Archives for May 2013

Now for Stage 2. And less of the Shakespearean drama, please.

Here’s the text of a blog I wrote on www.policingforall.co.uk. You can read the original here.

 

Six months in. Still standing. Who among us, knocking on doors in last year’s sodden autumn, knew what we were getting into?

Who among chief officers, peering from their baronial fiefdoms, knew what to expect?

Probably not many, in either case.

My main concern for much of the campaign was keeping cheaply photocopied leaflets dry and hoping I could afford enough of them.

Chief constables faced a variety of PCC candidates. They must have had a rather broader range of apprehensions than us candidates.

While much has changed in this new world, much remains the same – chiefly the patient, determined dedication of those who serve every day.

Life as a Commissioner has offered a revelation a day. Two things in particular surprised me.

First, the amount of talent hidden within the police service. Only a small proportion is evident from outside. Somehow the service has conspired to be less than the sum of its parts.

Second, the extent of court politics. The two are connected.

I spent much of the election campaign refuting the charge that Commissioners would politicise the police. I needn’t have worried. At times I’ve wondered if I’ve landed a part in Richard III. Well, they do say politics is acting for the ugly.

Every pillar of the state has shaken in the past few years, from Parliament to the NHS, journalism and the BBC. Fairly or unfairly, the police have not escaped. Who next, I wonder – the judiciary?

We are all grappling with a world in which respect is not automatic. Trust cannot be put on with a uniform or a badge of state. It must be earned. Every day.

The degree to which that requires painful public acceptance of failure is only just becoming apparent. And all the time we must retain public confidence – as must the NHS, the BBC and Parliament.

How? For my money three things jump out. Don’t pretend we are infallible. Share trust. Earn public confidence by showing confidence in the public first. The public hold the key to policing success. They must be involved in protecting themselves.

Stage 2 transfers are looming. They may be necessary but they are a headache. They play to old fears and bad habits of control. They place too much emphasis on ownership and not enough on governance and good decision-making.

That is a shame. In Dyfed-Powys we are working to a Policing Board that focuses on governing service delivery. We will all do well to avoid the territorialism of departmental “ownership”. I’m optimistic we can.

For all the tortuous discussions about who is a chairman, who a chief executive, who commissions from whom and how, the inescapable reality is this. In creating Commissioners, Parliament decided that chief officers no longer run policing. They are responsible for the operational delivery of police services.

Commissioners are responsible for the totality of policing and crime prevention. To be accountable we need more than just a homework-checking approach to decisions.

We will sink or swim by the success of Chiefs and their teams. We have the same aim. No one has any incentive to frustrate police performance.

Amongst all this are huge opportunities. Everyone has a stake in public safety. Everyone has something to offer: the public themselves, the Police, private companies, local authorities, the voluntary sector.

Overcome the “conditioned reaction” to the private sector, as Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan says, and  new expertise, ideas and opportunity may open up. In Dyfed-Powys we see opportunities in exploring the potential of closer integration with local authorities. We serve the same people, after all.

These are the discussions we need to get on with. Relationships between Commissioners and Chiefs will take different forms in different parts of the country, for perfectly valid local reasons. That is the purpose of local autonomy.

The struggle through these reforms will be less about Commissioners and Chiefs and more about the old guard and the new. There is only one outcome there.

Facebooktwittermail

Help raise money for Brecon MRT

One late winter night in 2006 a good friend stepped off the side of a mountain in the Brecon Beacons and broke his back. He was on a navigation exercise in the early stages of Special Forces selection.

Six months earlier I had been at his wedding with other officers from our regiment. We had just returned from a bitterly cold tour in Kosovo. We were full of the swagger that young men in uniform cannot suppress. A wedding is certainly no place to try.

When I next saw him he was bolted to a hospital bed. The contrast was gut-wrenching. He had been doing what we all do. He was, in joining the army, in marrying a lovely girl and in taking on Special Forces selection, expressing an excitement and enthusiasm for the world that we all share. He was living life to the full. (Though paralysed, thanks to his team mates, rescuers and the wonders of medical science he still is.)

That is what takes people into the hills – and not just soldiers. People from all walks of life seek challenge, adventure, peace, beauty, reflection and discovery in the rugged expanse of our uplands. We should encourage them. They are motivated by the same hunger for life.

I do not know whether Brecon Mountain Rescue Teams were involved in rescuing Harry. He had the military behind him. What I learnt was that if it can happen to a fit, young soldier, qualified in navigation and survival, it can happen to any of us.

Wherever you have mountains and people you will have accidents. That is why the work of rescue teams is so important.

Brecon MRT keep people safe in the Brecon Beacons. They work with the police and other emergency services to protect people enjoying our most beautiful landscapes. You can find out more about their fantastic work here – http://www.breconmrt.co.uk/. They are all volunteers and depend on people like you to support their work.

Reading their callouts, I am struck by how many minor incidents could have become tragedies, like this one from October 2012:

25/10/2012 14:50 – Hay Bluff

Family group became lost, had 1:50 Map but could not interpret it. No waterproofs, compass, torch etc. Found and walked off hill.

