At a Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel meeting on the 16th of March 2016 Dave Baigent, the Labour candidate to be Police and Crime Commissioner, offered to speak to me on camera. I’m publishing the full unedited video of our unprepared, impromptu, discussion along with a transcript.
- Labour’s Dave Baigent has been caught speeding on Victoria Road in Cambridge, blaming a new car he wasn’t used to, but supports police action to enforce Cambridge’s twenty mile an hour limits.
- Labour’s Dave Baigent considers PCSOs to be valuable as he thinks people are more comfortable talking to them than constables.
- Labour’s Dave Baigent will offer the Police and Crime Panel the opportunity to scrutinise upcoming decisions before he takes them; generally currently the panel’s role is retrospective.
- Labour’s Dave Baigent opposes the mass collection of data on the population at large for policing purposes and is keen on court warrants being required before the police can access data on people’s communications and movements.
- Labour’s Dave Baigent opposes a greater roll out of TASER to more police officers.
- Labour’s Dave Baigent questions if Cambridgeshire Police’s spying on Cambridge University students might have been instigated by MI5.
- Labour’s Dave Baigent would set local policing priorities following collaborative meetings including senior police officers, interested members of the public and himself. Priorities would no longer be set democratically by local councillors in Cambridge.
- Labour’s Dave Baigent would initially keep the Police and Crime Commissioner’s “outreach officers” but would seek to take on their role himself.
Richard Taylor: I’m Richard Taylor and me and Dave Baigent have been here in Peterborough watching the Police and Crime Panel meeting and Dave’s standing as the Labour candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner and has offered to speak to me.
Strategic Decision Making
Richard Taylor: So one of the first things I want to know about how you will operate if you are Police and Crime Commissioner is how will you take strategic decisions at the top of the police force, our current Commissioner has got a business coordination board which meets in secret, is that something you would carry on?
Dave Baigent, Labour Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate: No, I think that for me, this panel serves a great purpose, and I think it’s not a traditional council scrutiny panel it doesn’t have any teeth, it’s very very limited in what it can achieve and I been thinking over the months since set up, set out to win this post, that this panel has a much more important role and on this panel there’s lay people and councillors who represent the broad view, elected view, of the whole of the area of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and I think that I will be asking them to bring things to me and we will be discussing them. I think the commissioner is autonomous and can make decisions on their own but I think this needs to be a much more advised position. I can understand why its been different for the previous incumbent, he’s a traditional Tory he was not necessarily his choice.
Richard Taylor: So would you try and use the Police and Crime Panel as your board essentially, would you take decisions to them before you make them?
Dave Baigent: At this distance, and I can’t say what’s going to happen because there may be things you have to immediately react to and there’s going to be a long term decision making plan which this panel will be much much more involved in. When something quick-time comes up then it may have to be done solely by the commissioner, it may have to be done in consultation with the chair of this panel but I think that for the longer view on policing my ideas on community policing, on the way that I want to take the police to the community to work out what the vision is going to be and what my priorities are going to be which then in-turn become the police’s priorities this panel has got a very important part to play. I don’t want to stop them scrutinising but I want to make them part of the process at the same time.
Richard Taylor: That’s a challenge isn’t it, because their role is scrutiny, but you’re involving them in making the decisions, how are they then going to scrutinise essentially their own decisions it becomes pretty impossible?
Dave Baigent: Well no it doesn’t, it gives them a second bite, I mean having them in consultation doesn’t mean that they’ll be making the decision, it means that they will be part of the decision making process and then I make the decision and it comes back for them to scrutinise.
Richard Taylor: That tells me how you’ll run that.
Openness and Transparency of the Criminal Justice System
Richard Taylor: So something that concerns me is the openness of our criminal justice system in general, I’ve tried to find out what’s going on in our local courts in Cambridge and I’ve not been able to find out what’s coming up. Is that something which you think with the “and crime” element of the role that you could open up our court system so we can find out what people are being sentenced to, what people are in court for?
