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, September 30, 2012

National Police Memorial Day

Today is the National Police Memorial Day when people are asked to remember police officers who have died in the line of duty. Information about the day can be found here.

This year's event will particularly poignant coming so soon after the ambush and murder of two young police officers and before their funerals have taken place. Their funerals are happening next week. At the time of writing, their book of condolences has had 47,604 messages submitted.

Let us all never forget how ordinary women and men in the police service put their lives and limbs at risk everyday in order that we might live in a peaceful and safe society.

A little like warm soup: the Liberal Democrat sets out his policies to be elected PCC

Whilst John Howson and his party colleagues seem reluctant to say much about how he was selected (which, frankly, is not of huge importance although when people refuse to answer direct questions, I always get a bit suspicious, don't you?) he has been (sort of) explaining his policies...

(This is great deal more than Conservative nominee Cllr Anthony Stansfeld who is showing his understanding of local accountability to the voters of Thames Valley by offering a wall of silence.)

And so, prompted by a brief discussion on Broadcasting House this morning between Ken Livingstone and Malcolm Bruce on the possibility of a LibLab coalition sometime in the future, I thought I would do a Labour analysis of Professor Howson's policies as currently published on the Policy Exchange website. Where can I agree with him... and where would I disagree:

What is your vision for policing in the Thames Valley?

Professor Howson goes on a bit here. In essence he talks about the importance of Policing by consent and that the police "essentially about preventing, detecting and solving crime and carrying out the many other functions society requires of them". No arguments on policing by consent, naturally. His focus on crime is a little narrow since I would say that the role of the police is fundamentally about assuring community safety and maintaining the Queen's peace. So much of what the police do is about that wider brief than a restricted focus on crime. Disorder features as well. (See this useful summary in the Economist of the HMIC's recent report into crime prevention which partly focused on what the police do with their time) Although their provenance is sometimes disputed, the principles laid down by Peel still stand the test of time for me and many involved with policing.

Why should people in the Thames Valley vote for you?

This section is mainly about him saying why he has the credentials to be the PCC for Thames Valley. I note that he interpreted this section about only that. Others might have used this section to explain what they would seek to achieve for the public of Thames Valley if they were to be elected... True he says he is "especially interested in policies that will reduce the number of young people entering into a life of crime" but does not say what he plans to do. He also says that he will work to "make the Thames Valley a safer place for all who live there, work there or just visit us" but not how or more precisely what he aims to make happen. A bit more on substantive policies would have been far more informative.

What inspired you to stand as a Police & Crime Commissioner?

Again this where Policy Exchange seems to be showing its bias and trying to make these elections all about people not about policies. Professor Howson responds by talking about how pivotal the role could be and how he wants to focus on creating a safer Thames Valley. Yawn...

Why are you qualified to be the Police & Crime Commissioner?

This is getting tedious now: why are Policy Exchange's questions all about the person? Professor Howson talks about himself (again). Now I know that is what the question asks but a policy driven politician would use the question to get across some inspiring ideas, not just more of his CV! But there is a statement here that is very VERY illuminating. (Can you spot it below?)

He says "I also have the time available to undertake the role." Hmm. Let's unpack that a little. Firstly why would he not have the time to do this as being a PCC is a full time job in my view. Unless he means to carry on his other work in Education and running his own company? That could explain the basis of this statement. Perhaps Professor Howson would like to say some more about what lies behind that statement?

What one thing would you like to change about local policing if you were elected?

Well. His opening statement is "Ensure work with young people wasn't cut." That is a bit rich coming from a Liberal Democrat whose coalition government has probably cut more services and opportunities for young people than any previous government. I agree with his sentiments naturally but how can state this policy with any integrity? Need I remind him that it was his party that reneged on their pledge not to raise tuition fees and will be inflicting a lifetime of huge debt onto thousands of young people? What action has he taken to back up his stated policy?

What would be your top three crime priorities if you are elected?

OK, finally this question points towards substantive policies. What does Professor Howson say? His three priorities are "Working with the Chief Constable and other agencies on how to prevent crime [1], increasing detection rates to the best possible levels across the force with the resources available [2], and ensuring everyone who is a victim of crime is dealt with to the same level by the police [3]. (My inserted square brackets.)

So that is crime prevention, a (heavily qualified) commitment to increasing detection rates and ensuring victims receive same (poor, excellent, variable??) level of care across Thames Valley. Seriously? What about violence against women and the raw fear that leaves people with? (See this story in the Reading Chronicle from yesterday for example). What about crimes against young people? What about human trafficking? I interpreted the question about priorities as being about certain kinds of crime, not some anodyne list of generic themes...

What is your most memorable personal experience of policing in the Thames Valley?

(First let me say again, the bias towards the person/personal in these questions from Policy Exchange is breathtaking. X Factor focuses more on performance than this!! And what does it say about Professor Howson that he has chosen this as (so far) his main vehicle to get his views across to the electorate of Thames Valley. I think this shows a lack of insight into the world of policing and crime. Did he not know Policy Exchange's track record?!)

Professor Howson says he has been burgled three times, once as recent as this year. He has received excellent help from local police officers. Three times. Could this be a reason why he is so keen on prevention!

How do you view your role in the criminal justice system beyond policing?

Professor Howson says "The Police & Crime Commissioner has a pivotal role to play not least in ensuring resources aren't wasted through duplication or a lack of coordination" Interesting, no mention of the fact that Thames Valley has an extensive collaboration with Hampshire Police. Does he even know that is happening?

"The Police & Crime Commissioner can play a strategic role bringing together other agencies but must essentially see the Police as their main focus unless the politicians at Westminster are going to further redefine the role beyond its present remit as has been suggested in the White Paper. I do not believe the Police & Crime Commissioner should be responsible for Victim Services or have anything to do with sentencing." I tend to agree, the policing side of the job will dominate. And certainly, PCCs should have nothing to do with sentencing. But hang on! This is interesting as he makes much of his experience as a magistrate. What is it that magistrates mainly do? They decide on guilt and they sentence. So the very experience he uses to support his bid to be PCC is, in his own words, nothing to do with the role of the PCC.... Other than that, what he says is all pretty vanilla. Could we have some crunchy policies please?

"The role is about working with agencies to reduce crime and to detect crime where it does take place." Again a missed opportunity here. He has written nothing about leadership. In my view this is a leadership role where by dint of the elected position, joined up action could be stimulated and led by the PCC....

Professional Background

Again, the focus of Policy Exchange on the person not the policies... No comments to make


And so where does this leave me in my appraisal of Professor Howson's policies? His policies all seem a bit vague to me: a kind of warm soup that looks OKish on the surface but you are left wondering what might be lurking at the bottom - if anything. He specifically did not use the opportunity to talk about resources, budget policy, privatisation or the strategic policing requirement or indeed anything that could be controversial. I hope we see more in coming weeks...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Who has viewed your profile (LinkedIn)

Just fascinating...

I have been looking at yours too, Cllr Stansfeld....

The speech I wanted to give at Labour Conference 2011

One year ago, I was heading off to the Labour Party Conference. During those few days, I decided I  wanted to make a speech and despite having what I thought was a rather innovative method to attract attention, I did not manage to get picked and deliver it. As I think much of what I wanted to say is still relevant, here is the speech I wanted to give then...

Good morning conference. My name is Jon Harvey and I am a Town Councillor and Delegate from Buckingham.

For me, being Labour means being part of a movement of hope. I believe our job is to help build a society where everyone has the wherewithal to shape and achieve their dreams and ambitions

Being a victim of crime often means that people stop believing that it is possible for them to even have a dream or ambition, let alone achieve it. Being a victim of the fear of crime, as so many people are these days, can have similar consequences.

Therefore, in the Labour Party, we have a deep responsibility to do all we can do to ensure that policing and the wider justice system is effective, efficient and fair.

