that policing strategy and governance has always been, and will always be, political. When decisions are being taken about the deployment of scarce resources (for example), those decisions cannot be anything but political, in my opinion. Choices over priorities will have to be made and these are influenced by politics and values. I do not think PCCs will be influenced in a crude way in that they will merely be seeking to favour their core support: politics is more subtle than that. But PCCs will be employing sets of principles and values to determine their approach to budgeting the police and crime monies, whether these are explicit or not.

Moreover, one of the more interesting hustings discussions that happened during the campaign here in Thames Valley (and one that I have only heard & read about) was about whether police should be routinely armed with tasers or not. This was a political and ethical discussion but I am not sure how much it interacted with party politics per se. There were other debates elsewhere about whether police resources should be used to protect farmers culling badgers. Everyone reading this will surely know just how political animal ‘management’ politics can get… And all this hinges upon the dividing line between what is strategic and what is operational, naturally.

Given that PCCs will be have to be functioning on the national stage as well and relating to government (see for example PCC Bob Jones’ letter to the Chancellor) one can easily see how PCCs individually and collectively will have to be political.

So, no, politics cannot be left aside until 2016. But also yes: now is the time to be non-partisan. PCCs and those working with them now need to leave aside the electioneering contest behaviours and get on with the serious job of making a difference to their local communities.

Shrewd observers of my blog will have noticed that I have removed the obvious emblems of my Labour party membership. Please do not be confused, I still act as a Labour town councillor (there are eight of us on Buckingham Town Council out of a total of 17 councillors) and I will be actively campaigning for Labour values and election victories in the future. But now is the time to put aside party political differences (as I have always done in my work with the police service and other public agencies) and get on with the business of stimulating, supporting, assisting, nudging and occasionally prodding PCCs to make lasting improvements to policing, crime reduction and community safety for the benefit of us all.

This is a time for collegiate and collective action based on evidence based practice, transparency, accountability and a robust passion for a better criminal justice system. In other words, a just future: fair for all.

And this is why the Confederation of Police & Crime Commissioners has the potential ably to assist PCCs. We are people from across the political spectrum (and none) who acknowledge our differences but are committed to working together in support of PCCs and the whole new governance structure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Confederation of Police and Crime Commissioners

Some of you will have noticed that my name has now appeared on another site: the CoPaCC team. As the main part of the website makes clear: the purpose of CoPaCC is to offer a fresh alternative for Police and Crime Commissioners seeking to be stronger together.

The existence of CoPaCC raises a number of questions, not least: why do PCCs need an 'alternative'? Sam Chapman on his Top of the Cops blog has added his contribution to answering this question. I feel I should add mine now, to add to the conversations that I know are happening both on and offline about CoPaCC.

Sam makes a persuasive case, as does of course the home site. To the points already made, I would add:

I have worked in and around the Association of Police Authorities (the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners is the successor body) since it began. Indeed, I facilitated their first three annual away days back in the mid nineties, for example. I have a great deal of respect for the work they have done and the staff (past and present) have served police authorities well. Evidently, the 'new' organisation has invested in a number of informative and well written briefing papers for the incoming PCCs. And so my involvement in CoPaCC includes a substantial appreciation of the work done to date by the APA/APCC.

However (there was always going to be a 'however'), it is my view that the body of PCCs now elected will need a very different entity from the past to service their representation, coordination and collaboration needs. This is not just about numbers of people (we have gone from around 700 authority members to just 41 PCCs) it is also about the nature of the governance role. PCCs will operate very differently to the erstwhile police authority chairs at both Chief Constable level and with national bodies and governance structures. Just how and in what way differently will be emergent, of course. The questions are, has the APCC adapted enough so far and does it have the capability to adapt further as PCCs find their feet? How likely is it that it will seek to mould PCCs' requirements around what it is accustomed to doing rather than starting with a blank slate? Is it more or less helpful to PCCs for them to have a ready made association or a body that seeks to start where they are at? Will it serve this new policing and crime governance model well to use existing 'grooves' or chisel out new ones?

