Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright made his first public speech in Cambridge at the West / Central Area Committee on the 10th of January 2013. I am here presenting the full video and transcript along with my comments.
During the speech the commissioner announced new targets for:
- All non-emergency calls made via 101 being answered within thirty seconds.
- The police attending at the scene of burglaries within the day, if not a few hours.
I thought those were two very positive elements of the speech; but overall I felt it was rather vague and lacked solid content and details.
The commissioner also said he was “looking at” the policing element of council tax; despite standing on what I understood to be a clear platform promising not to raise it.
There was a lot of focus on Neighbourhood Watch and Parish Councils as was perhaps to be expected given the commissioner’s manifesto, and pre-election, promises to empower these groups; however this meant the speech was not tailored to Cambridge City where we don’t have parishes or many active Neighbourhood Watch groups.
The Commissioner did not address the role of councillors on the West/Central area committee in influencing local policing through holding the police to account for their performance against the committee’s democratically set priorities.
Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright’s Speech
First of all good evening and thank you for inviting me.
I used the Open Forum section of the West Central Area Committee on the 1st of November 2012 to suggest councillors invite the Police and Crime Commissioner to their police priority setting meeting primarily so that they could find out if they could continue setting local police priorities and holding the police to account locally. Councillors agreed with my suggestion and that’s why he was invited.
This is the first of the area committees I have been to in Cambridge.
I think it is also the first local police priority setting meeting of any type which he has attended in the police force area since being elected Police and Crime Commissioner. As far as I am aware he did not attend any in the run up to his election either.
I will continue, in rota, to visit to make sure that I’m aware of what you are thinking about.
I think this is excellent. I want to see a Commissioner who attends as many of these local meetings as possible. I would also hope that observing democratic priority setting and holding of the police to account in Cambridge would encourage him to introduce such processes elsewhere rather than empowering self-selecting members of neighbourhood watch, or whoever turns up to a priority setting meeting.
I would have rather the Commissioner have not only said he was listening, but also have expressed support for the committee, both endorsing its priorities and offering to help it fulfil its role, for example by providing better information to inform its decisions. I have suggested area committees be offered crime maps, injury data, and information on the costs of crime in their areas. Where there is a conflict between the will of councillors and the police, as there has been over 20 MPH speed limit enforcement, I think the Commissioner ought take a role in mediation and deciding how to resolve the matter.
But I was pleased to read your reports.
I have no idea what the Police and Crime Commissioner is referring to here. The reports to the meeting are produced by the police, with some input on occasion from others like the council and fire service. They do not reflect the views of councillors or the public. If he meant the minutes of the meetings, I wonder why he didn’t say that.
One of the suggestions I have is that it would be useful if they were sent in to my office so that we can have a look at them and monitor them because they have had very valuable information in them as far as I was concerned.
The papers and minutes for the West/Central Area Committee are pro-actively published online. They are openly available to everyone, including the Police and Crime Commissioner and his staff.
I certainly think the Police and Crime Commissioner ought be kept aware of local policing meetings; to find out if the police, or councils, are telling him about them, is one reason I’ve made a Freedom of Information request for material including his diary.
What I want to try and do is set up a monitoring system not just in Cambridge but right across the county so that we know what people are concerned about, so we know what’s happening.
I think this is a good idea. I would like to see a Commissioner ensure that it is easy for residents of Cambridgeshire to find out what their local police priorities are, to see the evidence those have been based on, to see the police reports on their progress against their priorities and also see what suggestions for priorities have been rejected. Currently outside Cambridge a lot of information is not easily accessible, papers are distributed to councillors and selected individuals by email for example, or even just made available on paper at meetings, rather than being openly published online.
My view is this is something the Commissioner ought ensure the police are doing rather than take it on himself within his office.
Additionally I would like to see routes for raising suggestions for priorities and police related matters, in public, for priority setting meeting’s consideration, without having to attend a meeting in person.
