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Machynlleth

Last week was a difficult one for Dyfed Powys.

A dark and horrible thing happened in Machynlleth when April Jones disappeared from outside her mother’s house. Campaigning for election suddenly seemed of microscopic importance by comparison.

At the same time, though, it reminded me of why this election matters. Our police have done us proud over the last few days. Their handling of the media has been particularly impressive. I know from serving in Iraq how difficult balancing the demand for information with the need to concentrate on the real job is.

As one journalist once told me, “you have to feed the press beast or it will forage for itself.” That may be true, but it’s hard to manage when information is sketchy and rumour abounds. You have to get on with the real job whilst dealing with immense pressure for immediate news, answers and action.

We’ve been reminded how important policing is. Like many of our public services, it becomes so much a part of the background that we forget it’s there. Sadly, it seems to take bad events to show good people. April’s abduction, the London riots, acts terrorism or even war – we’d be better off without all of them, but when we face them we see the heroics of good people helping out.

It’s little consolation for the family, but let’s remember that we have seen the best of people in Wales, Machynlleth and our police over the last two weeks. If the time comes for me, it will be a privilege to serve them.

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Politics and the Police

Andrew Mitchell’s comments may be idiotic but the Police Federation and Police Superintendents’ Association are betraying a principle they claim to defend.

I have no intention of defending moronic outbursts from grumpy politicians. Whatever he actually said, he is guilty of being grossly rude, disrespectful and displaying a chronic lack of judgement. Had he said it to any member of the public, of any profession, it would be just as inexcusable.

The police involved appear to have acted with impeccable professionalism during the episode. How the reports ended up in the papers is less clear. Journalists are paid to sniff these things out but they cannot steal a policeman’s notebook. We can accept these things might happen.

So far, so good for a story of bad politicians and sharp journalism.

But when, precisely, did it become the job of the Police Federation or the Police Superintendents’ Association to decide who is Chief Whip? By all means stand up for your officers but keep out of the politics.

I spend much of my time defending myself against the accusation – often from officers or their retired comrades – that Police and Crime Commissioners will politicise the police.

That is a serious allegation. We have centuries of proud tradition behind British policing, not least that we should keep politics out of the police. I take that very seriously.

This episode shows, sadly, just how much politics is already in the police. Their representatives are betraying the tradition of British policing and the interests of their members.

They are allowing their, in some cases understandable, frustration with reforms to spill over into a deeply unprofessional vendetta. Down that road, everyone loses – public, police and politicians.

The policewomen and men I meet want to fight crime, not to become pawns in a political scrap. In the long run, no one will thank police representatives for misunderstanding that. Time to get police tanks off the Downing Street lawn.

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Query on privatisation and ‘two-tier’ policing

Here’s an edited answer to a helpful query from a local resident about tackling crime and the role of the private sector.

My key points are:

•Policing is a tax-payer funded public service delivered by officers of the state. I will ensure it remains so.

•Cutting crime is about more than just police or PCSO numbers. It is about clear objectives, communication and leadership. We have a great police force. My priority is to make sure they are able to deliver their best.

Dear XXXX,

Thank you for your email.

You are right. Resources are a key issue in policing, particularly in a time of tightening budgets. My view is that the way to address this challenge is to prioritise clearly. That is why I want to focus our efforts on street crime and anti-social behaviour. It means cutting waste, duplication and bureaucracy in back office roles – which the new PCC role is well placed to do. It also means making better targeted use of front line resources.

But, policing is about more than just numbers. Tackling anti-social behaviour and public nuisance is also about ensuring that the police have a clear understanding of what they should be doing. Clear objectives and high professional standards are vital to giving constables confidence in dealing with this sort of behaviour. Standards of dress and attitude are also important – for the police’s self-respect and for their public authority. I will make this a priority during my term.

As regards two-tier policing, I am clear that policing is a public service, paid for by taxpayers for the protection of all. I will not, under any circumstances, countenance the privatisation of core police functions, such as patrolling. However, if outside providers can deliver savings for taxpayers in back office roles, I believe that is a good thing and should be considered. Likewise, if a business needs special policing there may be grounds for their paying towards the additional cost. But it must be the exception and not the rule.

Best wishes,

Christopher

Christopher Salmon

Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate for Dyfed-Powys

01874 24796

www.christophersalmon.org

@ChrisTRSalmon

On 15 Sep 2012, at 14:09, XXXXX wrote:

Dear Mr Salmon,

Today I received a flyer through my door setting out your priorities for Dyfed-Powys police if you were to be elected as commissioner ..

I would be interested in hearing how you intend to achieve such priorities for example with regards to resourcing and other issues . Could you also tell me your views on two tier policing and how you intend to tackle ASB and underage drinking ?.

Regards,

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Hillsborough

If evidence were needed for the importance of greater accountability of our police, we got it on Wednesday. News that police attempted to smear the victims of the Hillsborough disaster to divert attention from their own failings is both shocking and frightening.

