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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thinking 'customer' harms the public good

I have been batting on about public services not having customers per se for many years now. (You can read a previous blog post about this here.) To summarise, public services have far more complex relationships with members of the public who are simultaneously citizens (with rights), taxpayers (who fund), voters (to whom the politicians are accountable), partners (in co-creating improved social outcomes) and service users (who have a range of complicated needs and wants and ambitions). Sometimes people do not want to be customers at all (such as people who are arrested by the police!) Yes people should be given good customer service but that does not make them customers. Delivering a public service is not a simple transaction of money like buying a pizza. To call citizens/taxpayers/users/voters/partners merely customers is, in my view, dangerously simplistic.

Why dangerously?

I was at a meeting of my District Council last night. It was a get together of District, Parish, and Town Councillors with senior officers of the District Council in attendance. It was a useful meeting with plenty of dialogue and debate: far more interactive than a previous 'consultation' meeting. I learnt lots which I have just reported back to my fellow town councillors.

An ongoing bone of contention is car parking in Buckingham. As a town council we think that the car park should be free (at least for the first couple of hours) so that people are encouraged to come into the town centre and linger rather than go and park for free at the Tescos paddock. We want people to linger in our town: lingering boosts the local economy, helps create community... and keeps Buckingham alive! In this respect we look longingly at West Oxfordshire District Council who manage to keep all of their car parks free. So in this way PM David Cameron, when he pops into his local shopping centre, does not have to pay. The council even advertise this fact on the A40 bypass around Witney.

However, my local district council sees the car park as an asset to milk. And as I was told last night: why shouldn't the 'customers' of the car park pay for the privilege of parking there? They are customers. Customers pay for things. Therefore we will be increasing the car parking charges next year to pay for 'loss' that the car park is currently experiencing. (This loss comes from, by the way, the rates payable on the land, some notional rent to the council and the costs of enforcing the car parking charges. They might also be trying to recoup the cost of repairing the ticket machines which were all vandalised last year in a vain attempt to get money out of them.)

Indeed, they see it as unfair that other council taxpayers would be subsidising the car park 'customers' if they had their car parking for 'free'.

However, the car park is already paid for out of municipal taxes. It is publicly owned land. It is a social good that helps support the local economy. Indeed when I suggested last night that local businesses would benefit from having more free hours in the car park, I was told that the District Council would see none of that benefit in return: extra corporation tax or VAT goes straight to the Chancellor. So much for thinking about total places...

So the use of the word customer is dangerous because it commodifies and compartmentalises the relationship between a public body and the publics it serves. 'Users should pay...' kind of thinking leads to regressive taxation (that taxes the poor more) and indeed double taxation (people are paying twice for a public good). This kind of thinking leads to actions which are very unfair.

It also erodes the sense of partnership between the public and their public services. The relationship becomes a financial transaction as the public service looks for way to get more money out of the public. Now I think there is much to be had by developing coherent and creative resource / income generating strategies: but these strategies need to be ethically coherent as well.

Simply seeing the local car park as a cash cow risks far more than our local economy. It risks the whole relationship between the public and their public services. 

So let's not keep using the word 'customer' in a simplistic way: it harms the public good! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Direct entry: solution or risk?

Plans to allow police forces in England and Wales to recruit senior officers from outside the service are to be detailed by the government later... (BBC)

There probably is no hotter topic for debate in the police profession than this at the moment. My sardonic tweet (Breaking: Gov announces direct entry to Royal College of Surgeons - "there are some v skilled butchers out there") has already been retweeted 10 times in the last hour...

There are arguments on both sides of this fence and, politicians aside, senior cops are not united (contrast the views of Sir Hugh Orde and Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe). I am very cautious about wading into this debate as I have not read around all the issues sufficiently. However there are a few things I do want to say:

I do not believe that the basis for this plan should be anything other than a strong belief, backed up by comparable evidence, that it will improve policing and outcomes. Arguments based upon expediency because the current systems are not working very well are not a good basis on which to go forward, in my view. My solution instead would be to inquire into why those systems are not working and sort those out, rather than introduce such a wild card or risky quick fix into the service.

In some ways, the introduction of direct entry (if that is what we get) is one (inevitable?) consequence of maintaining the police profession as a craft rather than a regulated, evidence based, academically grounded profession where direct entry would be untenable. I know this will not be a popular thing to say: but without an evidence based body of knowledge and practice (see my earlier post), the police service remains far too open to the whims of politicians, and indeed to direct entry.