Dave Baigent: I think that the liberalisation and the public face of justice and the public face of policing is very important, the police service is there to represent the public and going right back to Peel who said that the police officer was the citizen in uniform and policing is by consent relies on that public face.
Richard Taylor: So when you say liberalisation you mean openness you don’t mean…
Dave Baigent: I mean by being more open and more part of the public process.
The Role of the Police
Richard Taylor: What do you see as the role of the police?
Dave Baigent: The police are there to prevent crime I suppose and to police things when they go wrong. That’s quite an interesting question actually.
Richard Taylor: I think that it’s an important, basic, question. The traditional answer a hundred years or so ago would have been to keep the peace, but now we’ve got such a broader range of roles we ask the police to do.
Dave Baigent: That’s right. The main element in my mind is to keep society safe. What they’re not there is to interpret the law, they’re not they”re there to uphold the law and I think that is a very important role.
Richard Taylor: So if the focus is safety then, something like bank fraud, if you went home, you’ve got a bank statement, and someone has taken money off your card do you think that’s a role for the police to, something the police should be investigating?
Dave Baigent: It’s a role for the law to investigate, and whether that involves the police at this current time the police have undertaken that role, now in the same way as Sir Graham Bright said today it may not be the police officer’s role attend a road accident, now that was a bit of a devastating statement because think most people would expect to see the police at a road accident but I understand where he’s coming from, I’m not saying I am agreeing with him but I understand where he is coming from. I think that the police have undertaken the role of dealing with fraud and it has become a policing matter but whether in the future it will remain so I don’t know.
Richard Taylor: I liked your first answer actually that it’s a focus on safety, my primary concern is injuries and things like we’ve had missing persons for example, that’s a safety issue but it’s not all about crime.
Surveillance of the Population
Richard Taylor: So can I ask you about surveillance, today we’ve heard about ANPR, the Police and Crime Commissioner is putting more money into ANPR, we’ve got the Investigatory Powers Bill going through Parliament today, do you think the police need to have a database of where we’re all travelling and who we’ve all communicated with?
Dave Baigent: I think there’s a mixed answer to that and this is going to be a politician’s answer I’m sorry about that. I think that its very useful if you’re chasing criminals but if you’re turning people into criminals by that data I don’t think that’s at all useful. For instance when the police try to put a surveillance team, or use people to do surveillance with the students at Cambridge University I thought that was appalling. I don’t know whether that was something that Cambridgeshire Constabulary actually devised of whether it came from a very much more secret organisation, maybe special branch, maybe MI5, I find that really difficult and I would not be supporting anything like that.
Richard Taylor: So do you think the police should have access to your internet history and your mobile phone records? Or what safeguards do you think should be in-place before they can get hold of them.
Dave Baigent: I think they should need a search warrant to do that.
Richard Taylor: So the information should be collected, but we should have a search warrant and go through the courts?
Dave Baigent: Well I mean the information is collected, it’s there forever, and it’s not destroyed so everything I do on my mobile phone, everything I do on my internet, is recorded somewhere, but I don’t think that’s an automatic right to give that to the police service. And in the same way, if I’m behaving in a criminal way, then that’s, I should be expecting the police to come knocking on my door, with a search warrant and wanting to see what’s in there. I’m not here to protect criminals, I’m here, one part of my role is to protect public freedom.
Richard Taylor: And what about things like we’ve got bulk datasets in the Investigatory Powers Bill things like who’s attended a theatre performance, who’s bought football tickets, is that the kind of data that you as Police and Crime Commissioner would want the force to have access to?
Dave Baigent: Again I think that this is something that needs to be restricted, I don’t think there should be an automatic right to get to this data.
Richard Taylor: So it shouldn’t be routinely collected?
Dave Baigent: Well it is routinely collected, you mean if it is routinely collected
Richard Taylor: in a centralised manner
Dave Baigent: accessible to the police, no I don’t think it should be, but if they’ve got a specific reason, somebody gets murdered after a theatre performance or in the theatre then it’s reasonable for them to come and get that data.
