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Reflecting on my first 12 months as your Police and Crime Commissioner



Dear Friends


It is now a year since the elections for the country’s first Police and Crime Commissioners and what a year that has been! I can’t believe how fast it has flown by. I look back at my election campaign and it seems a world away now.


To win that election, as a political novice, and with no party machinery behind me, would not have been possible without the help and support of so many people in Kent, not least yourself. I am deeply grateful for all that you did to help me and I can never repay your faith in me, save to always work hard for the people of Kent and keep my promises to you all.


The election set the stage for the people of Kent to have one person who is the link between all people and all communities in Kent and Kent police, Yet with no ‘job description’ I’ve have had to develop the role in the light of what local people expect of their Commissioner and local factors. On the one hand, I am the voice of local people, holding firm on keeping visible community policing and other matters close to the heart of the public. On the other hand my ‘holding to account function’, means that I have to insist that the Force face up to difficult news on how they are performing.


So I have one position, but with many roles. At various times I am a public advocate, communicator, bridge builder, Force champion. As an Independent charged with the governance of a major public service in times of unprecedented financial challenges, it is sometimes intensely challenging but always rewarding. I wouldn’t swap the experience for the world.


It would take forever here to list all the things that I have initiated and delivered, and my plans for the future, so I am attaching a link to my official website for you to cast your eyes over, have you not already done so. Also, below this email is an essay I wrote for Police Exchange about my first year as Commissioner for Kent which you might find interesting. Please sit down with a cup of tea and have a read. I hope you will agree that I am keeping my promises to you.


Meanwhile, again, thank you so very much for your help and support – we did it!


Best wishes
Ann Barnes


My Policy Exchange” essay for your information...


Personal Reflections

It seems like a whirl wind. The campaign, the election and the early days of holding Office have flashed by like a fast moving train. The first anniversary is indeed a moment to reflect. The fact that I had 6 years as Chair of the outgoing Kent Police Authority and that I stood for what is a high profile public Office as an Independent, unprotected by any party political machine, are factors that have shaped my experience.


The nature of the post as Commissioner is profoundly different than that of Chair of the Authority. Whilst serving as Chair of the Authority gave me experience of policing and police governance, it also landed me with an unexpected difficulty. As Chair, I was like ‘Chair of the Board’, primarily tasked with developing a consensus from Authority members each of whom would have their own opinions and, often, their Political Party perspective. The role of Commissioner is very different. It is a very ‘singular’ post. The need for ‘consensus’ has therefore been much reduced. However, engagement with, and reflection of, public opinion is an exceptionally important part of the role of Commissioner. It is an elected public role. The relationship with the ‘public’ is of paramount importance. So much so, that to some extent it defines the role. This has given an unexpected dimension to my own experience. I still looked like the previous incarnation of Ann Barnes the ‘Chairperson’, but in reality my whole approach and perspective is radically different. I feel this has led to those involved in both the Force and the Criminal Justice System struggling to adapt to my new priorities and my new perspective as a publically elected figure rather than ‘corporate’ overseer. They see what looks familiar, but my wishes and priorities are different.


The immersion in what was a hard fought election was a searing experience. The face to face, eyeball to eyeball, encounters that are the very essence of campaigning and canvassing do have the effect of bolting one’s feet firmly on the ground. It is often light on sophisticated argument. But what you do get is the ‘no holds barred’ brutal hard hitting truth of public opinion. The police world quite rightly applies logic and business thinking extensively in its culture. But it needs to remember that it is most definitely not a business and that public opinion is not always logical. But here’s the really challenging point for those accustomed to the rigid disciplines of business cases and logic- by not being logical, public opinion is no less valid. This is where one of the greatest differences of the old regime of Police Authorities and ‘Commissionerland’ can be seen. As Commissioner, my hinterland, the people to whom my first loyalty lies is the ‘public’. It’s my duty to reflect their sometimes ‘illogical’ sometimes conflicting wishes and priorities to deliver the service they want. It’s not my role to explain to them that they shouldn’t want what they want.


The conflicting views about ‘visibility’ and ‘intelligence led’ are perhaps the best illustration of my point. It’s widely accepted by policing professionals that patrolling Officers solve few crimes compared to officers who are targeted and who are tasked under more scientific processes. That said, any survey of public opinion will clearly show that visible community policing is not just a high priority for the public, but the highest. As Commissioner, being the conduit of this public view into the corridors of the Policing world is one of my most challenging but rewarding roles.


