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, July 31, 2014

Sepia policing: the Secret PCC hankers for the wild west

Ah, dear diary, as I was rearranging the model police cars on my desk before my annual leave, I caught the beginning of an episode of Alias Smith & Jones that ITV4 are currently showing. (Normally, of course, the TV in my office is tuned to BBC24 for breaking news about the world of crime busting and criminal justice developments!)

So I treated myself to a nostalgic story of how Hannibal Heyes & Kid Curry sailed close to the line of the law again. This got me to wondering, if we couldn't use some of the justice and sheriffing methods used in these stories to modern day policing.

So here are some of the ideas I am thinking of:
  • Police officers should wear their batons low on their hips in holsters, and we should organise quick on the draw competitions.
  • When people get into fights on the street, we should only arrest those who started the fight
  • We need to form intelligence networks with bar room floozies who clearly will know all that there is to know about what is going on in a town
  • We should believe people's stories and leave the lawyers out of the debates
  • We need more judges and magistrates who have the Wisdom of Solomon and leave them to make decisions that often bend the law but are the right decisions
  • Outlaws should be able to earn their amnesty by staying out of trouble
  • We need to reinstate the police mounted division
  • Boots and gloves look mighty fine and cool so they should become a standard part of police uniform
  • Could we use posses more?
Anyway, I will mull on these ideas as I sip my hard whisky cocktails on holiday, in between poker games... But what do you think: what elements of the old wild west can we incorporate into tackling today's policing challenges?


The Secret PCC Diary until now:

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.


PS: This blog is dedicated to the memory of Pete Duel who tragically committed suicide at the end of the first series of Alias Smith & Jones. His suicide was the first one that ever really mattered to me as boy and I still grieve for him. He seemed such a bright & beautiful actor and I could not understand how he came to end his own life. I have learnt more about mental health since then. I now know that there is no real 'logic' to why people do kill themselves, but sadly people do when it makes sense to them. RIP Pete Duel. 

Majority of police officers 'don't trust leaders'

This is the headline from a Police Oracle article today which reports that:
"just 10.5 per cent of those serving in West Yorkshire Police said they trust its leaders"
West Yorkshire police leadership commissioned the survey which was carried out by an independent agency. I suggest that you read the whole article which includes a response from the temporary Chief Constable. This was a bold move by the Chief and an even bolder one to go public on the results. (Although as yet, I cannot find the whole survey report and precisely what questions were asked. We all know that the questions are critical...)

Everyone knows that the police service (like all other public services) has been and will be facing huge cuts in funding: times are austere and tough for all. And for a few, extraordinarily so. Being a leader and making good decisions is hard enough when resources are plentiful. Leadership becomes exponentially harder when resources are diminishing. (I know I am stating the obvious here!)

So the question for West Yorkshire's leadership is how do they respond to these results. I have been doing some thinking about how the new Code of Ethics relates to chief officers - and you can see my earlier blog here. I also write lots on leadership, including my blogging on the leadership points to be found in contemporary movies.

But the short answer is: there are no short answers... And I am sure the Chief Constable and her wider leadership team know that. Doing the survey was a wise move (how many other forces have considered this and decided not to, I wonder...). Being prepared to comment publicly on the results as opposed to shredding them (which happened in one organisation I once worked with!) was even wiser, in my view.

I wish West Yorkshire Police (both its professional and political leadership) well in deciding on their next course of action.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Making maths subject to parental consent

It is clear that many children find maths a very difficult subject. Moreover their parents find it difficult to broach matters such as differential calculus and Venn diagrams. In a recent survey, some parents even admitted to buying calculators for their offspring in the hope they would magically just 'get' what maths is all about without the need to converse with their parents about such issues. Unsurprisingly, after the recent law change to make the whole national curriculum subject to parental choice, many children have been withdrawn from regular maths lessons. "I just don't feel that Pythagoras is ready for maths yet... when he is older, perhaps" said a young parent at the school gate yesterday... 

OK, I will stop ladling in dollops of sarcastic irony here as you have probably gathered where I am coming from on this: why do parents have an opt out for all forms of personal / sexual / health / relationship education? I think that not only is this policy anachronistic in the extreme but it is also endangering the health and well being of girls and boys throughout the UK.

Last month a coalition of sexual health charities called for compulsory sex education lessons. But equally the House of Lords rejected any such idea as recently as January this year. I just don't get it! Why would we step away from the possibility of teaching all school students about healthy relationships, how to avoid domestic violence, the hazards of sexting & the internet, what abuse is and how to react if it happens, building honesty and respect into all relationships etc etc etc...?

Genuinely, if someone can tell me, I am up for the debate.