Richard Taylor: There’s a distinction between getting it from those who’ve got it for operational purposes for running the theatre performance than the police holding it and having it accessible.
Dave Baigent: Yes and I’m not comfortable with that.
Richard Taylor: So it seems like you would be voting against the Investigatory Powers Bill if you were in Parliament.
Dave Baigent: Well if I was in Parliament but I’m not, which I might regret, but the point is, that no, I’m Policing is not about a big brother effect or big sister, policing is about policing by consent and if the idea doesn’t have the consent of the public then it shouldn’t really be being done.
20 MPH Enforcement
Richard Taylor: So on that point then, policing of 20 MPH in Cambridge. In many areas the majority of people are breaking the law there, do you think we should have enforcement?
Dave Baigent: Yeah.
Richard Taylor: So the policing by consent argument; does that risk policing by consent?
Dave Baigent: No, that doesn’t that’s not a risk to policing by consent because the majority of people represented by their representatives the local council agree it’s the right thing to do. You know that twenty mile an hour thing is, people make a big issue of that a bit, we heard today about a car driver blaming cyclists and there is a difficult relationship, when people get in cars they change personalities, they change their ideas, they become victims to things that they abhor when they are walking along the road as a pedestrian so twenty mile an hour limit is not about policing by consent; that is the law, we have agreed that law, and that should be policed.
Richard Taylor: So do you think enforcement of twenty mile an hour limits is a practical thing to do, as opposed to taking the view that it should all be down to road environment and we should just naturally just slow down the traffic?
Dave Baigent: I think that probably it isn’t very practical, it’s about balancing resources.
Richard Taylor: Which will be your job as Police and Crime Commissioner.
Dave Baigent: I know but my job as Police and Crime Commissioner will be to look at the case for the use of resources, if twenty mile an hour was accepted, and is accepted, by the population, when I drive my car which is not very often I do twenty mile an hour in the limit so everybody behind me does twenty mile an hour. I think it is something which will just become a norm. It’s a change, some people don’t like it. Driving at more than twenty mile an hour in Cambridge is dangerous end of story.
Richard Taylor: So if you were Police and Crime Commissioner you’d come to the East Area Committee as Police and Crime Commissioner.
Dave Baigent: Yes, that’d be a thing wouldn’t it.
Richard Taylor: and the councillors there say we want enforcement of the twenty mile an hour limits, will you put it back to them and say you really need to act and do more than just signs or will you say I’m happy putting the manpower into that.
Dave Baigent: I think that we would look at… I will look at the twenty mile an hour limit alongside local opinion and if there’s a need to make it a priority for a short while then yes, resources are tight, there’s a thousand police officers probably only ever three hundred of them on duty at any time, to say that you’d make it a priority every day of the week would be wrong. To make it clear to the public that you are going to be enforcing that law, yes I do think that’s a good idea.
Local Priority Setting
Richard Taylor: So I’ve asked you about the role of local councillors in setting police priorities and essentially you’ve told me I’ve got to wait until after the election to find out the details. Do you think that’s a reasonable thing to say surely we need to know what your policies are now so we can decide how to vote for you?
Dave Baigent: My policy, my number one policy, which hasn’t got detail but its laid down what I’m going to be doing, my number one policy will be to set priorities based on what the public and the police agree. I’ve said all the way through I will go to the communities with a superintendent, I will meet with the communities and I will be in that room, the community will talk with the superintendent and they will talk about their concerns, pretty much like the East Area Committee if you like but perhaps on a bigger scale and more thought through because I want members of all the communities to be there, those two groups the police and the public will set a priority.
Richard Taylor: So you’re suggesting you will run the meeting perhaps rather than the local councillors?
Dave Baigent: I’ll be at the meeting to make sure there’s fair play.
Richard Taylor: But who will ultimately take the decision on what the local policing priorities are, will it be you?
Dave Baigent: Yes.
