#AllInItTogether or Once Upon A Time

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

https://twitter.com/ChrisTRSalmon/status/564018319154774018

This was followed by a challenge from one of our number

To which, the reply was;

I couldn’t resist, so I had to chip in with

To his eternal credit, he came back to me this comprehensive reply

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

The Shrinking Police Service Is a Bit Closer To Home Now

BBC News – West Mercia Police cuts the number of stations with public counters.

 

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.

It’s Been A Funny Old Week

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?

ADDENDUM

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.

So, the Force With 2 Officers Per 1,000 Head of Population Is Getting A Rural Policing Centre Of Excellence

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?

Have I Got This Right?

Or am I completely barking?

Police Officers are being moved out of ‘back room’ jobs and put back on the beat where they have always belonged, right?  No arguement there.

Police Staff (Civvies or Civilian Support Staff) then spread themselves more thinly to cover for the Police Officers who have been redeployed onto Beat Duties, right?

Then in whose world does it make sense to shed Police Staff jobs when they’ve just spread themselves more thinly to take up the slack?  Because that’s exactly what the Chief Constable and PCC of Dyfed Powys Police proposes to do.

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

Are the Police Being Politicised? – The Results Are In

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.

Oh Dear, Have I Upset Someone?

I was minding my own business a couple of days ago, enjoying the sunbed at Angry Towers prior to going to the gym for a workout when the phone rang. It was Blodwyn, one of the canteen ladies at Dyfed Powys Police HQ. She had overheard part of a conversation in the Senior Officers’ Dining Complex and thought I ought to know.

If Blodwyn is correct, seems their PCC  might have been just a little bit miffed by my recent #FOI requests.  Well it was never my intention to miff anyone,  but as Mr Salmon is a Tory PCC and stands accused by others of politicising the police I thought it was reasonable to probe the veracity of his claims.

Since I received the replies to my requests, Mr Salmon’s office have published 3 out of 4 of the requests and responses on their Twitter account. No sign of the one on Targets at the time of writing but I’m sure it will follow soon.

Then I had a cynical moment. I get them every now and again, I just have to learn to live with them.

Are the responses published by the Office of the PCC the same as the responses sent to me? They SHOULD be, so I took a look.

Well I’m happy to report that they were the same, except my details had, quite rightly, been redacted, although I stand by my original opinion that the responses have shown that Mr Salmon himself has politicised his Police Force by virtue of the claims he has made and the blogs he has written, and also the people he swaps Tweets with (see below)

But, in checking, I noticed something that WAS always included but I had not noticed as I concentrated on the headline figures of the cost of running the PCC’s Office versus the old Police Authority.

The bottom of the response included these paragraphs;

” (i) For further information on this decision, please view the Decision Log.

(ii) A decision was made to support the early retirement of the Director of Finance and Resources in the interests of efficiency. Following a review of business support undertaken on behalf of the Commissioner earlier this year, consideration was given to senior management structures and current distribution of Chief Officer Portfolios. A decision was made to advertise for a Director of Resources. For further information on this decision, please view the Decision Log.

(iii) A decision was made to support the early retirement of the Chief Executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in the interests of efficiency. A new post of Chief of Staff was established. This post is an amalgamation of both the Chief Executive and Assistant Chief Executive posts. For further information on this decision, please view the Decision Log.”

Being a curious bunny I followed the link, and found not a Decision Log but a report to the Police and Crime Panel about the appointment of the new Chief Constable and invitation for them to endorse the appointment of Mr Simon Prince.

So, being a generous soul, I assume that someone, somewhere linked to the wrong document, that report does not resemble any Decision Log that I have ever seen.

And then I discovered that Irony exists within the office of the Dyfed Powys PCC.  Looking at the timeline of their official Twitter Account. I saw 4 Tweets that took my attention;

1) OPCC for Dyfed-Powys@DPOPCC 5:25 PM 8 Nov Online now: #FoI response on OPCC transparency bit.ly/HtuBRk  (I’m guessing that this is the #FOI Request of Bernard Rix  )

2) John Davies@JohnDavies8951 10:30 PM 7 Nov @gdprice28 @ChrisTRSalmon @DPOPCC But how much did the Support for the early retirements cost in pay-offs? #goldenhandshake

3) OPCC for Dyfed-Powys@DPOPCC 4:26 PM 8 Nov @JohnDavies8951 Our legal team advise us that that information is confidential.

4) John Davies@JohnDavies8951 4:32 PM 8 Nov @DPOPCC @gdprice28 No surprise there then – in other words #hushmoney as well as #goldenhandshake

So much for Transparency then

Then just as I was rinsing the ink out of my quill, Blodwyn rang me back and said she’d heard somewhere that PSD were looking at folks’ Twitter accounts. Whether there is any connection between this (if indeed it is happening, I’ve only got Blodwyn’s word for this) and my rather irksome requests of the PCC I don’t know, but as I don’t have any connection with his Force whatsoever that would, indeed, be unfortunate and unfair. Maybe Blodwyn’s wrong, who knows?

Also, whilst rummaging around the various timelines I discovered a healthy interaction between Christopher Salmon and Policy Exchange, they seem to be members of a Mutual Admiration Society, Tweeting and Re-Tweeting each other’s views. Policy Exchange seem to be of the opinion that 1 year later Police and Crime Commissioners have been a huge success.  Well they would say that wouldn’t they? PCCs were their idea!!   Do they think that we’re daft?

Enjoy your weekend.