Meanwhile, as highlighted this morning by Yvette Cooper, there are big questions about how the police are handling incidents of domestic violence and whether the methods in use are effective and proportionate. I need to think some more about whether introducing a new law to make domestic violence a specific offence will help, but it is worth considering.

Meanwhile we know that 2 women a week are killed by current or ex partners. And my research into domestic homicide suggests that most of the perpetrators of such crimes were not on the police radar beforehand. This means that police action in these cases is limited.

But what my research also points towards is the need to educate young women and men into being more aware of the warning signs that their relationship is possibly heading into a very dangerous place. Why would we make education as critical as this optional?!?!

UPDATE 290714 | 1544: Just had this video posted on my Facebook timeline. I thought I was joking about maths being made optional... Now see how several Miss USA contestants answered the question "Should Math be taught in schools". The answers may worry you, a little! (Thank the Lord for Ms Vermont!)

Fairer outsourcing to SMEs

There is an article in this morning's Independent heralding the arrival of Piers Linney (BBC Dragon) to the Cabinet Office's SME Panel. You can read the article here. As the Indie's comment system seems a bit restrictive, here is the full comment that I wanted to post!
For readers' information: the Cabinet Office SME panel has been meeting for over 3 years and welcomed Piers to his first meeting last week. The Panel has been working with the Cabinet Office on a suite of interventions designed to ensure a level playing field for government procurement. 
If you search on > sme panel cabinet < a number of useful links will pop up. 
Panel members represent the breadth of suppliers to government and have given their time freely in support of the bold objective to introduce the hyper value for money, innovation and boost to British enterprise that only SME's can bring.
Jon Harvey (SME Panel Member since 2011)
There is also a stream of articles on this blog about the work of the panel, if you wish to know more. Here is the link to all those articles (and related ones connected to procurement).

UPDATE 290714 | 0758: The Cabinet Office has published its own follow up article, listing (for the first time) the members of the Panel that has been meeting over the last three years. Including yours truly.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How long will the celebrations in Winslow last?

As a town councillor who has been working hard on creating our Buckingham Neighbourhood Development Plan, along with my fellow councillors, I want to send a hearty congratulations to Winslow Town Council. They got a resounding referendum yes vote in support of their plan a few days ago. You can read about it here. Turnout was a stonking 59.5% which I think deserves an even greater accolade than the overall yes vote. Well done to all involved!

But now it gets complicated. The referendum question (as determined by government regulations) was:
“Do you want Aylesbury Vale District Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Winslow to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”
OK.... Let's look at that a little more closely. "Do you want Aylesbury Vale District Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Winslow to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?" It could have said "Do you want Aylesbury Vale District Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Winslow to decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?" but it didn't. When I saw this, a few red warning lights went off in my head.

Because, as we all know, there is the law and there is politics. It is evident that the population of Winslow are very much for their local neighbourhood plan. However, if a housing developer were to submit an application to build a quantity of houses in a location outside the plan's 'map' of Winslow, what might happen? Here are some scenarios:
  1. AVDC planning committee reject the application as being in non conformance with the Neighbourhood Plan. The developer says 'Ah well, we thought we would give it one last shot but hey, the people have spoken' etc... and goes away.
  2. AVDC planning committee reject the application as being in non conformance with the Neighbourhood Plan. The developer says 'Hah! You only have to use the neighbourhood plan to help you decide what to do (and you have not done more than that)... so we will take you to the planning inspector as we believe our application is sustainable and in accord with the existing wider plans (which don't exist because AVDC had their plan rejected)". The planning inspector decides in favour of the District and Town council. The Developer contemplates taking the case to the High Court as there is some serious profit to be made here...
  3. AVDC planning committee reject the application as being in non conformance with the Neighbourhood Plan. The developer says 'Hah! You only have to use the neighbourhood plan to help you decide what to do (and you have not done that)... so we will take you to the planning inspector as we believe our application is sustainable and in accord with the existing wider plans (which don't exist because AVDC had their plan rejected)". The planning inspector decides in favour of the Developer. Local people and councillors are aghast and ask what was he point of the whole plan in the first place...
  4. AVDC planning committee accept the application as they fear the consequences of scenario 3 above and money is rather tight after all. Local people and town councillors are aghast and ask what was he point of the whole plan in the first place... District councillors go off the grid for a while and return with sheepish expressions and saying it was all the government's fault anyway. The regulations were not tight enough and (ahem!), the District Council is the planning authority and will remain so! 
Of course, there are probably multiple other scenarios. What do you think might happen?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Chief Officers & the Police Code of Conduct: some questions

I have been doing some more pondering on the new police Code of Ethics this morning and some questions occurred to me: specifically in relation to the Chief Officers, on whom this Code will succeed or fail. (Please forgive the messy formatting - Blogger can be a bit clunky at times)