This of course is an entirely new role. We’ve never had one before. So I’ve had to construct the operation and piece together the various ways in which I can actually do my job. I am replacing something like seventeen people on a committee, we now have a committee of one and with more responsibilities. It has been quite a learning curve for me and I have literally been in listening mode as well as talking to as many people as possible. I have found it very useful.
The members of the Police Authority were not doing a full time role; they attended occasional authority and committee meetings. The Commissioner is getting paid a full time salary; the two are not comparable in the way the Commissioner has compared them.
I don’t think being literally in listening mode is something which makes much sense.
I’m very keen particularly wearing the crime commissioner’s hat to try to assist in prevention of crime. I’m interested that Cllr Bick is here, we’ve had a talk about this already, and I want to see if we can do more with the City Council to actually help prevent crime. This is so important. It’s a bigger problem obviously with a larger area but it is quite possible. Looking at what Peterborough has been doing there’s some way ahead I think on that particular front. So working with partners across the county, people across the criminal justice system. I’ve had meetings with the criminal justice board, we understand where we are both coming from on that front.
The wider role of the commissioner, beyond the police, is very important. I want to see a Police and Crime Commissioner leading the courts, probation service, local councils, and other parts of the public sector, co-ordinating efforts to run our society in a fair, just and safe manner. The Commissioner didn’t say anything concrete, but at least his aspirations appear to be vaguely edging in the right direction.
Need to provide effective support for victims and witnesses and of course the victim support will end up next year being funded entirely from my office and we will be responsible for them. I’m quite keen to try and get victim support further into the communities and one of the things I am looking at at the moment is getting to join forces with Neighbourhood Watch. I want Neighbourhood Watch to be more proactive a) in preventing crime and advising people where they constantly see people going out with their windows open or parking their car on the drive with the keys in it – little things like that just to remind people. But I would want to see them not only doing what they’re doing now but being prepared, if you have crime in an area, and I’m particularly concerned about elderly people, it’s much nicer for neighbour to be the first one to go and hold their hand rather than waiting for someone to come from Peterborough or wherever. That I think is important. That will require quite an effort and victim support have agreed to come in on that and to try and train people. I think that would be a useful thing for them to do and would give them more interest in running that system.
I’m wary about excessive focus on victims of crime. High burglary levels where I lived in Arbury impacted me both before and after I was burgled. I think the police are currently distracted by silly requirements to keep those who’ve been victims of crime up to date with what they have done even if they’ve just done some formulaic, clearly futile, investigations and made no progress. I don’t want to see police resources targeted in this way; I’d like to see the focus being reducing crime.
Neighbourhood watch attracts some odd people; I wouldn’t be keen on encouraging them to nag people to close windows for example. I’ve seen the alarm caused in a Cambridge street by a PCSO putting police marked postcards though doors telling people they’ve left their properties insecure, leading to people arriving home wondering if they’ve been burgled. PCSOs doing this is bad enough, without encouraging Neighbourhood Watch to start doing it.
I can’t imagine that the situation of a Neighbourhood Watch group member knowing a victim of burglary and visiting to provide support would occur very often. I would have thought a police officer investigating simply asking if there was anyone the victim could ask to come around and help out or be with them would be more practical.
While I suspect that in some villages there may be strong communities; in parts of Cambridge we don’t have this, we a substantial fraction of the population is transitory. I would like to see elected representatives who would take an interest in strengthening local communities, with a view to improving quality of life, happiness, health as well as potentially having a side benefit of reducing crime and I think a Police and Crime Commissioner could play a role; but I don’t think the starting point, the key foundation, ought be putting greater police resources into neighbourhood watch.
Obviously it’s a duty to consult widely. Not only with the public but also those who are definitely victims of crime. I’m spending some time looking at the way in which we do that effectively. I will be appointing what I call an outreach worker for the southern part of the county in due course. At the moment we are setting it up in the north with a combination of Peterborough and Fenlands.
