Ten Suggested Items for Scrutiny by Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel


Monday, June 15th, 2015. 2:22am


Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel Logo

Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel is responsible for scrutinising the actions and decisions of Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner. On the basis of its scrutiny the panel can then make public recommendations to the Police and Crime Commissioner.

At the February 2014 meeting of Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel I sought to use the public speaking slot to suggest a number of areas of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s work the panel could look into. I felt doing this was particularly important as the panel had been relying on the Police and Crime Commissioner to report items to the panel for scrutiny, the panel had not been initiating their own work.

The panel should in my view have been deciding itself what areas to look into based on public concerns, public statements by the Police and Crime Commissioner, transparency information released by the Police and Crime Commissioner and other sources of information.

My February 2014 submission was rudely dismissed and not addressed, however the panel eventually agreed it wasn’t fulfilling its scrutiny role, and has since worked on areas which I raised including the call answering performance and the Police and Crime Commissioner’s decision to hold his business co-ordination board in private – a decision the panel have recommended he re-consider.

Panel Chairman Cllr McGuire has said making suggestions of items for scrutiny ought not have been ruled out of order and the panel have introduced a new section in their rules of procedure, in section 8.2 titled “Suggestions from Members of the Public for items of Scrutiny by the Panel”.

I have submitted the below suggestions to the panel to consider at its meeting on the 17th of June 2015.

These are not detailed items, but just headings really. If the panel decide they are of areas they should look into I would expect them to ask the Police and Crime Commissioner to report to them on his relevant decisions and actions and for the panel to seek input from others in a position to provide it including the public, councillors, the Police and Crime Commissioner’s staff and the police.

  1. I would like to suggest the panel scrutinises the Police and Crime Commissioner’s responses to recommendations from the panel, as well as the Police and Crime Commissioner’s written responses to questions and requests for information from the panel. I would like to see the panel deciding, and clearly publishing, if the Police and Crime Commissioner has accepted, acted on, or rejected a recommendation.

    The Police and Crime Panel’s practice to-date appears to have been to publish, but not review and act on, written responses from the Police and Crime Commissioner.

    Some of the panel’s recommendations clearly need following up and persisting with, for example:

    • I don’t think the Police and Crime Commissioner has addressed the recommendation to publish his Business Coordination Board meeting papers in advance of the meeting in his response of the 28th of May.
    • The Police and Crime Commissioner has told the Police and Crime Panel he can’t open his Business Coordination Board to the public because of a need to “protect the staff and police involved”. These are very senior officers and staff who appeared in public meetings under the Police Authority. The claim discussions at the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Business Coordination Board can be operational shouldn’t be true as the Police and Crime Commissioner’s role is not an operational one. If there is a case for some items to be considered in private session then surely those items ought be considered in private, not all items.
    • When the panel asked the Police and Crime Commissioner, in March 2014, to publish details of town and parish council meetings his outreach worker was attending he did so only retrospectively despite the clear intent being to inform the public and elected representatives about upcoming events.

  2. I would like to suggest the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner’s actions and decisions related to local police priority setting, and the holding of the police locally to account for their performance against those priorities.

    Procedures for local priority setting vary widely around the force area. I expect the panel may want to consider recommendations on publicising routes via which members of the public can influence local priority setting, and aimed at clarifying on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s delegation to local priority setting bodies, as well as seeking to ensure those setting priorities do so from a well informed position and have access to the information they request (traffic offence data, and injury data are typically absent). I would like to see the panel recommend democratic local priority setting, and holding to account, by elected councillors in all areas.

  3. I would like to suggest the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise the procurement and operation of the ALERT system. I would suggest the panel ought look into the way the decision to award the contract for this system was made and at the different ways it is being used around the force area. In February 2014 the Police and Crime Commissioner told the Police and Crime Panel the system would enable people to “know the very next morning whether there’s been a burglary, whether there’s been some anti-social behaviour, a car stolen, or whatever the case may be, it’s there for them to see”. That level of almost comprehensive, near real time, extracts from the police log does not appear to yet be being offered. (Perhaps the ECINS procurement and operation could also be considered).
  4. I would like to see the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner’s decision to base his office outside of Police Headquarters. In particular I would like to see the panel consider if he has effectively achieved his aim of separating himself from the police given, for example, he publishes a police email address cambs-pcc@cambs.pnn.police.uk for the public to contact him on and his IT and financial systems appear closely linked, if not shared.

