This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

PCCs: the rarefied Westminster air is now thick with chickens coming home to roost.

The headlines this morning are all about the position of the South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner and calls for him to resign. Shaun Wright, former chair of the relevant council committee while the abuse was continuing, has reiterated his apology for the collective failure during his time of office in Rotherham. He has just resigned from the Labour Party and is now operating as an independent PCC. However he is (so far) refusing to reliquish his position as PCC. (Summary news here)

Commentary on this state of affairs is ballooning, including blog posts from my colleagues Bernard Rix and Sam Chapman. On Sam's blog, I have added this comment:
Whilst I have lots of sympathies with the points you make Sam, it is my understanding that the whole dire CSE business in Rotherham was well covered by the press before the election of PCCs and Mr Wright’s role as Chair of the relevant committee was also known. (Here is one blog post about the matter for example)
Despite this information being in the public domain, he ~was~ elected by the people – so he has their mandate.
Whilst I am happy to be corrected, I do not think this week’s report has revealed anything substantially more about his role in the whole business.
So on this basis, he (like all other PCCs) will account to his electorate in 2016, although now presumably as an independent candidate (he resigned from the Labour Party earlier this evening).
We all know how toothless the PCPs are – so they will huff and puff at their next meeting but it will make no difference. And as I have been told by many a supporter of PCC based governance, the ballot box every four years is the ultimate accountability… It is what PCCs were created for.
Now to be clear: I think his position as PCC will become increasingly tenuous but I won't predict whether Mr Wright will, in fact, resign or not. (I think he should.) I think matters could go either way. He would not be the first politician to brazen things out and wait for the media heat to dissipate. Like others, I will be watching this space. 

But whither... wither PCC based governance now?

Last week we had just over 10% of the electorate voting to replace (the irreplaceable) Bob Jones as the West Midlands PCC. This week we have this controversy over Mr Wright and his accountability. If the public didn't realise it yet, they will very soon understand just how much singular and unchecked power PCCs have. And of course we have a series of past (and pending) PCC stories which I can't even bother to list. 

As I have written before, all of my comments about PCC based governance have nothing to do with the fine quality of many PCCs themselves, who have been earnestly doing what they can to improve policing & public engagement. 

But... please can we now start thinking about how to reform police & crime governance properly. This requires serious analysis, careful thought and something more than just a tweaking of the existing legislation. 

Indeed if Mr Wright should now go as a result of his past role and leadership decisions, should there not be a similar accountability for those who designed this flawed model of governance in the first place?

PS: My next post will all be about the REAL issue: the abuse that happened, the imperative to support its victims and the pressing need to understand (really) how this appalling state of affairs was allowed to continue for so long with so many consequences...

PPS: I have decided to live tweet my reading of the Independent Report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham. You can follow this at #LTRR

UPDATE 1557 | 280814: Clairvoyance? And with reference to "should there not be a similar accountability for those who designed this flawed model of governance in the first place?" above, it would appear that Douglas Carswell has resigned from the Conservative Party and as MP for Clacton, to stand again as a candidate for UKIP. Perhaps he read what I wrote?(!)

Naturally, Mr Carswell and I disagree on many issues, but I do respect his decision to stand again and not just to switch parties.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

From nail varnish to victim blaming to... what?

A few days ago there was news of the invention of a nail varnish that changes colour on contact with certain 'date rape' drugs. It was billed as a technology to assist women in avoiding the consumption of so spiked drinks.

This proved to be controversial. For example this article poses the question: Why is it easier to invent anti-rape nail polish than find a way to stop rapists?

I posted a comment (along with 600+ others) which I republish here:

The short answer is that one is a relatively simple chemical reaction to detect the illegal spiking of drinks. The other is a feature of society that has been going on for thousands of years that has multiple and complex causes and consequences.

I would contend that the former is infinitely more simple that the latter and hence it will be always easier to invent.

This is not to say that that far more creative, political and economic energy should not be put into tackling rape: of course it should. And of course a nail polish is not the answer except in so far as it might help just one woman somewhere clock that her drink is dangerous (and perhaps many more women too).

And of course, no victims should be blamed. But to suggest that all precautionary measures taken to reduce one's chances of becoming a victim (of any crime including rape) are equivalent to victim blaming is, in my opinion, dangerously simplistic.

Would the author or other commenters condemn Narendra Modi for committing to having more toilets in rural areas and the schools of India as being party to victim blaming by seeking to ensure that fewer women and girls are vulnerable to attack? Of course it is not the whole solution! But it might help...?

Clearly there is debate to be had about what constitutes putting oneself at risk and everyone should be safe enough to drink, wear and go whatever they choose. And evidently also, far more needs to be done to hold rapists to account.

But I think criticising an earnest attempt to add a technological defence against some means of attack with nothing other than well worn platitudes seems to me to be tad unfair. Where is the ingenuity or invention in that?

So, can we have debate about what societal, policy and legal changes need to be implemented to reduce the incidence of rape? My manifesto would include making sex and relationship education in schools compulsory and as important as maths or English. And I would start this early in Primary schools.

I am sure there is more. What would the author of this article put in her manifesto? What would you add?


UPDATE 270814 | 1727: Here are the replies to my comment on the Guardian site

jonwilde > JonSHarvey

This.

