Yesterday saw the less than glorious story that officers I n Humberside had been threatened with the Official Secrets Act by their very own PCC.
The Grimsby Telepgraph broke the news that Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Grove had stated that officers were not to discuss staffing levels with the press. This follows on from an earlier story when that very same newspaper ran a story that at one Station there had only been 4 officers on duty between 3am and 7am, instead of the required 8.
Mr Grove (Conservative, surprisingly) stated that if any officers told the press how many were on duty they would be in breach of the Official Secrets Act and would “become criminals”
Official Secrets Act? Criminals? Really? This kind of political bullying really has to stop. It is no surprise that a Tory PCC would want to help play down the drastic effects of government. The boys and girls who inhabit Westminster are all grown ups allegedly and can quite capably defend their own actions, we don’t need a PCC bullying and threatening the troops for telling the truth.
Is it even a Secret? No, of course it isn’t. Hidden away in the reams of stats that the Home Office and HMIC publish ad nauseum is the number of officers per 1,000 (might be 10,000 but you get the idea) head of population, not a secret of any kind, particularly not an Official one, it’s more or less a published stat.
The Front Line is frayed and ragged, stretched to unbelievable levels. None of us need PCCs like Mr Grove threatening quite awful sanctions for telling the truth. Let’s be honest, if the Tories had somehow managed to double the number of officers on patrol the likes of Mr Grove would be shouting that from the rooftops. No threats for breaking the Official Secrets Act there.
No officer anywhere should be bullied or threatened if what they have said is the truth. Sanctions against anybody who speaks the truth leads us all to a very dark place, and I, for one, don’t want to be in that place.
I have said it many times before, and no doubt I will say it again, good, bad or indifferent our public deserve to be told the truth.
So here I am sat in a hotel on the outskirts of Derby, what better than write something for my reader, good evening.
I was minding my own business today when I came across a post from Police Oracle regarding Nick Gargan’s impending discipline hearing, that should have kicked off about a week ago.
It seems like Disclosure Issues can be sorted if you’re a Chief Constable
The original hearing was meant to take place in April but was delayed to address ‘disclosure issues’
A chief constable facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards female members of staff will face misconduct proceedings in June.
The original hearing for suspended Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan was set to take place on April 20, but was delayed when it became apparent that disclosure issues needed to be addressed.
At a preliminary hearing held on April 24, the chair of the misconduct panel Dorian Lovell-Pank QC listened to representations about whether some documents could be disclosed and made the necessary directions to the legal teams.
The date for the full hearing has now been set for June 29, with the chair stating 10 days should be set aside for the full case to be heard.
HMI Wendy Williams and independent member John Rickard will hear the case and provide their findings in a report to Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens to help inform her decision on the outcome of the proceedings.
Ms Mountstevens said earlier this year that she had hoped to hold the hearing in January or February but had faced delays including finding a convenient date for all of the panel to meet and CC Gargan requesting an extenstion to the deadline by which he had to provide a response to the allegations he faced.
A consultation was held over whether to hold the hearing in public, but this was ultimately decided against.
CC Gargan was suspended in May 2014.
Courtesy Police Oracle
My first thought was around the Disclosure issues. I’m pretty certain that we can all quote a few cases where abuse of the Disclosure rules has been an issue, not resolved, and ultimately led to resentment, and allegedly, sometimes a perverse verdict.
Secondly it was pointed out that it had been decided to hold the hearing in private, despite new rules which came into place on 1st May stating that Discipline HeRings would now be held in public unless “it was inappropriate to do so”. A second example of Double Standards? Or maybe it truly was inappropriate, although I can think of thousands of Criminal cases of a similar nature that are most definitely held in public.
Finally, an absolute lulu came to me.