We cannot trust the Tories and the Lib Dems to do this. When the police services are suffering unprecedented cuts that will, undoubtedly, affect the frontline (despite what they say) – they have no right to claim to be a government of law and order.

And we saw what happens to the rule of law under a Tory led government in August this year.

Their response to the riots was first to stay on holiday and second to lurch into Victorian rhetoric. Contrast this with our leader, Ed Miliband, who called for a national conversation about what happened and investigate the real causes.

Not just tough on crime and its causes, but measured and engaging too.

And now we need to carry on being measured and engaging with elected Police Crime Commissioners. This was not our policy and we remain angry about the £100m cost – much of which is due to the November scheduling of the elections.

But these elections will now happen. These are political positions that we must be campaigning and standing for. We cannot leave it to ConDem politicians or worse, extremists, to set the agenda for local policing services. And we need to start campaigning now.

I am so very proud that ours is the only government ever to have left office with a lower crime rate than when we started. Not just a little lower – but a lot lower!

With neighbourhood policing and the community safety partnerships, we reformed the policing practice map. In government: we invested in policing – we worked in partnership with the police – we had a positive relationship. The same cannot be said of the current government.

Labour led police authorities up and down the country are carrying on with our distinct contribution to police governance.

And so now we must invest our values, our ideas and more. Victims of crime around the country will want and expect us to do so. We must make sure that we have Labour Police Crime Commissioners.

It will only be us who will use our leadership and influence to build police services that work for the many not just for the few.

Because it is in our bloodstream, it will only be Labour PCCs who will listen and engage with all our diverse communities – especially children and young people who make up the majority of the victims of crime.

It will be us who will ensure a real focus upon the prevention of crime and on policing practice that has been shown to work through research.

We will stand up for policing that will never, ever lose sight of how many women suffer crime and its consequences.

And of course, it will only be us who will offer a serious challenge to the Government over its financial settlements with local policing services.

And we will challenge this Government’s tired narrative about ‘feral youths’ and a ‘broken society’.

Unlike this Government, we are not divided on the Human Rights Act, and this will guide all of our work as PCCs in support of proportionate and fair local policing.

This then is our task. We must start organising and campaigning now for Labour Police Crime Commissioners. With a clear understanding of operational independence and accountability, our aim will be to work alongside the Police to help them deliver communities free from crime and free from the fear of crime. As Labour Police Crime Commissioners we can help create communities that are full of hope and ambition.

Thames Valley Police Authority: the debate on impartiality continues

On Thursday, I received a detailed reply from the Chief Executive to the points I raised with him a few days ago (see here for a copy of my email to him). I have thanked him for the due care he is giving to my concerns. At least he is willing to answer my questions in the way that the Conservative candidate is conspicuously not.

Below, I reprint his email together with my responses and questions I have embedded and sent back to him in highlight:

Dear Mr Harvey

With reference to the content and claims made in the campaign website of Mr Stansfeld, regarding Mr Stansfeld’s influence as a Police Authority member on Thames Valley policing performance, my view is that these comments appear to be intended to present statements of fact (I do not agree they are ‘statements of fact’ as they include several adjectives and assertions which mean they are far more rhetorical. Do you maintain that they are purely factual? Your words could be read in different ways) designed to impress upon the electorate his suitability and credentials in support of his campaign to be their elected PCC.  However, may I reiterate that the comments referred to make no claim that either the Police Authority or any other individual member of the Authority are supportive of his candidature. (I agree but your policy as I understand it says that actions by members “must avoid any action which is or might reasonably be perceived as being supportive” – with my extra italics. In my view, citing his role and asserted achievements in his role could be very easily perceived as being supportive.) Furthermore, the website content claims no endorsement by the Police Authority, any individual members of the Authority, or any persons who work for or on behalf of the Authority, of the role, opinions or performance of Mr Stansfeld as presented on the website. As such his comments do not in themselves do anything which compromises, or is likely to compromise, the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, the Authority. (Naturally, reference my comment above, I disagree.)

(However you have not offered me a convincing reason yet, I believe, as to why you deemed it appropriate to contact Balvinder Bains about his name appearing on Tim Starkey’s blog. His picture merely appeared along with a factual description of his role as a member of the PA. Please explain to me how you are prepared to see words on Cllr Stansfeld’s campaign  website as “designed to impress upon the electorate his suitability and credentials” as being acceptable whilst Mr Bains mere description was sufficient to write refer him to the PA policy? You will recall from my first email to the PA, it is this distinction that prompted me to write and blog about all this. Had you not written to Mr Bains, then we would probably not be communicating. It is your differential action that I believe suggests a bias on behalf of PA, not the fact that you seem prepared to allow Cllr Stansfeld’s assertions to stand unchallenged. Please would you comment on this matter of differential particularly. Thank you.)

Accordingly, my understanding of normal electoral practice is that it is for other candidates and the electorate to challenge a candidate if they have concerns over the factual accuracy or appropriateness of the claims being made by that candidate. (I am sure Tim will be doing this in due course. You will note that I have not commented to date on the veracity of the claims made by Mr Stansfeld, merely that his words are not just factual, which is the point you raised before. Meanwhile as an ordinary voter and resident of Thames Valley, I believe I have the right and responsibility to highlight contradictions and unfairness in any election. Like you, I would imagine, I want these elections to be open and fair for all.)

Regarding any meetings that Mr Stansfeld has been involved in whilst acting in his role as a Police Authority member, provided that his involvement in such meetings, including any discussions, questions asked and answers given are relevant to his ability to effectively discharge his role and responsibilities as a member, then the fact that any meetings or questions asked may relate to policing post-November 2012 is irrelevant to me.  Such appropriate involvement is, and will continue to be, legitimate until such time as when Mr Stansfeld chooses to resign as a Police Authority member. (Is there a full verbatim record of all the contributions and questions that Cllr Stansfeld has made during the course of all such meetings in the period between now and when he was declared to be the candidate? Has he had any private meetings with the Chief Constable during this time?)

With regard to your question of 3rd September (“...can you (Mr Lawson) or Mr Hammond explain to me how it is tenable to allow a publicly declared candidate to remain a member of the Police Authority?”), it is tenable to allow a publicly declared candidate to remain a member of the Police Authority because there is nothing in the legislation that prevents it or requires a member to resign prior to submitting their candidature nomination papers to the Police Area Returning Officer and national guidance therefore allows it.  It is irrelevant whether you or I agree with this and it is not for me or Mr Lawson to explain or justify it; it is the way it is. (I understand this. Perhaps you would agree with me that this is another example of this rather poorly drafted legislation? However I do wonder whether a) a quiet word might have been had in the light of the PA’s role to be a neutral agency in the election. I also note, with reference to our communication some months ago about the PA hosting hustings etc – which you declined on grounds of perceived bias – that South Yorkshire Police Authority are indeed now organising a ‘Question Time’ style debate for all the candidates to attend: link here)

With reference to your query concerning the accuracy of Mr Stansfeld’s register of interests, the Code of Conduct requires members to declare personal interests where they fall within a certain categories specified within the Code where the business of the Authority may relate to or is likely to affect the interests of the member.  As Mr Lawson has previously stated in response to your query, it is for members to declare their interests and, once declared, they are then entered  in the register.  In other words, the responsibility for ensuring an accurate register in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct lies with members themselves. Members may seek advice from officers of the Authority but the Police Authority itself has no routine role in investigating any possible anomalies in members’ registers of interests unless, of course, there is prima facie evidence that a member has been or is likely to be involved in any business of the Authority in which they have a personal interest that has not been declared. Otherwise, any apparent anomalies will be highlighted to the member concerned (which is the case in respect of the anomalies you have brought to officers’ attention in connection with Mr Stansfeld’s register of interests) for them to consider and act on as necessary but officers cannot amend or direct members to amend their entries. (I understand all this and that a member’s register is his/her affair. However, when it can be shown by dint of inconsistency – as I have indeed shown – is there not a matter of the public standards here? What do you think? If there were, would that be a matter for the TVPA standards committee? But I thank you for bringing it to Cllr Stansfeld’s attention)

