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, 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...


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


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.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What makes a Mâch~iâ~velliân whistle blowing leader?

Machiavelli, not one to mince words, wrote:
A prince must therefore always seek advice… he must always be a constant questioner, and he must listen patiently to the truth regarding what he has inquired about, moreover if he finds that anyone for some reason holds the truth back he must show his wrath. (from 'The Prince' Penguin Classics publication translated by George Bull, 1981)
If he hadn't have been the world's first public sector management consultant, Machiavelli would have been a whistleblower. Truth was very important to him. Wise & grounded leaders still regard truth as an essential ingredient in running any organisation successfully. Only unwise leaders want to surround themselves with people who offer only sanitised versions of the truth.

And so it is that remarkable leaders take action to encourage whistleblowing. This of course is not what happened to James Patrick, whose story is now well known. But if you have not seen it, I commend this short video interview of him by the Cliff Caswell, editor of Police Oracle. But other leaders can and should do different. But what needs to be put in place?

There is some useful guidance here: Whistleblowing arrangements: Code of practice (PAS 1998:2008) which includes a useful checklist. The Public Concern At Work website is a rich source of information and case studies as well.

But all this got me to thinking, what would I expect of a leader who not only claims to be supportive of whistleblowing (as many do) but who is, in fact, supportive of it. In my opinion, such a leader would:
  • Evidence an ability to listen and act upon information provided via whistleblowing
  • Understand and be able to explain in straightforward terms, the difference between grievances and whistleblowing - and when they need to be invoked
  • Be able to give examples of where whistleblowing has made a positive difference to the services being provided to the public
  • Be able to counter convincingly (the oft repeated accusations) that those who whistleblow usually end up outside the organisation or being passed over for promotion (etc.)
  • Put in place sufficient resources (such as a helpline and more) to allow confidential whistleblowing to occur
  • Be clear that whistleblowing rights are extended to all, including contractors
  • Sponsor and help shape an effective communications strategy that reaches into every nook and crevice of the organisation, so that everyone knows about how they can whistleblow
  • See how whistleblowing connects with organisational improvement, reputation management, social media & comms policies and leadership development
  • Challenge other leaders who may have bought the T-shirt but are not quite wearing it yet!
  • Review progress and test whether whistleblowing is happening as it should
  • Be whistleblowers themselves (should the need arise) and have the capability and commitment to speak truth unto power
  • Show even more ability just to listen... (and learn and act...)
There is probably more (what would you add?).

But how do you measure up?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Secret PCC: my life long quest for the smooth vinegar flavoured cucumber

It's no good dear diary, I am going to have to write this down: being a PCC is all becoming a bit of an desparate anti-climax. Oh... I had such high hopes when I got elected: the manifesto dreams, the new desk and chain, the power to sack and appoint a chief constable. Such heady, intoxicating days. But now it is all rather humdrum. Rather irritatingly, the police force seems to get on with getting on quite well without me. I went away for a two week holiday and expected to be contacted at least 2 or 3 times with some urgent matter. But not once. I returned to an inbox full of notifications of upcoming meetings with various dignitaries and officers, & a few emails written in purple ink. But nothing of any real importance. It was like they could all get on well without me.

Of course, I can always invent a meeting or two and people will come. There is still a bit of electoral glitter and pizzazz attached to my role. But I know it is all a bit of sham: I feel like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind a curtain. There really is nothing up my sleeve.

But of course I cannot tell anyone this. I must continue the charade. The show must go on. But I am finding it more and more difficult to pretend to myself. I fear I am becoming more and more like Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain and that's the chief constable in the background...

Of course I could cook up some expenses story to get myself in the papers, or invite a team of TV cameras into to watch me while I work.... But I know those would only be quick fixes. Nothing is going to dissipate this growing sense of ennui and pointlessness.

Thank the heavens, I have less than two years to go. I am counting the days, hours, minutes etc when I can step down and go back to growing cucumbers. I can return to my lifelong quest for the smooth vinegar flavoured cucumber.


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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Joy & hypocrisy

I might have a bit more respect for Nigel Farage and his bunch of acolites if they turned their back on their generous MEP salaries & expenses as well. Instead we get the ridiculous sight of UKIP MEPs ostentatiously & hypocritically turning their backs on the EU flag and national anthem in clothes paid for out of the salaries that they are not turning their backs on. If you don't agree with a parliamentary institution: don't take its money!