Arguing for direct entry on the basis that it will improve gender and other equalites in the service is laughable. Now I do not have the data to hand, but I cannot imagine how recruiting senior people from either the armed forces or business will make any difference here. Infact I would contend that it will make matters far worse. We could easily end up with far less diversity that we currently cling onto without some very strong positive action measures being introduced alongside.

And finally, I would say what is sauce for the goose is of course sauce for the gander. Will we see direct entry to the armed forces any time soon? How about direct entry to the judiciary who are also not well known for the diversity of membership? Indeed how about direct entry to the House of Lords: perhaps a good cohort of 16 to 25 year olds could shake the place up a bit? After all, parliament is making decisions that will have a greater impact on their futures more than the current  set of Lords (as these young people, frankly, have more future to look forward to...!)


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Secret Diary of a PCC (Day 68): The (secret) plan!

Time is running out for me. The Chief Exec and Acting Chief Constable keep badgering me to write the blasted introduction to the police and crime plan. They keep saying, “this is your plan, you have to write some of it!” So I have been digging deep into my repertoire of handy phrases and waiting for the muse to grab me by the unmentionables. And then an old pal from college days turns up with his draft introduction to his clinical commissioning group plan. Dr Tim Slim sent me his draft for me to comment on. Not wishing to pass up such an opportunity, I am considering basing my own intro on his words. With a couple of tweaks, I reckon I could get away with it! Top shop what! Anyway, here is the original text before all the ‘policifying’ that I will need to do:

General Practitioners reduce ill health primarily by treating those who are unwell. However the requirement to reduce sickness is only part a doctor’s job. Parents, schools, the police, the magnificent pharmaceutical industry and wondrous private health care suppliers, community nit nurses and the overall Health Care System (HCS) all have a major role in the reduction of illness. Without their pro-active support, nasty bugs and really pesky bacteria cannot be reduced by general practitioners alone. We are all in this together, as it were, in a way, sort of, just about, maybe.

The majority of ill health that directly affects the public is caused by the excessive consumption of food. Too much of a good thing is always bad for you in my book. There are also hypochondriacs who are addicted seeing doctors. They too cause ill health by stopping properly ill people see their GPs. Food is the primary causes of ill health and general lack of well-being. Indeed domestic cooking also causes injuries sometimes.

Being overweight is also an indicator of class and deprivation as we all know. Much of this kind of ill health happens within the late night economy when people are having late night snacks and visiting the fridge too many times. 24/7 opening hours for supermarket establishments only make matters worse. Opening hours are within the remit of the Government. They have the responsibility to see that these establishments are properly run and are not the cause of ill health and anti-social obesity. GPs have the responsibility for preventing obese behaviour descending into really obese behaviour but our ability to do this is a last resort. Afterall the essential problem has been created by the people themselves. The amount of sugar and fat pumped into everything sold by supermarkets has nothing to do with the problem whatsoever, I will have you know. I believe in self-control. As GPs, we will be working closely with the Government to encourage them to use the powers open to them to control the late night eating economy and reduce ill health caused by excessive consumption of food. Fridges with time locks for particular over eaters is something I wish to explore.

Prolific and persistent over eaters cause the majority of ill health in Northfordwestshire area. Local doctors cannot really comprehend people who eat and drink so much because we only consume food and alcohol in moderation. We can do what we can to stop people eating but as soon as they leave our surgeries, they start doing it again. Making over eating illegal is probably not the way ahead. Although a limited experiment somewhere up North, perhaps in Scotland, might be worth a trial. It would have to be a randomised controlled trial of course so that we could prove whether making over eating illegal worked or not.

The rehabilitation of over eaters, whether in bed or outside on the streets is the key to reducing ill health. Nothing is more conducive to ill health than allowing persistent over eaters the chance to spend ‘their money’ on junk food. However, the prevention of large scale importation of transfatty acid thingummies into the UK lies to a great extent within the powers of UK Waistline Agency. Financial cuts in these areas merely cause much greater extra cost and increased ill health within the community.

The self-abuse by vulnerable overweight people can only be tackled effectively if Social Services and the public bring the abuse to the attention of doctors. Self-abuse is usually carefully hidden, and its reduction requires Social Services and the public to be aware of the problems and, when they occur, bring it to the attention of their GPs. It must not be hidden. Usually, by the time it has become apparent to doctors it has already caused considerable distress and major over eating has been committed.