Therefore, in summary, I do not see any evidence of a breach of either national or local guidance concerning the behaviour of police authority members who are standing as candidates.  Nor do I see any evidence of a breach of the Thames Valley Police Authority Code of Conduct.  Accordingly, I do not see any appropriate reason for my intervention in the matters you refer to and, for the avoidance of doubt, I will not be doing so. (Thank you for being clear. I am now going to consider what further action I now take. Jon Harvey)


Paul Hammond
Chief Executive & Treasurer
Thames Valley Police Authority

Friday, September 28, 2012

Inspirational leadership & the new Police & Crime Commissioners

On Friday 5 October from 12pm to 2pm, the Guardian are hosting a live web discussion whether the elected PCCs can improve police morale at a time of privatisation, cuts and perceived political bias. (Do join in! I will be taking part.) (UPDATE: Please note that this has been shifted by the Guardian from the original date of Thursday as that date clashed with the funeral of PC Fiona Bone.)

This got me thinking about what attributes a PCC will need to have to inspire the police (and others within their influence) towards improved morale and even greater results. So, last night, on the train off to see the Beach Boys at the Royal Albert Hall, I mapped out this list:

First and foremost, the PCC will need to show total respect for the work that police officers and staff do and the people that they are. Any hint that the PCC regards him or herself as being above other people is to be avoided... (yes, you know what I am referencing).

In my experience as a leadership development adviser, lesson 101 for leaders is have a crystal clear vision. People may not always agree with that vision but they at least know what direction is being taken. Uncertainty about direction is big downer. (I have written before about what makes for a good vision.)

Given the political nature of the job, I think it will be vital for the elected PCCs to engage in 'worthy politics' which might be best defined as not petty, point-scoring party politics. Nobody (least of all people in the police service, I suspect) is inspired by politicians who only seem to want do down the opposition or leap in front of the press camera at any given moment.

If there is one thing that I know that really frustrates police officers and staff is not having the equipment to do their jobs effectively, efficiently and safely. PCCs will boost morale if they arrive with a clear commitment to ensure adequate kit. Any PCC who thinks they can save money by not doing so does not really understand policing.

People in all organisations like to see their leaders being held to account. Whatever the PCC can do make their challenges (and support) to their Chief Constable open, transparent and accessible will boost morale.

That said, an inspirational PCC will always challenge constructively and remember that giving feedback often says more about the person giving it than it does the person on the receiving end. Having the wit to ask good questions, especially ones that have come from either side of the front line (ie from victims too) will be essential.

A PCC will boost morale by just doing one simple thing: listening. Sadly, in my view, too many politicians (of all hues) spend too much of their time in broadcast mode and seem unable / unwilling to answer straight questions... or even just hear what people have got to say. Listening is good and will help. Being available and accessible is good and will help.

Police culture has a lot to do with ACTION! (Sometimes with not enough circumspection and reflection, I would add!) And so to boost morale, the PCC will need to be seen as a person of action. I am not advocating some sort of manic inititiativitis (the police service already has enough of that) but I am saying that if a PCC gets to be known for always being at HQ, this will not go down well. Remember, police officers notice where cars go and where they park...

An inspirational PCC will understand that it is their job to earn respect not demand it... and certainly not create symbols (such as chains of office) to impose respect upon people.

Be funny and occasionally self deprecating. A PCC who cannot make people laugh or who is so pompous as they are unable to laugh at themselves will not do wonders for staff morale. Humour slices through reserve and opposition in a way that often rational debate cannot.

I think we have seen great examples of emotionally intelligent leadership from CC Peter Fahy and ACC Garry Shewan (of Greater Manchester Police) in the last couple of weeks after the murder of two young police officers. They were both rock solid but able to show emotion and understand how much emotion there was around. A good PCC will be able to do the same and will understand that the work of the police service (and the wider justice agencies) is often filled with highly charged emotion. Unfeeling steel automatons need not apply: PCCs must not be 'robocops'.

And finally, in my view, PCCs will need to practice ethical and authentic leadership that is marbled with integrity and clear values. If a PCC is perceived as saying one thing but doing (or deciding) another, this will damage morale. If a PCC uses principles like a drunk uses a lamppost (for occasional support rather than illumination for the journey), this will not work. One of things that police officers and staff are very good at, is spotting charlatans.

But what do you think? You are welcome to comment below and/or join the Guardian debate next Thursday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The truth is simple? (part nine)

See all collected posts about this matter in one place by clicking this link

I am now officially and totally confused about Cllr Stansfeld's commercial interests.

Thames Valley Police Authority have now kindly sent me a copy of his Register of Interests as at March 2012. First, here is a clip of the one 'updated' for August:

And now the one for March this year:

So here are a number of questions now outstanding:

  • Why did Cllr Stansfeld remove reference to being Chairman of the Sefinor Group?
  • Who is the Sefinor Group? (Again I can find no easy reference to this organisation anywhere though see below)
  • Does the Sefinor Group exist?
  • How come mention of the Sefinor Group appears to have been omitted from his record at West Berkshire Council - although perhaps it was there in a previous version?

Questions and more questions: and still no answers from Cllr Stansfeld....

And there I was thinking we were getting somewhere.... (see blog post below)

In my research around Sefinor, I did turn up this interesting page. (Remember we have established that Cllr Stansfeld was involved in a company called Prescience AG along with, among others, Frank Iding.) This page is interesting on two counts:

  • "Mr Iding has been Managing Director of Prescience AG since 2007...  Mr Iding has wide international experience gained through his work for the two companies and in his previous role as Chief Executive Officer of the Sefinor Group – a group of companies based in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere specialising in landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance and risk management" So, at least in 2009, the Sefinor Group of companies existed although who knows what has happened to it now (Cllr Stansfeld?)
  • Now secondly and this is a crucial bit. Note the statement "Mr Iding has been Managing Director of Prescience AG since 2007" on a document dated 2009. That is two years and note the tense of the statement. In an email that Cllr Stansfeld sent to me back in August he said "I no longer have anything to do with Prescience, a company that never traded, so was disposed of" [my highlight] A company that never traded but existed for two years (at least) with a Managing Director... How are these two statements both true? I am intrigued to find out.

So is the truth simple here? It doesn't feel like that to me at the moment...

Time for fewer nostrums

I will nail my colours to the mast: I believe it is outrageous when politicians direct a body under their control to begin or maintain a course of action when evidence shows that action to be (at worst) harmful or (at best) ineffective. Good politicians achieve a balance of ideology, popularity, science and pragmatism. Bad politicians allow this balance to get skewed too far in one or two directions.

Yesterday saw the publication of a report from Policy Exchange (a ‘Right leaning thinktank’ as it is often described) about electronic tagging. You can read it here. To quote the website intro “The report notes that in other countries, in particular the US, ankle bracelets have become smaller, smarter and more durable. The most advanced forms of tags are now GPS-enabled allowing the police to pin point someone’s exact location at all times. However, the lack of competition and the current nature of the contracts in the UK market means the taxpayer is losing out.

In the introduction to the report itself, Chris Miller (a former senior police officer) says “What we have been given instead is a sclerotic, centrally controlled, top down system that has enriched two or three large suppliers, that lacks the innovation and flexibility of international comparators and that fails to demonstrate either that it is value for money or that it does anything to reduce offending.

Not only does this report effectively damn the current commercial suppliers of electronic tagging but also proposes (remember this is a ‘Right leaning thinktank’) insourcing the process.