But of course they won't do this because they are free loading hypocrites of the highest order.

Here are some of the words of Ode to Joy / Beethoven's ninth symphony:
O friends, no more these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs, more full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
For me this song is about reconciliation and peace: referencing the fact that the Common Market/EU was, in part, established to repair and develop a continent divided & ravaged by war & hate. I think it is one the most inspiring anthems in the world. Watch this video of 10,000 people singing it and you will see what I mean...

What would you prefer: a Europe divided by national interests or one that is united in its struggle to bring peace, ambition and affluence to all?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Different rules apply obviously!

I note that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England has now published its final recommendations for redrawing the boundaries for Aylesbury Vale Councillor wards. You can read the full report here and see the map here. The discussion of the boundaries around Buckingham seem to have been left in the 'too hard to do the maths so we will stick to the original plan' box. It is a great shame as the impact on the town council and the local community is significant. As clearly stated their principles of:
  • equalising the number of electors each councillor represents; 
  • reflecting community identity; 
  • and providing for effective and convenient local government 
... do not seem to extend to parish and town councils. So different rules clearly apply! So much for localism!! Below is the submission I sent to them after local party discussions. If you read their document, you can see how they addressed all the points we made (not). 

I write as the Labour Party Agent on behalf to the Buckingham Constituency Labour Party. We have examined your proposals for change to the AVDC ward boundaries. Broadly, we support the plans for our constituency (which does not include Aylesbury). However, we have some very serious concerns over some of your proposed changes.

Our concerns are focused on the two Buckingham & Luffield Abbey wards where you appear to have ignored the historic layout of the town, the communities with which people identify and broadly (dare we say) common sense in order to shoe horn in enough numbers to make the Luffield Abbey ward viable and the two Buckingham wards not too big for your calculations. Obviously we appreciate your difficulties (given that you appear to have worked from Aylesbury outwards leaving you very little wiggle room in the Northern corner of the Vale), but we urge you strongly to find another way to ‘balance the electoral books’ as it were.

We do not see it as our role to propose other solutions since that is evidently your expertise. Here are the reasons behind our objections to your proposals:
  • The area to the East of Moreton Road that you propose should become part of Luffield Abbey ward is an integral part of Buckingham: socially, architecturally and historically. You would be dividing existing communities particularly around a local school.
  • You suggest that the properties in this part of Buckingham have more in common with the properties of Maids Moreton. We really do not understand how you make this assessment when you consider the age of properties, the natural contiguousness of this area with Buckingham to its South, West and East (via the local school especially) and the fact that there are no services in Maids Moreton. All local shopping etc is done by these community members in Buckingham. 
  • Arguably Maids Moreton has far more in common with Buckingham than with the rural villages that it is currently connected too via the Luffield Abbey ward. There is one pub in Maids Moreton and that is it – and even that was closed for six months last year.
  • Planning decisions in this part of town would be examined by the town council and the ward member for Luffield Abbey rather than (as is currently the case) by local AVDC Buckingham North members. Having splits like this, damage the integrity of local governance and good partnership working between Town & District councillors.
  • We think that you may have your numbers incorrect. In your estimates, Luffield Abbey will have exactly the same number of electors in 2019 as currently. This is despite an additional 327 electors (roughly) being transferred from Buckingham North to Luffield Abbey. Are you suggesting that Luffield Abbey is about to lose this number of electors over the next 4 or 5 years? Indeed, we predict that there would be an increase due to infill housing in the villages of Luffield Abbey rather than any reduction (considering the Luffield Abbey stays the same as present). As your numbers appear to be incorrect (although we would be keen to learn how you arrived at your predicted number for Luffield Abbey), we challenge the whole basis on which you have made your proposals.
  • With the building that is about to start on the Western side of Moreton Road, just to the south of the Rugby club, the area that you have extracted to join with Luffield Abbey will feel even more like an isolated electoral peninsula. 
  • Your proposals around Fishers Field make a little more sense and we can see some of the value of transferring these few houses to Buckingham North. However, the river provides a natural and historic boundary which we feel should be kept. Moreover, your calculations due to the size of Buckingham South, we feel, have not adequately taken account of likely housing developments between Tingewick Road and main A421. In your calculations, you appear to have only taken account of the new voters moving into Lace Hill (the developers have the temporary marketing name of Windsor Park). Thus we feel here also, that your calculations are awry from the likely future reality. 
  • There are only 138 voters in Fishers Field and so we feel that moving them from their historic base in Buckingham South is simply not justified. We cannot see that it makes much difference to voter numbers.
  • Although I know this is not your direct concern, the consequences of these two ward boundary changes inside the parish of Buckingham will mean elections for Buckingham Town Council being reduced to something approaching a governance farce. There will be one town councillor for Fishers Field (138 voters), one town councillor for “Highlands & Watchcroft” (the other slice that has gone to Luffield Abbey – 327 voters) and then a further 8 town councillors for the remains of Buckingham North and South (5230 and 4116 voters respectively). So the consequence of this would be to have ratios of voters to town councillors ranging from 1:138 to 1:654. This is not good governance and runs counter to your objectives for the district of levelling out the ratios as far as possible. There will also be increased election costs as a result of these changes, just to fit your current proposals. We estimate the ratio of Town Councillors to voters would average out at 1:545 which means that the Fishers Field councillor would be at a variance of minus 75%, Highlands & Watchcroft of minus 40% whilst councillors from North & South would be plus 20% and 6% respectively. How is it right to mess with Buckingham Town Council governance so drastically?
  • Our concern is for the electoral integrity of and partnership between both AVDC councillors and town/parish councillors. You proposals slice through this integrity and partnership and will have damaging effects, we believe, on the sense of community in all the areas concerned. 
As we say above, it is not for us to propose alternatives. However, for example, we would say that Luffield Abbey is an artificial construct (very few people could even place Luffield Abbey on a map) and which includes Maids Moreton which was judged by a recent planning inspector’s appeal assessment (for the development south of the rugby club) as being contiguous with Buckingham.

