David Chinchen is the Conservative candidate for South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and a former Chief Superintendent.
I remember it well. Being approached at a school Summer Ball last year by the Chair of the Sheffield Conservative Federation to consider standing as the Conservative Candidate for the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) election. After being selected in February 2020, everything of course changed as the loss of life and challenges of tackling a global pandemic have rightly put campaigning on hold.
I had retired from the Metropolitan Police Service in 2013 as Chief Superintendent and Borough Commander for Wandsworth. Having married a Yorkshire lass we moved to Sheffield and have made this our home with our daughter then studying at Sheffield University and our son now working as a legal apprentice in the city.
I am a newcomer to active politics and the Party but I bring a wealth of professional and life experience to this role. After leaving the police service I worked for several years in UK Visas and Immigration at Sheffield determining visa applications and gaining a valuable insight into the wider UK immigration system.
I come to this challenge with an ambition to make our police service and criminal justice system work better for us all. In 2008 I was appointed the operational lead for efforts to tackle the escalation of knife crime and teenage fatalities in London (Operation Blunt 2). I have seen the reality of violent crime on our streets and driven forward many of the tactics that make a difference. I have also seen much time and public money wasted. Its always useful to point out that the last spike in serious youth violence (2008-10) occurred after ten years of a Labour administration spending huge sums on youth services and related projects.
Whilst it is violent crime that should remain the focus of our collective efforts, I believe we should also be operating to re-build confidence in policing and criminal justice. We often hear of services being ‘victim-focused’ – but that is not the reality that the vast majority of people are experiencing.
This is why my plan starts with the restoration of neighbourhood policing. It is from this bedrock that we are best positioned to deploy most effectively all the capabilities of UK policing. All crimes have an impact upon local neighbourhoods and it is local neighbourhoods that provide us with the greatest opportunity to prevent and detect crime.
Just before lockdown, I attended an interesting round-table discussion hosted by the Federation of Small Businesses. Listening to very familiar accounts from retailers, small businesses, and sole traders, it is clear that our police service has neglected this area for many years. We must talk about ‘victim-impact’ differently. Protecting businesses that employ several people locally, or the tools and transport of a sole trader, should be our concern as the party of business and hard work. As we move cautiously towards a ‘new normality’ over the next few months, this focus on protecting businesses and livelihoods is even more important.
The impact of crime on our rural communities is also something that we should re-focus upon. I’m certainly not advocating a return to chasing down crime types but simply a greater recognition that bringing more offenders to justice will impact across the board – city, suburb, town, and village. UK policing has a reputation for being agile and flexible in its response to new crime threats and national emergencies. The challenge for me has always been about working cross-border and cross-organisation.
Whilst we know that policing and criminal justice is a complex business, I find that people on the doorstep are very traditional in outlook. Many talk about the ‘bobbies’ that everyone knew. They expect this local feel to policing and a service that operates to put things right when they become victims.
Finally, I believe we should be bold in seeking to reform and develop effective operational links between neighbourhood policing teams and our schools. These have worked well in the past where there is a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities.
When introduced in 2012 I was concerned about the PCC role, notably the danger of straying into operational direction for political purposes. I’m pleased to say that my concerns have proved to be unfounded and I can see the value of single accountable role for all matters relating to crime and community safety.
In South Yorkshire, the General Election knocked a huge hole in the ‘Red Wall’ and I don’t think these are borrowed votes. People here are responding well to our PM and a Home Secretary looking to deliver on crime and criminal justice. I have lost count of the times people have said ‘I’ve voted Labour all my life but I’m for Boris.’ When the conversation turns to crime and policing, my previous experience becomes a real asset. I’m convinced that the battle will be all about who the electorate trusts to make the most of the Government’s investment in policing and criminal justice. Whilst we cannot say when traditional campaigning will return, the growth of on-line conferencing and interactive events provide new opportunities to listen and put key messages across. It all bodes well for Thursday 6th May 2021.