Richard Taylor: It will be you.
Dave Baigent: It will come back to me.
Richard Taylor: It will not be the local councillors so we’ll lose that local democratic input will we?
Dave Baigent: No you’re not going to lose the input, you’re going
Richard Taylor: we’re going to lose the decision making.
Dave Baigent: Well I’m talking about real priorities, about things that people, I’m not saying that they’re not local but I’m talking about priorities that the public and the police sit down and work out, not twenty people, but as many people as want to turn up and it may take three meetings to get to a position where some priorities come forward that everybody is in agreement about, they would then become my priorities, so I’m not saying, I’m not going to give carte-blanche here but I can’t see any reason why having said everything I’ve just said now that if they make a priority that I’m going to disagree with it.
Richard Taylor: OK, it’s clear how that might run then.
A National Police Force?
Richard Taylor: So do you think Cambridgeshire is the right size for a police force, or should we have a police force for Cambridge, or the East of England or even a national police force? Do we need police forces?
Dave Baigent: No, I think that on paper a national police service looks like a great idea, but I think that what that means is that areas get neglected, the rural communities say currently they don’t see a police officer, actually you don’t particularly see one in Cambridge either, but you might see one in Peterborough. Now if it means, when you get a bigger region, that means your police service moves into what is seen as the high crime areas and the low crime areas get neglected so I think there’s probably an optimum size and I think Cambridgeshire is successful, the police service is a reasonably and relatively successful, I wouldn’t see any reason to change that model.
Police Community Support Officers
Richard Taylor: So you said we might not see a police officer in Cambridge, what we will see is PCSOs, would you keep PCSOs?
Dave Baigent: I think they’re great.
Richard Taylor: Why do you think it’s right to put the money into PCSOs when they don’t have all the powers of a Police Constable, do you think that’s a sensible way to put resources?
Dave Baigent: Yes I do. When I was lecturing on policing at Anglia Ruskin on degree that I wrote which ironically has given me a lot of the background for this sort of position I’m applying for my idea that PCSOs I thought that as they came out I thought that was a great idea because it is the ultimate situation
Richard Taylor: They’re a Labour idea, you’re a Labour candidate
Dave Baigent: Well that’s right but I’m not just because they’re a Tony Blair idea. My thoughts on this is fifteen percent of crime is solved by very clever detective work, the other eighty-five percent of solved crime comes from the public, the people tell the police officer. The police service is not hugely popular, but we need to break down that unpopularity. The PCSO is that link person they’re not going to arrest anybody, they are the eyes and the ears and the friends of the public and if you walk down Mill Road the local police officer, PCSO, there talks to people and they talk back to them.
Richard Taylor: So you think the value of PCSOs is in that perhaps they don’t have the policing powers and people are more comfortable talking to them.
Dave Baigent: That’s right and I think that would be the whole idea of my police liaison, whatever we would call that group that we hold in the community, people would start to talk to the police service and realise that there is much to be gained by talking.
Richard Taylor: Do you think that people actually understand when they look at a PCSO that they’re not a Police Constable?
Dave Baigent: Yeah, I think most people know that. Most people that live in the UK know that if you were a foreign visitor you might imagine that they were, well they are part of the arms of the state, but…
Richard Taylor: So something I’ve done is a lot of campaigning against the greater roll out of TASERs. Would you like to see all front-line police in Cambridgeshire armed with TASERs?
Dave Baigent: No, as a generalisation no. If there was a set of circumstances when that might become necessary then that might become necessary but in the general way, in the way that we police in this country that is not a role I want to see.
Richard Taylor: You’re roughly happy with the current situation where we have some specialist units and the armed officers have TASERs.
Dave Baigent: Yes.
Richard Taylor: That’s excellent.
Dave Baigent: OK,
Richard Taylor: We’re all there,
Dave Baigent: I mucked up some bits in there, I hope you’re not going to murder me.
Richard Taylor: No I think we can pretty much use that straight-in.