I do not know the answers to any of these questions. But I do know that it is valuable to offer PCCs a choice. Many, most or even all PCCs may well choose the APCC as the body to take forward their needs for national representation, good practice sharing, resource pooling, coordination and collaboration (etc.) And some, many, most or even all may elect to ask CoPaCC to carry out this work on their behalf. Either way, it will be a choice, which can only strengthen the body (or bodies because we may end up with two) chosen.

With all this in mind, I responded positively to the request to be involved in making CoPaCC a success. By participating  I also wanted to help ensure that the new organisation represented a broad church not only professionally but also politicly in the hope that all the elected PCCs would see the organisation as one that could meet their professional requirements and resonate with their political values, whatever those were.

As a final point here, I would say that I wanted to be part of something new and progressive. Regular readers will know that I remain concerned about the PCC governance model and how it will work out in practice. However, given the opportunity to be involved in helping PCCs make the most of their new role and ensure that communities become and feel safer, I could only answer yes.

What do you think?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Local accountability?

Anthony Stansfeld was elected PCC for Thames Valley on a number of manifesto pledges. One of these pledges was:
If elected as the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony pledges:
- To maintain the balance between urban and rural policing.
When PCC Stansfeld made this pledge I wrote to Thames Valley Police to ask them (under FoI) what is the 'current' balance between urban and rural policing. I received their response back today:
This request is refused under Section 12(1) of the FOIA. Please see below for further detail.
And they go on to say (with my added highlights):
Section 12(1) of the Freedom of Information Act allows that public authorities do not have to comply with Section 1(1) of the Act if the cost of complying would exceed the appropriate limit.  It is Thames Valley Police general policy that should a request for information exceed the appropriate level then we will exercise our legal right not to respond but cases will be assessed individually to consider the implications. In this instance, Thames Valley Police does not record this data in a centralised format and would need to review a significant amount of records with reference to the resourcing of each officer to retrieve it It should be noted that this letter acts as a Refusal Notice under the Freedom of Information Act. 
So as of now, it is impossible to hold PCC Stansfeld to account for one of his five campaign pledges. I have just written to PCC Stansfeld for his response:
Dear PCC Stansfeld
Congratulations on being elected PCC for Thames Valley.
During your campaign, you made a pledge (number two of five: that you would ‘maintain the balance between urban and rural policing’. When this pledge was published, I wrote to Thames Valley Police asking them for a baseline value for the current balance. I received this reply (below) from them today, essentially saying that it would take too many resources to give me the actual figure.
Therefore, as you are now our elected PCC for Thames Valley and you made the pledge, I thought I should write to you with the same request. I am sure that you will wish to be held to account for achieving this pledge over your 3½ year term. With that in mind, please could I have the current value. 
Many thanks
Very best wishes
I am looking forward to his response...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It really is the budget stupid (part two)...!

This is a follow up to my earlier post (here) where I argued for an allocation of police resources based on harm and risk of harm. I also highlighted that this will be one of the areas that is likely to be a source of great debate (aka conflict in some cases!) between the new PCCs and their Chief Constables (be they acting, constant or in the process of moving on).

This was one of the key subjects discussed on Friday by the online debate hosted by the Guardian Professional on where next for PCCs which you can read here. (Kathryn Dobinson will be producing a summary in the next few days as well.)

In my view, as indeed the Government's own leaflet suggested, a key part of the job of PCC is not just signing off the precept and the top level budgetary amount but also being actively involved in the process of determining how to deploy scarce resources around the constabulary area. Quite how this will work out in the wash is (probably as I write) being discussed.

However, I am keen to see the principles and priorities upon which the budgets will be made. As I commented in the discussion on Friday, doing the budget before the plan is putting the cart before the horse... but (and maybe I say this too often these days!): we are where we are...

If you are a PCC reading this: what are your principles and priorities that you will want to see reflected in the budget?

Friday, November 23, 2012

What not...

I am sure there were plenty of people on hand yesterday, telling the new PCCs (on their first official day) what they should be doing. Naturally, I joined in!

PCCs are no different from all leadership positions, there are always far more things to do than there are hours in the day. There are things you must do, things that others are asking you to do and things that you want to do. The pressure is on PCCs: a great deal needs to be achieved in the next 100 days, not least the policing plan.