Culture

The police in general have taken a battering in recent months with a succession of scandals and controversies reaching from ‘Plebgate’, through ‘hacking’ right back to Hillsborough. There’s never been a more vital time for trust to be reaffirmed. In a world of inquisitive 24/7 media, in an era in which citizens are ever more empowered to seek justice for perceived wrongs, there is only one direction of travel that can offer success for our Police forces. It’s simply this, an ever greater acceptance of openness and transparency. I liken my role to prising the lid off a tin of paint. You have to keep rotating the tin and apply gentle persuasive pressure around the rim.


Delivering for the Public

I was elected on a platform of being open, transparent and accessible. Right from the start, I told the people of Kent that I would not be desk bound. To make good on these pledges I’ve set in place an ambitious and demanding programme of public engagement.


  • On most Fridays I set out in my Community Outreach Vehicle and visit local communities, charities and shops. I do this to meet people in their own areas. Why should I expect people to come to me? I go to the big Town Centres, I go to the hamlets. So far, I’ve visited over 60 communities.
  • Every 8 weeks I secure a church hall or public building and hold a ‘Meet the Commissioner’ event. The events are open to all. I’m joined by the Chief Constable or his Deputy and take unscripted questions from the floor. These events are sometimes challenging, always informative and very effective.
  • Every 8 weeks, I go to a part of the County and hold a ‘surgery’. Members of the public can attend and discuss policing and community safety issues in private.
  • I make myself as accessible as possible to the local and regional media. I do not see the media as a ‘threat’ but as a valuable way of interacting with the people of Kent. Even if the topic is difficult, I will normally always make myself available.

 

All this interaction and engagement has to have an outcome. Listening to concerns and problems is vital, but it’s only part of the mission. Having engaged, having listened and having interacted, I have to act. I learn so much from my engagement. It informs a multitude of my decisions. But the one thing that it constantly reaffirms is that whatever the difficulties, whatever the cuts, whatever the conflicting demands on scarce resources, the priority for the people of Kent is visible community policing – and I will deliver that!


Victims

I’ve been a victim of crime myself. It is a draining and emotional experience. If the Police and criminal justice system don’t handle it well, you end up being a victim twice. Once at the time of the crime, then later as the whole process unwinds. You can be left with the feeling of being a silent member of the audience watching a play – when you are in the play!


I am committed to using my commissioning powers to re-shape victim services. One of the most sobering experiences was my attendance at a ‘Lean’ event covering Victim’s services. At this event, practitioners from all across the criminal justice landscape set out the full range of services. The professionalism and dedication of all involved shone through. But the ‘map’ of services that they laid out on a giant chart was breath taking in its complexity. It looked like some great organic molecule full of crossing paths and convoluted curves. In stark contrast, the same professionals set out their vision for how it should be. This new way forward was ambitious in the scale of change required to deliver it. However, it was much simpler, more straightforward, and crucially with the needs of the victims embedded at its heart.


My mind is set on a Victim’s Centre to forge this new vision into reality.


There’s one particular victim related issue that I have addressed separately and in advance of these more strategic reforms. This relates to the fact that until my intervention Kent has not had a fully comprehensive 24/7 Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). This meant that victims of serious sexual assault would either be taken to the poor existing facility such as it was, or, even worse, be taken ‘out of County’. This was a totally unacceptable and shameful situation.


As Commissioner, I used some of my own commissioning budget but just as importantly I was able to ‘lever in’ significant funding from other agencies such as the NHS.


Youth Commissioner

No account of my first year in Office could be considered complete without some reference to my Youth Commissioner initiative. I remain committed to this initiative despite the widely reported difficulties experienced by the first candidate. Such was the furore surrounding this position, that I commissioned an independent report into the recruitment process which is now freely available on my website. In summary it concluded that my Office didn’t ask for Social Networking vetting, and the Force, who provided HR support, didn’t advise it. On reflection, the post attracted a lot more media interest than I had anticipated and the outcome obviously suggests that Social Networking I refuse to let the initiative fade because of these issues with the first recruitment. A good idea should not fall because of difficulties with implementation. With a national headline recently revealing that over 1 Million young people in Britain are at risk of ‘cyber crime’, the need for my Youth Commissioner is increasing, not diminishing. As just one example of an initiative that I will look to the Youth Commissioner to take a prominent role, I have announced a major new primary schools initiative. I will be funding 3 full time PCSOs to deliver an existing Force package into later years primary schools. If the Youth Commissioner saves just one young person from becoming either a victim or a perpetrator of crime, it will be money wisely invested.


The role

With no ‘job description’ we ‘first time’ Commissioners have had to develop the role in the light of what local people expect and local factors.On the one hand, I am the voice of local people, holding firm on keeping visible community policing and other matters close to the heart of the public. My ‘holding to account function’, means that I have to insist that the Force face up to difficult news.