Chief officers | 1.4.3
As the head of your force or organisation you will:
Some Questions…
·        show by personal example how the principles and standards in this Code apply
Ø How will you help people to discern the connections between your personal example and the various standards?
Ø On the basis that illustrating the standards through story telling is likely to engender greater understanding, what stories do you need to tell?
·        promote, support and reinforce ethical behaviour at all times
Ø What differential actions will you take (separately) to promote… support… and reinforce etc?
Ø How will you build the Code of Ethics explicitly into your recruitment & promotion processes?
Ø What resources (if any) will you need to redeploy to do all this?
·        show moral courage to do the right thing even in the face of criticism
Ø What is the right thing?
Ø Where do your personal morals, Code of Ethics & the Law overlap, and where do they not?
Ø From whom do you expect to face criticism for doing the right thing? (Who has criticised you in the past?)
·        be consistent in what you do and say
Ø Have there ever been any times when what you said and did were not consistent (at or away from work, as the Code demands)?
Ø What did you learn from these occasions?
Ø How much of this is about being consistent or being seen (by others) to be consistent?
·        promote openness and transparency within policing and to the public
Ø How much will it matter to you that you might promote but don’t achieve the openness and transparency that you think is needed?
Ø What (if any) conflicts do you foresee between openness / transparency and other parts of the Code of Ethics?
Ø How will you promote and achieve understanding of where these conflicts might be and how to resolve them?
·        promote fairness and equality in the workplace
Ø How much will it matter to you that you might promote but don’t achieve the fairness and equality that you think is needed?
Ø What (if any) conflicts do you foresee between fairness / equality and other parts of the Code of Ethics?
Ø How will you promote and achieve understanding of where these conflicts might be and how to resolve them?
·        create and maintain an environment where you encourage challenge and feedback
Ø When was the last time you carried out a 360˚ feedback appraisal for yourself?
Ø How much overlap was there between the 360˚ tool and the Code of Ethics?
Ø How confident are you that your Whistle-blowing systems are fit for purpose & working well?
Ø What action can you take to ensure all leaders actively encourage challenge and feedback?
·        be flexible and willing to change a course of action if necessary.
Ø Are you able to recall a time when you didn’t change a course of action when it was necessary?
Ø In the context of the Code, what do you interpret this point as really being about?
Ø How many of the above questions seem irritatingly picky and pointless to you since once the Code of Ethics is loaded on the intranet as a self-study mini-course, everything will be hunky dory…

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If you meet the Buddha on the path, kill him

There are many interpretations of the statement above, which is probably no surprise. However, my interpretation has always been that if you meet someone who claims to be enlightened, then they will not be.

I was reminded of this statement the other day when I shared an Earl Grey tea with a very senior and very experienced police officer. We got to talking about the new College of Policing Code of Ethics. She explained to me some of critical the challenges in bringing the code to life centre on just how do you create the conditions / circumstances in which police officers and staff are prepared to exanine the possibility that they might not know all that they need to know about ethical practice.

Based on no research at all, I have a hunch that police officers and staff will consider themselves more moral than the average member of society. And they probably are. But morality is not the same as ethics as this helpful video explains. And of course morality, ethics and the law are not synonymous either: an action could be ethical and moral but against the law. Some laws are seen by some people to be entirely immoral. And of course, some police professional practice might be legal and moral but not in accord with the Code of Ethics.

It is complicated and once you start talking about this stuff, speaking for myself, you can quickly get tied up in knots. And this does not sit well with police culture which is often about taking action quickly and firmly. There is no time for debates about how many angels can comfortably sit on a pinhead!

But time is going to have to made if the Code of Ethics has any chance of becoming 'the way we do things around here'. As I have highlighted with my research, the police service has a fair way to go on putting in place the necessary structures, cultures, procedures (including continuous professional development). This might well include assessing whether internal complaints systems or the IPCC are quite fit for purpose when it comes to deciding on whether an action infringed the Code or not. I happen to think not and something like the General Medical Council or the Nursing and Midwifery Council will need to be designed and put in place.

The more I look into this, the more I realise how much I do not know. Certainly I know that I am long, long way off claiming even to know what 'enlightenment' is let alone being it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Celebrating the life of Bob Jones

Round about now, people have gathered in Wolverhampton to celebrate the life of PCC Bob Jones who died three weeks ago. Clearly there are going to many people there from across his many interests be they CAMRA, local politics and policing of course. I would have been there too, had I known before this morning that the service was happening. So in the absence of my presence, I felt moved to write this blog. 

Firstly, I would commend to you this moving tribute by his Deputy, Yvonne Mosquito: Celebration of the Life of Bob Jones (here). Please read it, all of it. Whether you knew Bob or not, you will be moved by her words. Would that we all could have someone say of us "there was no misalignment between what he believed, what he said, and how he acted". 