“HMI Wendy Williams and independent member John Rickard will hear the case and provide their findings in a report to Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens to help inform her decision on the outcome of the proceedings.” Why is Sue Mounstevens having anything to do with this enquiry, let alone be involved in the decision-making after this;
Sue Mountstevens apologises after telling Chief Constable Nick Gargan the name of a whistle-blower who complained about him
Ms Mounstevens was investigated and found to have committed a “Serious Error of Judgement” for which she later apologised to the alleged victim.
So how can she now still be involved in the discipline process? I’m obviously getting too old for this malarkey, I just don’t get it.
So there you have it, Double Standards or not, this does NOTHING for Public Confidence and Transparency, in short supply in Avon and Somerset it seems.
I’m certainly no fan of Mr Gargan but I am a fan of Fair Play, so Sue, if you can tell me how this constitutes Fair Play I promise to post your reply unedited.
Let’s be honest, it’s not going to happen. Police Stations and Front Counters can close, but a Tory PCC who initially made a bad decision about the location of his office can now spend half a million quid moving 1 mile to Force HQ.
All this is a Force that has seen its Chief Constable declare that it may not be able to cope with the cuts and result in a purely reactive Force.
You can read that one here.
So why can’t the D&C PCC take a leaf out of the Met’s book and get himself a little trestle table in the corner of Exeter Tesco, and make himself available like frontline troops all across the country are having to do?
If he doesn’t feel that’s appropriate, he could take the time-honoured alternative of using the Crime Squad and Observataion Van on a Rest Day and save the County a fortune and everybody’s happy.
Not that that ever happened anywhere of course.
#CutsHaveConsequences but not for Tory PCCs it would appear.
Once upon a time there was a politician who said “We’re all in this together” or something very similar.
Soon after there followed one of the new breed, a Police and Crime Commissioner belonging to the same party as old “we’re all in this together” chops.
We didn’t ask for this new thing called PCCs, we just got them because some politicians somewhere thought it would be a good idea.
Anyway, the point of my tale is this.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for a large, rural force not too far away from DeadBadgerShire has a website. It’s his own personal website, his PCC website is separate, although they do seem to cross over sometimes.
Once upon a time he said this on his website;
“Working with my new Chief Constable, we have cut the cost of the three top salaries from £420,000 to £330,000. I have cut 15% from the cost of governing the police. We are pushing through further reforms to ensure money is spent where it’s most needed – on policing our towns and villages.”
Using the Freedom of Information Act I asked this thoughtful PCC what the three top salaries were that he (they) had reduced.
I must give him (his office) credit for answering that one.
Chief Constable, salary reduced from £175,014 to £161,819
Director of Finance and Resources, salary reduced from £141,295 to £98,000 and a reduction in responsibilities to Director of Resources only.
Chief Executive, salary reduced from £109,584 to £70,589 and responsibilities reduced to Chief of Staff only.
Salary bill reduced from £425,893 to £330,408.
He didn’t tell me that he has also snuck in a Deputy Commissioner at a salary of £53,000, making the figures above somewhat less impressive, but to be honest I would have left it that had he not rattled my goat with this tweet recently
Now, I wanted to be able to explain to you all why the PCC has felt it appropriate to cut three salaries, diminish two top posts and bring on board a deputy whilst maintaining his own salary, but I can’t because I haven’t had it explained to me, but I’m sure there’s a reason, his own salary (I found it eventually, buried deep in the website) is circa £65,000, quite reasonable really.
So I can go into the weekend assured that we truly are #AllInItTogether
Front counters will close at 21 police stations and opening hours cut at another six, West Mercia Police has announced.
They will be replaced with an intercom linked to a police operator. Who am I to tell Mr Bill Longmore that this is not acceptable, but it isn’t? 21 Police Stations being linked to a Comms Office via an intercom. There are some reasonable size towns represented in the list below, by no means restricted to remote, out of the way villages.
