To start you thinking about who to vote for I’ve compiled a summary of the six Thames Valley candidates’ statements from www.policeelections.com. It’s my personal selection from their profiles and views: I’ve tried to be neutral but you (and they) may criticise or disagree with my choices. At the end I’ve put two questions to the candidates which I’ve invited them to answer.
- Patience Awe, Independent
- Background: Worked in various sectors, as a front office cashier, teacher, insurance marketing executive, banker, software tester, IT Capacity Planner, Project Manager. Also served as a Charity Trustee.
- Headlines: Keep party politics out of policing. Rebuild trust – mutual respect between the Police and the public, so local people can be represented impartially.
- Top 3 crime priorities: Set up rape crisis centres where needed in Thames Valley eg Reading, tackle causes of anti-social behaviour and crime against properties. Be mindful of the fact that, I have to first engage with the press and public, review the police crime plan and budget, engage with community partnerships, review processes and procedures before implementation.
- Barry Cooper, UKIP
- Background: No professional experience with the criminal justice system. Look at the issues and realities facing the police with an unprejudiced and fresh pair of eyes.
- Headlines: Oppose cuts in police funding. Put rights of victim above rights of offender. Tough on crime.
- Top 3 crime priorities: A zero-tolerance approach to “gateway” level crime such as anti-social behaviour and so-called “petty” crime. A reduction of response times for crime callouts so that people who are the victims of crime receive prompt and efficient help from the police. A reduction of the number of reported crimes that go un-investigated; the current rates are inexcusable and largely due to resources that should be focused on police work chasing traffic offense quotas or filling out endless reams of paperwork.
- Geoff Howard, Independent
- Background: No information on www.policeelections.com, but the Green Reading blog says he is or was a Slough Borough councillor for 13 years, now estate agent.
- John Howson,LibDem
- Background: Former teacher, lecturer, business owner, and government adviser with more than 20 years experience of criminal justice system.
- Headlines: Policing by consent. Building trust.
- Top 3 crime priorities: Working with the Chief Constable and other agencies on how to prevent crime, increasing detection rates to the best possible levels across the force with the resources available, and ensuring everyone who is a victim of crime is dealt with to the same level by the police.
- Anthony Stansfeld, Conservative
- Background: Soldier, aviator, explorer, businessman, councillor, and an experienced member of the Police Authority.
- Headlines: Member of the Police Authority for past 6 years. Responsible for introducing Neighbourhood Policing. Chaired the Performance Committee which sets the police targets and monitors performance.
- Top 3 crime priorities: Household burglary, rural crime including metal theft, Anti Social behaviour.
- Tim Starkey, Labour
- Background: Barrister: experience working both as a prosecutor and a defence lawyer. Advised on criminal justice policy.
- Headlines: Strong opponent of 20% police cuts, also advocate of reforms to modernise police service. Building parnerships with other agencies. Crack down on waste.
- Top 3 crime priorities: 1) Working with councils and the voluntary sector to tackle anti-social behaviour and find positive alternatives for young people 2) Working to reduce drug addiction which is the cause of most burglaries 3) Support victims of domestic violence thus securing more convictions.
Finally I’d like to ask the candidates two questions. I hope they will all enter into the spirit and engage in the debate.
- The Chief Constable of the Thames Valley Police is looking at ways to increase the deployment of tasers. What are your views on this?
- If you are elected how many support staff will you have? What will the budget be for your office?
6 thoughts on “Two questions for PCC candidates”
Personally, I am in favour of armed police. In some ways I am more in favour of firearms than tasers – the “permanency” of employing a firearms makes officers more cautious in their use, and firearms represent a far more effective visual deterrent to criminals.
That being said, I would not impose weapons of any sort on officers who did not wish to carry them. This is another area where I would leave it to democratic process – in this case the police themselves should decide. I think Sara Thornton’s consultation is a mature and reasonable response to the issue. As PCC I would support them in whatever they decide, and if that means more tasers, then I would do everything I could to facilitate that.
It would be a foolish PCC who tries to construct an entire administration out of whole cloth days after taking office.
The PCC will “inherit” the administrative staff from the TVPA, who will provide continuity during the period of transition. We are also required by law to very quickly appoint a Chief Executive and a Chief Financial Officer, both of which have to be non-political. I would imagne that they are likely to come from the ranks of the “inherited” infrastructure.
I intend to appoint a Deputy PCC – David Kennedy, a man with 8 years in the army, 32 years in the prison service (including stints as governor of 3 institutions) and some time spent with the UN managing Yugoslavian war criminals. The UN are still after him for his expertise, and I am very lucky to have him on board – he knows what works, and what does not, when it comes to the criminal justice system.