In sum, we wholeheartedly and strongly reject your proposals for Buckingham North, South and Luffield Abbey as being significantly detrimental to historic local community identities and effective local governance at both District and Town council levels.

Sincerely yours

Bob Jones: An immense loss

I last saw Bob Jones in early April this year. He was on top of his game: more insightful, funny, compassionate, wise and vibrant than ever. I mourn his loss greatly.

He was fine man who truly understood the complexity of policing & community justice. I remember being hugely impressed when I first met him 20 or so years ago in the early days of what was then Association of Police Authorities. Up until his death, he was one of the leading thinkers about the governance of policing and connected agencies.

He worked with people from across the political spectrum. He was a committed inclusive pluralist: recognising that good ideas can come from all tribes & sides of the debate. His efforts to create a localised and cross party policing governance structure for the West Midlands is testament to his beliefs.

It is with great sadness, that I now have to imagine a policing landscape without him. His knowledge and wisdom will be massively missed by all those concerned with the proper governance of policing.

My sincere thoughts are with his family, his close friends, his colleagues and indeed everyone who, like me, are saddened and shocked at his passing. May he Rest In Peace. 

UPDATE 1655 | 010714: There is a moving video now on the net of the Chief Constable and Bob's Deputy paying tribute to the wonderful man that he was. You can watch it here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pineapples, PCCs and Innovation

Bernard Rix has recently published the CoPaCC thematic on PCCs and Innovation. You can read the full piece here. Below is my contribution to the thematic.

How do you prepare and eat a fresh pineapple?

For years (decades even), I have chopped off the top & bottom. Then I hack off large portions of the outer layer to avoid any of the spiky bits remaining and then impaling themselves on the back of my throat (is my fear!). But every time I have done this, I have hated throwing away so much of the juicy flesh of the fruit. Then I had an (innovative) thought a few weeks ago: why not eat it like a melon? In other words, having cut out the hard core, eat from the middle out towards the skin. You end up wasting far less of the pineapple.

It is a technique in development, I might add and one I am yet to perfect. And I don’t claim to have invented it: since my ‘discovery’, I have met people who have always eaten pineapples this way. But I did not know. For me, this is an innovation that has been staring me in the face for a very long time. I just did not see it.