Rural ill health amongst isolated overweight people is endemic. In the past the serious effects of this have been underestimated. It will now be tackled with the seriousness that the cost, both in financial and in personal terms, warrants. It is unacceptable to have overweight people living on rustic farms. The workers and contractors who support these vital communities need to be shown how to eat less.

An efficient GP service can only be effective in reducing ill health by the partnership of all, from the public to lots and lots of other people. As the local GP commissioner, I am committed to ensuring that all partners play their role in reducing in ill health. I will make this clear very publicly. Furthermore, where I believe partners are not playing their part, at whatever level of responsibility, I will take whatever action is open to me, including taking away their funding, making them do little embarrassing dances or writing 5000 lines “I must work harder to help GPs tackle over eating”. I believe in partnership working, even when it hurts.

Besides local ill health, I and the Chief Nurse of Northwestfordshire also have a responsibility for ensuring that sufficient capabilities are in place to respond to serious and cross-boundary over eating. We will support the work of national agencies such as the new National Agency for Getting Action on Large Overweight Tribes (NAGALOT). The national threats that doctors must address are over eating on a national scale, organised parties where there are too many tasty but ultimately far too calorific foods, public engorgement and cyber threats (such as websites dedicated to cooking with oil). They require a response that is rooted in local action by GPs, with local commissioning groups playing their part on the local, regional and national stage.

No matter how efficient and effective doctors and their partners are in reducing ill health, there will always be a few people who eat one too many packet of crisps. Therefore, there will be victims of overeating (such as people who have sit on buses next to overweight people) . We will be proactive in seeking out the views of the victims of overeating in the area so that I and my partners can respond appropriately. A policy on segregated bus seats for thin and overweight people is an option I am considering.

Lastly the good will and support of the public is essential to all aspects of healthcare. This requires doctors to be scrupulously clean, uncorrupted and to use their power with good jokes, grace, and skill.

This plan for reducing ill health in Northwestfordshire aims, with our many partners, to continue to reduce ill health and the causes of ill health (over eating) within our area, and to do so with the most efficient and effective use of the public money that is made available to us by our gracious and beneficent government.

The Diary until now:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Society for Evidence Based Policing

I want to write a brief blog about this organisation and encourage you become a member: membership is free. The society has three aims:
  1. Increased use of best available research evidence to solve policing problems
  2. The production of new research evidence by police practitioners and researchers
  3. Communication of research evidence to police practitioners and the public
You can of course find out far more about the society on their website. As someone who has been talking about the importance and application of evidence based practice to policing since before the turn of the century, I would like to do all in my power to promote this organisation. This blog is part of that plan.

But why is evidence based practice so important?

Many years ago, a Hungaarian doctor called Ignaz Semmelweis was practising medicine in Vienna. Through careful experimentation and observation, he discovered that the incidence of a particularly nasty fever that killed many mothers after they had given birth could be reduced. Without really knowing why (the work of Louis Pasteur's and Joseph Lister was to come some years later), Semmelweis discovered in 1847 that if doctors washed their hands in a solution of chlorinated lime before tending to mothers in labour, mortality on the wards dropped dramatically.

However, his research was dismissed as being incompatible with the 'received wisdom' of his seniors. His ideas were rejected and many doctors were offended at the idea that their hand washing (or rather absence of it) could, in effect, kill their patients.

In 1865, Semmelweis was committed to an asylum, where he died at age 47 after being beaten by the guards, only 14 days after he was committed.

Evidence based practice is so important because so often, 'received wisdom' is not only incorrect but possibly downright dangerous. The move towards evidence based medicine began many years ago. It then became evidence based practice in the wider sense and through the use of clinical governance in the NHS, all clinicians and other staff are constantly asking the question: "what is evidence base for that practice / assertion / policy etc etc."

The police service need to do this more, in my opinion. How many policing practices have been experimentally tested to see if they actually work? 

Would you expect to go to your GP and on being asked why she was prescribing a pill for you, told you that few other senior GPs had got together and judged that it would probably be OK? Or would you rather be told that the pill had been through extensive research using placebo and controlled trials and had been shown to work?

