Penultimate Meeting of Cambridgeshire Police Authority – September 2012

Saturday, September 8th, 2012. 11:50am

Full Police Authority Meeting September 2012

I observed the penultimate full meeting of the Cambridgeshire Police Authority on the 7th of September 2012.

Key and Notable Points

  • The Chief Constable urged the public to be “patient and persistent” when trying to phone the police. I thought this astonishing as he, and the authority, should be getting the phones answered promptly. No members of the authority complained about the police force’s failure to provide the detailed information they had requested on the force’s failures to answer phone calls from the public on the non-emergency number in a timely manner. The Chief Constable said that an additional three or four staff would make a huge impact, but no authority members asked him to move staff to assist in call answering. The Chief Constable said he had much greater success with voice recognition software in his previous force than he was having in Cambridgeshire but he didn’t understand why. Cllr Victor Lucas expressed concern people were not reporting crime due to the long waits on the phone, and were put off from calling at all. Large, twofold, variations in call volumes between months could not be explained by the police.
  • Continuation towards a merging of the traffic policing units from Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire was approved by the authority. It was murmurered through with no formal “hands up” style vote. There was little debate at the full authority on the grounds it had been considered by the Finance and Resources Committee two days previously, however it wasn’t discussed much there either. There will be a loss of 29 officers, and Cambridgeshire is expected to save £730K per year (The papers say 28 fewer officers across the three forces, about a 10% reduction). Operational officers involved in roads policing are to be consulted on details. Chief Officers reported that now, and under the new arrangements, the demand on the service would be able to be fully met 80% of the time. Chief Officers explained how they could not ever provide enough appropriately trained staff on duty to cover all peaks in demand. Cllr Lucas asked if the merger impacted the ability of the force to call on its neighbours for support when needed, he was assured it didn’t. There is some element of “redesign” in the propsals as resources dedicated to automatic number plate recognition are to be increased.
  • Authority members Ansar Ali and Cllr Shona Johnstone declared interests as prospective Police and Crime Commissioner Candidates. Member John Pye who recently stood down as the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner appeared to be absent without apologies or explanation.
  • Only one member of the authority, Cllr Wilkins, commented on a review of the proportionality of stop and account. He noted the probability of being arrested following a stop and search differed depending on the race of the person involved. He asked for more information and more monitoring to try and understand what is going on, and the force agreed. No members of the authority commented on a suggestion put to them by a Cambridge University academic they had commissioned to review the proportionality of stop and search who suggested that if black people are hostile to the police during a stop and search the police should “take into consideration the antecedents of such hostility” and presumably set a higher bar for arresting them. My view is the police should treat everyone the same irrespective of race and we should not introduce such race based discriminatory policies into policing. Chief Officers said an officer “Tony Hicks” would be considering the review.
  • The meeting papers noted vaguely “issues around the medical needs of detainees were raised in Parkside” no members of the authority picked up on this and asked for details; I would have liked to have found out more.
  • An item on pensions for injured police officers was withdrawn from the agenda by the authority following a request by the Deputy Chief Constable. The DCC said that as he had amended the draft policy in light of consultation the actual draft policy before the authority had not been consulted on. The draft policy will consulted on before returning to the next police authority meeting. An ex-police officer, Mr Beckett, used the public speaking slot to say criminal offences might have been committed by the force in relation to the policy and asked for an independent investigation.
  • The Chief Constable said that staff, including officers, who have long term illnesses will be rigorously investigated with a view to either returning them to work or getting them out of the organisation.
  • The Chief Constable said the big advantage of his form of restorative justice was it is instant; where as the rest of the criminal justice system is far too slow. (The force uses instant on-street reparations)
  • In a discussion about domestic violence Detective Superintendent Simon Megicks said the police’s main interest in domestic violence is protecting children. I thought this was an odd an worrying thing to say as all those at risk are in my view important. Asked if greater collaboration with the council should happen in Peterborough as now happens in Cambridgeshire the officer waffled. Asked about informing schools about domestic violence incidents which might affect their pupils the police said they inform the council and it is up to the council what they tell headteachers. Asked about education in schools aimed at preventing domestic violence, DS Megicks said he didn’t think the police did it, but he hoped and thought the council and schools did.
  • The Chief Constable said “Arrest is an investigative tool, there is no presumption of guilt or innocence”. It is encouraging to hear him say this; I think he should try and get the Foreign Office to tell the Americans who don’t allow those who’ve been arrested to travel visa free to their country.
  • The Chief Constable said sometimes arrests were made “just to diffuse a situation”; he acknowledged an arrest was a significant intrusion into someone’s liberty and said he would review if arrests being used in such a way disproportionately impacted certain groups.
  • Showing policing is not rocket science the Chief Constable said “if an offender is known we will target the offender, if the area is known but not the offender we will target the area”.
  • The Police Authority’s chair said it was good the government are giving Police and Crime Commissioners more time to set their precepts (council tax elements), she said it was right that most of the extra time went to commissioners even though this means there is very little time (one week) for scrutiny by Police and Crime Panels.
  • Cllr Lee asked if Police Authority papers would be archived; he was told the British Library will archive and continue to make available, the police authority websites. Cllr Lee asked for local archive offices to also be involved and the clerk agreed to contact them.
  • A “Partners Briefing” on Police and Crime Commissioners is to be held on the 27th of September. It is for invitees only, and while the authority will invite some of those it expects to stand as Police and Crime Commissioners it will not according to their press officer when I asked afterwards be a public event. Chief Officers and council leaders from local government organisations will be invited. My view is that prior to close of nominations everyone eligible is a potential candidate and everyone should be invited.
  • A PCSO in uniform addressed the authority saying holding their meetings during the day, and having such a short public speaking slot, didn’t make them as accessible as they could be to the public. In response the chair read out a statement on the authority’s public speaking policy.
  • Unison submitted a series of questions to the meeting, but decided not to go through the crazy charade offered of reading them out to the authority.
  • The authority’s clerk defended the secrecy surrounding the working group meetings between Cambs, Herts, and Beds Police Authorities which have, post-olympics, recommended to continue to work up plans for wholesale privatisation of “operational support” services to G4S. The chair named the Cambridgeshire members as Cllrs Johnstone, Lucas, Lee and herself. Cllr Johnstone said that the short couple of paragraph reports presented to the full authority “provided transparency”.
  • A number of police officers in uniform observed the meeting, there were also police and authority staff present. TV cameras were present for establishing shots before the meeting started, and a BBC Radio correspondent entered the room after the meeting had finished to interview the Chief Constable. A number of those in the public seating were wearing Unison T-Shirts. Overall about 25 people were in the public seating.
  • Neither Graham Bright or Ed Murphy the now Conservative and Labour candidates respectively for Police and Crime Commissioner were present; the only known candidates present were those who were members of the authority.