In my view, the only way PCCs will politically and personally survive these next few months and beyond will centre on knowing clearly what not to do.

In my view a vital dimension in the art of leadership is judging what not to do.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Official day one: focus on children & young people

Today marks the first official day of work for the newly elected Police & Crime Commissioners. What they do today will be a signal for what is to come. If you are a PCC reading this: what are your priorities today?

If I were PCC, I would spend the day focusing on those people who I knew did not vote for me because they were not able to: children and young people.

I would hope that I do not really need to make the case for this priority given recent news of widespread abuse and the clear (and I know a little cheesy) fact that 'children are our future'. And teenagers especially are often demonised as perpetrators of crime and anti-social behaviour whereas they are far more likely to be vulnerable victims of crime.

So here are ten things that a PCC might do today (and beyond) to help these vulnerable young people:
  1. Begin the process of appointing a Youth Commissioner (an excellent idea first floated, I think, by Ann Barnes, Kent PCC)
  2. Set in train the creation of a local summit on child protection & the prevention of abuse to exchange good practice and generate a good 'stractegy' - not another 'strutegy'
  3. Ask the Chief Constable to produce a note on what the force has learnt in the last few months especially about how to tackle and prevent crimes against children & young people and how this learning is being embedded in professional practice
  4. Issue a request via the local media for people and organisations to send in examples of great practice in the field of child protection & the prevention of crimes against young people
  5. Make contact with all the youth councils in the PCC's area and set up a schedule of 'getting to know you' meetings
  6. Ask all the major criminal justice agencies in the area (including the police naturally) to explain how well they listen to and act upon the concerns, fears, hopes and dreams of the children and young people they serve (directly or indirectly) 
  7. Appoint someone to do some 'hurdle and girdle' research into what is slowing or constraining the capacity and capability of the police service to tackle crimes against children and young people robustly so that overall levels come down
  8. Begin the process of establishing a single composite measure of these crimes against young people and children so that progress can be assessed
  9. Invite the public, via the local and social media, to advocate what more might be done in this field of criminal justice
  10. Invite the NSPCC, Childline, Banardos and other key local/national bodies who specialise in helping vulnerable young people to suggest their ten actions for PCCs to take

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A man of the highest probity

I felt I had to copy and paste this comment from a 'Newbury Net' discussion forum:
Thanks for the links, I've only just caught up with the rest of this discussion. It's all very perplexing but I think we can agree that no one would be sufficiently stupid to apply for such a high profile post with any hint of a dodgy past and am confident that we can all rest assured that Mr Stansfeld is absolutely the right man for the job. 
I'm sure that there are very good reasons why he wouldn't give straightforward answers to the very persistent questioning by the author of and the confusion about whether he is or was a chairman of some company or other cannot possibly be relevant. I would go so far as to say that any suggestion that Mr Stansfeld isn't motivated by his deep commitment to public service or is not a man of the highest probity would be scurrilous in the extreme. (noobree)
You may wish to read the whole discussion here (page 3 showing quote above, you can scroll back to the two previous pages from there.

Naturally, I make no comment...

UPDATE: noobree has added further comment:
I've only seen Commissioner Stansfield in action once, at an open district council meeting. Some would say his performance during the meeting was hectoring, arrogant and amounted to bullying. That would be unfair. 
Clearly a firm and uncompromising leader is required for TVP if the government's aims of privatising as much of the police service as possible is to be achieved before the 2015 general election. Only once our police forces are safely in the hands of companies like G4S and Capita will we be able to sleep soundly in our beds. And if donors to and supporters of Commissioner Stansfield's party profit from privatisation that simply shows how far sighted they have been. 
Naturally, I could not possibly comment...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How should PCCs handle questions over their legitimacy?

On Friday 23 November (12 - 2pm), the Guardian Public Leaders Network are hosting another online discussion around the legitimacy of PCCs in the light of the voter turnout. The discussion will be focusing on: "what the new PCCs will do to improve their legitimacy, after a record low voter turnout of 12-15% in the first PCC elections for England and Wales." I will be taking part so I have written this blog to warm my brain up, if nobody else's! (Link to discussion page is here)

41 new PCCs have now been elected with significant powers to set budgets, hire & fire Chief Constables and forge the overall direction of the local police service. However, questions have been raised about their legitimacy given the very poor turnout for the elections. How might they handle these questions?