Meanwhile in Scotland last week it was announced that G4S (famed supplier to London 2012 and one of the suppliers of tagging in E&W referenced by Policy Exchange) have just won a contract to supply tagging to the criminal justice system north of the border. Admittedly, the tagging being provided is of the GPS kind referenced in the PE report.

But… nevertheless… on what planet did it make sense to award this contract? I would love to know whether the procurement process in Scotland included contact with Policy Exchange. Did they share data? How did due diligence ensure that the contract signed with G4S would not also lead to the kind of sclerotic lack of innovation that Chris Miller highlights?

Let me repeat, I am not (really I am not) against the outsourcing of all services. I am not some kind of Orwellian despot who believes that the public services should provide everything from Victory Gin to a telescreen in every home. But as I hope that my article in the Guardian from a few months ago made clear, outsourcing is a veritable minefield of hidden costs (both financial and human) that have often been overlooked. This needs to change. Now!

I really hope that the politicians vying to become PCCs pay heed to the evidence & science when deciding on the shape of their policing plans. Policing already has far too many nostrums in its practice. Good PCCs will be in the vanguard of introducing more evidence based practice (including commissioning)!

PS But beware commercially sponsored research into finding out what works as Ben Goldacre (as always) highlighted at the weekend. A great, must read article for anyone concerned about evidence based practice in the public services. 

10,000 and counting

Just a quick post to note and celebrate the fact that this blog has now had over 10,000 page views.

Sometimes it feels as if hardly anyone knows or cares about the PCC elections, so I am glad to be part of the collective efforts to get the word out there that these are important elections that demand attention and action.

As always I am grateful to my fellow bloggers and scoopers who are doing their not insignificant bit too. By this I am referring to:

Sam Chapman's blog 'Top of the Cops' which has provided most valuable information and commentary on PCCs so far.

Russell Webster's 'scoopit' listings of key articles published on the net and in newspapers (both local and national), hugely useful

Steve Bachelder's 'scoopit' listing as well which publishes it's own distinct set of articles which also greatly adds to the debate.

If you don't subscribe to all three, I suggest that you do! All three can be found on twitter of course:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reply from Thames Valley Police Authority on their impartiality

The Chief Executive and Treasurer of the Authority has written back to me (I wrote on Saturday with a link to my earlier blog post on the issue). Here is his email in full (I must say I am impressed by the speed of response and the fact that he dealt with nearly all of my points)
Dear Mr Harvey
May I respond on behalf of Mr Lawson and Thames Valley Police Authority to your concerns, below.
I can confirm that the Police Authority has not written to Mr Stansfeld regarding the comments on his Conservative Party campaign website and does not intend to do so.
The comments you refer to represent a statement of fact and make no claim that either the Police Authority or any individual member(s) of the Authority are supportive of his candidature (albeit I acknowledge it is implicit that Mr Stansfeld, the Police Authority member, is supportive of the campaign of Mr Stansfeld, the PCC candidate, but I suspect that most reasonable people would assume that to be the case in any event). 
If you are not satisfied with this response then I note and concur that your proposed action would be appropriate, i.e. to refer your concerns to either the Electoral Commission and/or the Home Office to seek their opinion, if not clarification, as to whether the Police Authority has breached any electoral laws or guidelines.  However,
I have also taken the liberty of copying this response in to the Police Area Returning Officer for the Thames Valley, Mr. Andrew Grant, who is responsible for the administration and upholding the integrity of this local PCC election, to make him aware of your concerns.
Finally, as to your question in your blog (“just who brought this to your attention?” re the matters relating to Mr Bains), I can confirm that it was brought to my attention by an officer of the Police Authority as a result of their routine scanning of all candidates’ campaign websites, a process we hope will benefit the transition to a PCC by gaining an early insight into their priorities, objectives and campaign manifesto commitments prior to the election in November.
Yours faithfully,
Paul Hammond
I have just replied:
Dear Mr Hammond
Thank you for your swift reply, I appreciate that. Moreover, thank you for addressing all of the questions in my email from the weekend. (However, I would request again a reply to the question in my email of 3/9/12 which, to my mind, you have not fully addressed.)
I remain concerned of course and I will be referring the matter to the Home Office and the Electoral Commission in due course. I will also be interested to read the views of the Returning Officer at some point as well. Thank you for involving him in this discussion.
You write that the comments on Cllr Stansfeld’s website are merely factual. I assume you mean such comments as: “For the last year Anthony Stansfeld has Chaired the performance Committee of the Police Authority, which sets targets for the police. Household burglary has been given priority, especially in our major urban areas such as Slough, Reading, Oxford and Milton Keynes. The results have been impressive. In Slough the detection rate has nearly doubled, and household burglaries have reduced considerably. In Reading household burglaries are running at over 30% less and detection rates again have about doubled. This is mirrored in most other Thames Police areas. There is still room for improvement and this is being addressed. Anthony Stansfeld believes that high detection rates for household burglary lead to immediate reductions in crime rates, not only for household burglary but in other areas as well.”
When I read this website with an evident opinion (not a statement of fact) “results have been impressive” along with his published CV which states “He took over as Chairman of the Performance Committee of the Thames Valley Police last year, during this period the overall crime rate has dropped by 15%, the greatest drop of any Police Force in England and Wales. He has, in conjunction with his Committee, set the exacting targets the Police have to achieve over next year. He concentrated his efforts on reducing rural crime, and improving household burglary detection rates, especially in Slough and Reading, neither of which has been up to standard in the past” for me, this begins to read less like a mere listing of facts and much more like Cllr Stansfeld using his position on the Authority in support of a Party Political campaign. What do you think?
Meanwhile, I have been studying the TVPA Code of Conduct. This Code states (as I am sure you well know) under General Obligations that members of the Authority must not “(d) do anything which compromises or is likely to compromise the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, your authority”. May I ask if this applies to a member at all times or only when they specifically involved in a meeting of the Authority (ie within the usual scope of being a police authority member as defined elsewhere in the code)?
Furthermore, in your view, given that that Cllr Stansfeld has been in meetings with the Chief Constable and yourself since declaring himself to be the Conservative Party Candidate, could that in itself be something which might have constituted a compromise of impartiality? For example, he may have asked a question about a report that could have referred to policing post November? 
I look forward to your further thoughts. Thank you.
(I am also looking forward to your or Mr Lawson’s reply to my email of 18/9/12 about the accuracy of Cllr Stansfeld’s register of interests which certainly omitted mention of his role on West Berkshire Council and indeed his membership of the Conservative Party on his ‘updated 29/8/12’ form, which also has him citing a firm which I believe was dissolved in 2009… although I could be wrong, of course. Interestingly, his TVPA form makes no mention of the company ‘Fidas’ which is mentioned on his West Berkshire register of interests: of which he says he is Chairman. I presume such actions are all covered by the TVPA code of conduct? I hope all this can be resolved satisfactorily)
Very best wishes
I now forward to further debate and resolution of all these matters.

Vote Basher Hood: Vote Plebeian!

