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Rupert Matthews is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire and Rutland.

This is a difficult time for British Policing. And national police leadership are making it worse.

The media – always on the lookout for a headline – have promoted story after story about individual police officers who have misbehaved. They portray the rare individual as being the rule, the rogue as being the norm.

Pressure groups and individuals with a political agenda stoke the flames of anti-police propaganda and prejudice. Identity politics is used by ambitious individuals to fragment our society, setting one community against another, one religion against another – all in the cause of gaining power and influence. All too often the police are a convenient punchbag for them to use. There is example after example of the corrosive narrative prevailing, when it should be suffocated by the incredible work that the vast majority of officers and staff undertake on day-by-day, hour by hour basis. Yet the deafening silence of the police leadership is startling.

Undoubtedly there are problems in the British Police Service. Some individuals have proven to be corrupt. Others have behaved with dangerous sexually predatory behaviour. A few have behaved with shocking prejudice against those of different races, religions, and backgrounds. And there are some parts of the service where the culture in the workplace is repulsive. But they are rare and isolated examples.

One of the reasons I stood for election to be PCC was to rebuild and enhance the mutual trust and confidence between the Police and the law-abiding public. We have policing by consent in this country – a proud tradition that goes back to when Sir Robert Peel founded our modern police nearly two centuries ago.

I am glad to say that here in Leicestershire and Rutland our magnificent police force has managed to avoid many of the problems that can be seen elsewhere. But this force is still subject to the threat of being targeted by those who will do all that they can to undermine public confidence. And our residents will see bad news items on their TV screens, and on social media feeds from elsewhere, and will wonder about our local police. A travesty of justice if ever there was one.

At first, I was heartened by the national leadership of our police. They too spoke about issues to do with trust and confidence, and of the urgent need to improve matters. Of course, for the first few months in office I concentrated on local issues and on learning the ropes.

But in November I went to a two-day conference organised jointly by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the National Police Chiefs Council. I was delighted to see that there was a session lasting over an hour on the subject of:

“The nature of the challenge: A session illuminating the key questions underpinning the themes of performance & trust.”

I settled down to listen to the collected wisdom of the national figures. After 15 minutes of desultory conversation from some of the great and the good, the stage was cleared. Stepping up to the lectern came an academic lecturer who launched into a PowerPoint detailing her research into “Social media threats of hate crime and intolerance.” – taking up the entire time supposedly allocated to “performance and trust”.

When I complained to one of the conference organisers, she looked at me blankly. “But the presentation was very interesting,” she responded.

By contrast, every fashionably woke topic was given a full airing – be it “Crime after Brexit”, “Misogyny as Hate” or “Policing and the Pandemic”.

I puzzled over why, faced by this turmoil over trust by the law-abiding public, the national institutions have focussed on other issues. The sad truth is that they are paying lip service to the need to repair public trust. Their real focus is on continuing with the fashionable causes and campaigns that they have been pursuing for years. The same policies that have done so much to undermine the public’s trust in policing without addressing the real issues within policing.

It must be noted that many of our privileged classes are insecure in their own privilege. They seek to salve their consciences and show off to their fellows by offering ostentatious support to activists who loudly proclaim a victimhood cause.

That support stops short of actually changing the status quo. The privileged do not want to lessen their own power or wealth. Nor do they want to undermine the life chances of their own children. Instead, they identify a victimhood characteristic, then promote a person who displays that characteristic but who safely shares their own views, status and upbringing. They give a fake moral gloss to their own privilege.

So, the left wing, privileged elite feel good about themselves, but nothing really changes. Working class estates remain prey to crime, rural crimes are largely ignored, drugs blight our communities. And front line coppers are sent out on to the streets again and again.

As a historian, I tend to look to the lessons of the past to shape our future. I recall the wise words uttered by Sir Robert Peel when he set up the modern police force nearly two centuries ago. He told the police:

“To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law.

“To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police.”

I aim to give the police who cover Leicestershire and Rutland the training, equipment, and leadership that they need to strengthen the relationship between the law-abiding public and the police. I am and will be outspoken to protect the police from the acidic undertones which are only set to damage and undermine the incredible work the police do, day in and day out.

Only by doing that can we ensure effective and efficient policing by consent for our all communities.

If the national leadership of our police will not address the issues of trust and confidence between the police and the law-abiding public, then Police and Crime Commissioners must.

Here in Leicestershire and Rutland we have already begun!