Forthcoming PCC election

Current Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne (right) with a police officer

With the next elections for the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) scheduled for the May 7, 2020, I thought it appropriate to assist you the public of Sussex with a few facts and opinions which may assist you when you go to the polls. In the past, there has been a very low turn-out of voters, around 15% is the national average, at past elections which is a shame because the role is a critical one.

Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary created these roles. They replaced the former police authorities which were made up of a mix of local councillors and independents. Whilst there was office support, these individuals were paid expenses only and arguably provided a more accountable forum. The first PCC election was held in 2012 and then subsequently in 2016.

In the most basic terms, the role of the PCC is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing.

Since its inception, the Sussex PCC position has been held by Katy Bourne, a staunch Conservative politician and she intends to stand again in May. The fact that she is a politician means that she is in the majority. Out of 43 police forces, there are only three independent PCCs. The remainder are Conservative and Labour politicians. This, to my mind anyway, makes the PCC role a flawed concept in that it immediately puts day to day control of the police in the hands of politicians. The police should be above politics in my opinion and I firmly believe that the creation of PCCs was a deliberate act by David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, and Theresa May to gain control of policing.

The cost of the Office of the PCC in Sussex is not inconsiderable standing at around £1.6 million out of a total police budget of just under £250 million. The police budget is made up of a central government grant plus a local element raised through what is known as the council tax precept. Most recently the amount received from the government has been around £165 million with the remainder coming from council tax. 

So what have we, the local tax payers, been getting for our money? Well, I would argue not a great deal in all honesty as service levels have fallen dramatically since 2010. That date is critical because it coincides with the election of the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition and the so called period of austerity. When Mrs Bourne was first elected she claimed that coming from the world of business, she could see where savings in policing in Sussex could be made. She therefore threw herself behind Conservative government policy and was an overt supporter of Theresa May even being seen to hug the former Prime Minister as she left the stage at the Conservative party conference in 2018. Cynics might argue that there was a link between this support and the award of an OBE?! During the period 2010 – 2018 Sussex Police lost 700 police officers, a fifth of its overall strength. This position was reflected similarly nationally.

Katy Bourne “Intouch” newsletter from the 2016 election

So what has our PCC achieved in her 7.5 years in office? Well, she has presided over the greatest decline in service provision that Sussex Police has ever seen. Call handling in relation to the 101 number has been simply appalling with people having to wait an age to receive a reply. This has often been followed up with a failure by the police to attend and deal with incidents reported including instances of household burglary and vehicle crime. In the meantime, our PCC has been busy pursuing her own agenda in relation to national policing priorities involving modern day slavery and stalking. The irony regarding the latter subject is that Sussex Police’s performance in regard to protecting vulnerable people has been poor and has been commented upon nationally through Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS). Who can forget the case of Shana Grice and there have been a number of others. Their most recent report, February 2020, still shows Sussex need to make considerable improvements.

What the PCC is very good at however is securing publicity for her so called good deeds. She is regularly featured in local news outlets as well as TV and radio. These instances often involve circumstances that should be the province of senior police officers as they involve operational policing matters which her role determines she should not have any part in. However, these opportunities provide her with an ideal political platform. This is also the case as regards hers and the chief constable’s regular use of so called “virtue signaling” and supporting issues regarding so called hate incidents to the detriment of other more fundamental policing issues. Does this impress us when policing is failing? Probably not I would suspect.

Her messaging is often totally unreliable as well as her figures. In saying this, I would urge readers to remember the old adage of, “lies, damn lies and statistics!” She continues to state that by 2022, Sussex Police will have an “additional 350 police officers and 100 PCSOs”. However, due to retirements and resignations, the net overall gain in terms of officer numbers since recruitment began in earnest in 2018 has been just over 100. By my reckoning therefore it will take 14 years to get Sussex back to the numbers it had in 2010. Also, why does she push for the recruitment of PCSOs? No other forces are and certainly not our neighbours in Kent. PCSOs do not possess the same powers as police officers and are at best a uniformed presence with the greatest of respect to them as individuals.

She also places great emphasis on her polls and focus groups which she uses to justify many of her decisions as well as council tax precept increases. However, these are only open to small numbers in the case of the polls and a selected audience as regards her focus groups. This is hardly representative of the Sussex public I would argue. This fact was acknowledged by the Sussex Crime Panel which oversees the PCC when I wrote to them complaining about this.

There is a lack of confidence both within as well as outside of Sussex Police. I have this at first hand from serving officers and staff as well as reading messages on public forums. In conclusion therefore, I would urge you to think carefully and to use your vote wisely when the PCC elections arrive.

