On Tuesday 31st January The Guardian newspaper published 10 questions, posed by Jon Harvey for all prospective Police and Crime Commissioners to try to answer. My initial answers are below, let me know what you think of my responses.
1. This year, a number of police authorities have taken a one-off grant from the government in order to reduce their precept and the impact of the cuts. There is no guarantee that this money will continue which means that next year, the new PCCs may have to make even bigger cuts or seek higher precepts. If you had been elected last year, what would you have done and why? Would you have chosen to take the one-off grant or not?
Unlike your hypothetical Police and Crime Commissioner I don’t have access to the detailed data that he or she would use to formulate their final decision. However I strongly resent this tactic by Ministers to use their budgets (and our money) to manipulate local decisions. This is in conflict with their stated plan to delegate such decisions to communities. I seek election as Police Commissioner on the basis that an efficient and targeted service should be adequately funded. I will not allow ideology or nationally applied coercion to prevent me from setting the appropriate level of the police precept in order to invest in services which our communities need. This is as important when economic pressures on all could lead to an increased demand on crime prevention initiatives as when funds appear less limited.
2. The new Act gives PCCs the power to “commission policing services from the chief constable (or other providers)”. How do you envisage using this power and what risks do you foresee?
I am fully committed to utilising the most suitable resources in Sussex to prevent crime and mitigate its impact on all of our residents. I would expect to continue to commission policing services from the chief constable but also to work with him to ensure that those services which can be delivered most effectively by other agencies including the voluntary sector are commissioned where and when we together judge this to be appropriate. I recognise that a mixed economy can lead to misunderstandings and challenge from agencies which have previously delivered such services or which believe their delivery would be more effective. However through robust consultation and transparent processes I would expect to minimise such misunderstandings.
3. How do you plan to forge a constructive relationship with the chief constable, and what will you be doing to avoid or handle conflicting views and priorities?
The relationship with the Chief Constable is critical to the success of this new role. Regular face to face meetings on the basis of shared agendas is the most effective way of establishing trust between these two powerful posts. As long as the two post holders are committed to making this relationship a success all potential conflicts can be eliminated with hard work on both sides. The same applies to the relationships with the chief officers of other partner agencies who are also involved in the work of crime reduction.
4. On the basis that limited police resources need to be deployed in proportion to where and when there is greatest risk of harm to members of the public, as PCC what action will you take to ensure your police force is doing this optimally?
The operational decisions on the allocation of resources will remain with the Chief Constable. However I would expect to work with him to ensure that we make the most of all resources available to us, both police resources and those appertaining to wider crime prevention activities and ensure that all in Sussex are kept safe within the limits of what is known to all of the agencies who work in partnership with us.
5. Given the focus on the relationship between the police and the news media, what would you hope to achieve in your first 100 days of office in this respect?
In the last 2-3 years Sussex Police has made some very significant improvements to its media profile with a proactive approach that avoids unnecessary defensiveness. I am strongly supportive of this change which takes time and is still being felt by our residents. I therefore don’t believe that setting targets for change in periods as short as 3 months is meaningful in the context of our ‘sophisticated’ media or with a community which has a long memory. However I do have aspirations over the term of this post to extend this proactive engagement on matters of crime reduction to other organisations involved (e.g. prisons, probation, borders agency, customs and the courts).
6. How much do you worry that a large proportion of police resources spent on devising partnership protocols, emergency plans and interagency strategies etc, are broadly equivalent to all the effort that went into Year 2000 compatibility?
I find this comparison rather odd. The result of partnership working is not always measurable, but it is rarely wasted effort and the results which are achieved by partnership working are often impossible to achieve in any other way, or at such low cost. I fully support investing energy and effort in partnership working as my experience demonstrates.
7. It would seem that the fear of crime continues to rise despite the reductions in actual crime. What electoral promises will you make regarding this worrying trend?
I would take a proactive approach to communicating the truth of actual crime levels in Sussex in a way that the Chief Constable cannot due to his primary operational remit, and politicians have not done in the past. However I would also work extensively to engage residents across Sussex in activities that help them to discover for themselves how safe their communities really are and how together we can drive down crime still further.
8. As PCC you will be elected by the people of your area. However the police often work in other force areas (as happened with the riots last year) and maintain resources to tackle national (often organised) crime. What tensions do you foresee there and how will you resolve them?
The only tension I expect is when we are asked to provide resources to assist in areas where the engagement by the local force with their communities falls below the standards we set in Sussex. This was certainly the case with the support given during the Summer ‘disturbances’. On occasions such as this I would work in partnership with the Chief Constable to impress on the political and operational leadership of these other forces that we best protect our workforce and local residents by ensuring that policing is carried out with consent or more usefully collaboration with local communities.
9. Is policing a complex business or a complicated one?
Yes – it is isn’t it
10. Police authorities have been criticised for being too invisible. How will you visibly connect with all the diverse communities of your area and bring democratic accountability to life?
I intend to continue the process already underway in my campaign of engaging with exisiting networks (both geographical and the so called communities of interest) and also to hold events and meetings with people and in places which do not usually meet together. I would also wish to work alongside local officers in neighbourhood meetings from time to time where they and the Chief Constable judge this support to be appropriate.