I have already written my tribute to Bob  (here) on this blog. But I have been reflecting some more on what I learnt from Bob, from meeting him a fair number of times over the last twenty years and reading many articles by him:
  • Be who you are
  • Stand up for what you believe in
  • Have the courage to challenge, courteously and clearly
  • Listen closely
  • Look for the 'inside track' and hidden implications to what is being proposed
  • Respect and support the police, officers and staff, as they have an extraordinarily difficult task to perform
  • Smile when you don't win, there will always be a next time 
I am going to miss Bob and his wisdom massively. My sincere thoughts and sympathies are with his family, his friends and all who are grieving his exit. (And as requested by his family, this blog is wearing red in his honour.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Glossary: The Secret PCC is relieved

I see that the HMIC have just published their analysis of policing in a cold climate. The report manages to be all things to all people: everyone, be they the Federation or the Home Secretary, will find something to gloat about / delight in. This makes it a rather clever report in my humble opinion. The HMIC doesn't sit on the fence quite so well as when a general election is looming and the tick-tock of pension count down alarms are ringing in their ears.

The report helpfully begins with a full glossary stretching over three volumes. Policing is darn complicated after all: I had never met so many TLAs before I got involved with the job. And the girls in boys in blue seem to enjoy wiling away whole afternoons coming up with the name of the new 'operation'. I am still yet to discover what Operation Obfuscate is all about, despite asking lots of times.

But seeing the glossary in the HMIC report gave me a warm nostalgic feeling as I remembered those first heady days after the election when everything held such glistening promise... The outgoing chief constable had prepared a handy list of words and their definitions that I still keep in the back of my wallet. I know his parting email to me was a little challenging, but his glossary was just the ticket! So I thought, I would reproduce a few of his choice definitions below for others to use.

  • ACPO: the people who think they are the real bosses (but are not)
  • Home Secretary: the person who thinks she is the real boss (but is not)
  • The APCC, Federation & Superintendents Association: the bodies who think they have influence (but don't)
  • Custody Sergeants & HR Departments everywhere: the people who really have the power
  • The force's drivers and taxi drivers we regularly use: the only people who really know what is happening
  • Crime in run down areas: what we are supposedly trying to stop (says the Home Secretary)
  • Anti social behaviour in nice leafy avenues: what we actually spend our time tackling
  • Meetings: a good way to appear busy (meetings about meetings are even better)
  • Partnership meetings: warm places to catch up on sleep
  • The former Police Authority: the source of all of our problems that we now face and which can be blamed with impunity for at least the next ten years
  • Home Office Targets: the various dart boards distributed around the constabulary with pictures of Home Office ministers on
  • Democratic mandate: what you must claim to have at every opportunity - the more you talk about it the more real it will seem to become
There was more, of course. I will try to dig out a few extra ones when I have a moment. Meanwhile, I have a partnership meeting to attend...


The Secret PCC Diary until now:

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.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The volunteer conundrum

There has talk recently of the "Expert Citizen" from the Reform thinktank. You can read all about the idea here. I have not read the whole report - merely the summary which says:
The research argues that the police service can successfully cope with further cuts in budgets if it mobilises the active support of “expert citizens” and recommends “an entirely different way of working” for the police which sees the public as assets in the fight against crime. It also recommends that police forces use private sector expertise to rebuild public confidence in policing.
Apart from the fact that (probably unbeknownst to them), they have plagiarised me, I am left pondering on this conundrum: if more and more public services are commercialised / privatised, what incentive will that leave ordinary citizens to volunteer to assist such services? 

Now, if it is about protecting my own family or property, the incentive will still be there. But if it is about helping the hedge fund (that now owns and runs the service) make even more profit to siphon off the Cayman Islands (or wherever)... why should I bother? Why would I offer my free labour to a for-profit company no matter how worthy the service that they have been commissioned to provide?

Given that the idea of the expert/empowered/enabled citizen is not an especially new one but the rising tide of almost irreversible privatisation of public services is (eg the NHS)... has anyone addressed this conundrum? From a brief scan of the Reform report, it does not appear that they have. (But I am happy to be corrected.)

But the issue runs deeper than this: if more and more public services are commercialised, this commercialises us all. Community support for the police (and other public services) becomes a commodity in a privatised world. And this leads to fragmentation since everything becomes a transaction of goods and services to be negotiated. 

Some politicians I would expect to he ideologically deaf to any of these points. However, I worry far more about the politicians who talk of a golden age of volunteering & community engagement but who don't seem to get the consequences of the rampant commercialisation and commodification of good public services. These are intricately connected in the public mind.