Joe1178 > JonSHarvey

I would agree that such precautionary measures are in a sense to be welcomed. As you say, temporary defenses have their place while more entrenched cultural attitudes are addressed.

But there is a danger of a mindset further developing which, while perhaps not blaming victims exactly, accepts the inevitability of routine sexual assault as a fact of life and thus places responsibility on women.

I couldn't agree more that education is hugely important.

In fact, I'm not really disagreeing with much of your comment, just saying that we have to be careful not to give the wrong message.


OrkoStrikes > JonSHarvey

Couldn't agree more.

toveheights > JonSHarvey

"But to suggest that all precautionary measures taken to reduce one's chances of becoming a victim (of any crime including rape) are equivalent to victim blaming is, in my opinion, dangerously simplistic."

You are completely incorrect in this assertion. The psychological impact on a woman who has to consider while preparing for an evening out that she might be raped, instantly changes her perception of a pleasant evening out so that it becomes an act of risk taking. That she has to put on nail polish 'as a precaution' immediately puts her in the position of regarding herself as a potential victim- why would she do it if she didn't think it was likely that she would be attacked? Later while sharing a drink she has to consider if her drink has been contaminated, so she puts her finger in her drink to test it. At this point she has to divorce herself from the normal ambiance of socializing to consider whether someone is about to rape her.To expect young women to do this is to lock them in the tightest bonds psychologically and restrict their freedom to an unacceptable extent.

More young men are stabbed/attacked than any other group. I therefore propose that all men aged between 16 and 24 between the hours of 6pm and 3am should be required to wear a huge blow up suit of at least 30 cm depth that will inhibit the affects of a knife attack. They can wear this deflated, most of the time but should inflate it at the moment they think they will be attacked.


JonSHarvey > toveheights

I take your point about the psychological impact of taking preventative action to reduce ones chances of being subjected to crime: it does alter one's enjoyment of just 'being'.

But this is something that all of us live with to a greater or lesser extent dependent in part upon gender, but also many other factors. True, I do not go out contemplating I might be raped but I do worry about being subjected to road rage (it has happened to me) or being randomly assaulted in the street by a drunk person (also happened to me). These thoughts are the back of my mind, so I take action that I think reduces my chance of such events happening again. Clearly they are not the same as rape but I would contend that they are comparable.

Your suggestion that young men should wear inflatable suits though creative, is an interesting but unreal comparison, I feel.

And frankly I do not have any idea as to how big a problem date rape drugs are. How many cases have there been of where such chemicals have been used? I do not know. Do you?

My impression (and I am happy to be corrected) is that 'fear' of such drugs is far greater than the actual incidence. The way I see it, is that nail varnish (not necessarily applied in advance - but kept 'just in case') could tackle some of this fear and have the opposite effect that you contend.

In other words could the nail varnish make women feel less like potential victims rather than more - in the way that rape alarms do (I assume)? Perhaps some research is needed.

One test will be as to whether this product is bought or not.

Another possibility is that the existence of such a product might make the would-be date-rape-drug-rapists less inclined to use the drugs on the basis that they might be found out. Fear of detection (and the perception of the likelihood of such detection) is a big factor in deciding whether to commit a crime or not.

But I do not know.

But let's keep the dialogue going on what ALL the solutions might be. What would be in your manifesto?


toveheights > JonSHarvey

The 'inflatable suits was deliberately 'absurdist'. It mirrored my view that it is absurd to expect young women to wear the nail polish described- because it would be as inhibiting psychologically as such a suit would be physically.

Women are encouraged always to be aware of the possibility of rape- I suspect you became aware of physical attack after each occurred and consequently moderated your life- as we all would.

As far as 'a manifesto is concerned' it is never lost on me which gender [statistically] is more likely to rape, kill and harm. I don't have any particular incite regarding why men behave as they do in such numbers. Do you?


Not_a_shirker > Joe1178

But there is a danger of a mindset

It's a LOT less dangerous than the mindset that nobody should ever, ever, ever, EVER, ever take precautions, because it's always the rapists fault.

Which, to quote the wonderful post above, is dangerously simplistic.


JonSHarvey > toveheights

I do not think that anyone, including the people who have invented the nail polish, are 'expecting' women to wear it. I guess, if they have done their business planning and market research well enough, that they are hoping women will wish to wear / have it in sufficient numbers to make it a viable business. Time will tell.

I certainly do not 'expect' any women to wear it. Nor do I hope women will. I am glad that such a product exists so that women can choose to do so, and now have this possibility available to them. I presume you are in favour of women having a wider choice of options to be and feel safe - what ever those options are?

I agree, women/girls are warned of the possibility of rape / unwanted sex from a very young age in whole variety of ways from the media, literature, movies, parental messages etc etc. Again I assume you are in favour of women being aware of this risk. Although I would hope we would agree that warnings that inflate risk to unrealistic, disproportionate and disabling levels of fear are not to be encouraged.

And as a boy, I was made well aware of the risk of violence and harm coming to me from an early age as well. Much of my 'preventative' behaviour is based on theory not experience, thankfully. The incidents I mentioned of course raised my awareness but they are not the exclusive cause of my preventative behaviour as you might be suggesting.