Firstly it is important to say that even if the turnout had been lower (say 8%), each elected PCC would still be the 'legitimate' Police & Crime Commissioner for their area. That is the law and something that I said in my attempt to persuade people (who were considering not voting / spoiling ballot papers) to vote nonetheless either for their preferred or least disliked candidate.

But... whilst they are legitimate, do they have credibility? Will they have real influence?

In my view, whilst voter turnout will remain an issue, especially when the whole statute comes to be assessed in a few years time (and the Electoral Commission may well have something to say before then), I do not believe it will be a day to day issue for the PCCs. What will matter is whether the PCC earns the respect and trust of local communities and builds a solid working relationship with their Chief Constable. This will not depend on the percentage of voters who voted for them, but on their personal, professional and political leadership skills.

Indeed,  I would argue that the low voter turnout will prevent them from being too courageous (ie rash & despotic) in their decision making and instead they will be forced to use softer means of power to get their way. I suspect that any PCC who tries exercising the 'I have a mandate for this' line with their Chiefs will carefully sidelined in a 'Yes Minister' kind of way. I could well be wrong, but most of the Chiefs I know are pretty adept at handling politicians who are all bluster and no substance. (And let's not forget that most of the 'manifestos' were remarkably short on substance beyond the anodyne 'cut crime' crowd pleasing statements.)

The wise & skilful PCC will move on from voter turnout pretty darn quickly and begin to shape their influence around superlative leadership and being a very good politician. By that I mean, getting out there, listening to people and learning about the stories that will impact upon the Chief and her/his team. Anecdotes should not direct change (that should still be done by good evidential research) but they can drive change. This is part of the power that PCCs now have. Their other key power will be in asking thumping good questions... but that is for another blog soon.

If I had been elected as a PCC, one of the things I would be doing now, is conducting my own personal power audit: what kinds of power & influence do I have and where do I need to gain more?

And so to answer the question in my title: PCCs should address concerns about their legitimacy by earning credibility and trust through exceptional leadership. We now await to see who will do this well...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Secret Diary of a PCC: Movember

As regular readers know, I have been compiling an irreverent, satirical and (I am told) humorous Secret Diary of a PCC since September, beginning with a memo from a Chief Constable to an incoming PCC. (Hopefully the memos being despatched as I write are nothing like the one I compiled!)

The feedback from the people about the memo (many sent messages and it was browsed over 1500 times), inspired me to write up how the PCC might have reacted... This has now turned into the first ten days in the life of a new PCC. I wrote day ten last Friday as the PCC election votes were being counted.

I have now converted all the blog posts into one easy to read pdf file for your enjoyment and digital delectation. You can download a copy here from my Google drive.

It is free!

However, if you have enjoyed the blogs (and now this accessible single document), I would be most grateful if you would consider donating to my MOvember efforts. If you can spare a pound, that would be fabulous. If you can spare more, that would be even better!

The money all goes towards research into prostate and testicular cancer.

My Dad died sixteen years ago with prostate cancer and a good neighbour in my street is currently battling with it too. So this means a lot to me, as I know it does many other people too.

If I manage to raise over £500, I will be dyeing my moustache bright RED for the Town Council meeting on 3/12/12! So if you want me to look even more ridiculous that I already do, please make a donation. Thank you!

In the meantime, here is the current state of play:

Thanks. And I hope the Secret Diary of a PCC makes you smile.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The other 'approval ratings'

On my blog below, I analysed the providence of the 12 independent candidates who became PCCs on Friday 16/11/12. As part of this, I developed an 'approval rating' score for each. This is my own creation and comprises the multiplication of the turnout by the percentage of first preference votes cast. It is a crude measure of what percentage of the voting population gave their first vote to the winning candidate.