Please wake up!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The power and speed of social media

If the establishment old guard did not know it before last week, they certainly do now know how social media is increasingly adding accountability and transparency to the democratic process. Last week, along with others, I was relaxed about the appointment of Baroness Butler-Sloss to chair the forthcoming inquiry into child sexual abuse and the role of various institutions in (allegedly) allowing such abuse to continue. 

The Home Secretary and other members of the Government defended her appointment as the rising tide of dissent began to emerge on social media. Increasingly questions were being asked not about the retired judge's impartiality but about whether she would be seen to be impartial. Without both, the inquiry risked paddling up a back water as potential important witnesses felt increasingly reluctant to come forward and tell their stories.

And so it came to pass that Baroness Butler-Sloss stepped down from the child abuse inquiry. All credit to her for these wise comments:
"It has become apparent over the last few days, however, that there is a widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups, that I am not the right person to chair the inquiry. It has also become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been attorney general would cause difficulties. This is a victim-orientated inquiry and those who wish to be heard must have confidence that the members of the panel will pay proper regard to their concerns and give appropriate advice to government. Having listened to the concerns of victim and survivor groups and the criticisms of MPs and the media, I have come to the conclusion that I should not chair this inquiry and have so informed the Home Secretary."
Before the advent of social media the 'victim & survivor groups' may well have struggled to get their message out and across to a wider audience. Now, this is not the case.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Thank you to all my readers, browsers and friendly bots from around the world! This blog has now notched up more than a 100,000 page views.

Knowing that most of what I write is looked at and read by others is enormously rewarding. Thanks again!

"Children are people not objects of concern"

Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the high court judge who chaired the Cleveland child sex abuse inquiry in the late 1980s, has been announced as the person to Chair the wide ranging inquiry into what might be termed 'institutional child sexual abuse'. There is a good Guardian article about her background here, and which is supportive of her appointment.

Concerns have been raised about a possible conflict of interests by both Keith Vaz (Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee) that she is member of the House of Lords (one of the institutions to be investigated) and due to the fact that her brother was former Tory attorney general Sir Michael Havers at the same time as when many of the notable events were occurring. (Sir Michael died more than 20 years ago.) These will confronted probably by a combination of careful process and not least by Baroness Butler-Sloss' redoubtable independence of thought (she is a cross bencher and widely respected for humanity.)

And now we await to see who will join her on the panel: these are critical appointments of people who must have the capability and passion to search relentlessly for the truth and a positive way forward.

Now seems like a good time to remind ourselves of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I like this version, as it is written in my kind of language:
“Rights" are things every child should have or be able to do. All children have the same rights. These rights are listed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Almost every country has agreed to these rights. All the rights are connected to each other, and all are equally important. Sometimes, we have to think about rights in terms of what is the best for children in a situation, and what is critical to life and protection from harm. As you grow, you have more responsibility to make choices and exercise your rights.
Here are one or two:
  • Article 1 Everyone under 18 has these rights.
  • Article 2 All children have these rights, no matter who they are, where they live, what their parents do,
  • what language they speak, what their religion is, whether they are a boy or girl, what their culture is, whether they have a disability, whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis. 
  • Article 3 All adults should do what is best for you. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children.
  • Article 4 The government has a responsibility to make sure your rights are protected. They must help your family to protect your rights and create an environment where you can grow and reach your potential. 
  • and... Article 34 You have the right to be free from sexual abuse.
There are 54 articles in all.

And I came across an entirely different version (as it were) from a Findhorn catalogue (grateful thanks) many years ago. I use this version to remind me my responsibilities as a parent and an adult:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Child Sexual Abuse: have we all been duped?

I thought the House of Commons statement from the Home Secretary Theresa May and the ensuing debate yesterday was an example of Parliament at its best. This was an intelligent and constructive debate, with a couple of exceptions, there was no rancour or point scoring.

The Home Secretary took on board most of what was being suggested and paid due acknowledgment to the 'relentless' work of Tom Watson. As was commented on twitter by Jim Gamble (and he knows a thing or two about child abuse), the devil will be the detail. Who gets to be appointed to chair the wide ranging inquiry is a critical appointment and one that will be very closely scrutinised, not least because Ms May said she would heed the Chair's views about whether the inquiry should become a full scale public inquiry or not.

But much of this is for the future. Meanwhile, I earnestly hope that there could be more occasions like this in Parliament: in the sense of having a reasoned debate, courteous language, an absence of barracking and a search for the best way forward. If we collectively owe anything to the victims of child abuse, it is that we conduct a full and fair investigation into what has happened and how it was allowed to happen...

