It is remarkable that Theresa May has now distanced herself from her comments in February that only a Conservative PCC can deliver lower crime, safer communities and value for money. I said at the time that this was an insult to the electorate, and to the very democracy which she accepts is crucial to the contribution that PCCs make.
It is however, critical that the public are made more aware of the role of Police and Crime Commissioners.Talking to people on doorsteps and in the towns and cities of Devon and Cornwall I know that “what’s the point?” is a valid question for many, but one for which there is a strong response.
The PCC’s primary function is to engage with and represent all the people they serve, so that they can set the strategic direction of the Police, and help ensure that policing and other important victim support and justice services meet their needs. I am confident that Labour is right to recognise the value in this and has a very successful record around the country.
There is much debate about the role being politicised and that standing on a party ticket may lead to a conflict of interest. Tony Hogg has shown to his credit that rising above party politics is a critical part of the job. I believe that makes me Mr Hogg's natural successor. I will represent all communities of Devon & Cornwall fairly, and will support and challenge when necessary the national and local governments of whatever political colour. This is how I have worked throughout my career in the Royal Navy - working for the best interests of the British people.
I am standing as Labour’s candidate to ensure that voters understand the values that I bring, as well as my professional and leadership skills; values of fairness, justice, truth, and a recognition that working together we can achieve a better society. These are so important to policing.
So let’s be fair and truthful Theresa May. Let’s not pretend that our PCC has made remarkable strides in connecting with communities. He certainly has not convinced the many disadvantaged communities I speak to. Perhaps he has spent too much time trying to fight unfairness in police funding and damaging cuts that last Autumn were about to reduce our force to emergency response only?
Let’s not pretend that crime is falling. In fact, the crimes that are really harming our society are rising, and rapidly so. Violent crime is up, and thankfully there is now a much greater willingness to report the terrible levels of domestic abuse and the sexual crime that is destroying our social fabric. Cyber-crime is being conducted “on an industrial scale” in Theresa May’s own words, much of it is financial fraud – a crime that is not even included in the crime figures. HMIC are certain in their reports; crime is being under-reported in Devon and Cornwall by around 16% and possibly much higher.
The “flagship” Police and Crime Bill going through Parliament makes it possible for PCCs to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services. My preference will be to collaborate strongly of course, but not attempt to merge these two important, but very different public services into one. Pushing this through Parliament, while the Policing Minister refuses to give any idea when he might review and fix the unfit funding formula for policing itself is indefensible.
So what would I do? First, I will do everything possible to complete the current PCC’s efforts to get a fair funding deal for Devon and Cornwall, while working with ordinary people and the tremendous range of statutory and voluntary agencies concerned to set a new direction for policing. My new Police and Crime Plan would be based on the priorities that emerge. At this stage I see increased and specific emphasis on preventing and addressing domestic abuse as just one of those priorities. I will work hard alongside the Chief Constable to develop a workforce model that matches today’s priorities and importantly the demands on future policing that we will estimate through wide engagement and strategic assessment. This may change the nature of some of our workforce, but I recognise the huge value that our people place on visible local policing by both Police and PCSOs, so I will establish a level of service commitment to this.
Critically important will be the introduction of much better technology to improve the effectiveness of Police at the front-line, to ensure that we all get more policing where and when it’s required to protect our communities. This includes ensuring that the most disadvantaged in our society get their fair share. I strongly believe that social justice is a route to a safer and better society for all.
Theresa May said that you can judge the PCC at the ballot box, but hasn’t noticed we can’t. Elect me on May 5th and I’ll ensure you can judge me on my record in 2020.