So how many other innovations in policing and community justice are also staring us in the face and we are just not seeing them? Or perhaps people are but feel abashed to propose them? Maybe for good reason, people don’t want to suggest that there are better ways to do business? (If you want to know of one classic example, just read the biography of Ignaz Semmelweiss who, as a young doctor in Austria, dared to suggest the innovation that his medical colleagues ought to wash their hands to prevent women in labour and their new born infants from dying…)

I have always contended that the role of the PCC is mainly a leadership not a managerial one. In this respect, PCCs have huge amounts of soft power (as well as the hard powers of budget setting and Chief Constable appointing etc.) The question is: how many PCCs are using this soft leadership to foster greater innovation in the face of criminals who can be rather good at it as well as rising levels of concern about justice, community safety and anti-social behaviour? I hope this thematic put together by CoPaCC, will go some way towards uncovering examples of good leadership practice in this field. In other words, how many PCCs are really using their ‘pineapples’ to drive up citizen value and drive down costs?

Into this debate, let me offer a few suggestions at what I hope this thematic will highlight. It is my hope that Bernard will discover the following:
  • PCCs who are not just talking about innovation, but also doing something about it! And by ‘doing’ I mean taking action and seeing some substantive results come through. Innovation is not a theoretical exercise: it is a practical one.
  • PCCs who understand that innovation is not just about information technology or giving tablets to frontline officers & staff, or all other systems that go ping… Innovation can happen everywhere: even in the kitchen.
  • PCCs who are sponsoring innovation through (perhaps) innovation awards to staff and officers who develop new and fresh ways to beat crime, engage with the public and help people feel more safe. I am envisaging an award ceremony where people are praised and honoured for their ideas and innovations. 
  • PCCs who are paying attention to making suggestion schemes work. I well remember talking to a former Deputy Chief Constable of Durham Police who told me that he considered the time he spent every morning, personally reading and often directly responding to ‘suggestion box’ ideas from colleagues to be the most useful part of his day in achieving a change of culture in the force. 
  • PCCs who are putting in place Small & Medium Sized Enterprise (SME) friendly procurement. I am sure that Stephen Allot, the Crown Representative for SMEs in the Cabinet Office would be able to tell them just how much taxpayer value there is be procured from innovative SMEs. Or maybe PCCs who are self-assessing their procurement strategy against the Cabinet Office’s SME friendly checklist (which I helped to write, as it happens).
  • PCCs who are taking action to hold their Chief Constables to account for making sure that their whistle-blowing policies are up to scratch, that they have robust methods for analysing complaints and feedback from the public and that there is an increasing emphasis on developing organisational cultures which foster creativity and innovation. (I well remember hearing about one police service that was analysing its ‘blame culture’. During one meeting, a senior officer banged the table and said, with a wry grin, “but I want to know: whose fault was this blame culture in the first place…!?”)
  • PCCs who are listening, really listening to what the public needs and wants: and who are prepared to dig into what they are saying in order to find some threads of innovation. The ‘ah hah’ moments can just as easily come from outside as from inside the organisation. (But you won’t get these moments in starchy public meetings with chairs lined up like soldiers.)
  • PCCs who are measuring innovation: recording progress, learning about just what it takes to foster sustainable innovation and broadcasting these lessons. 
PCCs have a huge opportunity to make a difference here. And I really hope that the sterling work being done by CoPaCC to share and promote good practice will be heeded by adaptable PCCs. PCCs themselves are an innovation in leadership and governance.

Are PCCs fulfilling their potential and leading their police services and wider criminal justice systems to achieve even more innovation?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

If not engagement, then what?

Yesterday was also good day: I spent more time at the Policing Social Citizens conference (see previous post below) in Manchester in the company of an awesome mix of great people. We were told that just before John Grieve left, he had told one of the organisers that there was more intelligence and insight in the room than at a typical ACPO conference! A most charming man and his presentation was certainly one of the highlights of yesterday.

Challenged by Royston Martis (via twitter) to come up with a better word than 'engagement', I convened a workshop entitled "If we are not going to use the word engagement, what should we use and do?" This is a report of that workshop, ably helped by Sue Ritchie who kept flipchart notes. As you might expect, the conversation ranged quite widely!

I will begin with one police officer's story who said he was once walking down the road on his patch and one his (dare we call him) 'customers' came up to him and said, with a wry grin "Are you engaging with me or reassuring me today?" Now we all know how the great unwashed British public have this irritating habit of raising an eyebrow (and sometimes more) to our carefully contrived words / concepts of the moment. And this doesn't necessarily negate the value of some words. However in this particular instance, I think we may have to listen and reframe...