Do you expect the same of operational police practice? I hope so since life and death decisions can also be made... This is what evidence based practice is all about. This is why it is important. Without evidence, policing practice can be easily challenged by just another opinion.

Of course I cannot leave this subject without suggesting that you scrutinise the draft Policing and Crime plan produced by your PCC as to whether it is based on any evidence, even experimental or social research evidence. Or is it perhaps based on a set of assertions which have no evidential base whatsoever. Go on, I dare you to have a look! You may find yourself shuddering or even laughing in that hollow way as you express one OMG after another....

Friday, January 25, 2013

Proactive anti corruption measures for PCCs

There is an article published by Police Oracle today that I commend to you: PCCs: Concern Mounts Over Corruption.

The article contains some pertinent quotes from some key commentators (although none from PCCs, which I think is an omission) about the dangers of concentrating so much governance power in the hands of a single individual. But as I have said on many occasions, we are where we are. The question now becomes: what do we do about this?

The most important shield to protect us against corruption is the sunshine of transparency of course. This is something that I believe all honest politicians of all colours have absolutely no issue with. The article referenced above highlights the value of scrutiny. While I sincerely hope that the Police & Crime Panels use their full statutory powers to scrutinise their PCCs, I am not holding my breath. Their ability at doing this will depend on them asking the right questions. They may (wittingly or unwittingly) fail to ask all the questions that need to be asked. Other, community based scrutiny bodies might emerge of course. Armed with the Freedom of Information Act, they may squeeze out more information from the PCCs than the PCPs do. But again this depends on knowing which questions to ask.

So I would propose now that PCCs institute some simple measures to evidence their proactive anti-corruption position by publishing regular information on their websites:
  1. There should be a list of any donations (in kind, substance or cash) made to their Offices.
  2. There should be a growing list of the people and organisations the PCCs and senior officials meet
  3. The PCCs should list any bodies on which they sit and any remuneration they receive as a consequence
  4. They should list all organisations they support, are a subscriber to or are a member of
  5. They should declare now their intentions not to use their office as means for income / employment once they are out of office
  6. There should be a clear statement by the PCC of the ethics that will underpin their decision making and how they plan to be accountable for meeting the standards set by the oath they took and the seven principles of public life
  7. Their statement of interests should include not only assets held but also sources of income they receive.
  8. The PCC websites should include clear sets of accounts for their Office, which will include all expense claims made by the PCC.
  9. There should also be clear information about contracts signed by the PCC and all procurement procedures to be followed.

This is my starter for ten. What else would you add? What would you challenge from my list above?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Another Guardian debate: PCC budget setting

The Public Leaders Network are hosting another live debate on Friday (25/1/13 between 3 & 5pm). This time the focus will be Police & Crime budgets. I will be taking part.

Please do join in if you can: the link to the debate is here. I look forward to 'seeing' you there!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to train your (dragon)

I watched a delightful film over Christmas called 'How to train your dragon' which I highly recommend. Essentially it is about boy who becomes a hero - but in a rather quirky way. The film is (loosely) based on a series of books by Cressida Cowell which have all received brilliant reviews.

There is no real connection here to what I have been doing today (I really just wanted to fit in plug for some wonderful story telling) except that the hero in the book and film faces the challenge of either training his dragon or being trained by it...

There is perhaps a loose connection to one of the outcomes of the PCC summit that happened in the Guildhall, London today.

The meeting today was the first big get-together of the PCCs, their deputies / assistants and chief execs. Also present were the Police Minister Damian Green, members of the Home Office and several other speakers such as Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett. It was organised and hosted by the APCC (the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners). Critically, today was the day when the PCCs considered the offer made by the APCC to become the national organisation which represents them. (Their proposal can be found here, although I have been told by the APCC that this has since been revised, although I do not know how.)

Today, I and a CoPaCC colleague had an extended meeting nearby, where we discussed the formation of CoPaCC and related matters. We wanted to make ourselves available to any PCCs who might wish to have a face to face conversation about the offer that CoPaCC is making to become the leading body to support PCCs in their role.

It transpired that at the meeting of PCCs, they decided to explore the development of the APCC by establishing a steering group to shape the APCC to meet their current and future requirements. This steering group has yet to be selected although I understand that it will consist of three Conservative, three Labour and three Independent PCCs.