A script for a new campaign video has fallen into my hands. I thought people might like to read it...
Hallo, my name is Basher Hood and I am seeking your vote to become the Police & Crime Commissioner for Forestshire. I am not usually that political but the Plebeian Party approached me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. I know a lot about crime and punishment, far more that all these magistrates, councillors, barristers and authors (including that Dostoevsky bloke) who are all banging on about becoming PCCs. They don’t breath the same air as we Plebeians do. I have been there, been done in and stolen the t-shirt.
Mind you, I have never been convicted of an imprisonable offence, not even in my youth, as some of the would-have-been candidates. No. I have been in a custody suite, sat in the back of police car, watched friends get put away… but no court in the land has ever found me guilty of an offence. I have, to use the vernacular, got away with it.
This gives me a rare and precious insight into the workings of the police and other crime bodies. Police officers have stared into my baby blue eyes and I have stared back. They don’t intimidate me but I would never, ever swear at a police officer: I am not so stupid. Moreover, I see them as part of the rich flora and fauna of my business environment. The police often appear as both threats and opportunities on my annual SWOT analysis of my business.
So why should you vote for me? Like I say, I have been on the inside for all of my life. Politicians talk about budgets & police numbers: I experience them. I hear the coppers talking about the bits of kit they haven’t got, the overtime they can’t get and the leadership they would like to have. You would be surprised how much they tell me. (I don’t look down on them and they don’t look down on me.) I have watched these magistrates wrestle with their consciences and wring their hands when they come to sentence my friends and family. They think that gives them special understanding of crime. Trust me, it doesn’t, at least not from where I am standing. And most of the time, they just do what the court clerk says they can do.
No, the only way you get to understand policing and crime is if you experience it day in, day out. As I have done all of my life.
So vote for me and I will make sure that the police go where the real & harmful crime actually is and not where rarefied classes think it is. I will make the voice of the ‘plebs’ heard. Strange as it may seem, I want good policing and less crime. I know how much harm there is where I live and how much of it is not tackled because coppers are busy chasing the wrong people or writing long reports.
And do you know what the real harm is? Of course it is violence and pain that ordinary people suffer when they are mugged, burgled or beaten up by their partners. But let’s be clear, we in the Plebeian Party also see all the pain and anguish when people haven’t got enough to eat or give their kids proper shoes. This is violence too although this Government doesn’t see that.
So make sure you vote for me on November 15. If I become PCC, we will get a policing plan that reflects the map of harm in Forestshire. I won’t cow tow to anyone especially the Home Secretary or PM who I reckon, know about as much about real crime & policing as I know about hedge funds, offshore tax havens and the playing fields of Eton or Rugby. You won’t find me cycling to work, I will be getting the bus.
And above all, I will stand up for the people, the real people who suffer the real crime of being forgotten or looked down on by politicians of a certain ilk.
Vote Basher Hood! Vote Plebeian!

Hallo, I'm Julie...

Following on from my earlier crit of another Tory candidate's campaign video, just spotted this new one by Julie Iles, the Conservative Party candidate for Surrey

This one is sooooo boring, I cannot even be bothered to unpick it. Except to say that it is anodyne in the extreme... if that is possible!

So come on Tory candidates, please let us have some palpable policies! Because on the evidence on what I have seen so far from a range of people the pitch seems to be: I am nice person like you, crime should come down, vote for me.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The paradox of impartiality

I have been mulling on the Thames Valley Police Authority policy on impartiality following my blog post from yesterday. Here it is again, as quoted to Balvinder Bains:

‘When acting in their capacity as a Police Authority member, members must avoid any action which is or might reasonably be perceived as being supportive of any party, candidate or opinion, and must avoid putting themselves, the Authority or the Force in a position or situation which could be used by a party or a candidate in support of their campaign’

Please can someone explain to me how it is possible to be a candidate and be a member of the Police Authority simultaneously? Because as soon as you say or reference the fact that you are a member, you are acting in the capacity of being a member. As soon as any of your campaign literature mentions the fact that you are a member, you will be reasonably perceived as being supportive of your own candidacy. If you mention, in writing or in speech, that you are a member of the Police Authority you will be putting the yourself and Authority together in your campaign...

So in what parallel universe, was it possible for Cllr Anthony Stansfeld to have complied with this policy on impartiality whilst remaining a member of the Police Authority?

Equally, how can the Police Authority maintain the existence of this policy whilst one of their own is a party political candidate? It is paradoxical, in my view.

Please can someone resolve the paradox for me?

If this policy has legal power (which the word 'must' would suggest and it is not just a courteous appeal by the PA to play fair), then has the law been broken? Has anyone committed a criminal act? Should the election be declared null and void as of now, and we start over?

These are the questions I will be raising with the Electoral Commission and Home Office next week.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Is Thames Valley Police Authority following its own guidelines on impartiality?

Regular readers will know that I am more than a little concerned about the role that TVPA is currently playing in our local PCC election. (See here and here) I have now been sent some information by the Labour Candidate Tim Starkey which now makes me very, very concerned. Allow me to explain.

(But before I do, I will just add that I am not part of Tim’s campaign team and none of what I have been writing on this blog has been at his or any other official request. This blog is not an official Labour Party publication at all. These are just the musings and rants of someone who cares deeply about community safety and good policing in Thames Valley and everywhere else.)

A few days ago this image appeared on Tim’s campaign blog .

It was accompanied by text which identified one person in the picture as Balvinder Bains with the description “Slough’s Police Authority member”. This prompted an email from the Police Authority to Mr Bains which I reprint in full:
Dear Mr Bains
It has been brought of our attention that on Mr Starkey’s website the article entitled ‘Campaigning with Fiona Mactaggart in Slough’ posted on 17 September 2012 shows two pictures with you in both. One picture names you as “Slough’s Police Authority member”. This is in breach of the ‘Election of Police and Crime Commissioner Information and Candidate Management Policy’ and in particular to the following Candidate Management Principle as set out below:
‘When acting in their capacity as a Police Authority member, members must avoid any action which is or might reasonably be perceived as being supportive of any party, candidate or opinion, and must avoid putting themselves, the Authority or the Force in a position or situation which could be used by a party or a candidate in support of their campaign’
The Information and Candidate Management Policy has been approved by the Authority and the Chief Executive and Treasurer of the Authority reminded all members in his e-mail dated 6 July 2012 of that Policy which was attached to that reminder.
Please can you ensure that the pictures and associated text are withdrawn from Mr Starkey’s website with immediate effect and confirm that this has been actioned. Failure to do so will necessitate intervention by the Chief Executive and Treasurer of the Authority and/or the Police Area Returning Officer which, I am sure you will agree, is better avoided.
Following this email, Tim and his team changed the text as you can read from the link above. Mr Bains is no longer named.

Meanwhile, as I have linked on several occasions (see below), Cllr Anthony Stansfeld (still, I believe, a member of the Police Authority) says on his Conservative Party campaign website the following:
For the last year Anthony Stansfeld has Chaired the performance Committee of the Police Authority, which sets targets for the police.
Here is a pic to evidence this is currently on his website. 

And so my open question to the Police Authority is: have you written to Cllr Stansfeld in a similar way? When he is no longer a PA member he will be outside the control of the PA, understandably. However, for the last few weeks he has been both a member of the PA and the nominated Conservative Party candidate. Have you asked him to remove all mention by him or about him on all websites he has control or influence over that he is Chair of a PA committee? 

Because it seems to me that if the PA has not, then the Authority itself is not being impartial. Let’s review the words of the official Thames Valley Police Authority policy again:

‘When acting in their capacity as a Police Authority member, members must avoid any action which is or might reasonably be perceived as being supportive of any party, candidate or opinion, and must avoid putting themselves, the Authority or the Force in a position or situation which could be used by a party or a candidate in support of their campaign’

In what way is describing oneself on campaign websites as a member of the PA, chair of one of its key committees, and making claims as to one’s effectiveness as such not a) acting in the capacity and b) “reasonably be perceived as being supportive” of one particular party?

And let’s also review the final paragraph of the email to Mr Bains once more:

Please can you ensure that the pictures and associated text are withdrawn from Mr Starkey’s website with immediate effect and confirm that this has been actioned. Failure to do so will necessitate intervention by the Chief Executive and Treasurer of the Authority and/or the Police Area Returning Officer which, I am sure you will agree, is better avoided.

Within the bounds of ‘local bureaucratise’ that sounds pretty darn strong to me. (What do you think?)