So what else was raised in the meeting. Here is in a fairly random order are some reflections on the discussion and points raised (with thanks to all who came along):
  • Is it essentially about a model where the police service is the vehicle, the public are in the driving seat and the gears that connect the driver to the engine and wheels is where the 'engagement' happens. In other words, are we really talking about is the public not only participating in but leading on the shape and direction of the public services?
  • So the public are anything but passive customers / consumers of public services, they are and should be the drivers.
  • But if we talking about 'community engagement', which community are we talking about. Or more correctly: which communities... 
  • And moreover, do all these communities want to 'engage'..? Is the role of the public services to pester the public for their judgments & opinions?
  • Perhaps a greater focus on the future and the outcomes that the public want would be a better place to start. 
  • Can an organisation which is poor at 'engaging' its own staff and listening to them ever really properly engage with the public?
  • Is engagement really just about listening and having good conversations... and then using the ideas / information / hopes / ambitions gleaned in shaping the direction of policing really all that it is about?
  • How come we even have to talk about engagement? Just how did we get to a point where the police service (like other services) is not delivering policing in ways that the public need and want?
  • Is what is being done at the moment working? If not (as we suspect so), what creative alternatives do we need use instead?
  • Why do I feel more connected to my postman than to almost any other public (?) service? Perhaps because I feel he knows me... 
  • What are the barriers that get in the way to shaping and delivering public services that match what all communities need?
There was more of course. I have also uploaded a pdf file of the flipcharts produced by Sue. You can access them here. And if anyone wants to add their recollections and reflections, please do so below. Thanks.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting social media...

Today was a good day: I have spent the time at the Policing Social Citizens conference in Manchester in the company of some old social media pals and some new ones. If you touch base with the hashtag: #psc14 you will get a feel for who is here and what we have been talking about. As always with events like this - a rich mix of fascinating people having even richer conversations!

As heralded, I ran one of the sessions today on: "How do you get people (involved in policing etc), who don't get social media, to get it?" (And I added on the day... "who need to get it")

We had a wide ranging discussion with me acting as 'Faciliateur provocateur'... as it were. Here are some notes and reflections from the workshop:
  • The use (or not) of social media has to be about personal choice (although I later countered: would you employ someone who refused to use a telephone?)
  • But I think we agreed, as the social demographics show, this is about a generational shift which will probably come along in time.
  • The key challenge question proposed was "what do you need to know about social media in order to be effective?" A question worth pondering on.
  • This led onto a discussion of how the police interacted with the public during 7/7 (apparently while the police were still issuing press statements about a 'power surge' someone had already uploaded a wikipedia page on the 'London bombings' with 30 minutes...) the 2011 riots and the Clutha helicopter crash. In simple terms, the importance of social media in such crises is becoming ever greater.
  • We concluded that whilst some managers may well choose not to engage actively in social media, it is probably critical that they at least acknowledge their role in creating the milieu in which social media is deployed effectively.
  • The conversation then diverted into a wider analysis of how managing the use of social media is just another example of how managers need to lead the future. This branched into the value of scenario planning and organisations becoming more 'intelligent' as defined in Piagetian terms as 'knowing what to do when you don't know what to do'.
  • In other words, as was pointed out, strategic leaders have a 'duty to understand' all manner of things and social media is emphatically on that list. (Comparisons were made between police forces who were very active on social media during the August 2011 riots and those which struggled. Unproven perhaps but there is some anecdotal data to suggest that social media helped 'keep the lid on' in many places while its lack of deliberate use in other places, didn't.)
  • Emma Daniel presented a model which argued that there are five main types of users on social media: creators, campaigners, connectors, curators and lurkers. Each group has a positive role to play online (which often connects to their work in the real world too) Each group has a part in triangulating the social media world and making it a navigable and accessible space.
  • And (in what as I say was a wide ranging conversation) we touched the role of social media as a social weather: a way of sensing how the world is & predicting how it might change (social media meteorology, as it were). Research in this area is just beginning but perhaps we can look forward to a time when news bulletins will end not only the FTSE index rises and falls but maybe also an indicator of community well being... (drawn from social media)?
A useful and stimulating debate. I look forward to more tomorrow... Please watch this space!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Preventing domestic homicide: results of my research

These are the results of my inquiries into domestic homicide.

You can read how this piece of research began here and later here. Using the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to carry out such research is decidedly clunky and so please consider this when reviewing the data below. Moreover, in hindsight, my third question could have been better phrased. After responses from some of the FoIA officers, it morphed into whether the perpetrators had been discussed on the MARAC system and/or had a noted DASH assessment. Also, I probably could have been clearer about whether the data was to include perpetrators who had been arrested but were not yet convicted within the time period specified.

