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.