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.