Even with these caveats, I believe the data points towards some stark conclusions (see below)
  • I wrote to 45 police services, including Police Scotland, PSNI and the City of London Police. All replied to me but 3 are yet to send me any definitive response saying that they are still working on this.
  • Of the remaining 42, all but 2 answered Q1. (Those two forces claimed exemption, on the basis of cost, from replying to any of the questions. One of these two forces was the Metropolitan Police Service)
  • Of the remaining 40, 36 were able to give answers to Q2. The other 3 claimed FoIA exemption. 
  • Of these 36, 25 were able to give answers to Q3. The other 11 forces explained they could not access such information easily without a great deal more effort, simply claimed FoIA exemption for this question or gave another reason.
  • In the last five years (noting the forces that did not respond), the total number of domestic homicides dealt with by UK police forces over the last five years is 395
  • 161 of the people committing these crimes had some sort of criminal record. Or to put it another way, 234 of the people convicted of these murders did not have a previous criminal record. (That is well over half.)
  • Whilst noting the exemptions invoked by many of the police forces replying, in only 17 of 395 cases were the perpetrators on any kind of watch list (MARAC discussion / DASH assessment). 
There are some details to the responses which I do not intend to blog about here but I am happy to answer any questions sent to me. I have not named any of the responders / non responders as I do not think that is relevant. (My one exception is naming the Met as one of the forces who were not able to provide me with any data. Since the Met is the biggest police service, I felt I had to note the absence of its figures.)

So what conclusions to draw?
  • It would appear that many of the perpetrators of domestic homicide are simply not on the police ‘radar’ at all since a minority have prior convictions. An extremely small number are on any kind of watch list. 
  • This suggests to me that targeted police enforcement action to prevent domestic homicide happening can only very limited. 
  • I am also left wondering (and this would definitely need more research) whether the people who commit murder in domestic circumstances are in a different criminological category to those who come to the attention of the police by dint of loud domestic arguments or other forms of violence (short of murder). 
  • This research also raises questions about the quality of the police & partner DV prevention systems: just how effective are those systems at spotting possible victims/perpetrators? I know there are issues of confidentiality and the need to keep secret certain police methods for tackling crime, but I was surprised how many police forces felt unable to give me any data in response to Q3. Is that data not readily available?
  • And finally, this comes back to just how can domestic homicides be prevented if police action is limited because many perpetrators appear to escalate to murder from an ‘unknown’ status beforehand. It seems to me that educating young people (especially young women but not only) in the early warning signs is critical. I am left wondering how many of these domestic homicides could have been prevented if the victims has spotted such early warning signs and spoke to the police or other agencies earlier…?
As you will have gathered, I am no expert on the causes of domestic violence & homicide and the actions needed to prevent such violence & murder. I am merely a very concerned observer. Also this research is necessarily limited.

Nonetheless, I sincerely hope that out there are people with the clout, nous and wit to use this small piece of research in helping to shape action that results in far fewer women and men suffering at the hands of existing or ex partners.

What conclusions, reflections, thoughts does this research leave you with?

Friday, June 20, 2014

UKIP policy on English football

Evidently, we only have the EU to blame for the fact that the England Football Team are probably out buying their Brazilian souvenirs this morning. The fact that a 113.82% of UK law is now made up on a whim by euroautocrats sitting in two offices in the middle of the Luxembourg and Belgium is all part of the demise of English football since 1966. The reason we won the World Cup was precisely because we were not then in the Common Market.

With European work time directives preventing our underpaid footballers from going into overtime and banana kicks being outlawed because they are too bendy, our team frankly didn't have a chance. OK, we know that Italy is in the EU too. But as we all know the rest of Europe just ignores all the EU regulations.

So what is to be done? 

Clearly we must get out of the EU. We must stop all these immigrant footballers coming over here and stealing/playing what is basically our game, putting hard working British footballers on the benches. If we were in government, we would prevent any non UK footballer playing in the football league and premiership, unless they had applied for a work visa. This work visa would specifically exclude them from playing for their national teams.

We would also bring back football pitches measured in furlongs, footballs measured in pounds & ounces and referees with acme whistles manufactured in Bolton. The money we get back from the EU would be given to schools to buy back all the football pitches they have sold off during the bad years of Tory and Labour rule.