I’ve not seen any evidence of consulting widely since the the Commissioner took office. Elsewhere around the country commissioners are consulting on their Police and Crime Plans, and their budgets, but not here in Cambridgeshire.
Again, I don’t think victims of crime’s views ought be given extra weight.
I would like to see the Commissioner himself attending public meetings such as Cambridge’s area committees and key council meetings and not appointing someone to attend on his behalf.
I wonder if the “outreach worker” jobs will be advertised; I also wonder if they need to be paid roles or if he could seek volunteers.
So that we’re in touch with everyone. I find that the lower you can get down the line, to parish councils, the more you find out what’s really bugging people. We need to find that out. And to make it two way, explaining what we are doing as well as listening to what they have to say.
Cambridge does not have parish councils.
So, the, other thing is I do have a pot of money which goes to community safety partnerships and various voluntary organisations and I’m concerned that we try to have sustainability on that front. I will be in the coming year looking at all the money which we give out and measuring whether we’re getting value for money ie. seeing what the delivery is.
It’s certainly good to hear the commissioner wants to make sure he is getting value for money.
I’ve been spending most of my time in the last couple of weeks on the budget. I can’t obviously tell you what’s there. It’s well under-way and obviously we will be presenting that to the Police and Crime Committee.
By Police and Crime Committee presumably he means the meeting of the Police and Crime Panel on the 7th of February 2013.
I can’t see why the process could not be made public; elsewhere in the country Police and Crime Commissioners have published draft plans and budget and have run consultations.
I could see a commissioner elected with a strong mandate having published a detailed manifesto might just get on with translating that into a Police and Crime Plan and associated budget, but even so I would like to see a more open process. Commissioner Bright appears to revel in saying he’s keeping secrets.
I think I can safely say we will not be looking at cutting police numbers. That’s the one thing I promised we wouldn’t and for the foreseeable future I can see that we can maintain that. We may even be able to increase police numbers.
This is good. Police officers are the core of the police force. It would be interesting though to see what the maintenance of numbers is at the expense of though. We need more details, and to look behind the headline figure, on things like the number of hours police constables are spending policing, and looking to see if that is being maintained.
The way in which police are organised. The Chief Constable, I must say I am extremely impressed with him, he is a very dedicated man, and very professional and so are his staff but I feel that by re-organising we can get more police out on the front line rather than being sort of inside. There’s a lot of areas where this has happened elsewhere not only in this country but abroad, that we’re looking at to ensure that we get police officers out front. That’s what the public are asking for they want to see policemen out and about. But not just out and about, actually doing things as well.
I think this is very positive; however there’s a need to ensure we take action which actually reduces crime, which makes people safer, which reduces injuries, and doesn’t just appease neighbourhood watch members who live in safe villages who’d like to see a police officer walk down their street on occasion.
I think technology is key here; we need to ensure police officers have access to all their IT systems wherever they are so they are not having to travel back to police stations to carry out administration. Admin needs to be minimised, and as far as possible paperless.
So looking at the future, I’ve said the immediate priority is looking at the budget and getting that right and looking at the precept which I know you’re all interested in.
The commissioner stood for election promising no rise in the precept (the police element of council tax) so if he is looking at it perhaps he is considering a u-turn on this key manifesto commitment. Point six of his ten point manifesto was:
Not to put any additional burden on council tax
Perhaps he’s looking at it with a view to a cut?
Fighting antisocial behaviour. I have to say that when I first got into this, and I was a latecomer as a candidate I was very surprised at the real feeling that the public have about anti-social behaviour, not just in the urban areas which is where you expect to find it but down to the smallest village. It’s the issue which I have not got the answer to yet. We’re working on it, or looking at it, and it is something which has got to be tackled systematically but we need the help of the public on that, it is not just a policing issue. It is the community which has to play its part in that and we need to find ways in which that can be organised.