So unless Thames Valley can evidence that they have written in similar terms and tones to Cllr Anthony Stansfeld (who may have decided not to respond of course) then I would contend that the Police Authority have not acted impartially. And indeed would have broken their own code.

I am not sure whether this means they have broken Home Office or Electoral Commission guidelines / statutory instruments or not. I am urgently seeking clarification from the Police Authority (a link to this blog is going to them as soon as I have published this with request that they look into this matter quickly). If I don’t hear from them in the next couple of working days I will be contacting the Home Office and Electoral Commission to ask for an urgent review of all of these matters to establish whether Electoral (or other) Law has not, is not and will not be broken.

Finally my last question to the Police Authority is: just who brought this to your attention? (This, by the way, is a Freedom of Information inquiry. I expect an answer within 20 working days or sooner if possible.)

I don’t often get angry when I write blog posts. But frankly, I am very annoyed about all of this. I hope that the Police Authority will be able to respond with detail and evidence so that all of my concerns can be allayed. If not, this will not be a fair election in my view. I already have my doubts that there is already not a level playing field given that Cllr Stansfeld has continued to have privileged access to Chief Officers and information (that the other candidates have not) by dint of him remaining a member of the PA. Unless they can show they have been even handed about all this, the playing field will tilted even more, in my opinion...

UPDATE: The Police Authority replied by late morning on Monday. I have reprinted their reply above together with my response back to them.

UPDATE 2: The correspondence continues: see above. TVPA responded to my further questions and I have replied to these.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ad hominem? Non sic.

I am aware I might be developing something of an 'attack dog' profile in the Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner election. People may be wondering why I am spending time dissecting the Tory and Lib Dem candidates as people rather than their policies. There are several reasons:

This is a presidential election. In other words, the new PCC will have significant new and untested executive powers over police budgets and policies. (Whilst there will be a Police Crime Panel to hold them to account, I am not holding my breath.) As such, we need to understand the persons (or men in the case of Thames Valley candidates declared so far) and where they are coming from. What are their values? Do they think of the police as beneath them or even as 'plebs'? Are their business affairs transparent or is there something of the night about where exactly their money comes from? These (and many more factors) will help the electorate of Thames Valley make up their mind as to who will be the best person to become PCC. I am not saying that policies are not important, but we need to know about the people that they are. So far not much is coming forward from either the Tories or the Lib Dems.

There are no substantive polices yet. I do not know what the Tories are campaigning for at all. Cllr Anthony Stansfeld's website is a glistening policy void. To be fair Professor Howson has at least begun to show some of his colours on the Police Exchange website here. But it is all a bit vague & verbose (of which some more another day). For the time being here is his crisp & inspirational vision for policing in Thames Valley...

Thames Valley is a large and diverse police force covering rural areas, small towns, large towns and cities and even outer London fringe areas with many different calls on the police. Policing by consent is at the heart of policing in Britain ; police must be trusted by all the public and especially young people. Thames Valley police must be as professional as possible, but not remote from the communities they serve. They must be trusted by communities; those who fear the police don't report crime and help to solve it when it happens. They must be effective and strive to deal with and solve as many crimes as possible from the petty to the most serious. The police are not sentencers nor are they carers of victims: others carry out both these roles and the police must be sensitive to them but are essentially about preventing, detecting and solving crime and carrying out the many other functions society requires of them.

(For the record, my vision was: To make Thames Valley Police the most respected police force in the country, if not the world.) And here are Professor Howson's top three priorities:

Working with the Chief Constable and other agencies on how to prevent crime, increasing detection rates to the best possible levels across the force with the resources available, and ensuring everyone who is a victim of crime is dealt with to the same level by the police.

(See what I mean about the absence of substantive policies...?)

Nobody else is doing this yet. The local newspapers do not really seem to woken up yet to the fact that this election is happening. The reporting is pretty tedious. There is very little debate so far about either the policies or the people involved. I hope this will change soon.

All the main party candidates have said why they as people should be elected. In other words they are seeking to gain support as result of their past experience. They talk about the work they have done, their capabilities and skills, and the experiences they have had. If they can talk about these matters then so will I.

But in the end, I do want to know more about what they will do as PCC. To what policies will we hold them to account? 

UPDATE: Just spotted (thanks to Russell Websterthis story about Cllr Stephen Bett: he has just resigned as Norfolk Police Authority Chair and from the Conservative Party / County Council whip so that he can run as an independent against Jamie Athill the official Conservative candidate (whose video I critiqued the other day). You might say he is "doing an Ann Barnes". Is this about politics or personalities? Policies or past experience? It is certainly about people...

Who knows, perhaps my critique of the platitudinous campaign video pushed Cllr Bett over the edge! 

The question is... how will the Tory vote now split? Will either of them dare mention the 'S' word... the second preference choice in the supplementary vote? My money is on neither of them stooping to advocate voting second for the other in their campaign material... 

What do you think?

Selection of Professor John Howson: Lib Dem transparency?

How is that the Liberal Democrats seem reluctant to explain how the selection of their candidate for the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner was conducted? I first asked question of the candidate himself but he referred me onto the Party machine (see below). So I duly located Liz Leffman who is the Chair of the South Central Liberal Democrats and asked her:

There are several reports all over the country including in your region that various Lib Dem candidates have been selected to run for the PCC elections. As Professor Howson will be standing in my area (Thames Valley), I would like to know how he was selected – what was the process? How many candidates were considered? Was there a postal vote among LD party members? Or did you do it by some sort of meeting (or more) of party members much like the Conservatives have done? Or was Professor Howson selected by a small team of your regional party? Given all the controversies about selection processes in the Conservative Party and the ongoing problems with some candidates finding out late in the day that they cannot stand due to previous convictions and moreover the fact that the Lib Dem policy was not to put up candidates originally – I am curious.

She replied (on 7/9/12):

Thank you very much for your interest in the Lib Dem selection process for the PCC elections. The position was advertised in Liberal Democrat News, and applications were invited from approved candidates living within the Thames Valley area. The party follows a rigorous approval, shortlisting and selection process, but we do not publish the number of applications we receive, or the number of people that are shortlisted.

I responded the same day:

I am sure your selection process was rigorous. However, your reply leaves several questions unanswered – which have been answered by the Conservative and Labour Parties. Both of those announced who was on their shortlists and described what the process was for all voters to know. Indeed the Labour Party openly and transparently published the postal voting figures for the two candidates (of which I was one – and I missed selection by 24 votes out of the 1204 cast, as it happens.) I am curious that you seem unwilling to reveal any more detail. Surely you can tell me if the wider membership of the LD party were involved in the selection or not – via meetings and/or postal votes?

The role of PCC is an extremely powerful position and I take the view that anyone standing for it should be scrutinised in a similar way and depth to the candidates for the London Mayoral election. For me this is all about transparency. I am genuinely surprised that, as a Liberal Democrat, you do not appear to want to be transparent in this matter. Perhaps you could explain more?

So here we are now two weeks later and still no response. And I thought the Liberal Democrat Party was a transparent party...

Was Professor Howson the only person to apply? (No shame in that - plenty of Labour candidates have come through in a similar way. The role of PCC is a querky one and I am not surprised that fewer people put themselves forward. I note that, I think, all the Tories candidates were chosen from a number of applicants, which is not surprising since they are the authors of this new policy.)

Did others apply and have to drop out because of some crime in their youth?

Was he made an offer he could not refuse... even?!

To repeat... why are the Lib Dems so reluctant to speak? (And what has happened around the rest of the country, I would be interested to hear...)

But then perhaps we will have to wait until they have an auto-tuned statement to release...?

Does Cllr Anthony Stansfeld believe in transparency and accountability?