Of course I won't be involved in this steering group. But I did wonder, if I were, what questions I would be seeking answers to:
  • What design principles need to underpin the shape and structure of the APCC?
  • In other words, for the APCC to be a successful representative body, what does the structure itself have to deliver?
  • How can the APCC be so designed so that it meets the needs of PCCs now but also in the future? 
  • How can the APCC remain adaptable to the shifting requirements of PCCs (as they will surely shift as time goes on)?
  • What core does the APCC need to have in order to function as an organisation and what parts of it might be thought of as a flexible and on-demand resource? 
  • What budget will the APCC need to have for it to be viable?
  • Where will this budget come from? 
  • Will PCCs be the sole source of funding and/or will the Home Office wish to part fund the organisation? 
  • Will there be a need to generate income from other sources (such as conference sponsorship) and will this have any impact on the independence of the APCC?
  • How will the APCC be governed: one PCC one vote? Or will the votes be distributed on a 'pro rata' basis according to the size of the PCC's budget?
  • Will other police services be entitled to 'seats at the table' (such at the British Transport Police, the new National Crime Agency or the City of London Police)?
  • Where will the APCC be based, if it is to have a base at all?
  • Overall, how will the PCCs ensure the APCC is their organisation: trained and sculpted to meet their needs?

I wish the steering group well and look forward to finding out more about the emergent organisation.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

30,000 and counting

Just to note that this blog has now been browsed more than 30,000 times.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, January 21, 2013

No more salami

Police & Crime Commissioners and their Chief Constables will soon be reaching the crunch point with regards to setting the budget. To precept rise or not to precept rise, that is the question...? (Indeed I and my fellow Town Councillors will be facing this dilemma this evening when we come to set our budget.)

There has been precious little time for the PCCs to have got their heads around the financial issues involved (another reason why the election should have been delayed until this coming May...) and so what follows is probably too late for this year. However, for next, may I request that PCCs take stock of below, avoid any salami slicing of budgets and instead look at REAL effectiveness and efficiency... Progressive PCCs and CCs will already be thinking in this way of course...

What is happening with your police and crime budgets?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Strategic Policing Requirement: time for a management simulation?

One of the other issues discussed in Leeds two days ago concerned the role that PCCs will play in fulfilling their statutory responsibilities to have due regard to the Strategic Policing Requirement. In essence this means that individual PCCs (in partnership with their Chief Constables) will need to ensure resources are put aside to fulfil tasks that could well lie beyond their immediate area. For example resources are required for tackling cyber crime and could be required in the future for tackling civil unrest if the constabulary of the area is unable to cope etc.

This has been written into the law to make sure that in amongst the parochial concerns of the PCCs, regional and national needs are not left out of the policing and crime resourcing equation.

All understandable. And of course, since it is written into law it will be straightforward to implement, won't it....

The thought that struck me on Thursday was there is a very good case for running a series of management simulations on different dimensions of this statutory requirement, and soon.

The idea of a management simulation is simple: by testing out various scenarios in the safety of conference chamber first, it is far more likely that when the real matter happens, all who took part will be able to respond more wisely, even in the heat of that moment. It is also OK to 'crash the plane' in a simulation since no one gets hurt. I have written about such simulations on my other blog: link here. And in my time, I have designed and facilitated a wide range of such simulations, including examining the new structure of Thames Valley Police and seeing the impact it would have on partnership arrangements, and assisting the Met Police introduce PCSOs onto London's streets with a greater awareness of likely glitches and issues.

A simulation in this instance (SPR, PCCs and all that) could examine how resources might be deployed if two neighbouring police areas were experiencing riots simultaneously but there was disagreement between the two PCCs or CCs or both over whose need was greatest. (Is this a PCC matter?) Or perhaps the resources being put into a counter terrorism team is being perceived as favouring one force area over another. Or efforts to tackle deep serious and organised crime is showing a link to a police area some distance away and insufficient resources are being dedicated towards tackling it by the region where the criminals are resident. Or numerous other scenarios....

Piaget (notable child psychologist) once defined intelligence as knowing what to do when you don't know what to do. In my view, simulations are excellent ways not only to develop and refine policy but also assist organisations (as entities and collections of individuals) to know better what to do when they do not know what to do...

What do you think?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Progressive police & crime planning and budgeting

I had a swell day in Leeds yesterday with the The Democratic Governance of Policing: The Role and Implications of Elected Police and Crime Commissioners conference. This was organised by the University of Leeds (Building Sustainable Societies research group) and the British Society of Criminology. You see the agenda here. Lots of fascinating speakers and discussions. Thank you to the organisers, especially Stuart Lister who took the lead in organising the event, I believe. It was first meeting of the Policing Network.

