What Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Should Do


Friday, October 12th, 2012. 2:23pm

A Holistic View

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s Police and Crime Commissioner should provide strategic direction not just for the police, but for the work of the courts, prison and probation services, local councils and other bodies with an impact on policing, crime and justice matters in the area; including schools and health service providers. The creation of the role of commissioner provides an opportunity to introduce coherent leadership across the crime and justice sector; any commissioner focusing too much on the police force rather than seeking and utilising wider influence will be failing to make the most of the role.

Localism and Democracy

A single democratically elected individual leading police, crime and justice efforts in a region with a population of ~800,000 people will not, alone, be able to provide the degree of localism and responsiveness that could be achieved by strengthening local democracy. I would like to see local councillors setting local police, crime and justice priorities and holding their local police, and other relevant bodies, to account. Councillors should set local priorities having listened to the views of those with an interest the area, and in light of relevant evidence such as crime statistics and injury data. Through empowering councillors there is an opportunity to create a stronger local democracy and get better councillors.

Office of Constable as Core of Policing

The office of constable is the foundation of policing in the UK. I think it’s important that we support constables and give them the resources and freedom they need to fulfill their role while ensuring there are safeguards in place to make sure the immense power and responsibility delegated to the most junior officers is used appropriately. My view is that constables are better value for money than community support officers, and that there are significant benefits of having routine patrols by constables empowered to take action in relation to offences they observe.

Policing by Consent

A good relationship between the police and public is critical to reducing crime and keeping the country safe; if the relationship breaks down policing becomes harder and policing moves away from policing by consent towards a different tone of policing, policing by force. To maintain a good relationship I want to see routine patrol and response officers remaining unarmed and think it is important that the police do not routinely lie, mislead, or misrepresent their powers, when dealing with the public.

Scepticism of Statistics

Any commissioner should have a healthy scepticism when it comes to police statistics. Key measures to seek to get a precise measure of, and to reduce, include re-offending rates as well the number and severity of injuries related to both crime and incidents on the roads. Increases in rates of reported crime may be positive, and indicate people have greater faith in the police acting appropriately and effectively following reports.

A National Role

The commissioner should play a national role both ensuring the service the local force gets from national agencies, such as the National Crime Agency, is what the areas’ residents require, playing a role in directing and scrutinising the operation of the national agencies. The commissioner will also need to ensure the local force is making its contribution to national efforts relating to terrorism, organised crime, and disorder as well as preparedness for the whatever challenges may emerge be they flooding, industrial incidents, disease or other events.

Current Position

As yet I don’t think any of the declared prospective candidates in Cambridgeshire are offering what I’m seeking and can’t envisage being able to vote positively for any of them. Nominations close on the 19th of October 2012 so there is still time to stand or nominate candidates and get more options on the ballot paper.

18 comments/updates on “What Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Should Do

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Richard Naisby of Milton Brewery has said he’d nominate me (and perhaps contribute to the deposit):

    http://twitter.com/miltonbrewery/status/248211125802504192

    As now has Kim Spence-Jones:

    http://twitter.com/KimSJ/status/257089696121892865

    That’s two out of the hundred required.

    If one hundred people indicated they wanted me to stand by signing a nomination paper then I would. I think they ought be people who’ve proactively said they want to nominate and support me though, genuine informed nominations not those obtained by say a door to door canvas or has has been suggested standing outside a supermarket for a day, not least as the £5,000 deposit means I’d have to put up £50 for every person prepared to sign up.

    The lack of interest in the election at this stage (though it might well pick up) does appear to suggest the turnout may well be low and therefore deposits difficult to retain.

    I’ve written about the nomination process in a previous article; I think to help people beyond the political parties use our democratic system there needs to be more publicity for the opening of nominations and the nomination periods during elections; I’ve also suggested returning officers should host web-based systems and notice boards on which people could nominate those they would like to see as candidates.

    We get the elected representatives we deserve, we have a strong democratic system here in the UK, but it has to be used for it to fulfill its potential.

    While policing is a subject which many people have impassioned views about I think people are generally very slow to appreciate changes to the way the police are overseen and have their strategies and priorities set. We’ve had democratically set police priorities in Cambridge for about five years now but many people are unaware of that and often find it hard to believe when the idea is introduced to them. I’ve been to many public meetings where the prospect of a Police and Crime Commissioner has been discussed; all contributions from the public have been about what a commissioner will be required to do – eg. Will a commissioner be required to hold local priority setting meetings? Will a commissioner have to consult before they take decisions to close police stations? Will a commissioner have to appoint their staff in an open, fair and transparent manner? There is little appreciation that we get to decide what our commissioner’s views will be on these, and other matters, by deciding who we chose as our commissioner during these elections.

  2. Chris Rand

    While I admire your ideological desire to have genuine supporters nominate you Richard, it’s only an arbitrary electoral formality, and collecting the names outside Sainsbury’s is a perfectly valid approach. Nominators do not have to be people who will commit to voting for you, the whole idea is to find sufficient people who simply approve of the idea of you standing. Different thing. If I were approached by someone saying “will you nominate this person to ensure there’s an independent candidate?”, I’d willingly do so whoever they were and whether I had any intention of voting for them or not.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Chris,

      I agree, however standing in this election means risking a serious amount of money and I’d rather that be on the basis that people actually want me on the ballot paper to vote for.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    Today I went around Cambridge and collected physical signatures on a nomination form from the vast majority of those who pledged them above; and picked up a couple more too.

    I have 10 physical signatures out of the 100 required.

    That’s 10 people who even if when they’re faced with the ballot papers don’t find someone they’d really like to vote for they will at least know they’ve done something towards getting an alternative on the ballot. That might make spoiling a paper, voting for the least worst option, or voting for the person most likely to beat the worst option a bit easier.

    If anyone wants to come around and sign the form; do get in touch by email, phone, text or twitter.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    Update: One more signature on paper this morning, two pledged by email and another pledge via Twitter (from Aggie Ninepence).

    I think that makes it eleven on paper and five outstanding pledges, a total of sixteen.

    I’ve also had supportive messages from people who can’t nominate because they live outside the area, have a profession where they can’t (or think they shouldn’t) nominate people.

    The only person to have suggested they oppose my views and ideas has been Cllr Colin Rosensteil who has tweeted:

    Judging by his tweets he doesn’t have too many ideas what PCCs can actually do

    My view of this is that he’s saying a Police and Crime Commisssioner ought restrict themselves to what they have statutory powers and duties to “actually do” whereas I have been saying a Commissioner needs to seek, and use wider influence. I think the Government have been clear that the role is one which can, and should, have an impact across all those with an impact on field of policing, crime and justice.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve had two more pledges of nomination signatures and offers to help towards a deposit this morning.

    As it’s Tuesday and I’m on 19/100 nominations and there’s only one day left (deadline is Friday and Thursday would be required to cross reference signatures with electoral registers) it is improbable the 100 will be reached; but this:

    • Shows publishing your views online can result in people proactively offering nominations.
    • Has offered people another way to get involved in the election; rather than just not seeing someone they positively want to vote for on the ballot paper, giving them an opportunity to try and do something about that.
  6. Richard Jennings

    To win the election or to stand a chance of keeping your deposit I would say you are going to need to reach out to the electorate and actively get them to vote for you. Some may be attracted to an independent candidate, who they may not know, but many will stick to a party label. Parties seem to have the organisation for running campaigns and this is going to be hard to do ‘on your own’. Parties have an advantage here?

    So perhaps being more active in getting nominations would demonstrate your mettle for the following contest?

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      I think it’s clear many do vote simply on the basis of a party label; and often on the basis of an impression of a party they, and perhaps their family and friends, have gained over decades.

      I don’t think parties vet and select candidates using anything like as rigorous a process as the wider public might assume; the amount of activists involved in party politics now is tiny.

      I’d like to see the way we use our strong democratic system change; and move towards voting based on an individual’s views, ideas, principles and proposals but I agree we’re not there yet.

      My view is that the approach I’ve taken is a reasonable and defensible one. I see what I am doing as activism. I don’t think the focus of that activism ought be on “getting nominations” but on actually putting forward my views, lobbying on them and bringing more openness and transparency to the way we run our society.

      Currently many of those who vote (as it is older people who tend to vote) will not be regular users of the internet; that will change in the future and in an election such as this for Police and Crime Commissioners with a website hosting the candidate’s statements (and in future hopefully links to candidate’s websites and social media accounts) it will be possible for those without access to a party’s resources to mount an effective campaign. I think that even now the best way for one person to reach the ~800,000 or so in the Cambridgeshire Police force area is online and via the media; and that will only become more true in the future.

  7. Paul Lythgoe

    I note today that Sir Graham Bright has pledged to fight a clean and honest campaign for the P&CC election. http://www.graham4cambs.org/sites/www.graham4cambs.org/files/scan_clean_campaign.pdf.
    Being cynical I wonder why Sir Graham feels the need to sign such a pledge. Was he planning not to? Are there things in his own past that he feels may lead to his opponents fighting the campaign in a way that he might not consider clean and honest? Will he be clean and honest about his own views and plans for the privatisation of the police forces activities? Given the experiences of the 2010 election campaign having signed such a pledge how many days after the campaign will he feel no longer honour bound by the pledge? Pledges on tuition fees, and the NHS spring to mind.

  8. Paul Lythgoe

    Sir Graham Bright welcomes falling crime rates.
    “Sir Graham said he particularly welcomes the reduction in domestic burglaries as there is a very clear message from the public that catching burglars needs to be a priority and is an issue he intends to pursue. The rise in drug crime detection shows clearly that the police are dealing with the drugs situation and it is again an issue to which he intends to give high priority. ”
    Does this mean that Cambridgeshire residents should not be as scared to leave their homes as he claimed when first selected.
    He mentions specifically a reduction in domestic burglary, and drug crime reduction. On the first does such a reduction mean that he will be less willing to support disproportionate vilence toward burglars as suggested by Grayling. On drugs will he encourage the police to see young drug users as the victims of crimes rather than criminals, or will he encourage the police to continue to criminalise young drug users rather than the rather harder police targets of the manufacturers and suppliers of drugs.

  9. cobweb

    Stall outside the Guildhall today encouraging people to sign to vote, to which my view is, if we don’t know what the candidates are standing for, what’s the point? I’m rather hoping they’ll get some info out or it’ll be a choice between not bothering to vote or spoiling the ballot paper, neither of which is ideal.

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