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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

PCC: irony (ˈʌɪrəni/)

Regular readers will know that I have referred to Anthony Stansfeld (PCC for Thames Valley) as the gift that keeps on giving. He has not said much of late but the Oxford Mail published an interview with him last Saturday. You can read it all here.

Here are some gems:
Mr Stansfeld said a fall in crime proved PCCs had been a success, but said media coverage often painted them in a bad light. He said: “The vast majority have been a considerable success.”
Yes, you read that correctly: the fall in crime proved PCCs had been a success...! Now to be fair to Mr Stansfeld, the news story does not contain a direct quote on this and perhaps the journalist will need to say exactly what Mr Stansfeld claimed but... it does not look good!

He also asserts, this time with a direct quote given, that the vast majority have been a success without providing any evidence to back up that claim. On what basis have they been a success? As readers know, I believe there have been some successes and I praise the PCCs who are making a difference but "vast majority"... hmm.

He also goes onto say
“What I find ironic is that the profile of PCCs is only raised when something goes wrong.”
Here is a web definition of 'irony':
- the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.("‘Don't go overboard with the gratitude,’ he rejoined with heavy irony")- a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result. ("the irony is that I thought he could help me"- a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character's words or actions is clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.
As it happens I think that it is tragically perhaps but clearly inevitable and often wryly amusing that the profile of PCCs is only raised when something goes wrong... And PCCs are probably an example of latter day Greek tragedy in that many of them (and I can think of one or two...) do not know the full significance of their actions and words even though it is bloomin' obvious to the rest of us!

In this sense, Mr Stansfeld is on the money: PCCs are the epitome of irony, perhaps even quintessentially so...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Child Sexual Exploitation: what parents can do...

I will say more later on, but I wanted to get this information out as soon as possible. I have been pointed towards what seems to be an excellent publication produced by PACE (Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation) which seeks to offer advice to parents in these circumstances:

Working with the Police: The role of parents in investigating child sexual exploitation

I have not read it in detail but it seeks to offer some helpful ways forward whereby concerned parents (and 'concerned' is probably an understatement!) can assist in the bringing to justice the adults involved in exploiting their children.

For your information: Who are Pace?
Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (Pace) works alongside parents and carers of children who are sexually exploited, or are at risk of being sexually exploited, by perpetrators external to the family. At our heart is a network of affected parents, whose expertise is central to our mission. Individual parents’ experiences are referred to throughout the booklet in distinctive handwritten type. You can read more about Pace and how we can help on pages 48–49
I will write more about this subject in later blogs. But for the time being...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Good bye Amazon

We all know about the financial finagling that allows Amazon to trade in the UK but somehow means it eludes paying its fair share of tax. For a long while, I stopped buying from its website. But then I drifted back: after all it is so easy and are other suppliers any more ethical in their tax affairs? (You see I can justify anything...)

Well, now I have had my fill. And it has nothing to do with tax. But it has everything to do with honesty. For this reason (and please hold me to this), I will no longer be spending any more money with Amazon.

What happened? I ordered two DVDs for myself the other day (Sunshine on Leith and One Chance) and they were delivered yesterday, through my letterbox at 3.37pm says the tracking website. Except the package was not delivered and despite two long chats with Amazon staff, the driver/deliverer 'cannot' be located to say where they actually did deliver the package.

All that Amazon want to do, is send me another package. I told them that this would a) not restore my trust in them b) not resolve the issue in the long term. In other words it is a cost of failure that ultimately I will be paying for. Moreover, in effect, it rewards the lying by the delivery company that a package was delivered through my door when it was not. Amazon have told me that their transport department will have a conversation with the contractor but they cannot send me a copy of the report of actions arising from that meeting. Note they said 'cannot'. I corrected their grammar and said it should be 'will not'.

So goodbye Amazon. I am off elsewhere to spend my money on DVDs and the like. You have shown yourselves up to be an inefficient, opaque and dishonesty rewarding company that I can no longer have confidence in.

UPDATE: 110914 | 0806:

Last night I received a comment from an anonymous source who said: How does that reward the dishonesty of the delivery company? I imagine enough bad reports againest the particular driver/company and Amazon will stop using them.

In answer I would say because all that Amazon seemed to want to do was send me another package rather than tackle the issue and resolve it. This rewards failure and as is evident from the link below, I am not the only one who thinks that 'Amazon Logistics' lie about what they have done. The forum thread linked below, started in May. Amazon have had nearly 4 months to react to and deal with these mounting criticisms of their contractor...