Dave Baigent: Well I’m quite happy with that.
Dave Baigent: And any questions you’ve got, let’s not do it by tweet, lets well I’m here to represent people that’s my sole purpose for standing, my dad was a copper, I was a firefighter, I got a PhD in uniformed service culture, so I understand the way the police work in a way these people don’t understand at all.
Richard Taylor: So I just had a quick look at might notes and on your office size, I think you’ve made some comments that you’d have a smaller office than the current Police and Crime Commissioner, would you keep the outreach officers?
Dave Baigent: I think that in the short term, yes, but my aim would be to be the outreach officer, now I’m not saying you would do away with the outreach officers I think that right at this moment, taking over that office, there’s going to be a hundred days of understanding what the job really is and how much of the support staff you need. My idea of an office, I mean I can’t see at the moment why I need an office, the staff will need an office, I’ve got a laptop I will work from a laptop, every police station has got places that I can use there’s plenty of community buildings there’s lots of places that a commissioner can work, I’m not going to be a nine to five commissioner I’m going to come on duty or whatever it is to do the work that I want to do with the community, I’m going to do that at the times when the community are around and most of that is going to be in the evenings.
Have you Ever Committed A Crime
Richard Taylor: And have you ever committed a crime yourself?
Dave Baigent: Wow there’s a question isn’t it. I actually broke the law speeding once.
Richard Taylor: Got caught for it?
Dave Baigent: Yeah, but that was because I bought a new car and lost it was going a bit faster than I thought it should be.
Richard Taylor: Was that a speed camera or was that pulled over?
Dave Baigent: It was a speed camera.
Richard Taylor: In Cambridge?
Dave Baigent: Yeah.
Richard Taylor: Which one?
Dave Baigent: I don’t know, oh it was on Victoria Road, its one of those secret ones and I did the course so I didn’t get a police record for it.
Richard Taylor: So it wasn’t the big yellow one on Victoria Road [I was thinking of Victoria Avenue], it was police monitoring.
Dave Baigent: No, and actually what was ironic about it is I don’t speed and it was just a new car and I’d come off the motorway and I hadn’t adjusted my driving correctly so I got caught for it, and anything else, no I haven’t, I actually haven’t broken the law. I don’t. No.
One question I didn’t ask was on deputy appointments. Dave Baigent has since announced a “running mate” and I’ve asked some questions and made some observations via Twitter:
— Dave Baigent (@dave4labour) April 20, 2016
— Richard Taylor (@RTaylorUK) April 21, 2016
— Richard Taylor (@RTaylorUK) April 21, 2016
My Views and My Answers – Richard Taylor
Overall, primarily I want to see the police focusing on reducing the harm, including injuries, caused by crime, road incidents and other threats to public safety.
Strategic Decision Making – Richard Taylor
Proposed police policy changes and reports recommending major decisions should be openly published online well in advance of the decisions being taken; where possible I would say two weeks in advance. I would have a procedure for urgent decisions but would only want that used in highly exceptional circumstances.
Currently the Chief Constable has a “Force Executive Board” and the Police and Crime Commissioner a “Business Co-ordination Board”, both with sub-committees and both held behind closed doors without papers being published in advance.
I’d have just one combined board, chaired by the Police and Crime Commissioner, with the Chief Constable taking the chair on any [rare] occasion when an operational matter was to be discussed at board level.
I would hold the board meetings in public, subject to the same exemptions enabling the public to be excluded as apply to council meetings.
I would have a public speaking opportunity at board meetings, which I would encourage those with relevant expertise and experience to use, and in addition I would give district, county and Peterborough City, councillors full speaking rights on items specifically and particularly affecting their wards, subject to the usual privileges of a meeting chair being able balance the needs to have a full debate with the need to progress business.
My proposals would have the effect of regularly bringing the Chief Constable, their senior officers, and senior staff out in front of the public to explain and present their propsals, and to account for their performance, on a regular basis, something which hasn’t happened in Cambridgeshire since the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners.