And of course, we would make it the law that all England football team managers would have to be English!

Stepping aside... or maybe 'outside for sometime'?

IPCC press release: New investigation into Norfolk PCC’s expenses claims (Jun 19, 2014)
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is managing a new investigation into expenses claims made by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, Stephen Bett. The managed investigation, which is to be carried out by officers from City of London Police under the direction and control of the IPCC, will examine whether claims for expenses made by Mr Bett between 15 November 2012 and 31 October 2013 were correct. A complaint about the claims was sent by Norfolk’s Police and Crime Panel to the IPCC in December 2013. The IPCC requested further information that was received in January 2014. In March, following an assessment, the complaint was sent back to the Panel for it to determine whether it was making a formal referral to the IPCC. That confirmation was received in April and following a further assessment it was decided that an investigation should be carried out.IPCC Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone will oversee the investigation.
I am grateful to my old pal Sam Chapman (@TopoftheCops) for bringing this to my attention. You can read his excellent blog posted in the early hours of this morning here. Sam, with customary legal precision, questions whether Mr Betts can 'step aside' in the way that he has announced. (See Sally Chidzoy's piece for information as well).

I do not have much to add at this stage about the case in question since clearly due process will now ensue. As regular readers know, I have recorded some earlier thoughts about this before including some FoI investigations which reached a rather troubling conclusion for me.

However, I do wish to pick up on the point that Sam makes at the end of his piece:
Oh, and should you think this PCC's conduct, past or present, is more evidence against the PCC reform, then remember – he used to chair the Police Authority.
The conduct of various PCCs is not the evidence against PCC reform since we all know that people elected to power are sometimes, sadly, far lesser people than we would wish them to be... No: the issue is that by having a governance structure that is so dependent upon one person, this is what makes it a very weak, risky and dangerous structure - one which needs to be reformed.

Indeed nearly all of Sam's article is about this precise point: the powers of the PCC cannot be delegated. There can be no stepping aside... This would not happen if there were a body of people (not just a lone individual) elected to make strategic decisions...

The importance of O.W.L.S

Yesterday, to much hilarity and raised eyebrows, @LabourPress tweeted  "Everybody should have his own owl"... I didn't see the tweet, but the BBC reports it here and the comedic tweets which greeted this hacked account. I especially liked John O'Farrell's take.

I quite like the idea as I think that we should all have our:
  • Own
  • Way of
  • Living
  • Superbly!
It is a bit corny, I know. But I say it with a deep passion: this is what guides me in all the dimensions of my work (both paid and unpaid). For example, I spent yesterday in a primary school in Banbury co-facilitating five ChildLine workshops for over 100 children. The message we seek to impart is simple: every child has the right to be happy and safe... and we seek to help them to know this and know how they can take action to maintain or achieve it. 

The day before, I sat in a meeting of the Aylesbury Vale Transport Users Group to celebrate the fact that we are one step closer to establishing a fast coach service between High Wycombe and Northampton. The aim of this service is also simple: make it easier for all people to gain skills and find work along that corridor (especially if they don't have access to other forms of transport). Public transport is about public transport!

On Monday night, I contributed to the town council discussion of our internal auditor's report which is all about ensuring the council's financial and risk systems are fit for purpose. If they were not, we could face closure and the subsequent loss to the local public of the work we do for the town on behalf of them. 

(NB: there is karaoke tonight in the Woolpack, Well Street as part of the Buckingham Fringe! The pub is also in the middle of a beer festival - what more could you want!) 

As the town council, our aim is to make the town a place where people can live their lives superbly! This includes organising cracking entertainment to build communities and foster fun. The fringe ends with Jeremy Hardy on Sunday evening... still a few tickets left!)

These are all examples of the brass tacks of my local politics and voluntary work. The focus is always on how can I help create a society and community where everyone has resources (psychological as well as material etc) so that we can all realise our dreams and ambitions. 

And it is the same in my professional work: I spent a good few days a short while back writing a bid for a piece of work to help a police service develop its organisational culture so that it could do even more to support safer local communities. (The tender has since been withdrawn, but that is another story...!) 

In my book, all public services have the responsibility to create the conditions in which all people (not just the wealthy few) enjoy the privilege of being empowered & enabled authors of their own lives. All of my leadership and organisational development work is focused on this aim.

So, we all need our own OWLS! 

What is your contribution towards helping to create a society in which everyone gets their Own Way of Living Superbly?