And this brings me to the main subject of this blog post: I think we have all been duped into believing that only utilitarian ethics matter. In other words the consequences of an action are what determine whether that action is good or bad. We appear to have forgotten that some actions are just plain bad. Period.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I spend some of my time going into primary schools on behalf of the ChildLine Schools Service* to talk about abuse and how children can get help. We do a half hour assembly first followed up a more interactive workshop in class groups a week or two later (all for years 5 & 6 only). The materials and script have all been designed very carefully to be age appropriate and educational, as you would expect from the NSPCC. One slide we use is this (Buddy is our mascot by the way!):

It is a simple straight forward message: Sexual abuse is not OK.

It doesn't say:
  • sexual abuse is not OK unless you are such an important or famous person that no one will dare challenge you. 
  • sexual abuse is not OK but we will keep this on file in the Whip's office in case some day we need to threaten you with making it public
  • sexual abuse is not OK but you are man of the cloth and we are sure you meant no lasting harm but you must stop it now and do some penance
  • sexual abuse is not OK but if this were to be made public, it would bring the government down more quickly than you can say Profumo and we really can't be having that...
Etc etc etc...

In our post industrial, post modernist, post ecclesiastical age, have we lost sight of the difference between
  • Consequentialist theories: Hold that an action is right if it produces the most good. (Bentham, Mill, et al.), and 
  • Deontological theories: ("deontology" literally means "the study of duty") Broadly: theories that are not consequentialist. Specifically: Theories that give a set of (non-consequentialist) moral rules that must be followed; a right action is then one that is in accordance with the rules. (Nozick, Kant, Ross) [source is here]
Have we all been duped into believing that the 'greater good' is the only arbiter of what is right and wrong? In the depths of the institutions now about to be investigated (BBC, NHS, Westminster, the Church and all religious bodies, the Military, the Security Services, the Police etc), have utilitarian calculations been made that have left victims of child sexual abuse living lives of raw hell because the 'greater good' was served by keeping matters secret? I think we all know the answer to that question. What I hope we find out is the scale

I also hope that the perpetrators are all brought to justice and their collaborators (active and passive) likewise. And in this way, I hope that many, perhaps most, of the victims find some solace and a way of living with their pasts that is less painful. 

I hope that the two inquiries now initiated go some way to exploring how we may all have played a part in creating the ethical milieu in which some wrong actions are covered up or excused because of the consequences of challenging them.

In my view, an exclusively utilitarian or consequentialist ethical framework falls far short of what we need in a civil society.

*If you would like to volunteer for the ChildLine Schools Service, please go to this link. New volunteers are always needed.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What makes a Mâch~iâ~velliân whistle blowing leader?

Machiavelli, not one to mince words, wrote:
A prince must therefore always seek advice… he must always be a constant questioner, and he must listen patiently to the truth regarding what he has inquired about, moreover if he finds that anyone for some reason holds the truth back he must show his wrath. (from 'The Prince' Penguin Classics publication translated by George Bull, 1981)
If he hadn't have been the world's first public sector management consultant, Machiavelli would have been a whistleblower. Truth was very important to him. Wise & grounded leaders still regard truth as an essential ingredient in running any organisation successfully. Only unwise leaders want to surround themselves with people who offer only sanitised versions of the truth.

And so it is that remarkable leaders take action to encourage whistleblowing. This of course is not what happened to James Patrick, whose story is now well known. But if you have not seen it, I commend this short video interview of him by the Cliff Caswell, editor of Police Oracle. But other leaders can and should do different. But what needs to be put in place?

There is some useful guidance here: Whistleblowing arrangements: Code of practice (PAS 1998:2008) which includes a useful checklist. The Public Concern At Work website is a rich source of information and case studies as well.

But all this got me to thinking, what would I expect of a leader who not only claims to be supportive of whistleblowing (as many do) but who is, in fact, supportive of it. In my opinion, such a leader would:
  • Evidence an ability to listen and act upon information provided via whistleblowing
  • Understand and be able to explain in straightforward terms, the difference between grievances and whistleblowing - and when they need to be invoked
  • Be able to give examples of where whistleblowing has made a positive difference to the services being provided to the public
  • Be able to counter convincingly (the oft repeated accusations) that those who whistleblow usually end up outside the organisation or being passed over for promotion (etc.)
  • Put in place sufficient resources (such as a helpline and more) to allow confidential whistleblowing to occur
  • Be clear that whistleblowing rights are extended to all, including contractors
  • Sponsor and help shape an effective communications strategy that reaches into every nook and crevice of the organisation, so that everyone knows about how they can whistleblow
  • See how whistleblowing connects with organisational improvement, reputation management, social media & comms policies and leadership development
  • Challenge other leaders who may have bought the T-shirt but are not quite wearing it yet!
  • Review progress and test whether whistleblowing is happening as it should
  • Be whistleblowers themselves (should the need arise) and have the capability and commitment to speak truth unto power
  • Show even more ability just to listen... (and learn and act...)
There is probably more (what would you add?).