Urgent decisions would be reported to the board, and the board’s business would include approving any national lobbying, or consultation responses, undertaken on behalf of the force or Police and Crime Commissioner.
Board meetings should be held around the force area, each one in a different place, with some consideration of if matters on the agenda particularly affect certain areas.
Single issue board meetings held at times and locations which are convenient for the public and elected representatives should be held in respect of decisions in which there is significant public interest.
Role of the Police and Crime Panel – Richard Taylor
I think an incoming Police and Crime Commissioner should set out in public what assistance they would like to receive from the Police and Crime Panel. If I was Police and Crime Commissioner I would encourage sub-sets of panel members to assist me in scrutinising the police force’s performance in detail, for example in reviewing stop and search records, TASER and firearms use, and following up on custody visiting reports.
Ultimately though it’s up to the Police and Crime Panel to set its own approach. The Police and Crime Commissioner can’t direct the body which scrutinises them, the Police and Crime Commissioner can merely offer opportunities and ask for assistance.
Regular board meetings with papers published two weeks in advance would give the panel an opportunity to pre-scrutinise upcoming decisions and to present their views to the board and Police and Crime Commissioner.
Have You Ever Committed a Crime? – Richard Taylor
I don’t think it’s very smart to admit to crimes publicly, what I will say though is that there are some things which I believe are crimes, such as going through a red traffic light or driving into a bus lane to let a fire engine past which I think are still the morally right thing to do. I put keeping myself and others alive and safe ahead of strict adherence to laws and I expect, and hope, juries and magistrates would consider that a reasonable and right approach too.
It can be very hard to find out what the rules of our society are, for example there are a number of locations in Cambridge where it isn’t clear from signs on the ground if cycling is permitted or not, and I’ve only discovered what looks like the “true” position from reading Traffic Regulation Orders released via Freedom of Information requests to the County Council.
I think we need greater clarity from our laws.
I think it’s a very undesirable position to be in when a significant fraction of the population is technically in breach of laws as it leaves open the potential for abuse of power through selective enforcement.
TASERS – Richard Taylor
I oppose arming all front line police officers with TASER. I do want firearms officers to have TASER as a less lethal alternative to a conventional firearm.
I want to see policing by consent, not by force so far as possible.
Local Police Priority Setting – Richard Taylor
I want to see democracy in depth and local councillors should be empowered by the Police and Crime Commissioner to set local policing priorities and hold their local police to account. This should happen both at the hyper-local level, such as a parish or town council or one of Cambridge’s Area Committees and at a city/district level too.
See also: Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner – Local Democratic Priority Setting and Accountability – October 2012.
The Role of the Police – Richard Taylor
I think the primary role of the police is to keep us safe. I want to see a focus on reducing injuries and harm, if a Police and Crime Commissioner can cut the number of crime and road related deaths and injuries they will be able to clearly see the impact they have had on people’s lives.
We do, rightly, expect the police to take on a wide range of roles, including to a degree keeping the traffic moving after incidents, and dealing with crimes which don’t so directly and obviously cause harm, such as misconduct in pubic office.
While injuries and deaths are by far the most important metric, the costs of crime also need to be monitored and recorded and used to prioritise policing activity.
The police play a key role in providing a safe, just, and fair environment which is an essential pre-requisite for everything else which goes on in the area be it farming, academic research, manufacturing or whatever else people are pursuing.
PCSOs – Richard Taylor
I would rather see money spent on fully empowered constables than PCSOs. A constable can cost about the same as a PSCO, and the constable is able to exercise a much wider array of powers. The problem PCSOs were brought into solve was constables being taken away from front-line duties, this can be solved by good management and dedicating certain officers to the kinds of roles we currently see PCSOs fulfilling. Any PSCO who is capable and eligible to become a constable should become one.
See also: Role of Police Community Support Officers in Cambridgeshire – March 2014
I have also filmed and published a Police and Crime Commissioner Hustings which took place in April 2016: