Thursday, 15 December 2011

Back in South

It's been good to be spending more time in South Cumbria over the last week.

I had another reminder of how committed local police officers are when I went out on patrol in Barrow last Saturday night. We arrested  a couple of men for fighting in the street and as daft as it might sound, it just re enforced to me the demands on modern day police officers - from facing violence to managing police detention and so on. I'll be out on patrol later this month again.

During 2011 there have been all sorts of challenges for Cumbria Constabulary. In South BCU we have successfully reduced crime - 400 crimes less than last year. It's fair to say that there is no single reason for that but I have no doubt that a large part of the reason is down to the dedication and care by our local police officers, PCSOs and police staff.

Thanks for taking a look at the blog. Have a good Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Approaching Christmas

I am still working on a Force review of Training, Learning and Development and because of that spending most of my time at Police HQ, Penrith. That's the main reason for not adding much to this blog recently.

As we approach Christmas, I will be spending time on patrol and making stations visits across South Cumbria. I have asked our officers and staff for a focus on the Christmas Drink Driving Campaign and on violent crime.

Our message to members of the public is that we would like people to have a peaceful Christmas but we will enforce the law against those who make our roads unsafe and against those who become violent over the festive period.

Best regards.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Police Training

Life has changed a bit since the below. I am still in post as Area Commander for South Cumbria  but I am also leading a Force wide Review on Training, Learning and Development. That's taking up most of my time and will do until December. The review forms part of the Constabulary's Change Programme.

Happy to take views on the future of Training, L& D from anyone, either in the police, public or private sector.

Once done, I 'm looking forward to more time with colleagues in South Cumbria.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Just taking a break

Having had a corporate make -over on this blog, I need to take a break from further entries for the foreseeable. The reason is due to some studies that I am taking up and demands on time. The whole idea of creating a blog has been new and by taking a break, I'll also have a look at other approaches.

So far, for me it's been about transparency in police leadership and creating another new way of communicating with the public and others in the police service.

Thanks to everyone who has taken a look and those who have added comments.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Too busy!

No recent blogs I'm afraid. Very busy at the moment with local work and as a result of a number of Force wide Reviews which I am carrying out. I'll return when life is a bit less manic.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The National Crime Agency

A few years ago I was involved in one of the most intensive investigations which I ever experienced.

Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky was shot and killed in Bradford when she attended one Friday afternoon to the report of alarm activation. A crime gang from London fled the premises when Sharon arrived at the scene and she was killed by a bullet.

I became involved on the following day and was asked to lead a covert investigation in London. The suspect’s car had been clocked in London hours after Sharon’s murder.

I flew to Scotland Yard by helicopter and spent the following weeks working with a team of West Yorkshire detectives and the Flying Squad to track down the gang.

At the time, I was a senior investigator with West Yorkshire’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team ( H-MET ). This was made up of first class detectives and support staff. They were and still are a top rate outfit.

However, in London we were outclassed. The detectives at Scotland Yard were fantastic. Highly capable, highly specialised with more resources for covert policing than I had experienced previously. They were also better because they were playing in the premier league of crime fighting on a daily basis. They were also good company and jointly we made a good team.

Our investigation worked. The gang were identified as a result of our work and all of the gang were subsequently tracked down – one as far as Somalia.

The point of my tale is that to investigate serious and organised crime – bigger is better. The introduction of the National Crime Agency as announced this week must be a positive step. I say must because we cannot allow this opportunity to pass.

Serious and organised crime costs the country up to £40million per year but has a huge negative impact on our communities. There is no patch of the UK which is immune from the consequences of serious crime.

The threat is all the greater with increased globalisation: the unrest in the middle east has and will shift criminality as well as populations; our financial markets are liberal, our international borders are relatively relaxed and more people are vulnerable because of the economic downturn.

Organised criminals are also more organised than before, more fluid, faster acting and make better use of technology, by cyber crime for example.

I for one, welcome the NCA as a bigger more powerful body to combat organised crime. The key challenge for the NCA in my opinion will be to use the power to work with police forces allowing local policing to support the fight against organised crime and vice versa.

Friday, 27 May 2011

A week in the life of...

It's been a busy week - not helped by an upset stomach. Having survived on about three bananas and four pieces of toast here is a summary of my week:
On Monday we had a really useful meeting with all managers in my command unit to look at the changes to our Neighbourhood Policing Team ( NPT ) structure. Back in February, we changed from 7 to 3 NPTs and also changed some of our investigative ways of working. The feedback was generally positive and I was able to make some decisions which will benefit our officers and staff for the future. Community feedback has been positive.
On Tuesday morning I carried out a review of detention for two people in the cells for robbery. The two later turned out to be four. Along with fingerprint evidence they made admissions. Astonished to find out later the The Crown Prosecution Service would not approve charging because they wanted to see more evidence, so they were released on bail. Bureaucracy gone mad.
After that review, I made a number of presentations including one to a member of public who caught someone just after committing a street robbery. Another was to a special constable who saved a man's life after he tried to hang himself in a dark park. It was a pleasure catching up with both.
On Tuesday afternoon I had a meeting with colleagues with the community safety partnerships for Barrow and South Lakeland. This was a really useful get together because we talked through how the two partnerships could work together for the benefit of all our communities. These partnerships are full of good people who collectively do lots of work to keep people in South Cumbria safe.
On Wednesday we had our Senior Management Team meeting where my management team and I talked through a whole bunch of stuff including our performance in reducing crime as well lots of personnel issues.
Straight after that I went into a telephone conference with colleagues from HQ because I am leading a review of Policy regarding police officers on restricted duty.
On Thursday we had our Performance Conference. This is where Chief Officers and the Police Authority descend and we talk through how South Cumbria Basic Command Unit is managing in a whole range of areas from crime performance to personnel to finance and more. The morning went well and as I said at the start of the conference, the ethos in South Cumbria is about transparency and our desire to carry on improving. Overall, the BCU is doing well with crime and anti social behaviour reducing and that's a credit to all the officers and staff who work here.
Later that day I called into the afternoon shift briefing in Kendal to have a chat with frontline officers. I couldn't help but blink at one male sergeant and 8 female constables. I couldn't help but reflect on when I joined the police service when the ratio was generally the other way round at best. I think we've made progress!
On Friday -I can eat food again!! I had time to catch up with Admin and then went to Windermere Police Station to catch up with officers who were having a busy day - they were having breakfast at 3pm!
The best thing about my job is the people who I meet. In South Cumbria we have communities who are generally supportive of the police and colleagues in all ranks and roles who care a great deal about keeping people safe.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The management of risk and discretion

I once led a murder investigation in which two of the detectives in my team were shot during the course of enquiries.

We were investigating the murder of a young man who had been involved in drug dealing. He had been shot in the head and his body dumped on moorland above Halifax, West Yorkshire.

I made a decision to arrest another man who was on the periphery of the investigation. There were some inconsistencies in what he previously told the investigation team. In effect, we arrested him hoping that he might have more to say. We never thought that he was involved in the murder.

In any event, when my officers happened to come across him in a pub in the mid afternoon, he pulled out a gun and shot them both – one in the thigh and one in the stomach. He fled from the area, drove to the other side of town and then shot himself in the head. He later died.

Both of the police officers were rushed to hospital but their gunshot wounds were not life threatening. The incident had a profound effect on them both.

As well as being a tragic set of circumstances, this was a high profile investigation in the region and understandably, I came under huge pressure from all directions about my decision making and was accused by some of putting the officers under an unnecessary risk.

After much scrutiny, my decision making was found to be sound based on what was known at the time that I decided to arrest the man in question. In fact my decision making led to discovering the killer because we later had a ballistic match between all of the shootings.

The management of risk is a dilemma within the police service. We see it in high profile investigations, in terrorism cases and in policing protests. We often see the police coming under scrutiny for over- policing and on other occasions for under-policing based on what is known after the event. Those people who come out and criticise afterwards are sometimes referred to as the ‘Armchair Taliban’. I don’t have much time for those Taliban.

I think that there are occasions when senior police officers, politicians, the public and even the media need to be more accepting when things go wrong – as long as that wrong was not foreseen based on what was known before the event. Just so that I am clear though, it is right that the police, like I did in this murder enquiry, do come under proper robust scrutiny to understand key decision making.

There is another angle to this dilemma of managing risk and that is the decision making of officers on the street.

Because of my personal experiences like the one above, I often say to officers under my command that as long as they are making their best decision, based on the threat in front of them, they must exercise professional discretion in the knowledge that they will have my full support – even if things go wrong.

The police service needs to continue becoming more transparent. I am sure that it will but it will be helped if there is more understanding and acceptance of the real world when the unexpected happens – as often the case in modern policing. Also, if the police service wants to promote greater discretion by frontline officers and again, I think it should, then senior officers and others also need to more accepting on times when things go wrong.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Meeting with a special young man.

Last week I had the real pleasure of meeting  Keiran Moxham and presented him with a certificate in recognition of his work experience placement at Barrow Police Station. The picture below shows the presentation with Supt Ali Dufty and DCI Mike Forrester.
The week Incorporated many different aspects of police work and departments within the police service.  Keiran is a year 10 student at Walney Comprehensive School who suffers from cerebral palsy and who communicates through his support worker Donna, and by using a Dynovox V communications aid. He is a very intelligent young man with a sharp sense of humour.  His future ambition is to work within the police service and he is especially interested in the IT and intelligence side of police work. Both Keiran and his support worker Donna said ”they really enjoyed the week, especially seeing the different areas within the police station." They said that "having been round the many differing departments it has now given them both a real insight into how the Police service works both internally and with partners”  They would like to thank all those people who have made the visit possible.


Friday, 6 May 2011

Terrorism, Protest and Police Reform

I have been speaking to many officers and staff recently in team briefings and it has struck me then there is a keen interest by them in some of the strategic changes in the police service at the moment. It's good to see that many within Cumbria Constabulary are also quite perceptive about those things on the horizon. Whilst our focus is on policing locally in South Cumbria, it is useful to understand some of the current complex issues in policing.

I listened to a lecture on the internet this week by Sir Paul Stephenson who is the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and some may say the most senior operational chief constable in the country. Here's a snapshot of what he had to say:

Terrorism: the threat is not going to go away even despite the death of Osama Bin Laden and he stressed the importance of national security which is far too important to be undermined by parochialism or localism. He spoke of the evolving counter terrorism structure for policing which to date has been highly successful in tackling terrorism. The key debate at the moment appears to be how the future of our counter terrorism capability fits with the new National Crime Agency.
My opinion - I agree about the need to stay focused on national security and the importance of counter terrorism. Is our current structure cost effective and can the country afford the current evolving counter terrorim structure made up of regional hubs AND a National Crime Agency? I think that much can be shared in terms of skills and capability to combat both terrorism and serious and organised crime.

Protest: he talked about how difficult it is to understand the risk from a future protest and decide how best to deploy resources to that protest. He coined a good term by criticising the 'Counsel of Perfection' - those who criticise after the event based on what is known afterwards rather than before - I know what he means. He spoke of the difficult balance between security and liberty and made what I thought was a very perceptive point - does society have more of a right to expect lawful behaviour - in other words are we as a society too accepting of the rights of others to protest and exercise violence? He reminded us that in this country we do not have riot police as other countries like France do and we do not see the scale of violence that we see in other countries.
My opinion: Yes, I think we are too accepting. The police must remain focused on protecting human rights in particular the right to express a view but we have gone too far in accepting violence as we saw in the student demos earlier this year. The context is also important in that we have learnt a great deal from Northern Ireland in allowing peaceful protests and the UK does appear far more lawful regarding protest than elsewhere.

Reforming the Police Service: He argued that there must be a gap between policing and politics. He made the point regarding the new form of accountability that we are moving to through this government - the replacement of Police Authorities by Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). He stressed the importance of operational independence - the freedom of the police to apply the law impartially. He also called on a wider role for PCCs, beyond just policing.
My opinion: Politics and policing will always be entwined but we need to have clarity on how chief constables and PCCs will operate together. It is likely that all or many of the PCCs will be political individuals and it is important their political aims do not undermine the key duties of policing. There is also the opportunity to ensure that local policing becomes even more responsive to the concerns and expectations of local people. As for a wider role, I have commented on the blog previously, that there is an opportunity for PCCs to pull the police and key partner agencies together to enhance public safety and criminal justice.

So, interesting times for policing. I hope this brief overview is of interest to others. Do you share my opinions or do have a different view?

Saturday, 30 April 2011


I have been working this bank holiday weekend but events have made me feel very proud to be part of the police service. I thought that the Metropolotan Police did a marvellous job of policing the Royal Wedding. They covered it in the right spirit and took decisive action against those who were intent on causing unforgiveable disruption. The sight of officers in tunics was outstanding. It shows the value of being smart and professional in the eyes of the public.

Today, I have been at Kendal and saw the Duke of Lanacster Regiment march through the town as part of the Freedom Parade. It was good to see their professionalism and discipline as they lined up outside Kendal Police Station.

If you think about the troubles abroad at the moment in places like Syria and Lybia, it makes you appreciate that our free country is blessed with a police service that is best in the world and on it's day can stand with the same pride and discipline as the military.

So, well done to the Metropolitan Police and well done to the Duke of Lancaster Regiment.

I have been banging the drum recently about police standards in South Cumbria and the need to be professional at all times - I think I'll bang on a bit more...

Monday, 18 April 2011

Face to Face

Over the last few weeks I have been meeting with police officers, PCSOs and police staff across South Cumbria. The purpose has been to listen to concerns and also to give me the opportunity to speak to my staff face to face so that I can set the direction of this command unit for the coming year.

My overridding impression is that South Cumbria is blessed with people who are highly committed to making South Cumbria safe.

These meetings have made me feel hugely proud to be the Area Commander. In the current climate of policing there is a real need for optimism with as much face to face between police leaders and our staff.

In the coming weeks, members of the senior management team including myself will be making a concerted effort to attend shift and team briefings across the Area.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

3 ways to Streamline Criminal Justice

The criminal justice system has been in the spotlight again this week with concerns raised yet again that it is not providing outcomes that people want.

Here’s my view on how the Criminal Justice System should be reformed:

  1. Early intervention i.e stop people entering. I think that local authorities should be held to account, supported by police and other agencies in reducing people who enter criminal justice. There is already a whole body of evidence of what works best from primary school work to Family Intervention Schemes.  At present, there is very little meaningful accountability to promote this kind of early intervention.

  1. Arrest to Court disposal. 40% of cases nationally are road traffic related. Is that what the public want along with the expense? Restorative Justice and Community Justice works as a deterrent and entry to the criminal justice system simply  places people on a 'life time conveyor belt'. It is better to reserve criminal justice only for those who really warrant prosecution. Public support is essential in achieving that balance.

The end to end process, from arrest to court needs radical overhaul. It remains far too bureaucratic with criminal justice partners such as the police and Crown Prosecution Service working in isolation. The CJS needs to be more integrated, digitalised and make best use of other technologies, including virtual courts. That would allow a defendant to appear in court by video link from prison, victims and witnesses at a place close to home and so on. Less costly, more effective.

  1. Stop re-offending . Again, we know what works. The Diamond Initiative in London for example has had fantastic success in reducing reoffending  by 18- 21 yr old. Nationally, we need to find out what works best and apply it. Police and other agencies should be held to account for reducing re-offending rates rather than crime and detection rates.  Currently, the minority of offenders commit the majority of crime – stop them re-offending and crime will come down further.

So, we should prevent people entering, tighten the end to end process and stop re-offending.

The introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners next year provides an opportunity to shape some of this work, making our world safer and transforming the current CJS into a world leading Criminal Justice Service.

It’s easy….

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Partnership Working in Barrow

This week I met with the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership in Barrow and I thought it might be of interest to people in Barrow to know what we do.

The partnership is made up of people who represent the community of Barrow and leaders from other agencies. The Group is chaired by Dave Coverdale from the Fire Service ( and winner of the recent Love Barrow Award! ).

Here's a sample of what we've achieved in Barrow:

  • 500 less crimes that last year.
  • Better use of Anti Social Behaviour ( ASB ) orders and Injunctions
  • Significant reductions in ASB.
  • Operation Siskin which was an operation in collaboration with Trading Standards targeting under age sales of alcohol.
  • Challenge 21: that's challenging people under 21 in the night time economy.
  • PCSOs enforcing new powers under the Clean Neighbourhoods scheme.
  • Promoting Furness Barwatch.
  • Significant reductions in violent crime making the town centre safer.
  • Better support to victims of domestic violence.
  • Multi agency work to tackle young offenders and prolific offenders.
There's a lot more and I will happy to expand on any of the above.

The partnership is made up of Barrow people working hard to make Barrow safer and stronger.

In my opinion, the Partnership is a credit to the town. If anybody thinks that the CDRP should be looking at other problems, I'll be happy to take any comments on this blog.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Criminal Justice - 'System' or 'Service'?

We have something called the Criminal Justice System in this country. Should it be a System or should it be a Service? What's the difference you might ask. For me, a System operates in isolation whereas a Service provides outcomes that meet the expectations of the people that it serves i.e you and me. If it is a service-and in my view, without question it should be - then it must take account of what the customers of that service want.

So, who are the customers? Obviously, that includes the general public and in particular victims and witnesses of crime. Also, 'customers' should include the key parties who could be classed as customers to each other i.e. the Police, The Crown Prosecution Service, the Courts, Probation, Voluntary services etc.

Exploring this customer service idea a bit further, what do you think people want?

Here goes. Did you know....

A national survey was recently carried out of 2000 adults, 1000 victims of crime and 500 police officers and here is what they said:

  • 8 out of 10 people said that community sentences are a soft punishment.
  • 3/4 of police officers thought that community sentences were given to offenders who ought to be jailed.
  • 2/3 of people thought prison life should be made harder for those on short jails sentences.
Does our current Criminal Justice System meet those expectations?

What do you think? Does this survey represent your view?  Do you think we are have a Criminal Justice 'System' or 'Service'?

I have a lot more to say about Criminal Justice but before I go on, I hope you'll say what you think.


Thanks to those who have taken the time to read my blogs and thank you very much for the comments so far. I think it's great  that some have taken the time to post a comment. It makes the blog worth doing. Best regards.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Police Visibility - time to move on.

The ongoing debate about frontline policing hit the news headlines this week with a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. There is a clear view from HMIC and chief constables around the country that the required savings cannot be made without an impact on the frontline. That is why there has been this debate about what the police frontline is.

Here’s my view. Yes the debate is important but I wonder whether the police service has lost sight of what the public see – or don’t see. Do the public care about what the frontline is?  I don’t think so. I think that they do care about seeing a visible and responsive police. So, do the numbers on the frontline matter?

Well it matters because we need to maximise our visibility and responsiveness – that’s about doing what it says on the tin. But there’s more because we can make better use of our staff by making sure that we have officers in the right place at the right time. We can also improve by taking better advantage of the skills of our excellent police staff.

In my view though, we need to move on from the public debate about the what the frontline is. The police and public  know that we have to face cuts and common sense tells us that the scale of the cuts will affect the number of police officers and the numbers of police staff who perform key roles within the police service.

In Cumbria for example, we will reduce by 100 police officers and over 230 members of police staff over the next 4 years. It will be huge challenge to continue to deliver a service equal to previous years. A tough challenge for the service and  tough for those individuals within the service.

The police service to it’s credit is doing what it does best and we are in the process of adapting.

The conversations that I have been having with our communities in South Cumbria are based on honesty and openness. We are not promising to be all things to all but we are saying that we remain committed to delivering the best possible police service with the numbers that we have. We have made changes which I have mentioned in previous blogs which I think will make our local police service better.

In moving on, I think we should talk less about the frontline and more about  how we provide the best quality service in meeting the needs and expectations of people within out communities.

In South Cumbria we are working really hard to meet and listen to our communities and details of meetings both in person and on line can be found on the Cumbria Constabulary  ( site link top right ). We are also working hard to be as visible to the public as we can. The feedback that I have had so far has been good.

If you are in South Cumbria, what do you think. Are the police visible?

Local Press article

Here's a link to a local press article by the North West Evening Mail regarding local policing in Barrow. It highlights some of the fantastic officers and staff working in South Cumbria and the good relationships we have with our communities. Thanks to the NWEM for the coverage. 

Thursday, 24 March 2011

2011 Taking Shape

Just my view again but 2011 appears to be taking shape in the world of policing and also for local policing across South Cumbria.

First the local: in the near future we will be able to comment on how crime rates from April, 2010 to March, 2011 compared to the same period last year. I anticipate a significant reduction in crime again. In the coming year we expect a real challenge to keep a lid on crime in the wake of reductions within the Constabulary which have already been announced. But, for now, it's good news with South Cumbria being safer than in previous years with hundreds less victims of crime compared to last year.

What about the wider policing world? From within the complex world of policing , here's a snap shot of what I think is changing:

  • Police & Crime Commissioners(PCCs) - the government is intent on replacing Police Authorities with PCCs in May, 2012. That means in Cumbria, all the local communities of Cumbria will have a 'Boris Johnson' who they can call upon to hold their police force to account. The debate is now  going from 'should we or shouldn't we' to 'how will it work?' My advice to the PCC for Cumbria - get a reliable car! We have lots of communities. Maintaining the operational independence of the chief constable is the central issue here and the details of how this will work are slowly emerging.
  • Privatisation:  Who would have thought..... The police will be asked over the coming year to make best use of the private sector. How comfortable will the public be with that? The idea is not all new with some apparently successful initiatives across the country. In Wales for example, custody provision has been privatised. However, the public will still demand and expect a 'normal' police service. So,how far will privatisation go and will it make the service better?
  • Collaboration: The police service has less money and so police forces are being asked to work together in lots of different ways as well as being asked to work with other public organisations and the voluntary sector. In fact, government is saying - just get on with it as long as it is in the public interest.
So, the world of policing is changing. In my view though, the police service and the public needs to understand that the above will lead to huge variations in how police forces will look and how they operate - a shift from a universal service to a tailored one. Are we, public and police, ready for that?

Friday, 18 March 2011

Blog Potential

I don't mind sharing with you that the whole idea of creating and running  a blog has not been a comfortable one and it certainly feels like I am pushing normal boundaries.  I built the blog myself ( which surprised even me ), at no cost and I maintain it in my own time. It does not take long to do.

What am I trying to achieve? Well it's another type of communication and as the lead for local policing in South Cumbria it provides me with another way to 'speak' with the public and also another way to communicate with my staff. Over the last 10 weeks of running the blog there have been over 1000 hits which says something about the potential for any leader in public service to have contact with so many people.

There is also another debate which I think is interesting - do we have a duty for issues that affect public servants such as the police, to be voiced in a forum which is open to the public. My argument is that we should because that would make our public service more focused and relevant to the people that we serve.

One way I would like to improve though is to ensure people - whether that's the public or my staff - can comment on issues that are relevant to them. That's the reason I have tried to generate debate on current issues - both national policing issues or local community issues.

One last thing - this use of social media is not instead of.....It is intended to compliment my day to day contact with police officers, staff and with the public.

Please, let me know what you think or how the blog might be improved.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Winsor et al

I bumped into one of my officers the other afternoon. She said, 'Morning Sir. Bugger. Evening Sir. Shit. Afternoon - sorry Sir'. With the greatest of respect, she looked very tired. I smiled, she smiled and I walked back to my office. As I climbed the stairs I remembered that horrible feeling of shift working that my officer was going through. It feels like a hangover without the pleasure of a night out - if you know what I mean. I remembered the huge disruption that it caused to my family life and the pressure it placed on those close to me.

Policing comes at a big cost to those who work shifts, those who see and deal with the worst things in our society. It affects our whole lives and our daily moods - whether we are coping with tiredness or the emotional demand in facing violence or the mental strain of investigation serious abuse. I recall investigating the manslaughter of a 14 year old girl a few years ago and it affected me considerably for some time.

My officers and staff have had a big hit this week with proposals being put forward by the Winsor review into pay and conditions. That was followed by Lord Hutton's Report into public sector pensions. Whilst these are proposals,  officers can't help but look at the bottom line in terms of what it means to them ie. paid less, work longer. On speaking to a number of my officers and staff across South Cumbria this week, there is a strong and consistent feeling of resentment and disillusion that they are being undervalued by these national issues.

These proposals have yet to be progressed but my appeal to those making decisions on the police pay, conditions and pensions is not to forget the special burden placed on police officers and the intrinsic value that my officers provide to our safe society.

We will watch this space.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Policing with Consent

The term ‘Policing with Consent’ is often used about modern day policing. Does that term actually have a meaning to you?

The News headlines in recent weeks have shown the civil unrest in some other countries and I don’t know about you but it makes me appreciate what we have in this country. It reminds me of how important it is that we maintain a police service that meets the will of the people.

To me, the real challenge is putting practical meaning to ‘Policing with Consent’. It means making sure that we provide a police service which meets the approval of the people we serve. In recent years, with the increased emphasis on neighbourhood policing, we have moved more towards practical ways of maintaining that consent.

Here are a couple of examples. We hold Priority setting meetings in each of our three Neighbourhood Policing Teams across South Cumbria. Details are published locally, on the Cumbria Constabulary web site and in the local media.

More recently, we have made more use of social media. That means giving people a more convenient opportunity to question, challenge or support the police through on line meetings, Facebook and Twitter. This blog is another way of me personally, being open to the public.

In my previous blogs I have touched on the importance of Transparency. It’s through being transparent that in my view, we maintain the consent of the public we serve. It’s not rhetoric; it’s about practically doing what’s right and retaining what’s good about this country.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Civil Liberty and Criminal Investigation

There has been a lot in the news recently about freedom and civil liberty e.g reducing pre charge detention time in terrorist cases, prisoner's freedom to vote, sex offenders being able to appeal, the policing of protests and so on. There are many other issues such as the police use of CCTV and the retention of samples on the DNA Database.
Where do the police fit with these issues? No, I'm not going into politics but I will go into the duty of the police to protect.
Many people see the police as the disputable authority who takes away people's liberties by for example, kettling protesters, arresting people, taking DNA samples and so on. In my view, we should aspire to be the protector of liberties i.e. only invading the freedom and liberty of citizens when absolutely necessary to ensure safety.
Some of my views have been formed by practical experience. My blog below about Operation Kanab  describes one experience. This was a case where we made a breakthrough because we used DNA profiles.
What I did not say in this case study was the real reason why we succeeded. The key DNA profile was from the son of the offender. The son had been arrested some years previously for burglary - he was subsequently acquitted but his DNA profile retained.
In terms of civil liberties, should his DNA profile a/been taken from him and b/retained on the database.
There is a strong argument to say that yes it was taken on arrest but should have been removed when acquitted.
However, I think that there is stronger argument. That argument is that if the retention of DNA profiles can assist in tracking serious offenders who are capable of such serious offences then we should keep them. I believe that we all have a joint responsibility to save future victims. If this particular sample had not been taken, then the offender would have attacked again and quite possibly have killed. That would simply be wrong if it had been allowed to happen.
Benjamin Franklin once said that he who sacrifices liberty for security, deserves neither. I do not advocate randomly sacrificing liberty but I do believe in doing what is necessary to provide security and protecting the public from the most dangerous people. So when people form their views, account needs to be taken of the power that certain tools have in maintaining public safety. Those tools include the DNA Database, CCTV, Control orders etc.
The balance between security and liberty is a fine one and is no easy argument.

Operation Kanab

I was the senior detective on call when on a summer's evening I was called to the report of an attack on Ilkley moor, not far from Leeds. It transpired that a woman had been out walking her dog at tea time when she was randomly attacked. The attack was severe. She was beaten unconscious and  left for dead - It was  every woman's nightmare. If you don't know it, Ilkely is an affluent area with a low crime rate and the scene of the attack, a beauty spot.
We were able to obtain a DNA profile of the attacker - from the victim's fingernails. We immediately checked the DNA Database but there was no match.
The following day, I went to visit the victim in hospital. She was black and blue but lucky to be alive - and she knew it.
This became a major investigation for obvious reasons. I was immediately aware that we were hunting a dangerous man.
Within a few days my concerns shot through the roof. The DNA profile from the Ilkley Moor attack was matched with another serious crime. The linked crime was the rape of a 16 year old girl, nine years earlier. She was raped at knife point whilst in the company of her 11 year old brother at a remote spot, just outside of Leeds.
This was now a high profile investigation. I was desperate to crack the case but it was tough. Over the following weeks and months we hit brick wall after brick wall as each line of enquiry failed to give a clue. During that time I built an open and trusting relationship with the two victims and I knew how important it was for them to know who the attacker was. The truth is that every time they went out they were trying to spot him whilst also living in fear.
I then turned to a specific line of enquiry called Familial DNA Research - we knew that the attacker was not on the DNA database but that did not stop us looking for a close relative who would have a similar profile.
I worked closely with forensic scientists from all over the country to find a way of tracking down the relative. In the end we trialled a new technique which analysed the DNA profiles of potential relatives in more detail.
Two years after the Ilkley Moor attack - bingo. We located a person with a close DNA profile who tuned out to be the son of the attacker. Within days we found our man. We arrested him and some months later he was convicted and given a life sentence.
Without question we would not have cracked this case if not for the National DNA Database and the pioneering forensic techniques we used.
Most importantly of all, two very special women were each able to get their life back.
The investigation was called Operation Kanab and 'job satisfaction' does not get any better.
I'll say more about DNA in my next blog.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Duty of Care

Did you follow the recent news about the reported poor standard of care for the elderly? It made grim reading and like others I felt disappointed that elderly people in our modern world could receive a standard of care which fell below what we would expect for ourselves.
By spooky coincidence a friend of mine was in hospital recently. She had high praise for the surgeon who was fantastic both before and after her operation. She had less praise for the bedside care which followed. She described to me how there was no conversation, no eye contact, a passive approach to her needs, patroning comments and so on. Again, a duty of basic care that fell short.
My thinking went further and rather than being critical about health care, what about my police service, the one I am in charge of for South Cumbria? You can replace the 'standard of medical care' with the 'quality of police service'. Are there times when my officers fail to meet the standard that most expect?
I think that there is something about apathy and that people in public service sometimes lose sight of how important and impactive their role is whether that's a nurse giving bed-side care or a police officer dealing with yet another report of anti social behaviour.
Last year I welcomed a group of new probationer police officers and my key message to them was public servant first, police officer second.
I refuse to accept an average police service as being good enough as much as I refuse to accept that poor bedside health care as my friend experienced is acceptable. If any officer under my command feels apathy and does not feel a sense of public duty then please, go elsewhere.
I'm hugely proud to work in public service and equally proud to work alongside many others who share that sense of vocation.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Crime is down

In respose to my very mini poll in the side column: Crime is down across South Cumbria by over 7% comparing April to January this year to last year. That means over 500 less victims of crime. Thanks to my officers and our partners for making this happen. Thanks also for public support.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

A week in the life of...

The last week has been really busy and seen me span the spectrum of responsibilities for a Chief Superintendent. Last Friday I was in Wales on the Strategic Firearm Commanders Course. This is where senior officers between Superintendent and Deputy Chief Constables undergo training to command firearm incidents. The high profile shootings in West Cumbria and Northumbria last year had Strategic Firearm Commanders in overall charge of the police operation. My role last week was to assess candidates on the last day of their course. As with most courses, some pass and some fail. It's always very intensive in the assessment as it is in real life.

The weekend was good because I stayed in Wales and watched the rugby. England won - sorry boys.

On Monday and Tuesday I was in Derbyshire with the Northern District meeting of the Superintendents Association. I was there representing Cumbria. There are some really big issues on the horizon. The numbers of officers and staff are falling across Forces as are the numbers of Superintendents. That's raising issues about command resilience for police forces. There is also change due towards Spring in the Tom Windsor review on pay and conditions which I think will have a big impact on my staff who will see less pay in their pay packets. We will soon see the details.

On Wednesday I was back in the BCU where I had meetings with my management team and a focus group with sergeants. All really useful and we are currently managing a lot of reorganisation with our new Neighbourhood Policing Structure which went live this week. I also made my Going the Extra Mile Award to our two duities managers, Claire O'Hare and Cyril Patterson who have a done a fantastic job in managing the changes to officer duties.

Today, Thursday I have been at Force HQ, speak with the Assistant Chief Constable and other commanders. Because Cumbria is a small police force the other two Area Commanders and I are involved in Force level change programmes.

In amongst that, we have seen more good results including a number of burglaries which were cracked by Barrow CID.

I'm looking forward to the weekend!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

"Doing what it says on the tin"

February is renowned as a dull month - not this one. There is still a lot of change as we move towards our new structure of Neighbourhood Policing Teams ( on 7th Feb )  and I have asked my staff to focus on a few things.

The first is that we carry on "doing what it says on the tin" - to maintain our good performance in cutting crime and anti social behaviour - down by 7% and 9% respectively on last year.

In working to that objective I want my officers and staff to think about:

Pride - taking pride in themselves and their teams.

Standards - operating to the highest standards - in how we present to the public and how we operate.

Visibility - being as visible and responsive as possible.

My management team and I will be visiting all of our deployment centres over the month support this focus. We have first class officers and staff in South Cumbria and I'm looking forward to more face to face over this month.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Big Society?

The idea of the Big Society which  was vocalised by the Prime Minister last year appears to be getting swallowed up by other matters - like the economy - or more specifically the lack of money. There's also a lack of clarity about where the Big Sociey fits with localism and Whitehall's push for decentralisation. But that's politics....The real problem is the lack of money for people and agencies to sort problems out and that problem is not going away...

But I like the idea of the Big Society. To me, it's about people thinking and caring about their place. Dare I say it, it's about taking pride in their village, town or city. But,what is it? What does it look like?

My answer is that it looks, sounds and smells like Barrow. The town's imperfections make it perfect. It is filled with solid, down to earth people who take huge pride in the town. There are many people who are active in the community who are doing their bit to make a difference. A number of those are my police officers who commit themselves to the town when off duty and on duty. There are many others.

And what about local politics? I met a group of  county councillors this week to brief them on local policing. They all had one thing in common: A passion and pride for the town. It was a real pleasure talking with them. Even more so because I could talk about falling crime crime rates and the town being safer than ever. There is also a highly respected Chief Executive of the local authority and many others in public service, private industry and volunteers who push and push.

If you really want to know what the Big Society is then take a look at the Love Barrow Awards in March where you'll see a line of people who are the forefront of making the Big Society in Barrow - bigger.

It is not complicated.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Monthly Going the Extra Mile Award

On 17 January 2011, I presented Kim Chapman (PPU Clerk) with a 'Going the Extra Mile' certificate in recognition of her hard work in relation to the Enhanced Information Sharing Domestic Violence 'Pilot'.  Positive results have already been achieved, thanks to her flexibility, commitment and willingness to take on the extra work.

Lots of really good work by staff within the Public Protection Unit. Well done Kim.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Social media meets Police Commander, says 'Wake up'.

I read this week that for every one person reading a newspaper, there are 10 reading facebook. As I see things, social media ( SM ) appears to be shouting at the local police service to wake up. Like many within the police service I'm grappling with the SM concept.

What needs fixing? We currently have police - community forums where we ask members of the public to come and talk with us. We have a police culture which historically is about us the police 'telling' the public in a supercilious way rather than listening. Police commanders are good at giving directives, less good at listening. And lastly, is the police service transparent and ready to be open about our challenges and shortcoming....not as much as it should be I think.

So, what's in the wake up call? Forgive me, no exhaustive list, just a view. Through SM we can have more dialogue. Before Christmas I had a 2 hour on line chat with people in Barrow with 50 followers and some really good discussion, much of it linked to Twitter. We also ran a 24 hr police operation before Christmas using SM linked the front page of a local newspaper website - we had over 10,000 hits with lots of comment and feedback. That level of contact is pretty good in my book. Also, why can we not use SM regularly and dynamically to ask members of the public what they think about local issues and priorities more discussion, more listening by the police.

I would also like to see more discussion within the police service that is within the public eye. A scary thought for many. How about a staff survey which is open to the public? The more we listen to the public, the more we communicate with and around the public, the more trusted we will be. A common plea I have from my officers is that we need to be more open with the public we serve.

Time to wake up.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Transparency is Key

Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘Without public sentiment, nothing can succeed. With public sentiment, nothing can fail’. When it comes to policing by consent, I think that quote is pretty relevant to modern day policing.

We are currently going through unprecedented change. Police forces across the country are announcing reductions in police officers and police staff. In Cumbria, the Chief Constable has announced a reduction in 100 officers. Nationally, police forces have announced a reduction of over 6000 police posts in response to budget pressures.

To maintain public sentiment in policing, it’s important that we don’t loose sight of the need and the duty to be transparent with members of the public.

I have spoken at length recently to a number of supervisors and managers within my command unit about how we communicate with the public. Our message to the people of South Cumbria is that we will deliver the best, most affordable police service which is different to making promises which are not achieveable. That said, there will be more occasions where we have to withdraw certain services and there maybe times when we cannot follow all lines of enquiry after a crime. It is on these occasions that in my view, we must be frank and honest so that we maintain public sentiment.

Over the last two weeks I have attended a number of open police / public meetings and the feedback from communities has been supportive and appreciative of the local police service. In Cumbria we are blessed with good public sentiment and a dedicated local policing service – that is why we succeed. The challenge ahead will be to maintain that position as we continue to make difficult decisions and transparency will be key.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Direct entry or scuff your boots?

A former chief constable of mine, a man who I very much respected, once said to me that all police officers of whatever rank should scuff their boots before promotion. Good saying. That was Colin Cramphorn, former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire who sadly died of cancer a few years ago.