My 'incite' (an interesting typo....) into why 'men' behave in such numbers is as limited as my insight into why people do a whole range of things that I cannot easily relate to such as shooting beautiful wild animals or following a football team for your entire life. (Neither of which I do, not have any desire to.)

But I don't think insight, as such, is what is required. I would contend that diligent social research, bold & creative policy initiatives, examining the female and male influences (or absence thereof) on small children (especially boys) when they are growing up from 0 - 10, understanding the impact of popular culture on what is seen as 'acceptable' etc etc are all places I would go.

Where would you go?

Or do you think it is only for men - due to their 'particular' insight - to be the only gender to come forward with the solutions?


Not_a_shirker > toveheights

Nobody "expects" young women to wear this nail polish.

Joe1178 > Not_a_shirker

Yes. 

Which is why I said that such precautionary measures are to be welcomed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A case for a lower speed limit in the rain?

I spent much of yesterday on motorways, surrounded by spray & grease. It got be wondering whether we should be considering introducing a lower speed limit on motorways and dual carriageways when it is so wet.

What do you think of this idea? Is it enforceable (how well do the French police enforce their law)? Would it make a difference to safety and consequent accidents?

Answers below.... thanks.

No Mr Hannan, it is not that we disdain democracy...

Daniel Hannan (Tory MEP) published an article in the Telegraph a couple of days ago entitled "Perhaps we secretly disdain democracy" as his commentary on the abysmal turnout in the recent West Midlands PCC by (b'bye?) election. Although it would seem that the original title was "Electing police chiefs was my idea - ouch" as that is the website address. I wonder why the title has been changed from the arguably more honest to the arguably 'disrespectful of the voter' title.

You need to read this article! It is clear that Mr Hannan believes that the fault with PCCs is nothing to do with his pure invention (you need to read his & Douglas Carswell's book: The Plan), but everything to do with the PCCs who "have had next to no impact", the officials who "were bent on their forgettable acronym", the "involvement of political parties" and timing (first November then August). Oh, and Ann Barnes whom he gracefully describes as "hapless, blustering, utterly lacking in self-awareness, the real-life David Brent".

Not me guv... is essentially the real title of the piece.

Oddly perhaps, I have a bit more faith in the British public who are, I believe, choosing not to engage with this democratic mirage because they have recognised this form of governance to be what it really is: risky, ineffectual and inappropriate.

There are some damn fine PCCs who are making their mark and raising issues that had hitherto been left somewhere in the 'to do' list. I commend those PCCs who are struggling with the weight of their role and still managing to influence the future of policing & criminal justice. In this blog post from a few months past, I sought to be balanced in my criticism of the role.

But, the writing must surely now be on the wall for PCCs: people are voting with their feet. And unlike Mr Hannan, I do not see the choice being only between the PCC based model of governance and a return to a police authority type model. There are many other ways to have both democratic accountability and a more solid form of governance that rests less on a single individual.

We have to start now properly debating what model of governance should replace PCCs.

Friday, August 22, 2014

West Mids PCC election: draft press statement by Home Secretary

Embargo: 1631 | 22 August 2014

I would like to warmly welcome the new Police & Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands, Mr [insert appropriate name here]. I look forward to working with him on tackling the considerable challenges facing policing in that area. Whilst I disagreed with Bob Jones on many issues, his tenure will be a very hard act to follow.

With regard to the record low electoral turnout of 10.32%: this is 4% more than I predicted yesterday! This is a significant achievement.

After all, yesterday was very sunny and I can imagine that the people of the West Midlands had better things to do. (After all, arranging a day trip to the polling station is not nearly as exciting as a trip to the local swimming baths.) But this is in no possible way, means that PCCs have fallen out of favour with the voting public. Far from it, only yesterday, I had two letters from PCCs in different parts of the country, telling me how many people they have shaken hands with at summer fêtes over the last few months.

But of course, August was a daft month in which to hold an election and I will be disciplining the civil servants responsible for drafting the statute that basically gave us no choice. [Especially after UKIP's insensitivity at calling for a election even before the previous PCC's funeral had occurred]*

And crime continues to fall of course, which I attribute to the ongoing success of PCCs.


>Ends<

*Note to editors: remove this bracketed comment if UKIP happen to have won the election - we don't want to start off on the wrong foot...!

UPDATED 1039 | 220814

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writer's block

It is August, it is sunny and I am still recovering from probably one to many pasties/pints of Rattler after returning from 10 days in Cornwall last week. Maybe it is that. Maybe it is a strong sense of weary déjà vu on so many issues around policing & criminal justice these days... Perhaps it is down to a growing deep sadness at the anomie across the world resulting in more and more tragic episodes of hate, violence & desperation.

I don't know. All I do know is that I am wrestling with writing another blog on topic at the moment. I am experiencing a sort of writers block. (I am still writing about other stuff: there is my 'leadership in films' series on one of my other blogs, of course.)

I will probably get over it in a couple of days... but crime, PCCs, community safety, criminal justice... what is there let to say...?

Please tell me!

PS: there is a PCC election in the West Midlands tomorrow. I wonder how many people will vote?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sepia policing: the Secret PCC hankers for the wild west

Ah, dear diary, as I was rearranging the model police cars on my desk before my annual leave, I caught the beginning of an episode of Alias Smith & Jones that ITV4 are currently showing. (Normally, of course, the TV in my office is tuned to BBC24 for breaking news about the world of crime busting and criminal justice developments!)