See all collected posts about this matter in one place by clicking this link

OK, so where are we up to with understanding Cllr Anthony Stansfeld’s commercial interests and whether we know all there is to know? This is what I think I have established:
  • His West Berkshire register has now changed to comply with new regulations around the declaration of interests (as I understand matters). The full text can be seen here. It now says he is “Chairman of FIDAS - not registered in UK and with no interests in the UK. Unpaid” 
  • So we still know little about FIDAS unless it is a company registered in Switzerland called Fidas AG (see earlier blog to see the connection ) However, this company states that its purpose is ““acquisition, holding and management and sale of investments”.
  • Cllr Stansfeld states on his published CV to be “currently Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry” (see here)
  • So if Fidas AG is an investment type company it could well have interests in water systems etc. just as it might also have investments in many other kinds of (unknown) businesses as well. There is no website and not much more information about this company and precisely what its business is. What conclusions would you draw from this: Switzerland, investment type company, paucity of information?
  • I now have a copy of Cllr Stansfeld’s register of interests for his Police Authority work. Interestingly, it does not mention FIDAS at all, nor indeed, as it happens does it list his membership of West Berkshire Council (I have raised this with the PA). The document I was sent says it was updated on 29/8/12… However it does mention (under Name of Employer or Name of Firm of which I am a Partner/Remunerated Director) the following: “ELS, Redhill Chambers, 28 High Street, Redhill, Surrey RH1 1RJ”. This is interesting as when I search on “els redhill” I get links to European Land Solutions. As I have established before, Cllr Stansfeld has indeed had a relationship with such a business (see this below) but he terminated his involvement with this business in 2008 and it was formally dissolved as a company a year or so later. Just to repeat, the document was updated on 29/8/12… (I also cannot account for the fact that the last company address of ELS was in Peterborough not Redhill…) And the website that the ELS links point towards include this which seems (now) to be a querky and slightly dodgy website in Japanese. Huh ???
  • His LinkedIn account still shows him as Chairman of a company called Prescience AG which Cllr Stansfeld has told me in an email never traded even though it still has a live website presence. The website is neatly designed and describes the company as Turning today’s innovative technologies into tomorrow’s universal applications in target markets in the Middle East, Australasia, Europe and Asia. Working with Europe’s leading innovators in the water and energy sectors, PRESCIENCE AG helps with the development of new and significant technologies in territories where team members have gained considerable experience. This sounds rather like the company described in Cllr Stansfeld’s CV. But it never traded according to him. Hmm...
I am almost getting bored by all this now as I have met with so many cul-de-sacs and information that just does not add up for me. But I say almost… because in the end, Cllr Stansfeld is pitching for high and powerful political office. I think the electorate have a right to know about all of his commercial interests whether they are in this country or not. Right now, I think we know very little.

I will continue to dig… (and all help with the spade work much appreciated)

Here for your information are links to all the previous blog posts on this matter:
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six | Part seven

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honouring those who put themselves in danger

Today is the day after two police officers were shot and killed in Manchester. It is a very sad day for anyone in or connected with our great police services of the UK. Indeed it is a sad day for anyone who cares about community safety. Or who just simply cares that two young women, who had so much to look forward to in their lives, are no longer with us. I guess that is all of us, really.

My deepest and sincerest sympathies go out to all the people who knew PC Fiona Bone and PC Nicola Hughes: their families, their friends, their colleagues... everyone. No words of mine can help their pain and grief.

I am not going to seek to make political capital out of this tragic event. Not only because this is really not the time to do this, but also because there are no simple links to make to either police cuts, arming the police or even to reintroducing the death penalty. It is far more complex than that.

And sadly it is also more ordinary than that too. As I understand things at the moment, these two police officers were answering a regular call for help and then were cruelly ambushed and shot. It is risk that the police face all the time (and also many other public servants) who go into places where there might be serious danger.

I count myself fortunate to live in a country where these occurrences are very rare. I am so humbled by the fact that we have police officers, staff and other public servants who are brave enough to risk their lives every day to keep our society safe and secure. If you are one of those people, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

This piece is about honouring PCs Bone & Hughes... and everyone else who will carry on doing what they did yesterday.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jamie Athill: fine words and...?

The thing about Mr Jamie Athill's video (link here) is that while he comes across as a sincere and articulate 'man of action' (there is lots of striding around), his campaign video really doesn't say that much. If I were to sum it up in one word I would say it was 'platitudinous'. Here are some choice quotes:

01:47 Rural crime …needs to be tackled by active policing and an involved community so that we protect the rural way of life which is so important to many people in Norfolk


02:40 Real success depends upon the people who are engaged in fighting crime and dealing with its consequences. If elected, I will ensure that the police operate to those standards of efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism that I’ve embraced throughout my military career.

and (yawn)

01:28 We need the police and the local authorities and a coordinated voluntary sector to intervene early to prevent things escalating out of hand

Well, I am not exactly wowed. It almost reads like a Monty Python script. Try reading those words in the voice of 'very naughty boy' Graham Chapman and you will see what I mean.

But is this going to be the Tories approach to these PCC elections? Are we going to hear lots of warm and earnest words designed to lull people into voting in their sleep?

There are some notable totemic words of course:

02:21 (With a clunky cut to) But what about Victims?! Victims should come first. As the Police & Crime Commissioner I would build on the work being done by the police and the voluntary sector through better interagency cooperation and acting as a voice for the people who think that sentences should really mean what they say. [my added emphasis]

Again here we have the idea that PCCs will be able to intervene in sentencing (false) and playing to gallery about victims. True, victims deserve better but... these are just fine words, and ironic ones from a party of Government that seems intent upon breaking up Victim Support.

And then we have the curious

00:46 I’m a Norfolk Conservative because I believe in personal responsibility, self reliance, and mutual respect within the framework of a strong society built on family and community values. (Do Suffolk conservatives believe something different? Indeed does anyone, Left or Right not believe in such matters - or is he really hinting that socialists believe in no responsibility, dependency and lack of respect within a weak society built on heathen values? Crafty eh! Malcolm Tucker: eat your heart out!)

There are some puzzling bits too:

01:16 Norfolk is one of England’s safest counties (at which point, bizarrely, the camera cuts to a shot of a house for sale sign and then one of a bathroom window…? Is this to help burglars know when and where to break in...?)

01:18 ...but crime can affect families and businesses in everyday life. (No way! Crime can affect families! Crikey, I really must vote for this chap in the coming election, this man clearly knows his stuff!)

And then finally, although this comes near the beginning:

00:27 My previous career was in the British Army, so I understand the ethos and dynamics of a uniformed service

That is bit like me saying I was once in a Boy Scout band (which is true, I was a drummer) and therefore I understand the culture and ethos of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. I know ex-Army officers who are humble about the limits of their experience and are careful not to exaggerate their competence, which is often significant. (One good friend wrote this inspirational piece for example.) I have also met army officers who seem to think that commanding a military unit qualifies them to run anything as if all things can and indeed should be made to run like a platoon. Mr Athill (does he ever call himself Colonel now?) appears to be edging towards the latter category.

If I worked in the police, I would feel pretty offended by this assumption that the only thing to know about the police is that they are a uniformed service.

Now clearly, Mr Athill's confidence was enough to beat the other Tory candidates who had far more experience of policing. The question is, will it be enough to persuade the people of Norfolk to vote for him?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The secret diary of a Police & Crime Commissioner (aged 64½)

Day one (22 November 2012)

What a week! So many supporters to thank for their hard work, tramping the streets delivering leaflets on wet November evenings & weekends! I said to my agent I would damned (and probably excommunicated) if we didn’t shift the container full of pallets of glossy paper despatched to me by HQ. All credit to party’s campaign director for persuading G2FO to sponsor the print run, must have cost a small fortune. Still they had a lot of guilt to assuage and good books to get back into after their disastrous handling of the World Championship Regatta. Of course only a few people know of the deal, their FD will hide the expense in the marketing budget. Thank heavens (and my bank balance) for clever accountants everywhere, that’s what I say!

