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Response to Ann Barnes. Kent PCC

October 10, 2013

Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Ann Barnes, has initiated some public forums to set priorities for the new Chief Constable when they take up post in January. This included a phone-in on BBC Radio Kent. I’m not a big fan of the phone-in format, but I do think it’s a worthwhile listening exercise. So here’s my own brief, but too-long-for-twitter response.

The top priority for an incoming Chief Constable of Kent should be engagement with the public. Not just outgoing communications, not just surveys, not even just encouraging the public to report crime or provide information and evidence after the event.

That may seem an odd place to start. But we are confronted now by big cuts in resources, and rapidly moving social and economic change and diversification. We need to look outside the traditional Policing frame, including existing models of communication and consultation. The creation of the role of PCC is, itself, perhaps part of a recognition of that change. But delivery of a response falls to the Chief Constable too.

Real engagement means “conversation plus”. There have been some great initiatives at all levels of Kent Police to initiate conversation with the public, including via social media… to which I’m not limiting this suggested priority. By “conversation plus” I mean pointing all that engagement at a new purpose.

Which is involving the public, locally and on an unprecedented scale, in inventing, creating, supporting and sustaining schemes which are aimed at the environment, causes, opportunities and consequences of crime on a local level. The objective should be an environment in which the vast majority of people see crime as “our problem”, at all stages in its creation, and something we come to believe we can make a visible impact on over and above paying our Council Tax contribution to the funding of the force.

Deep engagement should lead people to see their ‘Police Tax’ not as a service charge, which allows them to sit back, demand and complain whilst ‘other people’ [the Police and the Courts] prevent and punish. It would encourage them to see it as a membership fee, to join a community where the Police are ‘us’, not just held to account by ‘us’, and join ‘us’ in fighting and preventing crime. This would tap into smaller helpings of volunteering, goodwill, innovation and commitment over and above what can be done through PCSOs, Specials and Neighbourhood Watch.

What does that look like? What does it mean? What localised opportunities and processes can be created to harness public interest and ideas? That’s the priority – an opportunity to create and develop these means. Ann Barnes may say that this is being done already – in which case an audit and summary would be great. But I would include in the interview of any candidate for Chief Constable a question about whether they agreed with the above, and how they would go about creating this new layer of active engagement… building the “conversation plus”.

It will take some resources away from front line policing. But it’s an investment that will pay for itself many times over if it brings about that radical change. Otherwise those front line resources will become more and more stretched responding to the call, “Chief Constable to aisle 9 please – with a mop and a bucket”.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 1, 2015 9:27 am

    ann barnes. Wants to realize. She would have nothing. If it wasnt for trucks. Tell her to sit on the side of the motorway for 4 days. With porta toilets. With no toilet paper in them. And no sink to wash your hands. The only one being baby sat. Is her. At home with her mod cons. And family. I find the womens comments. Disgracefull. No wonder the country is in the mess it it. Through people likd her. Me me me

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