Here are the results for the Labour & Conservative PCCs. (All data taken from the Guardian DataBlog)

Labour (from North to South)

  • Northumbria: Vera Baird. Turnout: 16.45% | 56.02% of first preference votes | Second: Phil Butler Party: Con 25.64% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 9.2%
  • Durham: Ron Hogg. Turnout: 14.41% | 51.57% of first preference votes | Second: Kingsley Smith Party: Ind 26.82% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.4%
  • Cleveland: Barry Coppinger. Turnout: 14.73% | 41.58% of first preference votes | Second: Ken Lupton Party: Con 25.97% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.1%
  • Lancashire: Clive Grunshaw. Turnout: 15.05% | 39.28% of first preference votes | Second: Tim Ashton Party: Con 34.76% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.9%
  • West Yorkshire: Mark Burns-Williamson. Turnout: 13.34% | 47.88% of first preference votes | Second: Cedric Christie Party: Ind 22.96% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.4%
  • Merseyside: Jane Kennedy. Turnout: 12.41% | 56.18% of first preference votes | Second: Geoff Gubb Party: Con 12.58% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.0%
  • Greater Manchester: Tony Lloyd. Turnout: 13.59% | 51.23% of first preference votes | Second: Michael Winstanley Party: Con 15.61% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.0%
  • South Yorkshire: Shaun Wright. Turnout: 14.53% | 51.35% of first preference votes | Second: David Allen Party: Other 15.56% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.5%
  • Derbyshire: Alan Charles. Turnout: 14.35% | 44.31% of first preference votes | Second: Simon Spencer Party: Con 24.52% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.4%
  • Nottinghamshire: Paddy Tipping. Turnout: 16.42% | 43.13% of first preference votes | Second: Malcolm Spencer Party: Ind 22.76% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.1%
  • West Midlands: Bob Jones. Turnout: 11.96% | 42% of first preference votes | Second: Matt Bennett Party: Con 18.51% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.0%
  • Bedfordshire: Olly Martins. Turnout: 17.75% | 34.03% of first preference votes | Second: Jas Parmar Party: Con 31.93% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.0%
  • South Wales: Alun Michael. Turnout: 14.68% | 46.95% of first preference votes | Second: Mike Baker Party: Ind 32.48% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.9%
Conservative (from South to North)
  • Devon and Cornwall: Tony Hogg. Turnout: 14.65% | 28.98% of first preference votes | Second: Brian Greenslade Party: Ind 12.96% of first preference vote | ‘Approval rating’ 4.2%
  • Sussex: Katy Bourne. Turnout: 15.33% | 31.51% of first preference votes | Second: Godfrey Daniel Party: Lab 21.54% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.8%
  • Wiltshire: Angus Macpherson. Turnout: 15.3% | 36.24% of first preference votes | Second: Clare Moody Party: Lab 20.56% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.5%
  • Thames Valley: Anthony Stansfeld. Turnout: 12.88% | 34.7% of first preference votes | Second: Tim Starkey Party: Lab 25.85% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.5%
  • Essex: Nick Alston. Turnout: 12.81% | 30.51% of first preference votes | Second: Mick Thwaites Party: Ind 23.85% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 3.9%
  • Hertfordshire: David Lloyd. Turnout: 14.1% | 45.89% of first preference votes | Second: Sherma Batson Party: Lab 28.98% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.5%
  • Dyfed-Powys: Christopher Salmon. Turnout: 16.38% | 50.86% of first preference votes | Second: Christine Gwyther Party: Lab 49.14% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 8.3%
  • Suffolk: Tim Passmore. Turnout: 15.41% | 34.99% of first preference votes | Second: Jane Basham Party: Lab 35.07% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.4%
  • Northamptonshire: Adam Simmonds. Turnout: 19.5% | 30.08% of first preference votes | Second: Lee Barron Party: Lab 24.81% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.9%
  • Cambridgeshire: Sir Graham Bright. Turnout: 14.77% | 26.78% of first preference votes | Second: Ed Murphy Party: Lab 19.84% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.0%
  • Leicestershire: Sir Clive Loader. Turnout: 15.92% | 48.43% of first preference votes | Second: Sarah Russell Party: Lab 34.36% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.7%
  • Staffordshire: Matthew Ellis. Turnout: 11.63% | 51.85% of first preference votes | Second: Joy Garner Party: Lab 48.15% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.0%
  • Cheshire: John Dwyer. Turnout: 13.74% | 36.84% of first preference votes | Second: John Stockton Party: Lab 28.44% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.1%
  • Humberside: Matthew Grove. Turnout: 19.15% | 22.01% of first preference votes | Second: John Prescott Party: Lab 24.88% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.2%
  • North Yorkshire: Julia Mulligan. Turnout: 13.25% | 58.25% of first preference votes | Second: Ruth Potter Party: Lab 41.75% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.7%
  • Cumbria: Richard Rhodes. Turnout: 15.63% | 29.04% of first preference votes | Second: Patrick Leonard Party: Lab 24.58% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.5%
Some observations & calculations:
  • Average 'approval rating' for 13 Labour PCCs is 6.8%
  • Average 'approval rating' for 16 Conservative PCCs is 5.5%
  • Average 'approval rating' for 12 Independent PCCs is 5.4%
  • There were three 'two person' contests: Dyfed Powys, North Yorkshire & Staffordshire. Conservatives won all three. This will have boosted their 'approval ratings' average
  • The 'approval rating' may be function of the number of candidates standing
  • The person with the highest rating was Vera Baird in Northumbria with 9.2%
  • The person with the lowest rating was Simon Hayes in Hampshire with 3.3%
I will write more at another time.

