Northamptonshire PCC admits ‘people won’t feel safer by the police telling them they are’ in strategy forum speech

Police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds pictured at Police HQ, Wootton Hall.
Police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds pictured at Police HQ, Wootton Hall.

How the job of policing is done, how it is structured and organised, relationships across agencies, the vital relationship with the public and how policing is led are all up for debate in today’s rapidly changing world, says Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds in a speech this week.

Addressing the Police Strategy Forum, a national body for future police leaders, Mr Simmonds said that being leaders at this time brings undoubted pressure. But it also brings incredibly rich opportunity.

“Future police leaders have the opportunity to move policing ahead of the game, reducing crime by new, preventative ways of working. We need to think differently about what the future of policing looks like.

“Local communities expect problems and solutions to be framed on how they see and experience them, not just the way the police see the world.

“We know that very often people won’t feel safer, by the police telling them they are. We must challenge the perception of why they feel unsafe in the first instance and address those concerns with urgency.

“The role of neighbourhood and community policing has always changed and adapted with the times. Now there needs to be a much stronger focus on prevention too. The fire and rescue service has shown how to manage down demand, through effective prevention advice. The clear and welcome fall in fire deaths is much more about building design, fire alarms, fire-resistant materials and the like, than about refinements in blue light response or increase in front-line fire personnel.

“This clearly demonstrates that prevention is better than cure or response. The same is true for crime and anti-social behaviour.

“So we need to fully recognise the fundamental importance of ‘service’.

Policing is in the business of delivering excellent service. It is not a special case and can still learn from the finest service organisations in the world.

“Part of that is to see through the eyes of real customers. All of us have chosen to be a part of the criminal justice system and policing; even an offender makes that choice when committing an offence; victims and witnesses have never chosen to actively participate in that process. The system should work for them and give them a much stronger say.

“So how do we make all this happen. Police and crime commissioners have a vital role in setting the lead. So do police leaders.

“Leadership has never been more important in policing. Never have the requirements on police leaders shifted so fast. It is no longer possible to understand what a chief constable of the future needs to look like simply by looking in the rear view mirror at those who have been chiefs in the past.

“The police leader of the future needs to think much bigger than the role of the police. They need to be able to influence far beyond the immediate span of their policing command and control.

“The question should be ‘what is good for the people in this area’, and the answers to that question need to be heard from those local communities.

Police leaders need to see local people as their point of reference, not just the organisations they lead.

“Some of the rules that currently bind organisations need to change.

The managerial structures across blue light services, and across criminal justice agencies, should be more fluid and flexible, to allow for local innovation, for one leader to lead more than one organisation.

“Police leaders need to be open to change too. The comfort and security that is found in stability and familiarity is a false security. Leaders need to ‘dare to be different’.

“The police leaders of the future need to bring a depth and breadth of experience. But not necessarily or exclusively years of operational experience as a police officer. They will need experience of working in, and of leading, excellent, innovative, entrepreneurial, customer-focused organisations. I can’t envisage many police leaders at the very top of police organisations in the future who haven’t had some exposure and leadership experience beyond policing.

“Finally, there is a very strong case to abolish the current, cumbersome, old fashioned and expensive multiple inspections of policing. Instead there should be a single Inspectorate focused on outcomes of safety and justice for our victims and local communities.

“This should be about seeing the world through the eyes of those who rely upon the police and criminal justice system. The current inspections are too reliant on police professionals seconded to HMIC, who come out and interview police professionals and check them against the policies and protocols drawn up by police professionals.

“Finally, those who challenge the police, including politicians, need to do so in a way which doesn’t feel like it is kicking those in policing who do an amazing job. We need to conduct our debates carefully so as not to undermine public confidence in the police. It should be possible to strike the tone about the need for change whilst celebrating and appreciating the excellent work, huge commitment, profound sense of vocation, and raw bravery which are such routine elements of the everyday life and work of our police that they can sometimes be taken for granted.”

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