Beyond that it is difficult to say since the exact requirements of the role are hard to quantify in an absolute sense and one is in the job. I can promise that any appointments will not be frivolous or spendthrift – every person I employ will be employed solely on the basis that their work would allow me to maximize my efforts and provide the best value from my work hours to the tax payers who are my pay-masters.
I am not in favour of arming the police like the UKIP candidate. His arm but allow to say no policy wouldn't work in an organisation like the police.
I posted figures for taser deployment and use on http://www.johnhowson.com at http://www.johnhowson.com/featured/479/ I am unclear why extra deployment needed if actual use so low. But, they may be a deterrent. However, CC decides operational issues. As PCC I would review existing guidelines if set by previous Police Authority and if necessary discuss rationale for use. Report mentioned on web site will land on PCC's desk within first month.
I would hope TVP would not use in circumstances suggested elsewhere in England earlier this week.
As to staffing. Police Authority spent £1.8mn. I would have to have a chief executive, a deputy and a finance officer, but communications with public and others might take up considerable staffing resources. The size of TV might generate upwards of 1,000 emails a day based upon the number received by some MPs, and there are 20 constituencies in TVP let along media requests.
I would like policy advisers relating to police, councils and other public bodies, the 3rd sector, and the wider community. Some could be graduate students undertaking policy research who might like practical experience or seconded staff.
But, with largest police force outside the cities TV's PCC is not going to be able to do the job properly without a staff unless they disappear from view like the current Police Authority. Visibility and accountability come at a price and probably the better you are the higher the price. There is also the relationship with the oversight panel to deal with. However, exact staffing is a matter for consideration once the scope of the job becomes clearer.
1) I do not support a general roll out of tasers to all officers. Firstly, it would change the nature of policing and the relationship between police and public and, secondly, it would be far too expensive to be realistic at the present time. However, I support the Chief Constable's decision to look at extending the use of Tasers beyond armed response units to consider, for example, having 1 or 2 officers in each neighbourhood policing team who were armed in this way.
The working party examining this will have to carefully consider the best way to make sure, on the one hand, that officers have the capacity to protect themselves and, on the other, that tasers are used sparingly and by properly trained officers. Over the last 10 years in the USA 500 people have been killed by police operated tasers. We must make sure that is not repeated in the UK! Ultimately, the question of deployment of tasers will be an operational one for the Chief Constable, but I will make sure that the public are consulted and that safeguards are in place.
2) Currently there are 10 full time and 4 part time staff supporting the existing Police Authority which PCCs will replace. However, the PCCs remit will go wider than the existing Police Authorities including, for example, having responsibility for services related to victims and crime reduction. Realistically, therefore, it will be necessary for this team to increase to a small extent to cover these new responsibilities. I do not have details of the costs of the current office and so am unable to give a precise figure in answer to your question. However, it would be a tiny fraction of TVPs annual £370 million budget.
Tasers – I do have considerable doubts on increased use of tasers. Why do we suddenly need more of them?
On staff – Until the PCC is in office it is not possible to fully answer this question. The PCC will take over the existing Police Authority staff, and there will be a move of staff from the Chief Constable's staff to the existing staff, notably the PR function. There is no specific budget allocation, but overall spend should not go up.
Patience Tayo Awe, Independent candidate has sent me this response to my questions and has given permission for me to post it here:-
No doubt the deaths of police officers Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Manchester have re-ignited the taser discussions. I do not think rolling out tasers is what we need. I even gathered the late officers had tasers on them, but were unable to use them. I want us to intensify effort in dealing with the causes of crime. Not happy with a tit-for tat tactic.
I understand why it is being considered and I will support the outcome of the consultation because operational decisions will be outside my remit. I am concerned it will do more harm than good. The police will be held accountable for their actions and decisions. The law says innocent until proven guilty, thus the officers will have to use sound judgement at all times. Poor judgement, smear cover up tactics etc will not be accepted. For instance, a police officer is facing an investigation for tasering a 61-year-old blind stroke victim after he mistook his stick for a samurai sword within the last two weeks. Surely, one can tell the difference. I also would have thought an officer should be able to overpower a blind 61 year old man without using taser.
I want to build confidence and trust between the police and the public. The public will be turned off if the police are bracing themselves for war.
In terms of staff strength and cost, I need to assess the workload and the interested potential staff before making an informed decision.
Anthony, easy to say the overall spend should not go up, but at hustings in Reading you stated that:
1) You would want to have a driver and car
2) You would like to have offices at more than 1 location
If those costs are added on, how will you stop overall spend from going up?
On tasers, to clarify, if the outcome of the consultation was that a small increase in the numbers of tasers was needed, would you block this? As this is an operational decision, surely you wouldn't be able to do so?
Finally, can I recommend to all candidates that they discuss this issue (as I have) with Thames Valley Police Federation. Of course, TVP Fed's views should not be decisive, other experts and the public must be listened to as well, but it is important to understand the views of ordinary officers on this issue.
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