Independents' Day

The early big story of the PCC elections was the turnout which was shockingly low, lower than many commentators predicted. (Although I had my secret PCC being proud of his 15.1% turnout back in September). The authors of this policy dismissed concerns about turnout as the early teething problems you 'always' get with a new electoral role and it was all the fault of the Lib Dems anyway for wanting the election in November. This story will run, especially as the Electoral Commission are conducting a review. However, I reckon it will not run and run...

But what I did not see coming was the number of candidates running on an independent ticket being elected. I got my prediction well and truly wrong. Although, perhaps where the indies did get it right was in promotion of some radical ideas, as I was urging in the same article. I will be interested to see how (Kent's) Anne Barnes' Youth Commissioner works out, for example.

But let's run through the independents who were elected.
  • Avon & Somerset: Sue Mountstevens. Ex magistrate, business woman and ran on "and no party politics!" ticket. (Turnout: 18.77% | 35.81% of first preference votes | Second: Ken Maddock Party: Con 24.35% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 6.7%
  • Dorset: Martyn Underhill: Ex police officer, charity trustee and college lecturer. Ran on no politics in policing ticket. (Turnout: 16.34% | 45.16% of first preference votes | Second: Nick King Party: Con | 32.41% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 7.4%)
  • Gloucestershire: Martin Surl. Ex police officer and against further police station closures. Also ran on the "party politics has no place in policing" ticket. (Turnout: 15.96% | 35.26% of first preference votes | Second: Victoria Atkins Party: Con 36.21% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 5.6%)
  • Gwent: Ian Johnston. Ex police officer and former President of the Superintendents Association. Will "work... without political interference" (Turnout: 13.97% | 39.64% of first preference votes | Second: Hamish Sandison Party: Lab | 38.89% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 5.5%)
  • Hampshire: Simon Hayes. Ex police authority (former Chair) and currently chairs local Crimestoppers. Stood "free of Party political pressure or obligation" (Turnout: 14.53% | 22.48% of first preference votes | Second: Michael Mates Party: Con 24.83% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 3.3%)
  • Kent: Ann Barnes. Ex police authority (immediate past Chair) and ex magistrate. Will keep "party politics out of police". (Turnout: 15.99% | 46.8% of first preference votes | Second: Craig Mackinlay Party: Con 25.22% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 7.5%)
  • Lincolnshire: Alan Hardwick. Ex police authority employee (Marketing & Media officer) and former TV journalist. Ran with "absolutely no political agendas". (Turnout: 15.28% | 31.37% of first preference votes | Second: David Bowles Party: Other 32.66% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 4.8%)
  • Norfolk: Stephen Bett. Ex police authority (immediate past Chair) and cites 16 years of PA membership. Believes in "keeping party politics out of policing". (Turnout: 14.51% | 28.66% of first preference votes | Second: Jamie Athill Party: Con 31.74% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 4.2%)
  • North Wales: Winston Roddick. Ex police officer, former QC and Wales’ first Counsel General. Ran on being a "commissioner who can act independently of political interference". (Turnout: 14.83% | 33.07% of first preference votes | Second: Tal Michael Party: Lab 29.67% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 4.9%)
  • Surrey: Kevin Hurley. Ex police officer, reservist army officer and involved in rebuilding policing in Iraq. Strictly speaking not an independent but ran on "Zero Tolerance Policing ex Chief" ticket. (Turnout: 15.36% | 26.12% of first preference votes | Second: Julie Iles Party: Con 26.13% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 4.0%)
  • Warwickshire: Ronald Ball. Ex magistrate, former national executive member for the British Airline Pilots Association and commercial airline pilot. Party politics should be kept at "arms length". (Turnout: 15.23% | 33.3% of first preference votes | Second: James Plaskitt Party: Lab 34.7% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 5.1%)
  • West Mercia: Bill Longmore. Ex police officer, businessman and award winning community work.  He declared that he is "not a politician but a man of the people". (Turnout: 14.54% | 37.75% of first preference votes | Second: Adrian Blackshaw Party: Con 36.56% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 5.5%)
All the voting data has been taken from the Guardian DataBlog and the results confirmed by the Home Office site. The 'Approval rating' is my own creation and comprises the multiplication of the turnout by the percentage of first preference votes cast. It is a crude measure of what percentage of the voting population gave their first vote to the winning candidate.

