Will Commissioner be a one-man band?
HAVING now read the profiles of the candidates for Police Commissioner elections on November 15, in my view, with one exception, most might find it difficult to run a minor organisation, let alone the huge challenge of Devon and Cornwall police.
The Police Commissioner is meant to be the direct line manager of the Chief Constable, and accountable to the general public of the two counties, for the efficient and effective running of the police.
In theory therefore, the Police Commissioner will be consulting with local people in Devon, including Exeter, Plymouth and Torbay, as well as the rural localities, and major towns of Cornwall. The outcome of the consultation should then determine how the Chief Constable prioritises, and focuses his resources.
It is not the job of the Police Commissioner to tell the Chief Constable how to solve crimes, that is a professional responsibility; however, it is the job of the Chief Constable to listen to the Police Commissioner in terms of where his forces should be deployed, and on what tasks they are to be employed.
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That sounds fine in theory, but let us test it in practice. We have one Police Commissioner and there are no indications of any subordinate staff to help the appointee carry out the task, unless of course the Chief Constable is going to make his own staff available, such as research, PR and communications, finance, and logistics. So in effect, the Police Commissioner is going to be a one-man band, travelling around this massive area, trying to consult with interested parties on what priorities the police should be focusing on.
Plymouth might demand greater police input to the problem of yobs frightening older people, on council estates, and greater intervention into the ASBO programme. Alternatively it might want more focus on the recent spate of late-night attacks and robberies in local parks. When the Police Commissioner has finally managed to reach Newquay, their residents will undoubtedly want more attention given to under-age drinking and anti-social behaviour, especially during the summer.
Torquay and Exeter will each make their own demands, as will the wider rural areas of the two counties. How on earth will this poor Police Commissioner actually consult, and with whom, and then reach a decision on his priorities?
This is a one-man band with no subordinate structure or staff. So before he sits down, on a regular basis, plus daily communication with the Chief Constable, how is he going to prepare and be ready to challenge?
I suspect that the Chief Constable will regard the Police Commissioner as a necessary evil, imposed by central government, who will provide an opportunity for him to do exactly as he does now, and please himself about how his staff work, and what they do. That in effect is what happens with the shortly defunct Police Authorities, who in the main appeared totally ineffective, out of touch, and simply a place to claim monthly expenses. If this appointment is a one-man band, without significant support staff, then it will be a complete and utter waste of public money and the £80,000 would be better spent on more police officers, and not those employed on Police Federation duties, or the pseudo Police, called Community Support Officers.
As a former senior manager in very large organisations, over some 40 years, with an MBA and various other professional qualifications, and an active interest in community services, I put myself in the role of the Police Commissioner, and tried to work out how the job could be delivered successfully. I quickly withdrew any such notion. It cannot work in Devon and Cornwall.