Michael Lane is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Just over three years into a first term as Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, IoW, Portsmouth and Southampton, I continue to be asked: “Are you enjoying the job?”. My answer is that: “it often isn’t enjoyable, it is frequently challenging, but it is always 100 per cent motivating”.
There is much to enjoy in the wide contacts and range of vibrant communities it is my privilege to visit and represent. But the real satisfaction and re-charging of my batteries comes from the growing number of people I can help either directly or by commissioning services. I, my team, and our many partners, have gone from counting hundreds to tens of thousands of lives that we have touched in a positive way. We have protected or responded to victims and the vulnerable to help make them safer.
The current external understanding of a PCC’s role focuses almost exclusively on policing and hardly at all on all those key responsibilities that are ‘beyond policing’. It is vital that this ‘beyond policing’ part is communicated to the public and stakeholders as part of demonstrating the added value of PCCs. This includes Protecting Victims and the Vulnerable, Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation, Partnering & Commissioning – all of which can reduce demand on emergency and public services as they create opportunities and release potential of individuals and communities.
- Creating nationally leading programmes and partnerships to tackle modern slavery and help victims of stalking. These are now recognised by government, the third sector, and others as examples of best practice.
- Putting those affected by crime at the heart of our service design, whether it’s Restorative Justice or services for those who have been victims of child sexual abuse.
- Lobbying to secure additional funding from central government to reach even more people, such as through the Early Years Intervention Fund.
- Being chosen as one of only five areas to be given full commissioning responsibilities for sexual violence and abuse services.
- Tackling cyber safety issues for young people through an innovative peer-led scheme – the Cyber Ambassadors Scheme is being rolled out across the whole area, at primary schools, secondary schools and colleges.
- Running an award-winning Youth Commission that continues to bring the voice of young people to decision makers.
Yet despite these successes, most people continue to hear the first word of my title, ‘Police’. This is unsurprising since front line policing is stretched from under-resourcing, growing volumes and complexity in traditional crimes, and new threats often from digitally enabled risks and, fleet-of-foot criminals with money to target their attacks and prey on vulnerable foot-soldiers to undertake much of their ’frontline’ attacks.
So these have been and remain hard miles in difficult times.
I am proud this year that we are recruiting more officers to the front line – 210 this year and 65 investigators too, possible only with the significant majority support of our communities for a rise in Council Tax. But there is still more to do to land a fairer national settlement.
I am delighted that Tasers were brought early in response to the operational need, enhancement to armouries and armed policing capacity has been achieved. I chose early to invest in welfare and well-being programmes for my Constabulary, leading the way for what is now an appropriate national priority. The ‘flash to bang time’ for complex projects is something that requires focus and investment decisions, empowering specialist skills – such as the digital and built environments – these have needed a new approach to ensure we deliver well.
Improvements to digital systems were begun early in my time to better support the front line and improve service to the public and they are now showing their worth, and the value of the investment, as they go online this summer and early autumn.
I promised on taking up this role in May 2016 that I would prioritise finding a site and building a Police Investigation Centre for the Eastern Area of my patch. I created a clear expression of what a good site might be and what our communities and policing needed. I found a site and four months ago the new ‘Best of Class’ facility was completed on time, on budget, and with improvements that delight for quality. These buildings are now held up as best practice examples of custody facilities. A too rare achievement in this era of ‘late, over budget, and under-performing’ delivery.
I don’t believe we would have achieved this without the range of authority and focus that a PCC can bring.
I believe PCCs add value and in May 2020 we must give our electorates great candidates to continue the work to keep our communities safer.