There will be a number of blog posts arising from the day, but I will start with this one to look at the impact that PCCs could have upon how policing and crime budgets are formulated. Regular readers will know, I have a particular interest in resourcing matters. (See here, here and most recently here for example). I was left wondering yesterday about how many PCCs would grasp the opportunity to introduce progressive plans and budgets as opposed to regressive ones... Let me explain.

The Harvard Philosophy professor John Rawls was mentioned several times yesterday. A relevant quote from his "A Theory of Justice" is:
Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both:
(a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and
(b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.
In other words, where inequalities exist, they should be tackled positively and only allowed to continue if they benefit the least well off / healthy / safe etc. (Please correct me if I have that wrong). This is a basis, as I would see it of progressive taxation as opposed to regressive taxation. Progressive taxation relies on the principle that those who can pay more should pay proportionately more into the public purse than those who are less able to pay. (As everyone knows: an income tax regime where rates rise as income rises is progressive whereas a sales tax where everyone pays the same percentage is a regressive tax.)

So how does relate to policing plans & budgets?

For me it all comes down to the resource deployment formula. If this is based purely upon population and reported crime incidents (which is the basis of Thames Valley's current formula: see here) then not only is this almost tautological (since rates and incidents are highly linked to both numbers of officers and population) but also, I would argue, it is regressive. In other words the areas of high crime, ASB (etc) are getting no greater a slice of the police 'cake', as it were.

Instead, I would argue for a resource deployment formula that is a) based upon harm / risk of harm (as opposed to incidents and reported crime) and b) favours areas with higher levels of crime,  making it progressive.

As was pointed out at the conference yesterday by Simon Holdaway (and now on twitter he was happy to report!) often crime is focused on just a few wards of a police area. But the resources may well not be deployed appropriately or even proportionately to those areas.

Now I am not saying that the policing and crime responsibilities should only be focused on harmful crimes, but I am arguing for resource deployment that disproportionately gives more to areas of high harm in its full sense (the areas can be communities of interest as well geography by the way).  This for me would result in more just policing as it would be about tackling harm inequalities (just as health services should be about tackling health inequalities).

It is in the gift of PCCs to make this progressive resource deployment happen. This is the moment to begin to do this, I would contend. This also (of course) needs to be reflective of what the PCCs put in their plans, naturally.

(And for the record: budgets follow plans, NOT the other way around!!! Budgets are subordinate to plans and therefore they come second!!!)

This is partly why I fundamentally disagree with the approach being taken by my PCC who appears not to want things to change that much and also wants the balance between rural & urban policing to remain fixed in aspic... whether is the right or wrong balance.

So over to you PCCs: the power is in your hands as to whether you wish to introduce progressive plans and budgets, that seek to tackle harm inequalities or not. In my view, if you are committed to doing all that you can for victims, there is only one choice to make...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Secret Diary of a PCC: Day 50


It's all a bit of blur. I have just checked back through my diary and I last made an entry on Day 10. Where has the time gone?! I review my past schedule and I see meeting after meeting with Director of that, officer for this, partnership for whatshername, local partnership bloggins thingy. And every now and then up pops the Acting Chief Constable. Sometimes I just wish he would go away. He keeps asking me questions about this damned priority and when is the budget going to be finished, what colour should the new force logo be and would I like some more help with getting to know what policing is all about. Blah blah blah blah....

Life used to be so simple.

I had my nice neat (& arguably anodyne) set of promises and pledges (I am sure there is difference there somewhere) and I thought all I had to do was pass them over to Winger, my trusty Deputy and go off to play golf. Then he got all Bramshillified, began asking troublesome questions and he had to go. My replacement interim Deputy is not much better. She managed to upset local party members so much they are having a vote of no confidence in her. She seems to be gliding over it though. "They have no power" she say. She is right of course.

And then, back from a brief sojourn in the sun, the ex (at least I thought he was ex) Chief Constable decides to take me to the industrial relations court over some trivial matter. Apparently I did not sign off his last expenses claim. I told him his column in the Daily Mail ought to sort out any darn expenses. I mean the cheek. Here I am sweating in the back Thunderbird One (my chauffeur driven limo), reading paper after paper while he gets to write critical pieces in the national newspapers. I wish I had the time to do that! I will get my (publicly funded) lawyers onto him. There is a principle at stake here!