It seems I am not alone in my criticism of 'Amazon Logistics'. You can read an extensive forum discussion of similar problems to the above. I have just added my contribution:
Good to know I am not the only one. Have just written this email to their CEO (thanks for the address Y.A.Chang)
Dear Mr North
I understand you are the CEO of Amazon.
See below transcript as to why I will never do business with you again. Essentially you have hired inaccessible, unreliable and mendacious contractors to deliver the articles that customers order. Your processes are opaque and without accountability. Your customer service operators say `cannot' when they actually mean `will not'. In sum: I no longer have confidence or trust in your business.
UPDATE: 150914 | 1443:

Just received this reply back from Mr North's office:
Dear Mr Harvey,
My name is Brian Motherway and I work within Executive Customer Relations.
I am contacting you on behalf of the office of the Ltd Managing Director, Mr Christopher North. After reviewing your correspondence, Mr North has requested that I respond to your e-mail.
Rest assured however, Christopher takes e-mails like yours very seriously and is aware of the issue and our response both to you as well as internally to the various relevant departments.
Firstly, please accept my sincere apologies for the unfortunate issues you have experienced with the delivery of your order. I am sorry to hear of the poor service that you have received from us and in particular, the delivery service from Amazon Logistics. Thank you for taking the time to inform us of this matter. 
Please know that it is very important to us that our customers receive their orders as expected and we understand the disappointment and inconvenience caused by these events.
I can assure you that I have informed senior management in our Transportation Department of your experience. This matter will in turn be highlighted to senior management in Amazon Logistics to ensure that this is fully investigated. We truly value this kind of feedback, as it helps us continue to improve our website and provide a better service to our customers. Your correspondence will be used in reviewing the service provided by Amazon Logistics.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us and for bringing this to our attention. We hope that you will allow us an opportunity to serve you in the future.

Brian Motherway
Executive Customer Relations
... which is a start. Meanwhile I have discovered Rakuten | which appears to offer a comparable service (time will tell...). Also Oxfam online also have a fair few DVDs (etc.) for sale & despatch. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

PCC governance: the writing is on the wall in Rotherham and elsewhere

Anyone who watched the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) grilling (this link may or may not work as a recorded session) of PCC Shaun Wright cannot fail to have been impressed on at least two counts: Mr Wright has redefined 'brazen defiance' to a new level & there is no legislative route by which anyone can (currently, without new primary legislation being enacted) remove him from office until 2016.

When PCC governance is reformed, as it surely will be, Mr Wright's case study will be cited on many occasions.

And then this morning, I got engaged in a short twitter debate with the PCC for Staffordshire, Matthew Ellis. It began with me gently nudging him about this story where he is reported to have stated that "Two-thirds of police and crime commissioners are hopeless". I told him I thought the accepted figure was only a third!

But here are the last few posts in our dialogue (mixed threads so a couple of posts missing):
  • ‏@CllrJonSHarvey: @MatthewEllis I thought "accepted" fraction was 1/3, but no worries. I think difference is PCC's who think themselves managers not leaders
  • ‏@MatthewEllis @CllrJonSHarvey Agree! Get balance right aim for added value & instill new anbition & thinking seems to work. Public engagement up up up!
  • ‏‏@MatthewEllis: @CllrJonSHarvey Subjective isn't it. Depends where bar lies. Perhaps between the two! Point is role can work. We've had bad PMs Cllrs MPs?
  • @CllrJonSHarvey: @MatthewEllis And PMs, cllrs & MPs are all herd beasts. PCCs are more or less isolated given their singular power. Different category
  • ‏@MatthewEllis: @CllrJonSHarvey Fair point. I support some form of recall or reserve Home Sec powers to remove exceptionally. Agree greater check n balance
  • ‏@CllrJonSHarvey: @MatthewEllis specifics? What extra check & balance powers would you give to PCP?
  • @MatthewEllis: @CllrJonSHarvey Firstly more resource & much higher public profile. Parl Select committees more powerful since profiles raised & enhanced
So this blog is my response to his last tweet, as simply 140 characters are not enough!

It is my impression that Mr Ellis is one of the better PCCs. I happen to think that he has grasped and understood that his role is primarily one of leadership rather than (micro) management of the Chief Constable (as some PCCs seem to be doing) and/or glad-handing lots of people at shows and festivals.

Nonetheless, as I said to him in another tweet, if it takes a superlative person to make a role work, that is not a good and solid basis for that governance role. And given the vagaries of how candidates are selected and elected (and Mr Wright at least had the grace to admit in his time with the HASC yesterday, that he was elected on the strength of his party ticket, rather than as a particular person), then the PCC role will continue to have a fair number of people who are less than superlative.

And now to turn to his last tweet: despite the HASC's glaring scrutiny of some of the decisions taken around the Rotherham scandal, they are ultimately without executive power. Yes, the HASC has developed a high profile and is well resourced (reference Mr Ellis' tweet) but they have as much authority to remove Mr Wright (or any of the others in Rotherham involved in the horrendous state of affairs) as my cat.

Indeed, PCPs already have the potential to develop the kind of influence of which Mr Ellis speaks. But how many have done so?