I don’t think the term “anti-social behaviour” is useful. Mr Bright has himself used the term in relation to drug dealing, and he wouldn’t explain to me why he’d done that or what it means to have such a crime classified as “anti-social” rather than simply a crime.
I’ve seen many public meetings where people say “anti-social behaviour” because they know it’s become a buzz word which the police are keen to act in relation to. I’ve even been at a meeting where someone’s asked if a violent assault can be classed as anti-social so that he could raise his concerns about it and the way the police had responded.
Quite often people do complain to the police about non-criminal activities which don’t put anyone at risk; common examples include young people gathering on green spaces or outside shops. My view is the police ought not be taking action in relation to such calls; but where people have concerns, and need reassurance, the police should seek to provide that.
I am very concerned that Commissioner Bright’s anti-social behaviour focus, combined with our anti-social behaviour laws, could lead to the criminalisation of young people for, for example playing football or merely gathering. I completely disagree with this as a priority and would like to see a focus on actual crimes, particularly those which cause harm and injuries.
On the question of burglary it’s something which I am concerned about because if any of you have been burgled you know what a trauma it is. If it happens to an elderly person it is even worse, they just want to leave, they don’t feel safe in their home. It’s a horrible intrusive crime. What I’ve said to the police is that all too often people tell me that they don’t see a policeman until several days later when they get a crime number.
I agree; I have been campaigning for a long time locally in North Cambridge for the prioritisation of burglary and violent crime over things like cycling on the pavement which our councillors often ask the police to focus on. I have also campaigned to retain burglary and violent crime at the Cambridge City wide level.
That is not on as far as I’m concerned. I’ve said quite clearly we want the police to visit burglaries where the crime is committed on the same day and if possible within a few hours, so they can look at it. We’ve got burglars who are almost professional, we need to know what they’re up to. You can recognise the person and the techniques that they use.
I agree with this. When I reported a burglary at my home the police response was to send detectives to investigate me. I think the police need to focus on catching criminals rather than trying to deter people from reporting crime – which is what I think they must be trying to do via their focus on those reporting crime.
A speedy response is essential as following a burglary people want to secure their homes again and tidy up – if a police response is slow people are left having to decide if to preserve evidence or if to begin repairs and cleaning up.
The best way to tackle burglars is putting them away for a while or doing something to put them on the right course
I strongly disagree with the inference that burglars should in some cases not go to jail.
Where there burglary is being committed to fund a drug addiction then drug treatment does need to be part of the sentence but it ought be as well as, or preferably party of, and not instead of, a prison sentence. We must not see those committing crimes who are on drugs, or seeking to pay for drugs getting lesser sentences than others.
We need better response times for non-emergency calls. I remember when I first raised this issue on the second day I was in office I was told it was much better. Not that I’m a disbeliever but I did actually phone in and find that was not the case. We’ve really got to work towards, and it’s not going to happen overnight, to having every call answered within thirty seconds. I think we should be doing that.
Certainly 999 calls I’m quite happy about; I think everyone is. It’s the non emergency calls where you need someone to speak to about it.
This is something a commissioner could I think have solved on his first day; making clear the police have to answer their phones, and moving staff to address the current problems even if there is a longer term plan for improved technology and systems.
I think that increasing the target to 100% of calls answered in 30 seconds is ambitious. I’d rather see a focus on getting the current performance target being met first. Moving to 100% answering will presumably require some kind of load sharing of 101 calls with other forces to cope with extreme peaks in demand; I think this is a positive aspiration but not the priority.
Since the abolition of the Police Authority we have had no published statistics on phone answering performance from either the Police and Crime Commissioner or the Police. I have made FOI requests to both the force, and the commissioner, which will hopefully release it but they have not been promptly responded to. The latest information from September 2012 was that an initial answer was taking up to 13 minutes and a further wait of 43 minutes to actually speak to someone about the matter you’ve called in about could be experienced in the worst case.
