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The need for scrutiny of the police

Posted: Friday 28th November 2014
Blog: Blogs

If I could sum up the past two weeks in one word it would be ‘scrutiny’. There has been scrutiny of the Constabulary – from me and from the HMIC – but also continued scrutiny of the role of Police and Crime Commissioners nationally.

Last week I attended the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ conference and it was clear from listening to the speakers and chatting to other delegates that the future of PCCs is far from certain. One of the speakers was Jack Dromey, the shadow Policing Minister, who spoke about Labour’s policy of abolishing PCCs if they win the election next year and replacing us with some sort of local authority board. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has also called for the post to be scrapped in the past but the Conservatives are still supportive of the role.

What happens will be determined by the outcome of the general election next May. Until then, I’m sure the role of PCCs will continue to be the focus of much debate. Ultimately, it’s up to the elected government to decide how best they want the police to be scrutinised. I’m not a politician, I ran for this post because it was important to me that whoever did the job needed to be independent. Rather than be distracted by the debate I’m concentrating on delivering the best for local people. However, my own view is that whatever form of governance is chosen it’s vital that there is a clear, open and honest scrutiny of the police service at a local level.

It’s scrutiny that makes sure your police service is performing at the top of its game. On Tuesday, I brought together a panel of experts to scrutinise the Constabulary’s domestic abuse action plan.  The panel included survivors of abuse as well as representatives from the courts, the CPS and Community Safety Partnerships – all people well placed to help me assess how the plan was working. It was a productive session, with some new ideas and plenty of feedback to consider.

This was just one of various methods I use to scrutinise the Constabulary. Sometimes it is by organising multi-agency events like these, often it’s being represented at police meetings or through my regular meetings with the Chief Constable and other senior officers. I also have an Independent Residents Panel and custody visitors who provide an outside view into the Constabulary for me. Sometimes the scrutiny is a structured – like the domestic abuse meeting - but it can sometimes be as simple as asking a probing question I might have after speaking to someone from our community.

Scrutiny also comes from inspections of the police by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). These provide an additional layer of scrutiny and I’ll use their findings to help influence what I do and where I look for answers. This month we’ve received reports into crime recording and the overall performance of the Constabulary. One was better than the other and it was clear that there is still work to be done to ensure crimes are reported accurately. After all, victims will only have confidence in the police if they record crimes properly. The HMIC report has led to some important improvements and I’ll continue to push for further progress to be made. Ultimately, these reports will ensure we have an improved, more efficient police service.

Until next time,

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