Reference Documents

6 comments/updates on “Penultimate Meeting of Cambridgeshire Police Authority – September 2012

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    A few additional points:

    The Chief Constable made what I took as a thinly veiled attack on New Labour’s Antisocial Behaviour laws. He said that over the past ten years we have started to criminalise young people for what would have previously been considered perfectly normal behaviour. He said he didn’t what to see so many young people given criminal records. I agree with this; I don’t think we ought to be focusing on the merely “anti-social”, but on matters which are otherwise criminal. I also think we need to change our society’s views, policies and proceedures on reform, and recogise that people can genuinely reform. Commission (or admission to) a minor crime in someone’s youth (or later) should not blight them for the rest of their lives. I think making the argument that we have to allow people to reform and turn their lives around in order to reduce crime is something Police and Crime Commissioners could usefully do, I would like to see commissioners try and lead a societial change the way those who have committed an offence, served their sentence and changed their ways are treated.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Chair of the authority, Ruth Rodgers, expressed concern that the media was putting more time to the USA’s presidential elections than the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. She questioned if people might find themselves knowing more about what’s going on in the USA than locally.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Cambridge News has reported on the Road Traffic merger / collaboration.

    The article notes, as the report to the meeting stated, the reduction in officer numbers is to be 28 constables and 8 sergeants. As this is out of a total of around 300 this is slightly over 10%.

    That’s one area where the Cambridge News’ article appears to have got things more accurate than I did, though only the “28/29″ number of constables was actually mentioned at the meeting and I assumed “constable” to mean police officers of the rank of constable and above.

    The Cambridge News is however also reporting:

    It was also revealed the main base for traffic officers would be in St Ives rather than in Herts or Beds.

    My understanding is that it was the location of the main base in Cambridgeshire that was in question, not the three force area main base. The report says bases are also to be located in Leagrave (Bedfordshire) and Stevenage (Hertfordshire). Cambridgeshire’s Chief Officers were clear that they were to insist main traffic base in the force area would be at Police HQ. The Cambridgeshire Chief Officers’ recommendation was that the authority approve the merger, with the amendment of the base being at HQ rather than St Ives, and allowing operational officers to be consulted on other details. The authority agreed with the amended recommendation.

    The Cambridge News report states:

    Ruth Rogers, the authority’s chairman, said: “I am pleased to see that the base will be in St Ives.”

    She did not say that at the meeting. At the meeting Ruth Rogers said that she had received representations from traffic officers concerned that the base would be at St Ives and was pleased that the idea of locating it there had been rejected by the authority on the recommendation of Chief Officers.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    One cause of the confusion is probably the haphazard way the authority conducts its business. Had there been a formal amendment tabled and voted on it would have been clearer to all those present what was going on. I suspect my ability to follow this element of the meeting was enhanced by my having attended the Finance and Resources Committee earlier in the week.

  5. Paul Lythgoe

    I am pleased to hear the remarks made by the Chief Constable on the criminalisation of youths. However, I suspect that over recent years the Cambridge force has been at the forefront of prosecuting these laws. As a father of teenagers I am aware of many kids whose behaviour has fallen foul of this. My impression has been that these kids have been useful in meeting conviction targets, and that misbehaviour, however minor, has led to criminalisation that has had unnecessary and unjustified long term negative effects on their futures.
    You mention concerns over medical needs for those in detention in Parkside. In past Inspectorate reports the cells within Parkside have been considered safety risks. Yet these same cells have been used for the detention of youths under the age of 16 for extended periods for anti social behavior offences.
    I note with great concern the views of the Conservative candidate on anti-social behaviour. His election cry that Cambridgeshire residents are scared to leave their homes can only lead to the continued and increased criminalisation of youth. Their is no substance to his claims and with sccare mongering a central plank of his policy it can only be hoped that the Chief Constable retains the views expressed above.

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