You know I never knew quite how many people would want to speak with me. Apparently quite a number different people care about the policing and crime. You would never have guessed it from the election turnout. Of course that was before they realised quite how much power I would have. He he he....

Indeed, I always have a bit fun at the beginning of any meeting with a new 'stakeholder' to see if they actually bothered to vote or not. If they didn't it always makes my phrase "so what can I do for you now..." just that bit more fun to say...

And then we come to the policing plan. As I mentioned earlier, I have had to recruit Cllr Pamela Stone as my interim Deputy (I am not making the mistake of appointing anyone permanent again for a while!) She is busily working on the plan but she has gone rather quiet on me. She tells me not to worry my little head about it (well not as such but that is what I think she is really saying) and I am getting worried. She assures me it will match my campaign promises but she is getting rather pally with the Acting Chief Constable. Someone told me they saw them giggling and sharing a single beaker of double-mocha-cappuccino-espresso-oxo at the local Costabucks. I am beginning to fear I am already out of the loop...

But this could all be paranoia of course. Couldn't it?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Groundhog day

Nineteen or so years ago, the previous Conservative administration passed the Police and Magistrates’ Courts Act 1994 which introduced the now defunct police authorities and brought in the idea of Annual Policing Plans. In May 1995, I began my twelve years with the Office for Public Management.

One of the first ideas I had was to convene a series of workshops in the autumn with police authority members, police staff and police officers, involved in the process, to reflect upon the first year of policing plans and think about the next.

I produced a briefing paper based on the four workshops: Fitting Aspirations with Reality: Developing more effective annual policing plans which OPM have kindly agreed to allow me to republish. I thought their might be some lessons in there which are still valid...

I have uploaded a scanned pdf to my google drive and you can access it here (not least for the list of people who came along - many of whom are still around in the policing world...)

The key points to emerge were:
  • the most important ingredient for successful annual policing plans is the development of a close partnership between chief constable and police authorities
  • the best plans are those which 'spring off the glossy page' and turn into carefully integrated organisation development initiatives. Good plans encompass issues such as internal and external two-way communication, performance management and structural redesign
  • much controversy and confusion surround the allocation of resources in support of, and made explicit within, annual policing plans. It is likely that resolving this matter will greatly help the progressive development of these plans.

So much has changed since then...(?)

The section headings include:
  • The costing of policing plans
  • Involving key stakeholders successfully
  • Avoiding the hazards (and developing good practice) in public service planning
I won't summarise the whole document (do please read it), but here are the ingredients for successful public service planning drawn from the discussions at the workshops:
  • Clarify the purpose
  • Build in flexibility
  • Set realistic targets
  • Develop stakeholder 'ownership'
  • Connect the plan to the 'real world'
  • Be bold
These points and many more are expanded on the document linked to this blog post.

What do you think? Have we moved on much in the last 17+ years?

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Democratic Governance of Policing (17/1/13)

I heard about this conference just before Christmas up in Leeds. I have just signed up for it. It promises to be a most useful debate at this juncture about the "The Role and Implications of Elected Police and Crime Commissioners". Many fascinating speakers and chairs, and no doubt a set of participants who may ask the odd useful question....

So do come along if you can... the more the merrier, I feel. Here are the details:
The Democratic Governance of Policing:The Role and Implications of Elected Police and Crime Commissioners
A National Conference – 17 January 2013
Business School, University of Leeds
Sponsored by the British Society of Criminology, Policing Network and the Security and Justice Group of the ‘Building Sustainable Societies’ Initiative of the University of Leeds
The Centre for Criminal Justice Studies is hosting this one day conference to explore policy, practice and research issues concerning the future governance of policing in the light of the arrival of the first tranche of directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales.
The introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) represents the most significant reform of police governance in over 50 years.  This timely conference will provide an opportunity to reflect on and consider the role and implications of PCCs within the constitutional framework of police and crime governance.
The conference will bring together key national and international speakers from a variety of organisations as well as academic researchers, elected officials, policy-makers and practitioners to contribute to debates concerning this important police reform and its ramifications for the future of policing.
All the information including registration details etc. can be found at this link here.