  5. I would like to see the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner’s involvement in with the force’s Out of Court Disposal Scrutiny Panel. I would like to see recommendations made aimed at ensuring the work of that panel is communicated to the Police and Crime Commissioner, and the public, and gives an assurance that out of court disposals are being used in appropriate circumstances. I would like to see for example why in some cases under Police and Crime Commissioner Bright burglars have been given the option of restorative justice instead of prosecution.

    https://www.cambs.police.uk/about/foi/disclosure/PUB0949-2014.pdf

  6. I would like to see the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise the manner in which the Police and Crime Commissioner monitors complaints about the police. I note that unlike the Police and Crime Commissioners in neighbouring areas Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner does not personally sample complaints and neither can I see any sign of him having set up a panel to do that on his behalf. I suggest the panel and the Police and Crime Commissioner look at what is being done elsewhere and would like to see the panel making recommendations aimed at establishing a local system which can improve public confidence.
  7. I would like to suggest the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner’s actions and decisions in relation to his role in relation to the Force Executive Board, looking in particular at his attendance at that meeting and his publication of board papers. I would like to see the panel recommend the board papers are published (subject to the kind of exclusions and redactions which would apply to Freedom of Information disclosures).
  8. I would like to see the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner’s decisions on where the strategic / operational boundary lies, including in relation to the commissioner’s refusal to comment on, and take decisions on, the significant strategic change to the face of policing in the force area when non-firearms officers began being armed with TASER weapons from May 2013. Another example would be staffing of call answering which at times the Police and Crime Commissioner has clearly viewed as a strategic matter he has been in a position to address, but latterly he has declared it an operational matter.
  9. I would like to see the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner’s approach to determining which of his decisions he refers to the Police and Crime Panel for scrutiny. I would like to see the panel recommend, for example, that instances when the Police and Crime Commissioner declines to take a decision when the Chief Constable or his Chief Executive put a matter to him are included as decisions.
  10. I would like to see the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise any work the Police and Crime Commissioner has done on ensuring safeguards are in place in relation to the force’s use of surveillance technology, including Automatic Number Plate Recognition ANPR, and on the collection of data from electronic devices during searches and when individuals are brought into custody. Perhaps a recommendation to the Police and Crime Commissioner could be to ensure he has set clear strategy and policy in this area and is assured himself, and can assure the public, that the force’s activities are lawful and proportionate.

2 comments/updates on “Ten Suggested Items for Scrutiny by Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    As I saw no evidence of these suggestions being considered I’ve submitted a public question to the subsequent meeting of the Police and Crime Panel which is due to be held on the 16th of September 2015:

    1. I submitted a number of suggestions for items of scrutiny to the panel in advance of its previous meeting on the 17th of June 2015. Were these considered by the panel under the process set out in section 8.2 of the panel’s rules of procedure?

    I expected to see the items considered at under the item on the agenda titled: “Meeting dates and Agenda Plan” however the panel appeared to be in a rush to finish its meeting and the chair declared the “Meeting dates and Agenda Plan” item was “for information” preventing any debate. The chair went on to announce an “agenda setting meeting in private shortly”.

    I filmed the meeting and the relevant section can be viewed at:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPr6DNl9tDg&t=111m05s

    I think the panel ought operate openly and agenda items, and decisions, should not be taken in private meetings. Decisions on what aspects of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s role to look into are important panel decisions.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    I followed this up in person at the Police and Crime Panel on the 16th of September 2015.

    The panel chair, Cllr Jason Ablewhite, stated:

    Thank you Richard, most kind.

    The panel acknowledges receipt of your suggested scrutiny items.

    The panel considered your suggestions in its last agenda setting meeting and will continue to consider these at future agenda planning sessions.

    Whilst we welcome suggested areas for scrutiny from the public the panel is responsible for setting its own agenda and is not obligated to accept scrutiny suggestions presented to it.

    Thank you.

    This was a response which sought to respond to suggestions which had never been made. No one had suggested the panel had an obligation to scrutinise any areas members of the public suggest. The answer didn’t explicitly make clear that the panel does not hold agenda setting meetings in public.

    I used the opportunity to ask a follow up question to say:

    Thank you.

    So what we heard there was a statement that the suggestions were considered in a private meeting rather than in one of the public panel meetings.

    Now you advertise to the public in your rules of procedure that that suggestions of items for scrutiny will be considered in public at one of the public meeting agenda items.

    Now obviously there was a decision taken to suspend that aspect of the rules of procedure. Can I suggest that if the rules of procedure are to be suspended that it is made very clear when that is happening and an explanation is given as to why the published rules of procedure are being suspended.

    Chair Cllr Jason Ablewhite replied:

    Thank you Richard for your attendance

    The whole exchange, question and answer, took two and a half minutes.

    I have collated the time limits applying to the public question slot. There is a thirty minute public question time limit, and each exchange can take up to nine.

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