The changes will come into effect on 1 September
Closed: Bridgnorth, Bromsgrove, Bromyard, Church Stretton, Droitwich, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster, Ludlow, Malvern, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Peterchurch, Ross-on-Wye, Rubery, Shrewsbury Town, South Wye, Stourport-on-Severn, Wellington, Wem and Whitchurch
Reduced hours: Hereford, Kidderminster, Redditch, Telford and Worcester police stations open to the public from 08:00 – 20:00 six days a week and 10:00 – 16:00 on Sunday and bank holidays. Shrewsbury Police Station open from 08:00 – 16:00 from Monday to Friday and 09:00 – 17:00 on Saturday and 10:00 – 16:00 on Sundays and bank holidays
These closures are serious, unlike the PCC’s website which, in my humble opinion, resembles a bad joke.
I visited the website in response to the above story, hoping to find more information, or maybe a valid justification for these closures. The very first thing that struck my eye at the top of the page was a strap line :- “Front Line Police Services To Be Protected” Oh good I thought, it’s not all doom and gloom, so I clicked on it to get the story, and this is where it took me
Bill responds to the latest HMIC report ‘responding to austerity’
Captain Bill had this to say about protecting Front Line Services “This report highlights the financial restraints which have been placed on West Mercia Police and I am pleased to see that it recognises how well it has coped with these.
“Despite making savings, the force is still delivering a good service to the people of West Mercia and frontline services have been, and will continue to be, protected. “It is quite obvious that the police service will face ongoing restraint. I will explore every aspect of policing to see where efficiencies can be made to ensure that we continue to achieve value for money for our residents.”
Well, that’s alright then, Bill says it is so. I accept that Front Counters aren’t Front Line Services in the Blue Light sense, but they are frequently the first interaction between Police and Public in any manner of situation, and should never be under-estimated. Whoever is manning the Front Counter, be they Police, Police Staff or Volunteer, they are clearly not ‘Response’ but I would argue that it’s a Front Line function, although clearly not regarded as such in West Mercia, eh Bill?
On a slightly different subject, I did giggle when I discovered that the West Mercia PCC publicly published his decisions, 17 of them this year it seems, and here they are, in all their glory.
Not that I’m laughing, it’s just that I can’t quite compare it to any other week, some good, some bad.
It started off on Monday with the promise that someone from the Dyfed Powys PCC’s office would phone me to discuss my disappointment at being ineligible to apply for a voluntary role with their force. Well I waited and I waited, no phone call, so I gave up. Late on Tuesday afternoon my mobile sprang into life and lo and behold it was said PCC’s office. I had previously voiced my disappointment at not being eligible to apply for a voluntary job as an Animal Lay Visitor (Police Dogs and Horses) on the grounds that I was a retired Police Officer. After about 5 minutes of talking to this lady it became apparent that she was talking about a position on the Residents Panel. As I’m not a resident of Dyfed Powys it was sort of irrelevant to me, so I pointed out that she’s got the wrong job. I pointed out to her that the job application pack stated that serving (understandable) and former Police Officers were not eligible to apply, and would not be appointed. She explained to me that this was in order to assure the public of total Independence on the part of the Lay Visitor. I then pointed out to her that the two Application packs for Residents Panel, and Lay Custody Visitor only excluded serving Police Officers (again understandable) and NOT former Police Officers. Surely Independence was as important re Custody Lay Visitors if not more so. She assured me that this appeared to be a mistake and the Job Application Packs would have to be ‘tweaked’ to include former Police Officers as ineligible as well. Needless to say by the time I got off the phone I was mighty peeved. I was actually quite offended that without seeing my CV, without the benefit of an interview, I had been stereotyped as someone who would not be seen as Independent, and presumably as being incapable of being Independent. Utilising the ancient art of rubbing salt into the wound they later recirculated the same job vacancies emphasising that they would like applications from Solicitors. I gave up at that point and made a brew.
Then we had Mrs Theresa May’s decision/agreement not to introduce Compulsory Severance “for now“. “I have decided to accept the Tribunal’s recommendation not to implement measures to introduce compulsory severance at this time.
“However, this remains a reform that I believe government and the police should continue to consider. I have written to the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) to explain my decision in further detail.”
