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Police Commissioners? Don’t panic!

September 18, 2012 6:20 PM
By Cllr. Richard Kemp, Liverpool City Council in Fighting Crime - locally by the Lib Dem LGA group
Richard Kemp

Cllr Richard Kemp

There's lot of talk about the Police and Councils and communities There's lot of talk about the Police and Councils and communities because of the Police Commissioner elections. My guess is that it won't make a scrap of difference and that what we need to be doing now is what we should have been doing for years -work with and engage the Police in what you and the community are doing!

Things are very easy for us in Liverpool. Each ward has at least two PCSOs, a beat officer, a sergeant across a number of wards and an inspector over three wards. We know who they are and some of them have been around in our ward for some time.

We need to engage them day-to-day and in the longer-term as part of the partnership of activity that we create within our areas. A strong association with the police is, of course, very good politics. People like the police more than they like any politicians and working with them on key nuisance issues can often make an irresistible force.

A couple of stories can show what I mean:

  • I was working in London and happened to have my council e-mail up and running. An e-mail came in about a minor nuisance from a constituent. I rang up the PCSO who is on my speed dial who happened to be 2 minutes away from the house. 17 minutes after e-mailing me a man in uniform came, spent 20 minutes with the constituent and they worked out what to do about the problem. The police helped us!
  • Someone got stabbed in a rather nasty incident just outside my ward. The local inspector whose speed dial I am on rang to give me some details. It was a domestic incident which had no ramifications outside the house concerned. When the press rang me 10 minutes later I was able to calm things down and give them some information. I also rang the local church, residents' association chair and amenity group (all of whom are on speed dial) so that people knew what was going on. The result was a small rather than a large article in the paper about the stabbing and a calm community not pestering the police. We helped the police!

That's the reactive what about the proactive?

We have a ward fund and will often spend things either on the police or things that the Police support. We pay for the purchase and upkeep of a speed indicator advice but they move it around.

They do things or support events during the school holidays and we provide cash, kind or contacts to help them.

We have major problems with parking in parts of our ward some of which is for the police to sort out and some our parking attendants. We now use our scarce resources with the council and police working together in tandem. This applies to ticketing purges but also planning out what are the priorities for yellow lines or speeding restrictions or any other element of joint working around traffic issues.

Approximately half our case work relates to licensed premises either the licence, the planning or pavement cafés. We work with the police on new applications to try and judge what is reasonable to allow. When laws or conditions are broken we jointly work out what to do. In some cases the police will ask for a licensing review with our support and in some cases we will. They are much more able to collect evidence than we or the community can so their beat staff and PCSOs will watch over problem landlords and amass evidence which can often be sued in council licensing, planning or traffic committees. We also approach a range of licensing issues together by joint approaches to landlords.

Anti-social behaviour is rarely easy to deal with and involves a multiplicity of agencies. When a problem is brought to our attention we convene a meeting of the relevant people which might include the police, youth service, parks' authorities, schools etc. Jointly within the ward we decide what can be done and immediately take action. Because we have helped build up a relationship such discussion can take place over the phone. Sometimes we don't even need to be involved but are added in to exchanges for information. BUT we helped create the conditions in which such exchanges could occur.

So the lesson is simple -if the police are not on your speed dial they should be.

Do you know the police who cover your area? When did you last have an informal chat with them about issues? Are they confident about the relationship with you so that they tell you things in confidence?

We knew the relationship was right when we were told in advance of a raid on a cannabis factory. They wanted us to know that they were doing something in the middle of the night so that we could help provide community reassurance first thing in the morning. If we break that trust; if we misuse information; if we misuse the relationship then it would take years to get it back. But do things properly and the operational police in your area can be your greatest partners.

Police Commissioners - Chief Constables - who needs them when the crime and safety partnership in your ward works because you are at the heart of it!