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OPINION:

12 lessons for PCC – or “Commissioner” – candidates from the National Briefing Day

The Liberal Democrat's PCC candidate for Cheshire, Neil Lewis, reflects on his day at the PCC candidates' National Briefing organised by CoPaCC

Of all the roles outside of Downing Street, perhaps the county and city wide Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) have the greatest potential for impact on local residents, for good or for bad.

A PCC is tasked to deliver an efficient and effective police service but there is so much more that he or she has to do – especially as over 80% of all police phone calls are not related to crime.

Collaboration must lie at the heart of any effective police service and again, the Commissioner is there to lead the way.

So, here are the 12 things I learned from my day in London at the PCC Candidate National Briefing day…

1. PCCs can lead change

In fact, we can begin that change right now. Let’s just call ourselves Commissioners or Commissioner Candidates – and while we are at it, let’s call the Police Service a ‘service’ and not a ‘force’! The less force a police service needs to use, the better!

The use of language is subtle but it requires courage and leadership to speak differently and it is often the first step to changing attitudes and shifting expectations

The Commissioner can champion new roles – which are not normally possible for the operationally focused chief constable – such as supporting victims, offering restorative justice, working with the justice system to ensure witnesses are treated better and are more likely to come forward in future.

2. Huge potential for change

Despite austerity, the Commissioner has huge potential to drive change in their cities and in their county areas.

For instance, in one area of Manchester, 11 people created 17% of all demand on police. In these cases we are looking at chronic instances of crime and criminal activity. Identifying these families and linking up with local government safeguarding boards is key to success.

In fact, between 20% and 40% of police resources are taken up with mental health issues. Hence, the engagement with mental health triage nurses is another critical factor in ensuring effective use of police resources.

3. Police tech is stuck in the past

Despite improvements, too much police tech thinking is big top down systems. Even the overuse of that dated phrase ‘ICT’ is alive and well in the police service. Instead  an agile focused, tech minded commissioner has the potential to radically alter the impact of policing by identifying problems and building iterated user based systems from the bottom up.

Agile tech development is people centric – focused on solving problems for the users of tech – so they don’t need ‘training’ and the system doesn’t need a ‘big bang’ conversion day (which might just be delayed… or go wrong!)

4. Police miss future trends

For me, the quote of the day was ‘the police didn’t see the smart phone coming – that lack of awareness should never happen again’

Indeed! So, let us declare very loudly….

Cybercrime is the future of crime – for every ‘real world’ crime there are two committed online or via digital channels – however, the significance of this fact is only just being recognised by police services.

Another quote from the day ‘the biggest crime threat is #cybercrime and cyber terrorism’ says it all. However, despite the range of experts, very few had any potential solutions and many looked at technology with a certain glazed look.

Clearly, there is a desperate need for new ideas.

5. Police work is changing dramatically

Police work is changing dramatically due to digital technologies and the changes in society that those technologies are bringing about. For instance, the exponential increase in police vulnerability work is a result of digital tech combining with greater public awareness.

6. Non-police work police work

Just some figures;

  • 3.3 million police hours were spent on mid-risk missing person.
  • 4 million mental health incidents dealt with by police each year
  • More than 80% of police calls are welfare calls

We are looking at a massive police resource burn in just these three areas.

7. The dawning of complexity

If ever there was an argument to put non-policemen into the Commissioner role – this is it “Policing has changed – the dawning of complexity has begun…” Clearly, the old way of policing isn’t going to work in the future.

Another way of viewing that complexity is to think of each crime as having three elements; local, national and international. Collaboration must lie at the heart of any effective police service and again, the Commissioner is there to lead the way.

8. But do the police earn their residents’ trust?

Public confidence in the police is often not high (although I think Cheshire, my county is an exception); why, you might ask?

Well, one third of people who report a crime don’t hear back from a police officer.

And, it is estimated that 3 million crimes per year in England and Wales are not reported due to lack of confidence in either the police or the justice system. This is an extraordinary claim as there were 3.7million crimes in England and Wales and hence, there is the suggestion that we are under reporting crimes by 80%?

9. We have a problem with crime stats

So, we cannot judge police effectiveness on crime stats alone. Instead, Commissioners might be advised to prepare the public for an increase in ‘recorded crime’ appearing in the stats in return for a greater level of police confidence and safer streets & communities.

An effective police service will build confidence among the residents which can then expect to see higher levels of reported crime. The death knell of target driven policing!

Again, the political / non-operation role of the Commissioner allow him or her to make this case.

10. Commissioner – everyone’s best friend!

Commissioner’s hold very large budgets – in Cheshire, £1,000 per voter, £800m for the area – means that everyone has a service they want to sell to the Commissioner ;).

11. The future requires a partnership based prevention agenda

For example, on sexting, child exploitation, bullying and revenge porn – there are two ways to help; one, teach about good online safety and the second, to teach about what ‘real love’ looks like.

Both require partnership with schools, health services and 3rd sector organisations (such as Barnardos).

12. Get with it!

Talking about ‘real love’ is probably not easy for an aged gent in a jacket and tie or a laced up lady – again, a commissioner, out of uniform, who is freed up from the operational structures of a large organisation such as the police service is better positioned to make those messages heard.

Commissioners, if they are to be effective, need to get with it.

And they need to tell the world on Twitter too! And Facebook. And Snapchat, probably. Oh, and may be Instagram as well.

Neil Lewis is the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Cheshire PCC elections in May. His campaign website is www.NeilLewis.org and he can be found on Twitter as @Neil_Lewis

 


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