Image Credits: David McHugh , Katy Bourne http://www.katybourne.com/wp-content/uploads/Katy-Bourne-PCC-2016-newspaper.pdf.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with all your comments and would go so far as to say that the Sussex Police, since a PCC was appointed, has nose dived so far that it is unrecognisably as the force I was not so long ago proud to be a member. Almost on a daily basis I hear from members of the public how little faith they have in the Police today. Why doesn’t the Chief Constable take back responsibility for his Polce force, and if we must have a PCC restrict her to her role which in my humble opinion is to assist and not run the force.

  2. The malaise of the police force started long ago. When I joined a local force in the mid-1960s most of the senior officers had served in the armed forces, some during WW2 and their discipline, attitude and authority showed through, they commanded respect and it was willingly given to them. They were copper’s coppers, the sort of leaders that the lower ranks would follow through thick and thin and learn from.
    In the 1970s a graduate entry scheme was introduced whereby people with a degree, though unskilled in the university of life, were accepted into the force to gain a lifetime of experience by being attached to each department for six months. Their promotion to senior ranks followed as night follows day, it was assured.
    Not having the armed forces background that had hardened their predecessors the force started to weaken, hence the change from a force to a service, with the consequence loss of authority on the streets.
    The comments I receive from both retired and serving officers is that the police have now become an extension of the social services, something that is regularly borne out by news reports in the national media.
    The local PCC Katy Bourne seems to focus on and promote ad nauseum initiatives that should be the province of social services. I know from experience that the police have to initially get involved with social matters, children who have run away from home, domestic disputes and distressed people, but these are not usually a continuing police matter. Police are in being to protect life and property and once there is no risk to the person involved it is no longer a police matter.
    Because of left-leaning senior officers and similarly minded PCCs the police have become seriously weakened. It is time for a change.
    In 2016 I went to a presentation where the prospective candidates for the position of PCC were addressing the meeting. All but one were backed by political parties and I have to say that the only person who made an impression on me came from a very minor political party, but talked a lot of sense. That person was head and shoulders above the rest but did not win the election.
    We now have a government that, although still finding its’ feet, is stronger than any we have had for several decades, let us hope that the overall scrutiny of policing matters is wrested from the hands of would-be politicians and handed back to local professional and lay people who are not looking to build their own empire, but will encourage the local police force to become stronger, to fight crime and protect the public, something that over the years has become seriously lacking.

    • It’s easy to look back through rose tinted glasses but let’s be honest.
      To Quote:-
      “Between 1969 and 1972, initially following an exposé in The Sunday Times, scores of detectives would go to jail; hundreds more policemen would be forced to resign.

      The Drug Squad detective “Nobby”‘ Pilcher, featured in A Song from Dead Lips, was one of those who would be prosecuted.

      In September 1973 Detective Sergeant Norman Clement “Nobby” Pilcher was convicted on a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice after it became clear that he was extorting money from victims he had framed for drug offences. In a five year career on the Drug Squad, Pilcher was responsible for arresting Donovan, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, George Harrison and John Lennon for drug offences.

      Sentencing him, Justice Melford Stevenson said, “You poisoned the wells of criminal justice and you set about it deliberately.”

      The “coathanger” operations, featured in A Song From Dead Lips were also commonplace, as well as the widespread practice of “fitting up” suspected criminals in order to either extort protection money for them, or simply convict them of crimes that the police had not otherwise solved.

      The Sunday Times investigation as followed by Sir Robert Mark’s deep reforms of the Metropolitan Police and were bitterly resented by many serving officers at that time”.

  3. When the Police forces were originally set up by the notably non-left-wing leaning Tory Sir Robert Peel, they were deliberately given ranks, sergeant excepted, that didn’t mirror those of the armed forces, because the army was quite rightly deemed to be totally the wrong model or inspiration for a civilian police force. There were real fears of a paramilitary police force!
    It should be noted that of the 36 police commissioners in England, 4 are independent of even the most minor political party, 12 are Labour and 20 are Conservatives, so if Mr Came believes that the nation’s police forces have been weakened by Police Commissioners, then just a quick glance at the evidence clearly shows the blame lies with right-leaning political appointments!

  4. I reported on 101 an instance of dangerous driving or anti social under which reports are classified. A month later it was ‘pending’ one assumes because no action had been taken. An offender could get married and have his first child before 101 goes into action. I no longer bother reporting any of the idfiots who infest our roads and object to the Crime Commissioner fielding cries de coeur under the “It’s an operational matter” and sitting back while the square root of damn all happens by way of constructive response.

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