In the end, the problem is one of singular power invested in one person who is only up for election every four years. 

Any suggestion that a PCC should be removable by (say) the Home Secretary or even a Police & Crime Panel is in direct conflict with the argument put forward for PCCs in the first place: singular power elected by and accountable to local people through the ballot box.

The writing is on the wall for PCCs (and Mr Wright has added his own scribbled message). Defenders of this governance role may think it can be tweaked and revised to make it work. However,  I honestly believe that PCCs will be a one term experiment that will consigned to the history books within a matter of months...

But if Mr Ellis (or Mr Wright) or anyone else wishes to respond... please do so.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Not quite saved by the division bell

I am currently riveted to my computer screen watching the proceedings of the Home Affairs Select Committee scrutiny of some of the people involved in the Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation. The division bell has just rung, so we (including the two current witnesses: the Rotherham Council CEO, who has just resigned, and Strategic Director for Children, Young People and Families) all have time to draw breath. (Now watching it again while trying to write this too.)

The current and former Chief Constables have just left the room after what may be called, with understatement, a roasting. Med Hughes, the Chief until 2011 looked deeply reflective. While there will be many who will pour scorn, incredulity and indeed hate upon him, I am very concerned about him.

Emphatically, I am not going to pass judgement upon Mr Hughes since I am not privy to all the facts and I have no idea about what he did or did not do in his role as Chief Constable about this matter. But it concerns me (and I am sure a lot less than it concerns Mr Hughes) that he appears to have known so little as to what was happening on his patch.

How can a Chief Constable be so (seemingly / allegedly) out of touch? Or is this inevitable in an organisation of the size he was head of? Are all CEOs that out of touch? Or was (is?) the culture of SYP so 'compliant' that people will hide & finagle data so much that little truth gets through to the managerial echelons of the organisation? Did numbers become more important than people? In how many other organisations has this become so? (In how many other Government policies has this become so...?)

I hope the announced inquiry gets to the bottom of all this. The inquiry must, of course, be about holding people to account. It MUST also be about getting to the root cause of how and why action was not taken. This is likely to be a systemic problem and unlikely to be just about a few people being in dereliction of their duty.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Child Sexual Exploitation: some questions to address

This letter was published in the local newspaper (Buckingham & Winslow Advertiser) yesterday.

I submitted this letter last weekend, before a number of arrests were made in Aylesbury, Buckingham and nearby. I mention this fact as the germane content of the letter is coincidental with emerging events locally (Eight men charged with child sexual exploitation)

Dear Editor

Nobody will have failed to have been horrified by the stories of child sexual exploitation (CSE) emerging from Rotherham. Last week you reported that Cllr Angela McPherson, the Bucks County Council Cabinet member for children’s services, said that “No council can ever say …that everything is watertight but we are really confident that we have robust [CSE] procedures in place”. I would like to debate this assertion a little and ask the councillor some questions.

Reference Keith Levett’s letter last week, I have spent some more ‘inordinate amount of effort’ reading through the latest Rotherham report in order to extract any learning points that we might usefully apply to our own County. (You can follow my live tweeting of my reading of the report by following #LTRR)

(And just for the record: Mr Levett & I clearly agree on the need to hold the top level political leadership to account for failings in care of vulnerable children. That is what my ‘tedious’ letter was trying to say!)

But to return to CSE, here are some significant findings from the Rotherham report that I think need to be taken on considered in the context of our County.

The Rotherham report highlights the work of a youth worker based service called ‘Risky Business’ which successfully built trusting relationships with some very damaged and scared young women & girls. Indeed I would go so far as to suggest that without this voluntary organisation (funded by the public purse), many of the horrific crimes in Rotherham would have gone unnoticed and unreported. Question number one to Cllr McPherson is: does the County Council fund outreach youth work sufficiently to enable intimidated young women to speak up, many of whom distrust the standard statutory services?

There is much evidence to suggest that there has been significant under reporting of CSE, particularly from the British-Asian communities in Rotherham. Asian girls, fearing personal and family stigma appear to be much less inclined to come forward with their concerns. The report challenges Rotherham not just to speak with the elder males of the local Asian communities but also younger women and girls. Question number two: does the County Council have excellent channels of communication with all members of the local Asian communities, not just a few older men?

I would also argue that the inquiry into Rotherham exposed a focus on massaging the figures to present a positive appearance that everything was OK. This was often done to the detriment of a real & honest focus on the people at risk. There are several instances of where senior managers and politicians were found to be in denial of the evidence that was being presented to them by frontline staff. Question number three: how confident is the Cabinet member that she is privy to the unvarnished experience and concerns of frontline social workers, youth workers and teachers?

