Police and Crime Commissioners have not had a generally good press at least nationally. The elections a year ago saw great efforts by the media at touring the country stirring up apathy. The big story was the low turnout. There was criticism over the cost – missing the point that the budgets were previously spent on toothless police authorities.
Since then they have only come on the radar when there has been some controversy or another. Bob Jones, :Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands has proved a “boneless wonder” over Plebgate. He has behaved like a Police Federation shop steward.
In the last week Stephen Bett, the independent police commissioner for Norfolk, has paid back £3,000 in expenses which he claimed for driving back and forth from his office. Even worse was Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner making duplicate expenses claims.
Yet a collection of essays for Policy Exchange offers encouragement that the new system is working.
Matthew Ellis, the Conservative PCC for Staffordshire, is among several contributors to write about mental health
Mr Ellis says:
The increasing numbers of people being held in police cells when they need other services places pressure on policing and damages lives. However, the answer to this problem is more complex than only expanding these services and facilities. Whilst that is one aspect, earlier intervention and a more joined up approach across services is now being developed for Staffordshire.
It could be argued that this area isn’t the responsibility of a Police & Crime Commissioner but I believe this is exactly where an honest broker approach could act as a catalyst for change…
Crucial is freeing up police officer time to maintain visibility in communities and reduce crime. By investing in work to ensure that the right professionals who understand the complexities of mental health are available more easily at all times, there will be human and social benefits but also potentially reduced demand for higher cost public services more generally.
Olly Martins, Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire, is an enthusiast for tagging:
The biggest stumbling block was the existing National Electronic Monitoring Contract, the shortcomings of which Policy Exchange highlighted in their September 2012 report The Future of Corrections. This report highlighted how the contract was long, inflexible, provided extremely poor value for money and stifled innovation. Bedfordshire Police had worked hard to find a work-around that would enable the use of tags other than the RF proximity tags specified and made compulsory by the national contract and associated legislation. However, the Ministry of Justice was resistant and in typical Whitehall style displayed adeptness for finding reasons not to facilitate a pilot rather than ways to help it happen.
It sounds to me that Mr Martins has got a point.
These are just a couple of examples. Reading the contributions is to get a sense of the ambition and fascination of those who hold the posts of PCC and their willingness to innovate in order to find ways to make their counties safer.
For all the sneering this reform is making policing more effective and accountable.