The Appointment of Mr Tom Winsor as Chief Inspector HMIC

Hello again friends,

I want to start by making it quite clear that neither this blog, nor my previous one on Mr Tom Winsor is a personal attack on him, with the sole exception of the fact that I do not rate the standard of his research very highly.  However the Olympics are upon us, G4S are rightly taking a lot of flak and Tom Winsor’s appointment to HMIC is in danger of being forgotten.

This blog is intended solely to address the issues surrounding his selection and the process involved.

Personally I find it quite bizarre that there seems to be an official campaign run by the Home Office to prevent us from knowing who the unsuccessful candidates were. Short List, Long List, it’s all been kept under wraps.  Nailing my colours to the mast I belong firmly in the camp that thinks that the Chief Inspector HMIC should have relevant ‘Policing Experience’. I’m quite happy to leave it to others to define that, but if I was suddenly appointed Chief Executive of Transport for London I wouldn’t have a clue what I was doing and quite rightly the Staff, the Public and my fellow Directors would wonder what on earth was going on and how did I get the job?  My reply of “It’s alright I’m going to ask Blakey the Bus Inspector when I get a bit stuck” wouldn’t go down very well I’m sure.  When Mr Winsor wrote his Independent Review he had Sir Edward Crew on his team to advise him in all things Policing.  Is that sufficient for HMIC?  I don’t think so, but what do you think?

Under the Freedom of Information Act I have asked the Home Office the following;

In relation to Tom Winsor’s selection as Preferred Candidate for
the post of Chief Inspector of Constabulary can you please supply
me with all documentation exchanged between the Home Secretary and
any other officials within the Home Office recorded in hand-written
copy, email, minutes of meetings, letters, notes and any other form
of documentation either in hard copy or electronic form which
relate to his selection for this post. This should specifically
include minutes of all meetings held by the selection panel and any
notes made by members of the selection panel

Could you also please supply me with the names of all persons who
sat on the selection panel for this post.

Now I would have thought that this was a perfectly reasonable request to make.  Surely I’m not the only person who wanted to satisfy themselves that the process had been open, fair and above-board?  I didn’t know who any of the other candidates had been (I thought I had included that in my request but apparently I didn’t).  I had heard a few rumours about who two of them MIGHT have been but nothing substantiated.

The response I got to this request was this;

Dear Mr Wright, 
I am writing further to my letter of 25 June 2012 about your following request – 
“In relation to Tom Winsor’s selection as Preferred Candidate for the post of Chief
Inspector of Constabulary can you please supply me with all documentation
exchanged between the Home Secretary and any other officials within the Home
Office recorded in hand-written copy, email, minutes of meetings, letters, notes and
any other form of documentation either in hard copy or electronic form which relate
to his selection for this post. This should specifically include minutes of all meetings
held by the selection panel and any notes made by members of the selection panel.

Could you also please supply me with the names of all persons who sat on the
selection panel for this post.”

Your request has been handled as a request for information under the Freedom of 
Information Act 2000. 
We are considering your request.  Although the Act carries a presumption in favour 
of disclosure, it provides exemptions which may be used to withhold information in 
specified circumstances.  Some of these exemptions, referred to as ‘qualified 
exemptions’, are subject to a public interest test.  This test is used to balance the 
public interest in disclosure against the public interest in favour of withholding the 
information. The Act allows us to exceed the 20 working day response target where 
we need to consider the public interest test fully.   
The information you have requested is being considered under the exemption in 
section 36 of the Act, which relates to prejudice to the effective conduct of public 
affairs. This is a qualified exemption and to consider the public interest test fully we 
need to extend the 20 working day response period. We now aim to let you have a 
full response by 6 August. 

Now I’m a simple chap at heart, tend to speak a bit plain, and I don’t quite get it.  How on earth could my request be anything other than in the Public Interest.  How could it prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs to be open, honest and transparent.  I noticed that when Theresa May was asked a direct question recently as to the identities of the other candidates she dodged the issue and declined to answer the question.  I want to believe that we still live in a democracy, Theresa May recently announced an end to diktats. In her first speech as Home Secretary she said the following

The Policing Pledge, the national targets, the initiatives, the diktats and the red tape are all going. In their place, I have set the police one simple mission: to cut crime.

I have to point out at this stage (purely because the story amuses me, it isn’t relevant in any way) that I have met one of the alleged candidates.  The female Chief Constable of a large Constabulary was rumoured to be one of the unsuccessful candidates.  Well I had the pleasure of meeting that person one day when she was an ACC, my Det Ch Supt had an appointment with her regarding an issue which I shall not elaborate on.  For reasons best known to him he decided at the last minute to take me with him.  So there we were in the ACC’s office, me in my best jeans and T Shirt ad the ACC asking “Tea or Coffee gentlemen?” All it needed was the White Rabbit to complete the scene, quite surreal.  I found her to be nothing but charming and professional in her approach to the issue we were discussing and that is the only time we have spoken.  The other alleged candidates I have neither met nor spoken to.

I know of no reason why either of the other alleged Short List candidates would not have been suitable for the post.  I know of no reason why Mr Winsor would have been suitable for the post.  I was asked several years ago in my Police career if I would have a problem with a member of the civil staff doing my annual appraisal.  My response to that was (and still would be today) “Not at all just so long as he/she understands what I do”   Not an unreasonable response I don’t think, and my Annual Appraisal was never carried out by any member of the civil staff.  I would apply the same logic to the candidates for Chief Inspector HMIC.  “If they understand Policing and what it is about then no problem”.  Tom Winsor demonstrated that he didn’t understand Policing when he had to engage Sir Edward Crew to assist and advise him in compiling his report.  From the assorted bits of his report that I have read (and I freely confess that I haven’t read it all) it seems to me that he doesn’t have a grasp on Policing. He wants to reform something (or has been told to reform something) he doesn’t yet understand.  You can’t get that knowledge from reading a book, you have to live it.  I have heard it stated by my colleagues/companions “Policing is not a job, it’s a vocation”.  How very true.  I don’t know many lawyers who describe their chosen occupation as a vocation, except possibly practicing barristers occasionally.

I hear it all but it all sounds so hollow.  How can I have any confidence in the selection process for CIHMIC?  How can I have any confidence in the Home Office?  How can I have any confidence in Theresa May?  If you can think of a single thing that I have missed that would cause me to have confidence in any of those things please let me know, I promise to listen.

Well, that’s about it, a bit on the heavy side for my first week, but it helped me get a few things off my chest, hopefully it helped you get to know me and ‘how I roll’ a bit better.  It’s also intended to help our non-police colleagues better understand what is happening.

As a suitable post-script, I thought you might like to know that HMIC have joined the other bodies such as the Home Office who seem incapable of answering an FOI request within the legal time-frame.  Or maybe they just didn’t like being asked ‘How much is Tom Winsor’s pension>” and “How much does it cost to run HMIC each year, and what is your establishment?”

If you liked it tell your friends, if you didn’t like it, tell me.