Many of the victims of CSE in Rotherham were girls being looked after by the Council. (This was, I believe, a feature of the crimes that were committed down the road in Oxford as well.) It seems that being ‘in care’ in fact led to some of the girls being at greater risk from harm. This risk was multiplied when the girls were placed out of the area away from their wider family & social networks, leaving them vulnerable to the attentions of attentive, but predatory, older men. Buckinghamshire has a high proportion of looked after children being placed out of county. Question number four: what plans and arrangements are in place to bring more looked after children back to the county and provide adequate support to all looked-after children to help ensure that they are not at risk?

There is much more, but I would not wish this letter to go on too much either, no matter how important is the subject. I would end with a quote from the report:

“The combined effect of changes to local authority funding in England has been a dramatic reduction in resources available to Rotherham and neighbouring Councils. By 2016, Rotherham will have lost 33% of its spending power in real terms compared to 2010/11. The comparison for the whole of England is a reduction of 20%, and for a Council like Buckinghamshire, only 4.5% reduction.”

Be thankful that you live in Bucks and not Rotherham which (perhaps you can deduce why…) appears to be subject to cuts seven times worse that what is happening to this county.

Sincerely yours

Friday, September 5, 2014

The 'anti-logic' of racism & hate

Unsurprisingly, I have got caught up in a few twitter 'debates' about child sexual exploitation (CSE) in recent days. If people could write their posts on twitter in purple ink, I suspect many would. I have been met with what has felt at times, to be a barrage of hate against Islam. I have been pointed towards 'research' which 'proves' Europe is still engaged in a 16th century battle with the exponents of the religion. And I am left somewhat disturbed by a website that has to declare that it has no links to the English Defence League...

The argument seems to be this: many (quite possibly most, although I do not have the accurate figures) of the perpetrators of CSE in Rotherham and elsewhere are of British/Pakistani heritage or have a background that is Muslim. 'Therefore', since this proportion is so high (compared the overall population), this is evidence of a pervasive culture of child sexual abuse within the religion of Islam - and therefore its followers. Similarly, since Labour have run Rotherham over many years, CSE is the 'fault' of the Labour Party.

It is at times like this that I wish logic was a compulsory element of the national curriculum (alongside maths, english, science and, I wish, sex/relationships education).

When I carefully state that extrapolating from a few members of a wider group to 'prove' the whole group is the same, is just not logical, I am shouted at. Evidently when I dare to suggest that other parts of the country experiencing CSE and which are not controlled by a Labour council suggests that the problem is more complex, I am accused of changing the subject. Clearly I am in denial when I believe that vast numbers / majority of families of Muslim and/or British/Pakistani heritage love and care for their children as much as anyone else.

What is it with all this hate that people switch off the logical circuits in their brains?

Just as we have to understand where CSE comes from so that we can develop effective strategies to reduce its incidence, we also have to understand why some people are so prone to hate others. Both CSE and hate are tearing people and our communities apart!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Rotherham & Child Sexual Exploitation: what next?

Late last night, I finished reading the Jay Inquiry into how Rotherham Council dealt (or rather hasn't dealt) with child sexual exploitation in the town. The report also mentions several other agencies, particularly the local police, but the main focus was on the Council itself. I live tweeted (160+) my reading of the report, mostly with extracts (occasionally highlighted by me) but also some comments & reflections as I went through it. You can see all that I tweeted with the hash tag of #LTRR (live tweeting rotherham report*).

I hesitate to add any more actions to the 15 recommended ones made at the end of the report: since I have only read the report rather than created it out of a thousand conversations had and documents read.

I do hope that councillors and professional staff involved in child safeguarding and protection from all councils read the report and reflect on whether any of it conclusions might apply to their own organisation.

My overwhelming impression from reading the report is here was a council that was defiantly in denial of the evidence that was being brought forward. Here also was a council that seemed more focused on the numbers than on the young women and girls behind those numbers. And here was a council where potent scrutiny was mostly absent. Moreover, here was a senior leadership that was not truly listening to its front line staff and where the channels of communication with the communities were decidedly incomplete. 

So what next? Here are three provocative ideas that might help future 'Rotherhams' (and Oxfords, etc etc) from happening:
  1. Abandon first past the post electoral (FPTP) systems for local government (like Scotland has already done) in favour of more proportional ones. FPTP is designed to create large majorities in the council chamber when far greater political diversity exists amongst the electorate. This will help ensure better scrutiny & decision making in the future.
  2. Protect whistleblowers and independent researchers even more: with legislation if needs be and throughout the public services and commercial organisations. 
  3. End the daft performance management culture that plucks targets from the air and attempts to turn the world into one big spreadsheet. I am not a number! Nor were/are all the girls & young women of Rotherham and beyond.

(*If there is anyone with much more Twitter knowledge that I have who can turn these tweets into a story in the right order... I would be most grateful!)

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


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


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.


*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…