See you then!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Victim Centricity (draft 2...)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an outline of a tool to appraise how 'victim centric' a local criminal justice system is. I have now done some further work on this and I am keen to crowd source how it might be improved.

The link to the latest version of the document is here. I would welcome your feedback on how the tool might be improved. I do not claim any special expertise in this area and whilst I have done some work that connects to victim and witness support,  I would expect that I have overlooked some key areas.

My overall aim is to turn this into a working tool, to help Police & Crime Commissioners (and others) fulfil their pledges, promises and oaths to do all that they can for victims and witnesses involved in the criminal justice system.

All contributions welcome - thanks! 

Here are a couple of snapshots to give you a flavour (full pdf available from the link above)

UPDATE: With thanks to Steve Bachelder, I have now uploaded a new version based on his comments below. You can access the 040113 version here (and above link changed too)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top ten!

A small celebration here in 'a just future' towers: my original article on ten questions for Police & Crime Commissioner candidates was in the top ten of articles published by the Guardian's Public Leaders Network last year:

Top 10 articles on the Public Leaders Network: A festive count down from number 10 to number one of our most-read articles on the network in 2012

So I am feeling most chuffed. Here are links to the trilogy of articles that I published on quizzing your PCCs. Possibly the questions are now even more germane....
I will keep asking the questions!

Abraham Lincoln: no easy answers

In a few weeks time, Spielberg's Lincoln will be released in the UK. (It is one of my must see films for 2013, along with Les Mis of course...). I don't think the film will include this quote from Lincoln:
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and cause me to tremble for safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic destroyed. (From here)
I think we are facing the crisis again. Here is how it is working, in my view: the Right have realised that power is ebbing away from them due to long term changes in demographics and social values. Cameron know this and this is one of the reasons he is wants his government to be responsible for introducing equal marriage as an attempt to clothe the Tory party in modernist garb. However the 'UK tea party' are deserting the fold and joining UKIP, thus splitting the Right, possibly for the first time.

However both parts of this Right and wealthy group (do not forget that Nigel Farage is first and foremost an ex banker) are united in protecting their riches and aggregating more. So they face a conundrum: how do they continue to wield the necessary power to do this when their dwindling numbers will leave them democratically out flanked? There are three key ways, in my opinion.

Part of this plan is to demonise the poor and do everything they can to give the impression that people on state benefits are all cheaters and even those who are not, have received unfair increases in their benefits. We saw this over the weekend with Ian Duncan Smith using plain old untruths to stoke up public disgust with the tax credit system. This is all about providing the government with political cover to reduce the value of benefits in coming weeks and the looming spare bedroom tax and housing benefit changes which will take money out of the hands of some very poor people. What IDS and legions of people who back these changes (including the Daily Mail and its acolytes) just don't seem to get is that £15 for a wealthy person is hardly loose change, while for a person on state benefits it is difference between having good meals for a week or not.

The second part of this plan is to outsource public services to private companies so that taxpayers are boosting the aggregated wealth of the very well off. Under the guise of 'better value' (and lets be clear it usually isn't when all the factors are taken in account), vast swathes of 'public' services are now in the hands of a few large companies such as Serco, Capita and G4S. These companies are becoming too large to fail and having established their grip on the marketplace, will now either cut costs dramatically, exploit the terms & conditions of their staff even more or raise their prices.... or all three. (Staff pensions in particular will be reduced which means in a few years time, the tax payer will be picking up the tab again as these people retire with inadequate income.) And we have here the corporations being enthroned in just the way that Lincoln feared.

And the third part is to keep up relentless sniping at the public professions of policing, teaching, nursing and so forth. It only helps those on the Right if hard working police officers are seen as 'Mussolinis' after a fast overtime buck, or teachers are people who just winge about everything or that nurses don't really care... etc. Attempts to ensure and boost professional standards are painted as protectionism or Left wing political correctness. All this is meant to corrode public confidence in the great public professions, so that when they are outsourced, no one will really care.

I have always wondered whether it is the Left or the Right who are more strategic in their design and deployment of political change. Sadly, I think that hitherto it has been the Right because their focus on the accumulation and concentration of wealth in the hands of a few is steely and resolute. While on the Left, we often resort to short term measures because we are driven viscerally to think of the many not the few.

However, now is the time to wrest strategy back from the Right to the Left: we need to think long and hard about what our next steps should be. There are no easy answers here...