Nick Herbert, the policing minister has recently said that a single point of entry ( to start scuffing your boots ) is outdated. That has prompted other arguments from some senior figures which includes the idea that the police currently excludes 90% of the available working population by generally accepting people in their 20s - abbreviated to make the point.

For my part, I have 22 years service, 7 years as a constable, 4 years as a sergeant and 3 years as an inspector. Over the last 6 years I have been an operational superintendent in both uniform and in leading major investigations. Could I perform these command roles without scuffing my boots? That is what multiple points on entry will mean – senior officers performing operational roles without ‘on the ground’ experience.

For me personally, I am not that good. I would not have been able to effectively command policing operations, whether that is a murder investigation or a firearms incident, without an operational grounding. But, I have no doubt that the country has many talented people, Oxbridge graduates for example who have the sharpness and intellect to adapt. Could people with other backgrounds enter the service at a senior level and make a difference?

Well in my view, chief constables should have the discretion to at least consider suitable people at any level of their organisations. For example, a police force with 4 or 5 chief officers ( executive level ) could allow direct entry to add experience and skill whilst also ensuring that the Force has sufficient depth in command experience. By taking that approach, we the police, will at least open the door to raw talent whilst also ensuring that we have the necessary skills to protect the public.

What do you think?

Friday, 7 January 2011

A Police Service in 'crisis'?

Did you know……? In Chinese the word ‘crisis’ is made up of two characters. The first means ‘danger’ and the second means ‘opportunity’.

So, what are the dangers facing operational policing at the moment? Well let me refer to just a few starting with fewer police officers and fewer members of police staff. In my own command unit I will need to police with 30 fewer officers than before, following cuts to budget. I dare say other commands are facing greater cuts. We are reviewing all of our back office functions, our estates , our police vehicles. Further to that slight (!) problem, I will have to account to the public and my chief  constable for cutting crime and anti social behaviour.
Danger also presents itself to my officers. They will have their pay frozen, additional benefits are under threat ( Special Priority Pay – for shift working and specialised roles etc ), overtime is likely to change, their mortgage rates are likely to increase and cost of living increases. So, officers will be asked to do more and be in receipt of less. I acknowledge a very similar situation in other public services.
There is also some current debate about the link between a decrease in police officers and increased crime. Quite possibly correct but in my view the greatest threat comes from changes in welfare and social justice i.e. increased unemployment, management of offenders, welfare support to deprived families etc. The cost cuts to local authorities could arguably be more impactive on crime than cuts to police budgets.

So, let me turn to the opportunities. Well within my own command I have told my staff that we have an opportunity to be better than we were before. Crime has dropped consistently over the last few years. In South Cumbria there are over 500 fewer victims of crime than last year, to date. We must maintain that momentum. Also, I think in Cumbria we have been pretty forward thinking. Already, we have changed the way we work by brigading officers at ‘Deployment Centres’ and making sure that police officers are more closely aligned to supervisors. That means we will be better at targeting police resources where they are most needed. We are also making better use of technology – our police cars are being fitted with mobile technology so that when an officer leaves the station, there is no need to return. That also means less bureaucracy! In addition, I have directed my staff to meet the challenge by focusing more on visibility, taking every opportunity to be visible and available to the public. I am also tackling mediocrity by emphasising the need to raise our standards in the way my officers appear. It’s basics but I do believe that in recent time we have lost discipline and now is the opportunity to raise the bar in our internal standards in order to meet public expectations. I am currently raging a war on apathy and mediocrity! Conversely, I have many excellent officers and staff under my command, the vast majority in fact and I have an opportunity to lead them more effectively by being optimistic and dealing with the sub-standard.
So, do we have a crisis? I’m not convinced. I do believe that we have an opportunity within the world of operational policing to let go of the less important and focus on what the public tell us they want – a visible and responsive service.

I wished my police sergeants and inspectors a happy new year this week on the back of which I advised them to expect the toughest 12 months of their careers!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Going the Extra Mile

So, why going the extra mile? I spent three years in West Yorskshire leading murder investigations between 2005 and 2008. This was an emotive part of my career as I often met victim's familys who were going through the worst moments of their lives, moments that most of us fear. I found that that little things that I and my colleagues did could make a huge difference in helping people through that pain. A few years ago I investigated the brutal murder of a taxi driver, an asian man. The family of the victim were initially suspicious and doubtful of the police. There was a great deal of unrest in the community at the time. I recognised this lack of trust and so I let them into the investigation completely, allowed them to sit in our team briefings, allowed access to emerging evidence and included them in my key decision making. It was a gamble at the time but by going further with the family I built trust. After we convicted the murderer my investigation team were invited to the family house for a home-cooked curry as a thankyou. Marvellous! Also, in the investigations themselves. In one investigation it took us two years to track down a man who carried our serial sex attacks. My team got there because we went the extra mile by refusing to give in and we eventually made a breakthrough with forensic evidence.
As it says above, I firmly believe that the police service excels when we go the extra mile.
In my current role, I make a monthly 'Going the Extra Mile' award to my officers and staff who have done something out of the ordinary. I have done so for the last 2-3 years. Not necessarily the best arrest or the best piece of investigation, more to recognise the little things which are done behind the scenes that make a difference - in the spirit of true public service. There is no shortage of nominations. So, accuse me of stating the obvious or being corny but I strongly believe in Going the Extra Mile and the importance of that philosophy to the police service today.
I came across a quote from the Dalai Lama today as I wrote this first blog,  " Determination and hope are key factors for a brighter fututre ". Apt.