So what do we have?
  • 12 out of the 41 PCCs are independent of the main political parties.
  • 6 are ex police officers, 3 are ex police authority / employee and 2 are ex magistrates.
  • 6 won on both first and second prefernces, the other 6 came second in first round
  • 8 beat Conservatives into second place, with 3 Labour came second and in Lincs it was a contest between two people not in major parties in the final count
I am cautious about drawing any hard conclusions from this, but here goes:
  • Being ex police in some way made all the difference in support and might explain why in other areas the indies did not succeed (either because the Labour or Tory who did, had substantial 'legs' in policing / crime worlds or because the indies on offer did not). But this needs further investigation.
  • The Conservatives set out on this policy hoping for notable local figures to represent local people saying that it should not be about party politics. In a way, they got their wish.
  • The independents 'stole' PCC positions off mainly Tories.
Now we await to see how these independents remain above party politics, especially as they are confronted by a highly political Home Office & MoJ and local police and crime panels made up of local politicians. 

In the absence of party support & allegiance, these indies might find the job of being PCC even tougher. Equally they may feel more liberated and free to really focus on what local people need and want the police to do than their party counterparts. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Secret Diary of a PCC (day ten)

Ah... I remember that electric moment when I was elected. The tingly feeling of being really wanted, approved and commended by literally thousands of people. I imagined it being like a job interview with a very long table in front of me and them all nodding and saying yes. The retiring Chief Constable sneered at the second preference votes that got me over the 50% mark, but they were still votes! To my mind 15.1% is a heck of a lot more than the pusillanimous police authority ever got! Authority - hah! I have the authority now and I'm going to use it!

And then this morning, as I was contentedly musing on my authority & power (etc.), it all gets ruined by Winger coming to see me! It seems the darn chap has gone native!!

I sent him off to start working on the policing plan several days ago. And now he has come back blathering on about evidence based practice baloney, the 'Strategic Policing Requirement' guff, legal constraint blither, human resource capability blah, public consultation (strike that - public engagement...) claptrap and all manner of management jargon. I swear he's been for a Bramshill brainwash. Damn the man!

I asked him to do a simple job: write me a policing plan that matched my manifesto. And he has the effrontery and audacity to tell me that my manifesto promises were "contradictory, vague and populist". I say, "of course they were, I was running for election you squarehead!! But it is the job I gave you (remember that?) to go away and turn the promises into a plan!" I told him that "just as I don't bother with taxes as they are for the little people, you are the little person who has to turn my big picture into a plan. Now get on with it!!"

And then he resigned and walked out of the room with a big grin on his shiny fat face. Last time I trust him to do anything!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Police: who will be the leader?

I first posted this article 20 months ago. It seems appropriate to post it once more...


