Delivering better policing

This is the extended version of my article on Police Commissioners, which appeared in the Kent on Sunday (18/12/11)

November the 15th 2012 will be a significant turning point in the history of the Police Service.

For the first time, residents across Kent and Medway will be asked to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to represent our interests.

The PCC will ensure that public concerns are reflected in local policing priorities.  Having a recognisable directly elected Commissioner will empower the public and increase local accountability.

What will this mean in practice?

Curently responsibility for Policing is shared between the Chief Constable, the Home Secretary and the Police Authority.

Under the new system, the Home Office will withdraw from day to day police matters and instead of the current invisible Police Authority an elected and mandated Commissioner will set goals and priorities for our Police Force, enacted through the Chief Constable, according to the wishes of the public – a public the PCC will be accountable to at the polling station.

There will be much debate over the next year over what these priorities should be.  As the Portfolio Holder for Community Safety in Medway, here are some of the issues that I would like our Commissioner to consider.

Whilst crime has fallen in recent years, there are concerns about serious crime and many residents are still worried about anti-social behaviour that affects their neighbourhoods and high streets.  This should be a major priority and, in conjunction with Community Safety Partnerships, the PCC can reduce this blight on peoples’ lives.

The Commissioner should make it clear what we can expect from a 21st Century Police Force.  For example, residents deserve to have clear minimum response times when they contact the Police and when they will receive the results of investigations.

The PCC will be responsible for the enhancement of criminal justice delivery and community sentences need be viewed as effective punishment.  In partnership with courts, the Commissioner can work to speed up the process, so that those given a punishment in the morning are doing that work in the community by the afternoon.  More emphasis must be given to the victims of crime and we must drive down our reoffending rates, which are still unsatisfactorily high compared to the rest of the country.

Residents also want visible policing.  I would like to see greater community involvement, with the introduction of incentives for residents to volunteer as Special Constables.

All of this needs to be delivered whilst being mindful of the financial constraints that we all work within keeping precept increases to a minimum.

Some have criticised Commissioners because they believe it will politicise the police and cost too much.

The Police will continue to be operationally independent.  They are there to protect the public and should not have political affiliation to any party – this will not change.

In fact, Chief Constables will actually have greater professional freedom to take operational decisions to meet the priorities set for them by their local community – via their Commissioner. This will include being able to appoint all of their top management team.

While there is a cost with any change, let’s remember that Police Authorities cost the taxpayer £65 million per year and have spent £25 million on expenses and allowances in the last three years.

The Commissioner will be the driving force for our local policing priorities and will be good for Kent and Medway.

One Response to “Delivering better policing”

  1. Why I think an elected Police Commissioner will be good for Medway and Kent « Mike in Medway Says:

    […] extended version, which appeared in the Kent on Sunday, can be found here. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

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