Then she went on to kick the officers on Restricted Duties; the Tribunal accepted a varied definition on Winsor’s Recommendation 39 from the Official Side of the PNB. This means that officers who are unable to undertake “the full range of duties of a police officer” will be regarded as being on restricted duty.
As a result, officers on restricted duties who are not fully deployable after one year should face a pay cut of around £2,922.
But the good news is that it has been alleged that she has told Tom Winsor NOT to wear his ridiculous fancy dress outfit at the National Police Memorial Day events ever again. It remains to be seen if he he dusts it off and brings it out again for any other occasion.
Fast Forward to Friday night and a discussion about Advanced Drivers and Fast Cars. I cannot believe what I was being told about what some Forces are doing in cutting back the number of Advanced Drivers (and cars) from their strengths. One officer even told me that some Forces even have “No Pursuit Capability”. What kind of nonsense is this? I thought the Front Line was being Protected? Is being an active Advanced Driver not Front Line Policing? Skills will be lost, officers will be demotivated and the public will suffer. As somebody said to me last night, “it’s not about the toys, it’s about retaining skills” and hence the service to the public. I intend to do some digging around numbers of Advanced Drivers and see what pops up.
Finally (mind you the week isn’t over yet) as I was trying to block out the noise of the wind and the rain and get some sleep, news came in that Mental Health Cop’s twitter account and Blog had been suspended, seemingly as part of an investigation by West Midlands Police about their use. I haven’t seen every single Tweet or Blog he wrote so I can’t really comment with any authority, but the feedback coming in last night and this morning was that this was one of THE most informative and well-used Twitter accounts and blogs of them all. Serving Police Officers and Members of the Public alike hold them in high esteem, and he seems to be the “Go To Guy” for any Police related Mental Health issues.
Well, let’s see what next week holds shall we?
And I haven’t forgotten the topsy turvy world of PC James Patrick. He was told this week that he no longer faces a charge of Gross Misconduct, ‘merely’ a charge of ‘simple’ Misconduct now. In one way that’s good news, but it is a bit of a double-edged sword, and if you go right back to the very beginnings there remain some unanswered legal questions that make me doubt whether the Met DPS has lost its collective marbles. James knows my views and I won’t repeat them here, but it’s added to a really ‘odd’ week for us all.
I was relaxing in Angry Towers this afternoon watching a Police documentary, Life On Mars I think it was called, when a Tweet from Dyfed-Powys PCC caught my eye.
Lay Custody Visitor – really didn’t fancy that, not my cup of tea at all.
Residents’ Panel – not a resident, I live the right side of Offa’s Dyke, so probably not eligible for that.
So that left the third and final opportunity – Animal Welfare Lay Visitor. “Each dog handler receives a visit from the Independent Animal Welfare Lay Visitor at least once a year“. I could do that, Gizz A Job. 30 years unblemished service in the Met (if you don’t count the time I had Defendants after my name, but that worked out OK in the end. Served in a few highly specialised posts, although there was that one time when I was paper-sifted out of a position at Buckingham Palace when I was the only applicant. I wasn’t overly impressed at the time, but I look upon it as a reference now. Three years working for the Police Authority as a Forensic Bean Counter. I’ve owned hamsters, gerbils, terrapins, tropical fish and even the occasional dog. I’d be perfect for the role.
I set about downloading the associated paperwork and found an all-crippling paragraph under the title of ELIGIBILITY
“The Scheme Administrator will not appoint magistrates, serving or former police officers, special constables or police support staff, as Animal Welfare Visitors”
Why-ever not? “Each application will be treated on its merits, but the over-riding factor will be to prevent possible conflicts of interest for individuals and to maintain the independence and integrity of the Scheme as a whole”
Well I can’t say that I’m over-impressed with that. Does it say the same for Lay Custody Visitor? No it does not, well not exactly, it says “Is not a serving member of a police force or Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner, and have no involvement in the criminal justice system”
So there you have it, PCC’s revenge. Apparently I’m a fit and proper person to check up on the well-being of prisoners but not Police Dogs. Does this mean that Police Dogs are more highly-regarded than prisoners? I sincerely hope not, although I do regard Police Dogs very highly. #DontDitchTheDogs. What exactly does that say about me? I’m a tad peeved now.