But how do you measure up?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Secret PCC: my life long quest for the smooth vinegar flavoured cucumber

It's no good dear diary, I am going to have to write this down: being a PCC is all becoming a bit of an desparate anti-climax. Oh... I had such high hopes when I got elected: the manifesto dreams, the new desk and chain, the power to sack and appoint a chief constable. Such heady, intoxicating days. But now it is all rather humdrum. Rather irritatingly, the police force seems to get on with getting on quite well without me. I went away for a two week holiday and expected to be contacted at least 2 or 3 times with some urgent matter. But not once. I returned to an inbox full of notifications of upcoming meetings with various dignitaries and officers, & a few emails written in purple ink. But nothing of any real importance. It was like they could all get on well without me.

Of course, I can always invent a meeting or two and people will come. There is still a bit of electoral glitter and pizzazz attached to my role. But I know it is all a bit of sham: I feel like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind a curtain. There really is nothing up my sleeve.

But of course I cannot tell anyone this. I must continue the charade. The show must go on. But I am finding it more and more difficult to pretend to myself. I fear I am becoming more and more like Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain and that's the chief constable in the background...

Of course I could cook up some expenses story to get myself in the papers, or invite a team of TV cameras into to watch me while I work.... But I know those would only be quick fixes. Nothing is going to dissipate this growing sense of ennui and pointlessness.

Thank the heavens, I have less than two years to go. I am counting the days, hours, minutes etc when I can step down and go back to growing cucumbers. I can return to my lifelong quest for the smooth vinegar flavoured cucumber.


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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Joy & hypocrisy

I might have a bit more respect for Nigel Farage and his bunch of acolites if they turned their back on their generous MEP salaries & expenses as well. Instead we get the ridiculous sight of UKIP MEPs ostentatiously & hypocritically turning their backs on the EU flag and national anthem in clothes paid for out of the salaries that they are not turning their backs on. If you don't agree with a parliamentary institution: don't take its money!

But of course they won't do this because they are free loading hypocrites of the highest order.

Here are some of the words of Ode to Joy / Beethoven's ninth symphony:
O friends, no more these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs, more full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
For me this song is about reconciliation and peace: referencing the fact that the Common Market/EU was, in part, established to repair and develop a continent divided & ravaged by war & hate. I think it is one the most inspiring anthems in the world. Watch this video of 10,000 people singing it and you will see what I mean...

What would you prefer: a Europe divided by national interests or one that is united in its struggle to bring peace, ambition and affluence to all?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Different rules apply obviously!

I note that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England has now published its final recommendations for redrawing the boundaries for Aylesbury Vale Councillor wards. You can read the full report here and see the map here. The discussion of the boundaries around Buckingham seem to have been left in the 'too hard to do the maths so we will stick to the original plan' box. It is a great shame as the impact on the town council and the local community is significant. As clearly stated their principles of:
  • equalising the number of electors each councillor represents; 
  • reflecting community identity; 
  • and providing for effective and convenient local government 
... do not seem to extend to parish and town councils. So different rules clearly apply! So much for localism!! Below is the submission I sent to them after local party discussions. If you read their document, you can see how they addressed all the points we made (not). 

I write as the Labour Party Agent on behalf to the Buckingham Constituency Labour Party. We have examined your proposals for change to the AVDC ward boundaries. Broadly, we support the plans for our constituency (which does not include Aylesbury). However, we have some very serious concerns over some of your proposed changes.

Our concerns are focused on the two Buckingham & Luffield Abbey wards where you appear to have ignored the historic layout of the town, the communities with which people identify and broadly (dare we say) common sense in order to shoe horn in enough numbers to make the Luffield Abbey ward viable and the two Buckingham wards not too big for your calculations. Obviously we appreciate your difficulties (given that you appear to have worked from Aylesbury outwards leaving you very little wiggle room in the Northern corner of the Vale), but we urge you strongly to find another way to ‘balance the electoral books’ as it were.