There is now draft legislation to replace Police Authorities with elected Police Crime Commissioners. As we await the passage of the legislation into law, the debate is continuing about how these new PCCs will work - or indeed whether they should happen altogether. Today the Civil Service Live Network put up a debate between a past Home Secretary and a think tank Chief Exec about the pros and cons of this new policy. You can access it here.

It is a debate that I felt moved to add my six pennyworth - here is what I wrote:

Not being able to name the chair of local Police Authority is not a powerful argument. Not even knowing that such a body exists is perhaps more convincing. Certainly, despite their best efforts, the awareness of Police Authorities is still very low amongst the general public. But there again, how many citizens really understand how all public services join up and are governed?

Quoting the research about public satisfaction with the police is not best placed since that has far more to do with how members of the public feel treated by police officers & staff (sadly) following a crime that it does about concerns about the setting of overall priorities.

The gap between reality (crime has been going down significantly in recent years) and perception (fear of crime & antisocial behaviour is still high) is notable. I ran my own one person campaign to get fear of crime included in the responsibilities of the local Crime & Disorder partnership legislation (1998) but failed. I do wonder, had it been in there whether things would be different now?

The gap is down to many factors not least the media coverage of crimes, the doubt over 'statistics' (lies, damned lies etc) and the ability of many in and involved with the police to really 'connect' with the public. PCSOs have been doing a remarkable job here and local PC led neighbourhood teams have been making real inroads. But, how many of these structures will survive austerity measures is yet to be seen. I do worry that expectations on these new PCC's will be so high whilst at the same time front line services will be cut back (there is only so much money to be saved by reducing the IT department to one person and an electronic dog) - that a perfect storm will be created. And in this storm, the perpetrators of antisocial behaviour and broad acquisitive crime will have a field day. Crime and fear of crime will rise together. I hope not, of course, but the omens are not good.

But on the other hand, over the years I have been working with the police as an independent adviser / coach / facilitator - I have seen the police HQ car parks grow and grow...

I don't think the last Government 'chickened out' - I think they ran out of legislative time. By the same token, one could argue that this Government has chickened out of a national restructuring and moving away from 43 independent police forces in E&W. Interestingly though - Scotland and possibly Wales are moving towards whole country forces in each case.

It is vital "that local people had a real say over the policing in their area" but I am just not sure that PCCs alone will be the answer. They may be part of the answer - but on their own - almost certainly not. I speak as someone who has lived and worked in the Thames Valley Police for nearly all of my adult life. It is a very large patch which extends from Milton Keynes to Witney to Reading to Slough to Eton and so forth. The idea that all these geographically (and otherwise) diverse communities could all feel represented by a single person is a stretch of the imagination. What will be critical, assuming the draft legislation becomes law, will be to elect a person who has a very clear and convincing plan for how to 'stay in touch' with the broad sweep of the area. I can only hope that the preferential voting system that the Government is proposing to use for electing these PCCs will be able to ensure that the best possible people - politically and otherwise - become the new PCCs. I also hope that the rigour of scrutiny and challenge that must happen as part of the selection processes and subsequent campaigns of all the candidates will tease out the wheat from the chaff (ie the really committed, knowledgeable and citizen focused people from the 'place people' that the central political parties may try to parachute in).

Once these people are in place - yes there will be some very tricky issues around governance and relationship with the Chief Constables to resolve. On its own, I don't think that is an argument against having the new PCCs. However it is an argument for some very clear thinking about roles and boundaries before the PCCs are elected. Perhaps some simulations, thought experiments and the like would not go amiss. This is not wholly new terrain since PAs have had the lead responsibility for Best Value while the CC is operationally independent. It was never really tested when (say) the PA decided the 'Dogs Section' should be closed down on BV grounds while the CC said that it was an operational matter over which he/she had complete autonomy. This was never tested.

So it is a big debate - which will only kick into gear when / if the legislation is passed into statute. When that happens, I hope that Civil Service World will host more debates like this (on and offline) to flesh out just how this new leadership role will operate in the context of 150+ years of policing.

Debate: Elected police and crime commissioners

I am left pondering on how the new PCCs (assuming it becomes law) will impact upon leadership in the police service - not just at the chief officer level but also throughout the organisation.