Politicians are known for running broadly two types of campaign:-
- If they are not in charge – ‘It’s time for change‘
- If they are already in charge – ‘Don’t risk losing what you’ve got‘
The danger of both is that they miss the exceptions. Some things may be doing fine and better left alone, whereas other stuff that we’ve become resigned to is the most in need of challenge.
So “what needs to change?” is the key question for a new Commissioner. There is a danger that, in order to keep everyone happy, a Commissioner could make one thing after another a ‘priority’. I criticised Lancashire’s Community Safety Agreement last year when I found it had 28 different priorities. If everything is a priority, nothing is. We need to be more disciplined. If something is not identified as a priority for change, it does not mean it is not important. It may just be that the best way of tackling that issue is to keep doing what you are doing already.
I have 20 years experience in policing, criminal justice and crime reduction, rather than only one of those three. It gives me a rare, possibly unique, perspective that informs my view of what needs to change and what doesn’t, but hopefully it also makes me aware that good ideas and insights are not the monopoly of one person, and having spent 10 of those years consulting the public of Lancashire on crime in one form or another, it’s not something I’m going to give up now. Hence, the skeleton plan below is deliberately unfinished, and will take further shape during, and hopefully after, the election, as I learn from Lancashire people what they want the Commissioner to achieve.
The priorities below tell you what needs to be achieved, but not a great deal about how. Part of this is because I don’t want to hand out my best ideas for opponents to pass off as their own, but also, we all need to remember that the direction and control of police officers, staff and resources belong in law to the Chief Constable. He may have a better idea as to how to achieve the priorities, so the list below focusses on promising the priority that can be delivered, and not necessarilly the method that is used.
I expect these priorities to be part of my provision of high-quality affordable policing. There is no use promising a level of police numbers that the country cannot afford. If someone suggests that policing budgets can never fall back from all-time highs they simply do not understand the seriousness of the economic situation that the last Government left behind. Worse, it suggests they measure themselves by how much of your money they can spend, rather than on what they actually achieve.
- Personal engagement between the police service and each individual citizen, not just the ‘usual suspects’. Policing is for everyone, not just the inner city. People ask for more bobbies on the beat because they rarely see the police they pay for. Policing is about tackling the impact of crime as well as crime itself, and the police can provide reassurance and reduce the fear of crime through relationships with individuals, not just a high-visibility jacket in a town centre, or attendance at a poorly-attended public meeting. This isn’t about numbers of officers or PCSOs. It’s about changing the way the job is done so that the human faces of the organisation are seen and known by local people on a regular basis, and so that officers do not become jaundiced or brutalised by dealing mainly with the people who break the rules, rather than those ordinary people who keep the whole system working.
- Tackling Lancashire’s excessive levels of violent crime, particularly repeat violent offending related to alcohol misuse, anti-social behaviour and domestic violence. Lancashire has more violent crime than similar areas, so much so that some officers feel that National Crime Recording Standards are not being implemented the same way by the forces they are compared with. But even if they were right, it would still be true that local partnerships had made more progress against the use of illegal drugs and associated thefts and burglaries than they had against alcohol misuse and associated assaults. The force has started to move to tackle this, and this should be supported to tackle repeat violent crime. In particular, I argued publicly 2 years ago that there was a danger of a ‘caution culture’, with too much use of cautions and other ways of avoiding court for some serious offences and repeat offending. Serious crime demands serious punishment that can only be given by a court.
- Protecting victims and vulnerable people, by tackling doorstep crime, sex offences and child sexual exploitation. Some people are more vulnerable than others, such as children and the elderly. An investigation I was part of recently established there were children in care in Lancashire from other areas, that the authorities in Lancashire knew nothing about. Vulnerable children and adults demand more protection and people who commit crimes against them deserve greater punishment. These victims often don’t come forward to the police, so if their crime is discovered and solved it often has the effect of pushing up the number of crimes recorded. I believe in tackling the real crime problem, not just the statistical one. I am prepared for rises in the recorded numbers of certain types of crime on my watch, such as domestic violence, sex offences, racial harassment, doorstep crime against the elderly and child sexual abuse. The price of dealing with certain types of crime is that you find out how much of it goes on.
- The local criminal justice system must respect the victim and punish the criminal. I will monitor and challenge sentencing and punishment to achieve this. I will push the criminal justice system to recognise the impact that crimes have on the community, for probation and youth offending teams to see that victims and the community are their clients, not the offenders they deal with, for community impact to be recognised properly in sentencing, and for undue leniency to be challenged. I will campaign for unduly lenient sentences in the Youth Court to be able to be challenged by the Attorney General just as sentences in the Crown Court are. The Commissioner won’t decide sentences, but can push for a stronger line on sex offenders and paedophiles generally, and on other criminals who don’t respect the second chance they have been given when they receive a community sentence.
The rest is up to you. Email me with your views.