So I’ll just have to get back to Life on Mars and learn just how Policing should be done.
Somewhere round about the middle of December I wrote about the loneliness of the Rural Police Officer in Dyfed Powys Police. You can find it here if you haven’t already read it.
Then I found this article here about how the Dyfed Powys PCC has secured £44,000 in funding to set up a Centre of Excellence for Rural Policing,
First off, I am in no way opposed to Excellence in Rural Policing, or Urban Policing, or indeed Inner City Policing. What I am opposed to is people scoring cheap political points using smoke and mirrors.
So, Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon (who is a Conservative PCC) has secured almost £44,000 from the College of Policing to launch a Centre for Rural Policing and Justice. Dyfed-Powys Police will collaborate with the Cardiff-based Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) and others to start a high-level network to develop new expertise in keeping rural communities safe from crime. Mr Salmon said: “The work we do with UPSI and others will lead to people in some of our most isolated areas feeling safer. No mention of his officers feeling safer though. “This collaboration will initially build new working relationships between academic establishments, Dyfed-Powys Police and my office”
The key collaborative approach is one of a partnership between the Commissioner’s office, Dyfed-Powys Police and UPSI.
The wider collaborative approach will involve a network between academic institutions across Wales, such as Aberystwyth University and University of Wales Trinity Saint David, using a mixture of skills and expertise. It will also incorporate organisations from the voluntary and private sectors.
Mr Salmon has committed £5,000 to the centre’s launch costs of around £49,000. Even £49,000 doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but if Mr Salmon can obtain real benefits at such a low cost all power to his elbow, as we say this side of Offa’s Dyke.
Still no mention of anything practical. And how much Excellence can you get for £49k anyway? Not very much I suspect.
My issue is simply this; is the Dyfed Powys PCC already demonstrating his commitment to Excellence in his own, rural Force? 4,000+ square miles that contain 514,938 people. Now I make that ONE Police Officer per 463 people, or 2.2 Police Officers per 1,000 population. Just over 2 Police Officers TOTAL per 1,000 head of population, take away Shifts, Abstractions, Leave and Sickness and you could easily be down to 1 Police Officer per 3-4,000 head of population. Is that Excellence I ask? One of the main concerns of a large, rural Force HAS to be the safety of its Community AND its officers. Do these figures demonstrate a commitment to the safety of Community and Officers? I have to say I don’t know the answer, so I ask the question.
I have no 1st hand experience of Rural Policing, but I know a man who has, and what I hear does not make for comfortable listening. Bronwyn in the Dyfed Powys HQ Canteen is forever telling me how her boyfriend Dai is frequently the only officer on duty in a patch covering hundreds of Square Miles. She worries for his safety, quite naturally. Can Dai keep the residents of Dyfed Powys safe when he’s the only officer on duty for miles around. I know we can’t open another box of Policemen every time we run out, but we can do small things to improve the situation.
For a start the PCC could commission a professional, INDEPENDENT, study of the merits of single-crewing versus double crewing, particularly in isolated areas and on Nights etc.. PCC, Chief Constable and Fed should all sign up to be bound by its findings, the PCC and Chief Constable do have a Duty of Care to their employees after all, and this should not be forgotten or under-estimated.
I’m obviously getting too old for all of this, it all sounds like so much Psychobabble to me. If you, my reader, spots a nugget of real, practical, tangible benefit in this please let me know. If you, Mr Salmon, want to convince me that I’m old and cynical, and I’ve got this all wrong, I will quite happily remove this blog and replace it with one promoting this scheme, and I will circulate it to anyone who wants to read it, but I suspect that I will never hear from you. I do think however, that any Centre of Excellence for Rural Policing has to produce benefits for your officers and staff, as well as the greater public.