So I treated myself to a nostalgic story of how Hannibal Heyes & Kid Curry sailed close to the line of the law again. This got me to wondering, if we couldn't use some of the justice and sheriffing methods used in these stories to modern day policing.

So here are some of the ideas I am thinking of:
  • Police officers should wear their batons low on their hips in holsters, and we should organise quick on the draw competitions.
  • When people get into fights on the street, we should only arrest those who started the fight
  • We need to form intelligence networks with bar room floozies who clearly will know all that there is to know about what is going on in a town
  • We should believe people's stories and leave the lawyers out of the debates
  • We need more judges and magistrates who have the Wisdom of Solomon and leave them to make decisions that often bend the law but are the right decisions
  • Outlaws should be able to earn their amnesty by staying out of trouble
  • We need to reinstate the police mounted division
  • Boots and gloves look mighty fine and cool so they should become a standard part of police uniform
  • Could we use posses more?
Anyway, I will mull on these ideas as I sip my hard whisky cocktails on holiday, in between poker games... But what do you think: what elements of the old wild west can we incorporate into tackling today's policing challenges?

_________________________________________________

The Secret PCC Diary until now:

Legal disclaimer: just in case you thought this series of secret PCC blogs is based upon a real person or persons: it isn't. It really isn't. Any similarity to a living PCC is entirely coincidental.


_____________

PS: This blog is dedicated to the memory of Pete Duel who tragically committed suicide at the end of the first series of Alias Smith & Jones. His suicide was the first one that ever really mattered to me as boy and I still grieve for him. He seemed such a bright & beautiful actor and I could not understand how he came to end his own life. I have learnt more about mental health since then. I now know that there is no real 'logic' to why people do kill themselves, but sadly people do when it makes sense to them. RIP Pete Duel. 

Majority of police officers 'don't trust leaders'

This is the headline from a Police Oracle article today which reports that:
"just 10.5 per cent of those serving in West Yorkshire Police said they trust its leaders"
West Yorkshire police leadership commissioned the survey which was carried out by an independent agency. I suggest that you read the whole article which includes a response from the temporary Chief Constable. This was a bold move by the Chief and an even bolder one to go public on the results. (Although as yet, I cannot find the whole survey report and precisely what questions were asked. We all know that the questions are critical...)

Everyone knows that the police service (like all other public services) has been and will be facing huge cuts in funding: times are austere and tough for all. And for a few, extraordinarily so. Being a leader and making good decisions is hard enough when resources are plentiful. Leadership becomes exponentially harder when resources are diminishing. (I know I am stating the obvious here!)

So the question for West Yorkshire's leadership is how do they respond to these results. I have been doing some thinking about how the new Code of Ethics relates to chief officers - and you can see my earlier blog here. I also write lots on leadership, including my blogging on the leadership points to be found in contemporary movies.

But the short answer is: there are no short answers... And I am sure the Chief Constable and her wider leadership team know that. Doing the survey was a wise move (how many other forces have considered this and decided not to, I wonder...). Being prepared to comment publicly on the results as opposed to shredding them (which happened in one organisation I once worked with!) was even wiser, in my view.

I wish West Yorkshire Police (both its professional and political leadership) well in deciding on their next course of action.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Making maths subject to parental consent

It is clear that many children find maths a very difficult subject. Moreover their parents find it difficult to broach matters such as differential calculus and Venn diagrams. In a recent survey, some parents even admitted to buying calculators for their offspring in the hope they would magically just 'get' what maths is all about without the need to converse with their parents about such issues. Unsurprisingly, after the recent law change to make the whole national curriculum subject to parental choice, many children have been withdrawn from regular maths lessons. "I just don't feel that Pythagoras is ready for maths yet... when he is older, perhaps" said a young parent at the school gate yesterday... 

OK, I will stop ladling in dollops of sarcastic irony here as you have probably gathered where I am coming from on this: why do parents have an opt out for all forms of personal / sexual / health / relationship education? I think that not only is this policy anachronistic in the extreme but it is also endangering the health and well being of girls and boys throughout the UK.

Last month a coalition of sexual health charities called for compulsory sex education lessons. But equally the House of Lords rejected any such idea as recently as January this year. I just don't get it! Why would we step away from the possibility of teaching all school students about healthy relationships, how to avoid domestic violence, the hazards of sexting & the internet, what abuse is and how to react if it happens, building honesty and respect into all relationships etc etc etc...?

Genuinely, if someone can tell me, I am up for the debate.

Meanwhile, as highlighted this morning by Yvette Cooper, there are big questions about how the police are handling incidents of domestic violence and whether the methods in use are effective and proportionate. I need to think some more about whether introducing a new law to make domestic violence a specific offence will help, but it is worth considering.

Meanwhile we know that 2 women a week are killed by current or ex partners. And my research into domestic homicide suggests that most of the perpetrators of such crimes were not on the police radar beforehand. This means that police action in these cases is limited.

But what my research also points towards is the need to educate young women and men into being more aware of the warning signs that their relationship is possibly heading into a very dangerous place. Why would we make education as critical as this optional?!?!

