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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Art of Listening to the Public (the Secret PCC explains all)

Although I have my doubters: I am very much a government for the people, by the people sort of chap (unless, of course, the issue is a tad too complicated for the lumpen electorate - in which case I believe in benign autocracy. Hah! I am just joking of course. The autocracy doesn't always have to be benign...!).

And so in my public role as PCC, I see it as my responsibility to go out and listen to my publics. I want to hear about what worries them, what concerns them, what they want to complain about, and what hopes they have. That is my job: I am here to listen!

Of course, listening to the public isn't always that easy to do. Some of them smell a bit, some of them don't make sense, some insist upon asking me / telling me / shouting at me about things I can do nothing about such as dog waste and chewing gum. So this listening lark is not as simple as it might sometimes appear. I make it look effortless of course: one of the best investments I made was hiring an actor to help me wear an animated concerned and listening face whenever I need to. Which, if I am being honest, is quite a lot of the time. 

I find the public remarkably tolerant & polite. Frankly I am astounded just how compliant they are. If my team ensures the public meetings are set up with rows of chairs spaced quite closely together, I can already begin the meeting to my advantage. We often turn the heating down a bit as well, so that people not only feel like cramped supplicants, but they feel like cold, cramped supplicants who keep their coats on. With imaginative use of air conditioning, I can even achieve this in the summer too.

And so, my public meetings when I am ostensibly there to listen to the public are mostly about them listening to me. They are usually too polite to interrupt and I can go one for ages talking meaningful baloney. It is brilliant! And, yes, I do get the odd person who has a "problem" and who feels driven to say it. But usually, I can shut them up with a "I will come on to that later on"... 

Of course, not all of my courageous forays out of the office to meet people are done in formal public meetings. I have been known to visit a fete or supermarket or even just a street. Usually not many people recognise me (what was that TV programme which wanted to film me in action...?) but as soon as I introduce myself, they understand. Often of course they then walk off having more pressing things to do like buy the paper. But I can usually hang on to a couple of people long enough for my press officer to take a picture. The issues "on the street" are the same old, same old so I am left wondering why I bother. But bother I must of course! I would hate to have a reputation of never being seen like some of my PCC colleagues!

Legal disclaimer: just in case you thought this series of secret PCC blogs is based upon a real person or persons: it isn't. It really isn't. Any similarity to a living PCC is entirely coincidental.

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