I want to grow the number of specials and encourage people to volunteer. I have volunteered to get on side with the recruiting and to meet them and work with them and encourage the specials. I think they have got a big, big, part to play. That goes right across the county both urban and rural areas.
I think this is a reasonable policy.
I think our criminal justice system, and state, as a whole needs to be supportive of police officers be they paid or volunteers. We also need to ensure special constables are really able to make a difference, letting them perform to their capabilities and not creating unnecessary barriers to their participation in all aspects of a police constable’s work; specials shouldn’t just be used for the dull jobs. As a fully empowered constable a special is in my view of much greater value than a PCSO.
I’ve talked about Neighbourhood Watch and what we need to do on that front, but I really want to champion local initiatives between the police and the councils and parishes and volunteers – to try and get it all joined up so everyone is working in the same direction. I had a meeting just today about early intervention and prevention of persistent offenders and troubled families. That is in my opinion an incredibly good investment. If we look at some of the figures how particularly younger people have kept them out of trouble. It’s what we ought to be looking at. Preventing rather than waiting for it to happen.
That’s a bit rambling and lacking in detail but clearly prevention of crime is critical.
I think ultimately my aim is to build trust in the police. There is a lot of distrust, for lots of reasons and not just local ones, it’s the national thing that sort of hits everyone.
I strongly agree with this. I think a key problem is the police lying, especially in the context of misleading people about their powers when they stop them or otherwise come into contact with them. (More…)
We need strong, open and transparent, systems for oversight and dealing with complaints to give people confidence in the police – this is something I would like to see Police and Crime Commissioners establish. (More…)
Another key element which I think creates distrust is the police not treating everyone equally. We need to ensure young people are not disproportionately targeted and are not harassed by the police simply because of their age. We need to ensure that for example travellers, and mothers taking children to school, are subject to the same treatment by the police as wider society and we don’t have sectors of society treated as “sensitive” and who the police are unwilling to tackle.
The police are there by consent; that was the original purpose of it.
I think the principle of policing by consent has taken a significant hit in Cambridge since Graham Bright became Police and Crime Commissioner as we have seen neighbourhood officers being armed with TASER weapons in the city. I fear we are moving away from policing by consent to policing by force and that ultimately I think will leave us with a city, county and country which is harder, and more expensive in terms of both money and manpower to police.
As you know to have effective policing you need to the community to be on-side; for them to work together. The public are incredible in terms of eyes and ears and we want to make that work. So I’m saying to the police that we have to understand that the police are there to serve the public. I actually said it’s the motto of John Lewis that people working in the shop are there to serve the customer; we have to do the same thing with the police. They’ve accepted that; I’ve not had anyone dispute it, we’ve really just got to remember that’s what it’s all about.
I agree with that; as the commissioner himself said, no one is disputing it.
It’s a big job. I was elected for three and a half years and I want to ensure that when those three and a half years are up we will have changed things, we will have made things better, we’ll have made Cambridgeshire itsself a safer place. Quite a challenge. I said to the police last week – if they were a rotten force and we had escalating crime rates it would have been an easier job to tackle. We’ve actually got declining crime rates, we’ve got a very good police force and we’ve got high standards and we’ve got to maintain them.
Claiming his job would be easier if the force was rotten and crime rates were rising is a very odd thing to say in my view.
I agree a key aim ought be to make Camridgeshire a safer place. I would like to see crime, and road incident related, injuries and deaths come down and think that ought be a key, solid, measure used to assess success (rather than more qualitative measures such as how safe people say they feel).
I would like a commissioner who clearly distinguished between the actual rate of crime, and the rate of reported crime. I would be very happy to see the rate of reported crime rise as people gained more faith in the police, believed reporting crime was worthwhile, and didn’t think the police would harass them, not the criminals, if they made a report. Even fixing the non-emergency number to make it easier for people to report crimes might well result in a jump in the reported crime statistics too.