We do not see it as our role to propose other solutions since that is evidently your expertise. Here are the reasons behind our objections to your proposals:
  • The area to the East of Moreton Road that you propose should become part of Luffield Abbey ward is an integral part of Buckingham: socially, architecturally and historically. You would be dividing existing communities particularly around a local school.
  • You suggest that the properties in this part of Buckingham have more in common with the properties of Maids Moreton. We really do not understand how you make this assessment when you consider the age of properties, the natural contiguousness of this area with Buckingham to its South, West and East (via the local school especially) and the fact that there are no services in Maids Moreton. All local shopping etc is done by these community members in Buckingham. 
  • Arguably Maids Moreton has far more in common with Buckingham than with the rural villages that it is currently connected too via the Luffield Abbey ward. There is one pub in Maids Moreton and that is it – and even that was closed for six months last year.
  • Planning decisions in this part of town would be examined by the town council and the ward member for Luffield Abbey rather than (as is currently the case) by local AVDC Buckingham North members. Having splits like this, damage the integrity of local governance and good partnership working between Town & District councillors.
  • We think that you may have your numbers incorrect. In your estimates, Luffield Abbey will have exactly the same number of electors in 2019 as currently. This is despite an additional 327 electors (roughly) being transferred from Buckingham North to Luffield Abbey. Are you suggesting that Luffield Abbey is about to lose this number of electors over the next 4 or 5 years? Indeed, we predict that there would be an increase due to infill housing in the villages of Luffield Abbey rather than any reduction (considering the Luffield Abbey stays the same as present). As your numbers appear to be incorrect (although we would be keen to learn how you arrived at your predicted number for Luffield Abbey), we challenge the whole basis on which you have made your proposals.
  • With the building that is about to start on the Western side of Moreton Road, just to the south of the Rugby club, the area that you have extracted to join with Luffield Abbey will feel even more like an isolated electoral peninsula. 
  • Your proposals around Fishers Field make a little more sense and we can see some of the value of transferring these few houses to Buckingham North. However, the river provides a natural and historic boundary which we feel should be kept. Moreover, your calculations due to the size of Buckingham South, we feel, have not adequately taken account of likely housing developments between Tingewick Road and main A421. In your calculations, you appear to have only taken account of the new voters moving into Lace Hill (the developers have the temporary marketing name of Windsor Park). Thus we feel here also, that your calculations are awry from the likely future reality. 
  • There are only 138 voters in Fishers Field and so we feel that moving them from their historic base in Buckingham South is simply not justified. We cannot see that it makes much difference to voter numbers.
  • Although I know this is not your direct concern, the consequences of these two ward boundary changes inside the parish of Buckingham will mean elections for Buckingham Town Council being reduced to something approaching a governance farce. There will be one town councillor for Fishers Field (138 voters), one town councillor for “Highlands & Watchcroft” (the other slice that has gone to Luffield Abbey – 327 voters) and then a further 8 town councillors for the remains of Buckingham North and South (5230 and 4116 voters respectively). So the consequence of this would be to have ratios of voters to town councillors ranging from 1:138 to 1:654. This is not good governance and runs counter to your objectives for the district of levelling out the ratios as far as possible. There will also be increased election costs as a result of these changes, just to fit your current proposals. We estimate the ratio of Town Councillors to voters would average out at 1:545 which means that the Fishers Field councillor would be at a variance of minus 75%, Highlands & Watchcroft of minus 40% whilst councillors from North & South would be plus 20% and 6% respectively. How is it right to mess with Buckingham Town Council governance so drastically?
  • Our concern is for the electoral integrity of and partnership between both AVDC councillors and town/parish councillors. You proposals slice through this integrity and partnership and will have damaging effects, we believe, on the sense of community in all the areas concerned. 
As we say above, it is not for us to propose alternatives. However, for example, we would say that Luffield Abbey is an artificial construct (very few people could even place Luffield Abbey on a map) and which includes Maids Moreton which was judged by a recent planning inspector’s appeal assessment (for the development south of the rugby club) as being contiguous with Buckingham.

In sum, we wholeheartedly and strongly reject your proposals for Buckingham North, South and Luffield Abbey as being significantly detrimental to historic local community identities and effective local governance at both District and Town council levels.

Sincerely yours

Bob Jones: An immense loss

I last saw Bob Jones in early April this year. He was on top of his game: more insightful, funny, compassionate, wise and vibrant than ever. I mourn his loss greatly.

He was fine man who truly understood the complexity of policing & community justice. I remember being hugely impressed when I first met him 20 or so years ago in the early days of what was then Association of Police Authorities. Up until his death, he was one of the leading thinkers about the governance of policing and connected agencies.

He worked with people from across the political spectrum. He was a committed inclusive pluralist: recognising that good ideas can come from all tribes & sides of the debate. His efforts to create a localised and cross party policing governance structure for the West Midlands is testament to his beliefs.

It is with great sadness, that I now have to imagine a policing landscape without him. His knowledge and wisdom will be massively missed by all those concerned with the proper governance of policing.

My sincere thoughts are with his family, his close friends, his colleagues and indeed everyone who, like me, are saddened and shocked at his passing. May he Rest In Peace. 

UPDATE 1655 | 010714: There is a moving video now on the net of the Chief Constable and Bob's Deputy paying tribute to the wonderful man that he was. You can watch it here.