UPDATE 290714 | 1544: Just had this video posted on my Facebook timeline. I thought I was joking about maths being made optional... Now see how several Miss USA contestants answered the question "Should Math be taught in schools". The answers may worry you, a little! (Thank the Lord for Ms Vermont!)

Fairer outsourcing to SMEs

There is an article in this morning's Independent heralding the arrival of Piers Linney (BBC Dragon) to the Cabinet Office's SME Panel. You can read the article here. As the Indie's comment system seems a bit restrictive, here is the full comment that I wanted to post!
For readers' information: the Cabinet Office SME panel has been meeting for over 3 years and welcomed Piers to his first meeting last week. The Panel has been working with the Cabinet Office on a suite of interventions designed to ensure a level playing field for government procurement. 
If you search on > sme panel cabinet < a number of useful links will pop up. 
Panel members represent the breadth of suppliers to government and have given their time freely in support of the bold objective to introduce the hyper value for money, innovation and boost to British enterprise that only SME's can bring.
Jon Harvey (SME Panel Member since 2011)
There is also a stream of articles on this blog about the work of the panel, if you wish to know more. Here is the link to all those articles (and related ones connected to procurement).

UPDATE 290714 | 0758: The Cabinet Office has published its own follow up article, listing (for the first time) the members of the Panel that has been meeting over the last three years. Including yours truly.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How long will the celebrations in Winslow last?

As a town councillor who has been working hard on creating our Buckingham Neighbourhood Development Plan, along with my fellow councillors, I want to send a hearty congratulations to Winslow Town Council. They got a resounding referendum yes vote in support of their plan a few days ago. You can read about it here. Turnout was a stonking 59.5% which I think deserves an even greater accolade than the overall yes vote. Well done to all involved!

But now it gets complicated. The referendum question (as determined by government regulations) was:
“Do you want Aylesbury Vale District Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Winslow to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”
OK.... Let's look at that a little more closely. "Do you want Aylesbury Vale District Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Winslow to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?" It could have said "Do you want Aylesbury Vale District Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Winslow to decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?" but it didn't. When I saw this, a few red warning lights went off in my head.

Because, as we all know, there is the law and there is politics. It is evident that the population of Winslow are very much for their local neighbourhood plan. However, if a housing developer were to submit an application to build a quantity of houses in a location outside the plan's 'map' of Winslow, what might happen? Here are some scenarios:
  1. AVDC planning committee reject the application as being in non conformance with the Neighbourhood Plan. The developer says 'Ah well, we thought we would give it one last shot but hey, the people have spoken' etc... and goes away.
  2. AVDC planning committee reject the application as being in non conformance with the Neighbourhood Plan. The developer says 'Hah! You only have to use the neighbourhood plan to help you decide what to do (and you have not done more than that)... so we will take you to the planning inspector as we believe our application is sustainable and in accord with the existing wider plans (which don't exist because AVDC had their plan rejected)". The planning inspector decides in favour of the District and Town council. The Developer contemplates taking the case to the High Court as there is some serious profit to be made here...
  3. AVDC planning committee reject the application as being in non conformance with the Neighbourhood Plan. The developer says 'Hah! You only have to use the neighbourhood plan to help you decide what to do (and you have not done that)... so we will take you to the planning inspector as we believe our application is sustainable and in accord with the existing wider plans (which don't exist because AVDC had their plan rejected)". The planning inspector decides in favour of the Developer. Local people and councillors are aghast and ask what was he point of the whole plan in the first place...
  4. AVDC planning committee accept the application as they fear the consequences of scenario 3 above and money is rather tight after all. Local people and town councillors are aghast and ask what was he point of the whole plan in the first place... District councillors go off the grid for a while and return with sheepish expressions and saying it was all the government's fault anyway. The regulations were not tight enough and (ahem!), the District Council is the planning authority and will remain so! 
Of course, there are probably multiple other scenarios. What do you think might happen?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Chief Officers & the Police Code of Conduct: some questions

I have been doing some more pondering on the new police Code of Ethics this morning and some questions occurred to me: specifically in relation to the Chief Officers, on whom this Code will succeed or fail. (Please forgive the messy formatting - Blogger can be a bit clunky at times)

Chief officers | 1.4.3
As the head of your force or organisation you will:
Some Questions…
·        show by personal example how the principles and standards in this Code apply
Ø How will you help people to discern the connections between your personal example and the various standards?
Ø On the basis that illustrating the standards through story telling is likely to engender greater understanding, what stories do you need to tell?
·        promote, support and reinforce ethical behaviour at all times
Ø What differential actions will you take (separately) to promote… support… and reinforce etc?
Ø How will you build the Code of Ethics explicitly into your recruitment & promotion processes?
Ø What resources (if any) will you need to redeploy to do all this?
·        show moral courage to do the right thing even in the face of criticism
Ø What is the right thing?
Ø Where do your personal morals, Code of Ethics & the Law overlap, and where do they not?
Ø From whom do you expect to face criticism for doing the right thing? (Who has criticised you in the past?)
·        be consistent in what you do and say
Ø Have there ever been any times when what you said and did were not consistent (at or away from work, as the Code demands)?
Ø What did you learn from these occasions?
Ø How much of this is about being consistent or being seen (by others) to be consistent?
·        promote openness and transparency within policing and to the public
Ø How much will it matter to you that you might promote but don’t achieve the openness and transparency that you think is needed?
Ø What (if any) conflicts do you foresee between openness / transparency and other parts of the Code of Ethics?
Ø How will you promote and achieve understanding of where these conflicts might be and how to resolve them?
·        promote fairness and equality in the workplace
Ø How much will it matter to you that you might promote but don’t achieve the fairness and equality that you think is needed?
Ø What (if any) conflicts do you foresee between fairness / equality and other parts of the Code of Ethics?
Ø How will you promote and achieve understanding of where these conflicts might be and how to resolve them?
·        create and maintain an environment where you encourage challenge and feedback
Ø When was the last time you carried out a 360˚ feedback appraisal for yourself?
Ø How much overlap was there between the 360˚ tool and the Code of Ethics?
Ø How confident are you that your Whistle-blowing systems are fit for purpose & working well?
Ø What action can you take to ensure all leaders actively encourage challenge and feedback?
·        be flexible and willing to change a course of action if necessary.
Ø Are you able to recall a time when you didn’t change a course of action when it was necessary?
Ø In the context of the Code, what do you interpret this point as really being about?
Ø How many of the above questions seem irritatingly picky and pointless to you since once the Code of Ethics is loaded on the intranet as a self-study mini-course, everything will be hunky dory…

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If you meet the Buddha on the path, kill him

There are many interpretations of the statement above, which is probably no surprise. However, my interpretation has always been that if you meet someone who claims to be enlightened, then they will not be.

I was reminded of this statement the other day when I shared an Earl Grey tea with a very senior and very experienced police officer. We got to talking about the new College of Policing Code of Ethics. She explained to me some of critical the challenges in bringing the code to life centre on just how do you create the conditions / circumstances in which police officers and staff are prepared to exanine the possibility that they might not know all that they need to know about ethical practice.

Based on no research at all, I have a hunch that police officers and staff will consider themselves more moral than the average member of society. And they probably are. But morality is not the same as ethics as this helpful video explains. And of course morality, ethics and the law are not synonymous either: an action could be ethical and moral but against the law. Some laws are seen by some people to be entirely immoral. And of course, some police professional practice might be legal and moral but not in accord with the Code of Ethics.

It is complicated and once you start talking about this stuff, speaking for myself, you can quickly get tied up in knots. And this does not sit well with police culture which is often about taking action quickly and firmly. There is no time for debates about how many angels can comfortably sit on a pinhead!

But time is going to have to made if the Code of Ethics has any chance of becoming 'the way we do things around here'. As I have highlighted with my research, the police service has a fair way to go on putting in place the necessary structures, cultures, procedures (including continuous professional development). This might well include assessing whether internal complaints systems or the IPCC are quite fit for purpose when it comes to deciding on whether an action infringed the Code or not. I happen to think not and something like the General Medical Council or the Nursing and Midwifery Council will need to be designed and put in place.

The more I look into this, the more I realise how much I do not know. Certainly I know that I am long, long way off claiming even to know what 'enlightenment' is let alone being it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Celebrating the life of Bob Jones

Round about now, people have gathered in Wolverhampton to celebrate the life of PCC Bob Jones who died three weeks ago. Clearly there are going to many people there from across his many interests be they CAMRA, local politics and policing of course. I would have been there too, had I known before this morning that the service was happening. So in the absence of my presence, I felt moved to write this blog. 

Firstly, I would commend to you this moving tribute by his Deputy, Yvonne Mosquito: Celebration of the Life of Bob Jones (here). Please read it, all of it. Whether you knew Bob or not, you will be moved by her words. Would that we all could have someone say of us "there was no misalignment between what he believed, what he said, and how he acted". 

I have already written my tribute to Bob  (here) on this blog. But I have been reflecting some more on what I learnt from Bob, from meeting him a fair number of times over the last twenty years and reading many articles by him:
  • Be who you are
  • Stand up for what you believe in
  • Have the courage to challenge, courteously and clearly
  • Listen closely
  • Look for the 'inside track' and hidden implications to what is being proposed
  • Respect and support the police, officers and staff, as they have an extraordinarily difficult task to perform
  • Smile when you don't win, there will always be a next time 
I am going to miss Bob and his wisdom massively. My sincere thoughts and sympathies are with his family, his friends and all who are grieving his exit. (And as requested by his family, this blog is wearing red in his honour.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Glossary: The Secret PCC is relieved

I see that the HMIC have just published their analysis of policing in a cold climate. The report manages to be all things to all people: everyone, be they the Federation or the Home Secretary, will find something to gloat about / delight in. This makes it a rather clever report in my humble opinion. The HMIC doesn't sit on the fence quite so well as when a general election is looming and the tick-tock of pension count down alarms are ringing in their ears.

The report helpfully begins with a full glossary stretching over three volumes. Policing is darn complicated after all: I had never met so many TLAs before I got involved with the job. And the girls in boys in blue seem to enjoy wiling away whole afternoons coming up with the name of the new 'operation'. I am still yet to discover what Operation Obfuscate is all about, despite asking lots of times.