LMRT: 15 personnel for 6.50 hrs

BMRT: 10 personnel for 6.50 hrs

http://www.breconmrt.co.uk/call-outs/call-outs-2012/

Then there is their work supporting the search for April Jones, in Machynlleth. The list goes on…

I’ll be running – and perhaps walking, just a little bit – 40km of the WAAT4 challenge on 22 June with hundreds of others to raise money for Brecon MRT.

Please sponsor me here – http://www.justgiving.com/ChristopherSalmon

Even better, join in yourself – http://www.waat4.co.uk/

Facebooktwittermail

Conservatism and PCCs

Below is the text of my speech to the Welsh Conservative Party Conference. I explain firstly why we have Police and Crime Commissioners and, secondly, why I am a Conservative Commissioner.

Please forgive the dodgy grammar. That is a product of speech, as opposed to prose, writing. I found a copy of David Cameron’s notes as I was waiting behind the stage. I feel a little better that his were much the same.

Delivered on 27 April 2013, at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea:

 

Not long after my election, I found myself in the kitchen of an elderly lady.

She had been driven out of her home by abusive neighbours. She wanted to tell me how it happened. She wanted to be heard.

She had reported the abuse to the police. In fact, she had reported so much that they stopped listening.

Each incident was minor. A piece of graffiti; damage to a car; threatening behaviour. On their own they didn’t amount to much. It was hard to prove who the culprit was.

So, the situation spiralled. Eventually she was forced to sell at considerable emotional and financial cost.

The police couldn’t understand her vulnerability. Their targets only looked at crimes. None of these incidents on their own were enough to justify action. Living alone, an elderly woman, with her family far away, she had no one to turn to.

Police and Crime Commissioners were elected give people like this a voice. We are here to bring police and public closer together. To be a voice for victims of crime.

Our police our woven into the fabric of our history. They put on uniforms and put themselves into harms way on our behalf. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

In Dyfed Powys – and I’m allowed a little bias here – we have the finest of the finest. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the hunt for April Jones.

A single act of unfathomable darkness has produced a hundred acts of unimaginable kindness. We have seen the best of our police and the best of our communities. We have learnt that we all have a part to play in keeping our homes and families safe. That goes to the heart of our tradition of policing.

People asked during the election why I’m standing as a Conservative. They didn’t want politics mixed with the police. Would I give up my party allegiance if I got elected?

My answer? No.

No one wants to politicise the police, least of all I. I’ve served in uniform, in the Army. I served my Queen. I certainly didn’t serve Tony Blair.

But the reason I’m a Conservative is because of what I believe; not because I’ve signed up to the rules of some club.

I believe that personal responsibility matters. Boundaries matter. Right and wrong matters. When people make choices, they must understand the consequences of those choices.

Crime is a choice. It is the wrong choice. It must have consequences. We do no one any favours – not ourselves, not victims, and certainly not perpetrators – if we shilly-shally around apologising for or excusing crime.

We must understand it, certainly. We must address its causes. We must help people make the right choice – to stay the right side of the line; do the right thing.

That’s where Conservatives have profound and eternal insights that can help.

We understand that boundaries give people confidence, respect is important and that responsibility does not constrain people. It empowers them.

We understand the importance of incentives in changing people’s behaviour. We trust them to take their own decisions. That is why we believe in markets.

The same is true of crime. We must reward those who make the right choice. We must help those who have committed crime and are trying to go straight. We must help people see the consequences of their actions early. And if they don’t, and they persist, they should be punished.

Those are principles I believe in. They are conservative principles, party membership or no.

They are what I am bringing to my role – a role, incidentally, that the Labour Party opposed but was quite willing to jump into. They believed it was rightfully theirs across Wales. Well, they learnt their lesson there then!

I will work by my principles. I have set priorities that put prevention first; that emphasise quality of service and delivering justice. I am scaling back rises in the police precept.

I am driving savings throughout the police. I’ve cut the cost of governing the police by 15% in four months. I have cut senior officers perks and the Chief Constable’s salary, which he has supported.

We will do more. We will work more closely with local authorities to make public access easier; and the Welsh Government to protect the most vulnerable.

I have made clear that high standards are not an option – they go to the heart of public service.

Standards are a function of leadership. They are not the product of a bureaucracy.

What we have, a few months on from those soggy autumn days is when Commissioners were elected, is a Conservative voice in government in Wales.

A voice that can support our colleagues in the Assembly, fighting back against that marauding beast which is the Welsh Labour Government; a beast that gnaws on the limbs of Welsh enterprise and tramples over the aspirations of local effort.

A beast that is incapable of passing a council, an airport – or a police service – without feeling the need to gorge itself.

We have a Conservative voice that is about giving power to people; not to institutions. About trusting professionals; not targets.

A voice for people who want to challenge tired old assumptions, not assume tired old habits.

It is a positive voice. A voice for the future.

Facebooktwittermail