Just one last thing before I go. Who is it that sets, or recommends, the ratio of Police OFFICERS (don’t include civilian support staff please) to 1,000 head of population? What should it be for Dyfed Powys? Or do we just wing it and hope we’ve got it right?
Having reduced Police Officer strengths below what they need to achieve by 2015, they now propose reducing Police Staff strength by more than 10%. I’m not sure how that improves efficiency or serves and protects the public.
I’m bloody glad I’m a crusty old Pensioner. Happy New Year to Dyfed Powys Police and their Public
A little while ago I wrote a blog about the Dyfed Powys PCC and some of the claims that he had made on at least two websites that he was associated with. Maybe I should point out that neither of these websites was the official PCC website, one was his own blog and the other Conservativehome, maybe that’s significant, I don’t know.
I took exception to some of the things he stated and sent off a few Freedom of Information requests to see if his claims really held water. I won’t bore you with most of them, but you can read them here if you want to.
One of the four proved to be a little more of a stickier than the rest, and that was ‘Training’.
To avoid being accused of fudging the issue and other things I’ll confine myself to direct quotes to get my point across, I hope you will understand and forgive me.
In his own blog Mr Salmon said “I have removed all targets from my police force. We have spent millions training the police to cut crime. They know how to do it. Why then tie them to their desks filling in paperwork?”
In the Conservativehome website this is slightly reworded as “I have removed all targets from my police force. The police know their job is to cut crime. We have spent millions training them to do it. Why then tie them to their desks filling in paperwork?”
We have spent millions training them how to cut crime. Not much room for confusion there surely? Mr Salmon and Dyfed Powys Police have spent millions of pounds training their officers how to cut crime? Is that a reasonable interpretation?
So I put it to the test, I fired off an #FOI request to the office of the Dyfed Powys PCC and asked two simple questions;
a) in 2012/13 How much money was spent in total training Police Officers to cut or reduce crime;
b) What innovative training, or training unique to your Force, have you personally introduced since you became the PCC?
In relation to b) I got the following response ” I can confirm that the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner does hold this information.
Although the Commissioner has overall responsibility for Dyfed-Powys Police, he has not personally introduced any training. Dyfed-Powys Police Force owns the training plan for the organisation.” So, no innovative or unique crime reduction training introduced by the PCC? Fair?
a) got far more complicated.
“a) I can confirm that the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys does not hold information in relation to how much money was spent in training Police Officers in 2012/13. This information will be with Dyfed-Powys Police Force.” So, the PCC’s office doesn’t actually KNOW how how much money was spent training officers in Crime Reduction. Does that seem like a reasonable interpretation?
The helpful staff at the PCC’s office then offered to transfer the request over to Dyfed Powys Police for them to answer it. Very nice of them I thought.
Yesterday they replied;
“‘All corporate training provided by Dyfed-Powys Police to Police Officers within the force is focused on force priorities to reduce crime and protect our communities’. However there is no specific breakdown of cost in relation to training police officers to cut or reduce crime.”
So, I think I have to conclude that Mr Salmon’s claims to have spent millions training the police how to reduce crime was a little naughty. Neither his own office nor Dyfed Powys Police actually knows how much money is spent on Crime Reduction Training.
Mr Salmon has been criticised and accused elsewhere of politicising the police. On the basis of my #FOI results I would have to agree. In Dyfed Powys at least their PCC seems quite happy to make political claims that maybe don’t quite stack up under scrutiny.
I see that the Dyfed Powys PCC is currently advertising a couple of Volunteer opportunities. I did consider applying for one of them, the dog section vacancy appealed to me, but I’m pretty sure I’d get paper-sifted now, and I don’t see me as a Custody Visitor really. But if Mr Salmon wants to contact me and offer me a volunteering opportunity with the Dog Section I’m sure I’d make a good Animal Welfare Lay Visitor.