But seeing the glossary in the HMIC report gave me a warm nostalgic feeling as I remembered those first heady days after the election when everything held such glistening promise... The outgoing chief constable had prepared a handy list of words and their definitions that I still keep in the back of my wallet. I know his parting email to me was a little challenging, but his glossary was just the ticket! So I thought, I would reproduce a few of his choice definitions below for others to use.

  • ACPO: the people who think they are the real bosses (but are not)
  • Home Secretary: the person who thinks she is the real boss (but is not)
  • The APCC, Federation & Superintendents Association: the bodies who think they have influence (but don't)
  • Custody Sergeants & HR Departments everywhere: the people who really have the power
  • The force's drivers and taxi drivers we regularly use: the only people who really know what is happening
  • Crime in run down areas: what we are supposedly trying to stop (says the Home Secretary)
  • Anti social behaviour in nice leafy avenues: what we actually spend our time tackling
  • Meetings: a good way to appear busy (meetings about meetings are even better)
  • Partnership meetings: warm places to catch up on sleep
  • The former Police Authority: the source of all of our problems that we now face and which can be blamed with impunity for at least the next ten years
  • Home Office Targets: the various dart boards distributed around the constabulary with pictures of Home Office ministers on
  • Democratic mandate: what you must claim to have at every opportunity - the more you talk about it the more real it will seem to become
There was more, of course. I will try to dig out a few extra ones when I have a moment. Meanwhile, I have a partnership meeting to attend...


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The Secret PCC Diary until now:

Legal disclaimer: just in case you thought this series of secret PCC blogs is based upon a real person or persons: it isn't. It really isn't. Any similarity to a living PCC is entirely coincidental.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The volunteer conundrum

There has talk recently of the "Expert Citizen" from the Reform thinktank. You can read all about the idea here. I have not read the whole report - merely the summary which says:
The research argues that the police service can successfully cope with further cuts in budgets if it mobilises the active support of “expert citizens” and recommends “an entirely different way of working” for the police which sees the public as assets in the fight against crime. It also recommends that police forces use private sector expertise to rebuild public confidence in policing.
Apart from the fact that (probably unbeknownst to them), they have plagiarised me, I am left pondering on this conundrum: if more and more public services are commercialised / privatised, what incentive will that leave ordinary citizens to volunteer to assist such services? 

Now, if it is about protecting my own family or property, the incentive will still be there. But if it is about helping the hedge fund (that now owns and runs the service) make even more profit to siphon off the Cayman Islands (or wherever)... why should I bother? Why would I offer my free labour to a for-profit company no matter how worthy the service that they have been commissioned to provide?

Given that the idea of the expert/empowered/enabled citizen is not an especially new one but the rising tide of almost irreversible privatisation of public services is (eg the NHS)... has anyone addressed this conundrum? From a brief scan of the Reform report, it does not appear that they have. (But I am happy to be corrected.)

But the issue runs deeper than this: if more and more public services are commercialised, this commercialises us all. Community support for the police (and other public services) becomes a commodity in a privatised world. And this leads to fragmentation since everything becomes a transaction of goods and services to be negotiated. 

Some politicians I would expect to he ideologically deaf to any of these points. However, I worry far more about the politicians who talk of a golden age of volunteering & community engagement but who don't seem to get the consequences of the rampant commercialisation and commodification of good public services. These are intricately connected in the public mind.

Please wake up!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The power and speed of social media

If the establishment old guard did not know it before last week, they certainly do now know how social media is increasingly adding accountability and transparency to the democratic process. Last week, along with others, I was relaxed about the appointment of Baroness Butler-Sloss to chair the forthcoming inquiry into child sexual abuse and the role of various institutions in (allegedly) allowing such abuse to continue. 

The Home Secretary and other members of the Government defended her appointment as the rising tide of dissent began to emerge on social media. Increasingly questions were being asked not about the retired judge's impartiality but about whether she would be seen to be impartial. Without both, the inquiry risked paddling up a back water as potential important witnesses felt increasingly reluctant to come forward and tell their stories.

And so it came to pass that Baroness Butler-Sloss stepped down from the child abuse inquiry. All credit to her for these wise comments:
"It has become apparent over the last few days, however, that there is a widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups, that I am not the right person to chair the inquiry. It has also become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been attorney general would cause difficulties. This is a victim-orientated inquiry and those who wish to be heard must have confidence that the members of the panel will pay proper regard to their concerns and give appropriate advice to government. Having listened to the concerns of victim and survivor groups and the criticisms of MPs and the media, I have come to the conclusion that I should not chair this inquiry and have so informed the Home Secretary."
Before the advent of social media the 'victim & survivor groups' may well have struggled to get their message out and across to a wider audience. Now, this is not the case.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

100K

Thank you to all my readers, browsers and friendly bots from around the world! This blog has now notched up more than a 100,000 page views.


Knowing that most of what I write is looked at and read by others is enormously rewarding. Thanks again!

"Children are people not objects of concern"

Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the high court judge who chaired the Cleveland child sex abuse inquiry in the late 1980s, has been announced as the person to Chair the wide ranging inquiry into what might be termed 'institutional child sexual abuse'. There is a good Guardian article about her background here, and which is supportive of her appointment.