We delivered 490,000 leaflets and 118,126 voted – that is a remarkable success. I regard the election turnout of 15.1%, a whole 5.2% more than one prediction, as a clear vote of confidence in the post of Police & Crime Commissioner. And my 25,256 first preference votes coupled with the resounding approval of the 35,544 second preference votes have given me a clear mandate to implement my manifesto. I am so happy for the people of Northfordwestshire. They have elected, frankly, a superb first PCC. I will be the voice of the people, all of the people. At least I will certainly say that when I come to swear my oath.

I am already instructed my PA to start inviting the great and the good of Nfw’shire to a canap├ęs and champagne reception to observe and honour me taking the oath. But I still can’t quite decide whether to ask the Lord Lieutenant, the Bishop or the lead singer from the local boy band to swear me in. I’ll drop the Home Office a line to see who they had in mind. Must get the press along as well, though not little wotsit from the Maxwellian Telegraph who kept banging on about my investments in the Cayman Islands and some mines in West Africa. I told him it was none of his damn business and the diamonds round my wife’s neck were bought in Shatner’s some years ago.

The Chief Constable seems to be rather up himself. I detected the whisker of a raised eyebrow at the count when the final turnout was announced. Nobody ever voted for him of course. And from what I hear on the grapevine he has one or two skeletons (or should I say naked bodies) in his cupboard. Still, he has told me he is shooting off to warmer climes. Which means I get to select one of us to replace him. Must put the word out to party HQ to find me someone with the …er, shall we say ‘right’ track record…

Of course I will give the new chap or chapess a 2¾ year contract to keep them on their toes. Then I will have the option, depending on how the land lies for next election, to keep or dump the person or inflict a legacy appointment on my successor if it looks likely to be an opposition win.

It is straight forward really. These are rules of PCC club:

1. No one talks about PCC club
2. Compliance is more important than performance
3. Help party successor but not so much that they outshine me
4. Do everything to screw up the opposition
5. While noting impact on crime and safety, still do everything to screw up the opposition

I am rather pleased with the following decision matrix I have constructed as to what to do when the new Chief’s contract comes up for renewal around February 2016:

Anyway, I now need to start my key and number one strategy to tackle crime: sell off all the remaining police houses and as many of the buildings and pieces of land we own. This ‘family copper’ (as it were) will help me fulfil my promise to reduce the council tax precept whilst at the same time (magically) maintaining frontline numbers – well at least giving the impression of maintaining frontline numbers. I will get the whiz financial person in my office to start doing the numbers.

And of course my second priority is to organise my Chain of Office. I am honestly surprised the Home Office did not legislate for that. If the Chief Officers are going to ponce around with all their braid on their collars, I am going to have a big fat chain with a crest on it. Just so that they know, I am the elected boss around here!

I suppose I need to have a look through the draft policing plan, if only to know how much of it I will want to scrap. But more about that soon, dear diary.

  • Day one
  • Day two
  • Day three
  • Day four
  • Day five
  • Day six

  • Welcome memo from Chief
  • Friday, September 7, 2012

    Thames Valley Register of Members' Interests?

    As regular readers know, for some time, I have been trying to track down just what business interests Cllr Anthony Stansfeld actually has and whether he has been totally open and transparent about all these. My post below  is about as far as I have got. All I can find out so far is that there is a company called Fidas AG based in Switzerland although its recorded purpose (on the Swiss equivalent of Companies House) does not seem even close to it being a "small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry".

    But as part of my investigations I wrote to the Thames Valley Police Authority asking them for a copy of the Register of Members' interests. Before I report their response, have a look at this:

    Can you spot the difference? 

    Perhaps this is why when I wrote to the Police Authority on the 28 August asking "do you keep a register of interests of the members of the PA? If so, please could I have a copy for the year ending March 2012", their reply was "your FOI request will be dealt with within the time period for FOI’s".

    My question is, unlike all the other Police Authorities in the South East, why does TVPA not publish the interests of its members online? Furthermore (and I hope the answer to this is 'yes') does such a document even exist?

    Political gimmickry by Surrey Police Authority

    This morning several people are commenting upon the news story that Surrey Police Authority have decided to" scrap plans for partial privatisation" (BBC headline with full story here). I have seen several people say that they are glad that Surrey PA have seen sense and taken this decision.

    Unsurprisingly, I am more cynical.

    The list of the members of the PA shows that 6 of the 9 councillor members are conservatives (or should that now be 'Conserve-a-Tories' following the government's bold plan to kickstart the economy by allowing people to build slightly larger home extensions without needing planning permission). The other three are two LibDems and a 'Residents' Association' councillor. I know very little about the 8 independent members since their website gives no bios. The published "Members’ Register of Interests June 2012"* does not say much except I am left with the impression that the independent members are not exactly a collection of opposition party supporters.

    Where am I going with this?

    I would contend that this decision is all part of an attempt by the Conservative parties of Surrey and probably the Liberal Democrats too, to remove the toxicity of outsourcing from the PCC campaign.

    They know that even traditional Tory voters recoil from the idea of having even part of the police service being run by G4S, especially after the London 2012 fiasco. And so the PA have decided to pull "out of plans to privatise parts of their services" according to the BBC. Later the article says (presumably drawing on the PA's press release) that the PA have done this because the "security firm failed to provide the agreed number of staff at the Olympics" and "a key factor was also a lack of support from candidates seeking election to run the force as police commissioner later this year".

    This is arch politics.

    First, the PA have not actually made the final decision as this will come later in September. Secondly, as far as I can see, they have decided not to spend any more money on the arrangements they were putting in place with West Midlands Police but not to give up privatisation / outsourcing altogether. Thirdly, why were they doing this anyway if it matters to them what the PCC 'candidates' are saying (parenthesis due to not one of them yet being officially declared). Surely the job of all PAs at the moment is to steer their ships into a safe and non strategic harbour to smooth the arrival of the new PCCs. It is not their job to take long term decisions at the moment and seek to bind the hands of the incoming PCC, in my opinion.

    And fourthly is the statement "lack of support from candidates seeking election" actually true? I have browsed the website of Julie Iles' and she says nothing about G4S or privatisation that I can see. (Happy to be told otherwise of course.) I went onto the Policy Exchange website (who conveniently ask no particular questions about outsourcing) to see what I could find there. I pulled up this comparison between Julie Iles and the Labour candidate Robert Evans. Only Robert mentions G4S.

    Her blog has one posting on it. Yep, you have guessed it, nothing about privatisation or G4S. Her bio says "Julie also has a successful track record in business and experience from a career outside of politics. She has the skills to ensure delivery of an efficient, effective police force making best use of our resources and funding". Again this says nothing. I mean who isn't for making best use of resources and funding?

    And so to repeat: this decision my Surrey PA is nothing short of pure politics designed to pave the way for a Conservative victory in the PCC elections. This decision seeks give the impression that a) all the candidates are against privatisation and b) it won't matter anyway because everything has been shelved.

    I am sure that Robert Evans and his team have already seen through what the PA are seeking to do and will be pressing Julie Iles for rock solid commitments not to continue with G4S or indeed any other massively risky privatisation experiment on the people of Surrey.

    *NB Surrey publish their register of interests, whereas as Thames Valley are treating my request for a list of members' interests as a Freedom of Information inquiry since it does not appear on their website... Hmm. See new blog post above.

    UPDATE: Thanks to Stuart Lister for pointing this out: here is a copy of the report from the PA Chief Executive to the Authority. Note that it says "Surrey will remain a ‘potential beneficiary’ to any contact agreed by West Midlands in future, together with the other 41 police authorities (in future, Police & Crime Commissioners) named on the original OJEU notice".

    They are not really hedging their bets are they...