Shocking, because the people charged with upholding the law have systematically perverted it. Frightening, because if we cannot trust our the people paid to protect us, what chance do we have of trusting anyone else – our neighbour, the new family in the next door street, strangers on the train?

Police and Crime Commissioners would not have prevented the Hillsborough disaster. They may not even have prevented the attempted cover up, though they would have made it much harder for the professional force to close ranks.

But, Commissioners would have provided an elected and publicly accountable figure for families to hold responsible. They would have been spared the torment of 23 years of banging their heads against bureaucratic walls. If the Commissioner had not addressed the families’ concerns they would have faced their wrath at the ballot box.

When we get them, in November, Police and Crime Commissioners will answer for the conduct of their forces. They will hold responsibility for ensuring complaints are dealt with fairly and, crucially, that the results are communicated clearly.

Standards of discipline, integrity and professional behaviour start at the top. They are reflected in dress, manners and bearing – unfashionable though it may sound. Police and Crime Commissioners, if they are doing their job, should support Chief Constables in upholding, even raising, the professional standards of their forces.

Police forces may find the degree of openness and publicity required uncomfortable at first. They have moved on from the 1990s. They are already more professional and accountable.

But, without public trust policing becomes little more than a half-hearted occupation of resentful communities by people in uniforms. Consent has been central to British policing since 1829.

After the London Riots, the Tomlinson case, Jean Charles de Menezes and now Hillsborough, restoring the trust necessary for that consent will take boldness and a leap of faith on the part of police forces and their newly elected PCCs across the county.

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Kick off!

From a train near Swindon, slicing through the north Wiltshire Downs at 9 in the morning, to a stalwart band of leafleters and petitioners from Welshpool to Milford Haven…

Today is the launch of our campaign to elect the first ever Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys. It’s sunny and my train is on time. In the context of this summer that’s a great start.

We have people out across Dyfed Powys today, with a petition to save our police helicopter and a pack explaining how we will cut crime and improve policing.

We have a fantastic chance to win this election. If we do, we will have the opportunity to make a huge difference to people’s lives across mid-Wales. We are fighting to

  • Stamp down on street crime and anti social behaviour
  • Keep police on the streets and prioritise community policing
  • Fight for 100% coverage of Dyfed Powys by police helicopter
  • Drive high professional standards in the police force
  • Deliver value for money to keep council tax low

We will expand on these policies as the campaign progresses. In the meantime, enjoy the campaign and let’s hope the weather (and the train) hold their course!

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The sun arrives at last

“What do we need one of those for?”

Those are the words that have opened many of the conversations I’ve had in the last few weeks. It’s been a time of shows. The Royal Welsh Show was bathed in glorious sunshine – the first for months. Pembrokeshire Show was less lucky. Last weekend, Montgomeryshire and Carno Shows caught the sun again. No easy whether for hay. Good weather for ducks.

I’ve been talking to people about the new post in charge of the police. Police and Crime Commissioners are taking over policing across England and Wales from November this year. Everybody gets a chance to vote for them on November 15th. So, why do we need them?

To my mind, there are two principal reasons. They are an important part of local democracy. And, they are vital to the future of policing.

By electing a single, visible, individual to take charge of the police, local people will have a direct say in how their police force operates. We can get rid of Whitehall targets and bureaucratic checklists. The only target that will matter is cutting the crime. If people feel safer, and like their Commissioner, they can vote them back in. If they don’t, they can kick them out.

Quite a few people worry that elections will politicise the police. I can understand this. Apolitical, independent policing is a great British tradition and one that we must cherish. Police and Crime Commissioners will have to swear an oath of impartiality, and they will not make operational policing decisions. So, they shouldn’t politicise the police.

In fact, I think they will take politics out of the police. By taking care of all the politics, the Commissioner will free Chief Constables to concentrate on what they do best – being police men and women. At the moment, these roles are confused, leaving the police forever looking over their shoulder, fearful of offending someone. In future that will be the Commissioners’ problem.

Of course, like all things, how well the system works depends on people. The best way to prevent politicisation is to elect someone with the leadership, experience and judgement not to spend all their time playing political games.

These new roles will enable the police to focus more closely on our local issues – like rural crime, drugs and antisocial behaviour – without juggling targets set to balance the needs of communities from Newcastle to Plymouth.

We’ll be hearing much more about this in the coming months. Our big challenge is to let people know what’s happening, and how they can take part. Getting people to vote in November will not be easy. But, who knows, given the state of our summer, perhaps we’ll have blazing sunshine by then. In any case, I’ll be back and forth across Dyfed Powys for the next three months.

If the journey from Newtown to Builth via Llanbadan on Saturday evening is anything to go by, I can hardly complain. Long shadows stretched across lush and over-watered fields. Hardly a cloud blotted the sky and the sun disappeared behind the Cambrian Mountains. Long may it continue!

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