Concerns have been raised about a possible conflict of interests by both Keith Vaz (Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee) that she is member of the House of Lords (one of the institutions to be investigated) and due to the fact that her brother was former Tory attorney general Sir Michael Havers at the same time as when many of the notable events were occurring. (Sir Michael died more than 20 years ago.) These will confronted probably by a combination of careful process and not least by Baroness Butler-Sloss' redoubtable independence of thought (she is a cross bencher and widely respected for humanity.)

And now we await to see who will join her on the panel: these are critical appointments of people who must have the capability and passion to search relentlessly for the truth and a positive way forward.

Now seems like a good time to remind ourselves of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I like this version, as it is written in my kind of language:
“Rights" are things every child should have or be able to do. All children have the same rights. These rights are listed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Almost every country has agreed to these rights. All the rights are connected to each other, and all are equally important. Sometimes, we have to think about rights in terms of what is the best for children in a situation, and what is critical to life and protection from harm. As you grow, you have more responsibility to make choices and exercise your rights.
Here are one or two:
  • Article 1 Everyone under 18 has these rights.
  • Article 2 All children have these rights, no matter who they are, where they live, what their parents do,
  • what language they speak, what their religion is, whether they are a boy or girl, what their culture is, whether they have a disability, whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis. 
  • Article 3 All adults should do what is best for you. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children.
  • Article 4 The government has a responsibility to make sure your rights are protected. They must help your family to protect your rights and create an environment where you can grow and reach your potential. 
  • and... Article 34 You have the right to be free from sexual abuse.
There are 54 articles in all.

And I came across an entirely different version (as it were) from a Findhorn catalogue (grateful thanks) many years ago. I use this version to remind me my responsibilities as a parent and an adult:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Child Sexual Abuse: have we all been duped?

I thought the House of Commons statement from the Home Secretary Theresa May and the ensuing debate yesterday was an example of Parliament at its best. This was an intelligent and constructive debate, with a couple of exceptions, there was no rancour or point scoring.

The Home Secretary took on board most of what was being suggested and paid due acknowledgment to the 'relentless' work of Tom Watson. As was commented on twitter by Jim Gamble (and he knows a thing or two about child abuse), the devil will be the detail. Who gets to be appointed to chair the wide ranging inquiry is a critical appointment and one that will be very closely scrutinised, not least because Ms May said she would heed the Chair's views about whether the inquiry should become a full scale public inquiry or not.

But much of this is for the future. Meanwhile, I earnestly hope that there could be more occasions like this in Parliament: in the sense of having a reasoned debate, courteous language, an absence of barracking and a search for the best way forward. If we collectively owe anything to the victims of child abuse, it is that we conduct a full and fair investigation into what has happened and how it was allowed to happen...

And this brings me to the main subject of this blog post: I think we have all been duped into believing that only utilitarian ethics matter. In other words the consequences of an action are what determine whether that action is good or bad. We appear to have forgotten that some actions are just plain bad. Period.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I spend some of my time going into primary schools on behalf of the ChildLine Schools Service* to talk about abuse and how children can get help. We do a half hour assembly first followed up a more interactive workshop in class groups a week or two later (all for years 5 & 6 only). The materials and script have all been designed very carefully to be age appropriate and educational, as you would expect from the NSPCC. One slide we use is this (Buddy is our mascot by the way!):


It is a simple straight forward message: Sexual abuse is not OK.

It doesn't say:
  • sexual abuse is not OK unless you are such an important or famous person that no one will dare challenge you. 
  • sexual abuse is not OK but we will keep this on file in the Whip's office in case some day we need to threaten you with making it public
  • sexual abuse is not OK but you are man of the cloth and we are sure you meant no lasting harm but you must stop it now and do some penance
  • sexual abuse is not OK but if this were to be made public, it would bring the government down more quickly than you can say Profumo and we really can't be having that...
Etc etc etc...

In our post industrial, post modernist, post ecclesiastical age, have we lost sight of the difference between
  • Consequentialist theories: Hold that an action is right if it produces the most good. (Bentham, Mill, et al.), and 
  • Deontological theories: ("deontology" literally means "the study of duty") Broadly: theories that are not consequentialist. Specifically: Theories that give a set of (non-consequentialist) moral rules that must be followed; a right action is then one that is in accordance with the rules. (Nozick, Kant, Ross) [source is here]
Have we all been duped into believing that the 'greater good' is the only arbiter of what is right and wrong? In the depths of the institutions now about to be investigated (BBC, NHS, Westminster, the Church and all religious bodies, the Military, the Security Services, the Police etc), have utilitarian calculations been made that have left victims of child sexual abuse living lives of raw hell because the 'greater good' was served by keeping matters secret? I think we all know the answer to that question. What I hope we find out is the scale

I also hope that the perpetrators are all brought to justice and their collaborators (active and passive) likewise. And in this way, I hope that many, perhaps most, of the victims find some solace and a way of living with their pasts that is less painful. 

I hope that the two inquiries now initiated go some way to exploring how we may all have played a part in creating the ethical milieu in which some wrong actions are covered up or excused because of the consequences of challenging them.

In my view, an exclusively utilitarian or consequentialist ethical framework falls far short of what we need in a civil society.


*If you would like to volunteer for the ChildLine Schools Service, please go to this link. New volunteers are always needed.