I was the first Commissioner to use new powers relating to Police Governance when I called in HMIC to investigate crime recording practices in Kent. Concerns had been raised during the election campaign. The review found that there were serious issues that needed to be addressed on crime recording, ‘no crime-ing’ and on Force performance culture. The investigation revealed serious issues. Some victims had been let down and the activity of some Officers had been distorted to meet numeric targets. The findings vindicated my decision to act. To the credit of the Force they have reacted positively and a rigorous improvement process is now in place. Bringing in HMIC was a tough decision, but the right decision. I firmly expect two significant outcomes. The first will be that the issues surrounding crime recording and culture will be addressed and the people of the County will be able to have confidence in the crime numbers and in the culture of the Force. However, this work has opened the door to a further very significant development. I am now minded to make a very significant move in relation to targets. The investigation and its outcomes have made me re-think my role in the ‘target’ culture. If I can be assured that a robust culture of continuous improvement is embedded in the Force I am minded to remove all numeric targets from my Police and Crime Plan when it is next reviewed in February 2014.

On the other hand, I need to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Force when they need a champion for new and more resources. I am the one to who will have to articulate to local people that in the face of Government cuts and a rising workload local people may have to face a higher Police precept.

So one position, but with many roles. At various times a public advocate, communicator, bridge builder, Force champion. As an Independent charged with the governance of a major public service in times of unprecedented financial challenges, it is sometimes intensely challenging but always rewarding. I wouldn’t swap the experience for the world.


The Future

It may be early days in the evolving role of Police and Crime Commissioners but certain trends are already emerging. As Commissioner, I have considerable powers in Police strategy and Police Governance. However, so much that involves victims falls under the Criminal Justice System. My ability to comprehensively re-shape victims’ services is hampered by my lack of direct control over these areas. I certainly would support moves to widen the scope of elected Commissioners in the Criminal Justice System.



November 24, 2013 17:47

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Rumours of 8% (Possibly 300 Police Officers) further Cuts in Kent Police Funding. Please Help Me to Stop this Happening



UP TO 300 MORE POLICE OFFICERS COULD GO IN KENT IF ‘RUMOURS’ OF 8% CUT TO KENT POLICE FUNDING FROM CENTRAL GOVERNMENT ARE PROVED CORRECT 


I am renewing the call for Kent people to support my campaign against any further cuts to Kent Police Funding from central Government. I am now reacting to ‘rumours’ from Westminster that the Government may be about to announce a further 8% cut in the Police Budgets. This could mean the loss of up to another 300 Police Officers. The Kent Force is already having to absorb the massive cut of 20% announced 2 years ago. This has meant the loss of nearly 1 in 5 of the workforce. Another 8% cut will put at risk the visible community Policing that I know the people of Kent expect. In the light of these ‘rumours’, I am renewing my call to every citizen of Kent to do two things.


  • First, sign up their support to my campaign against these cuts. Click on the button above .
  • Second, to write and/or email their MP urging them to speak out against these cuts’.

Cuts in Policing are short sighted and false economy. Policing is unique in that it protects our community safety.

June 20, 2013 13:12

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In public life ‘trust’ is everything.



In public life ‘trust’ is everything. This is particularly true in our Policing service. So, if a situation starts to develop where that trust is questioned, it’s vital to take action. At the end of last year, 5 Officers from Kent Police were arrested over concerns over the crime recording practices of the Kent Force. There are many aspects to my job as ‘Commissioner’. One of the most important is to hold the Chief Constable to account for the performance of his Force.

 

Given the concerns raised about crime recording practices, I had to act. I decided to use my new powers and call in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to do a full in depth investigation. I am the first Police and Crime Commissioner to do this.


 The HMIC report made difficult reading. There were 3 main criticisms:

  1. 1 in 10 incidents were not properly recorded as a crime.
  2. Some incidents that were originally recorded as crimes were ‘downgraded’ to ‘no-crime’ erroneously. ‘No criming’ is a perfectly normal activity. It happens to a very small number of cases where information comes to light that means the incident was not a crime. No-criming only happens to a small number of cases. However, in the small sample that HMIC analysed, this was happening in 1 in 4 cases.
  3. The report identified a historic ‘institutional bias’ which meant that some Officers were pursuing ‘easy to solve crimes’ to boost detection rates. 

 

This was deeply disappointing. However, there were many positives. The HMIC report acknowledged that the Force had made significant progress in addressing these issues. It highlighted the high performance of the Force Control Room staff. Perhaps most importantly, and most reassuringly, it found no evidence of any wilful corruption in these difficult areas. 


Earlier today, I held a ‘Governance Board’ with the Chief Constable and his team. These ‘Boards’ are the meetings I use to hold the Chief Constable to account. I hold them in public and with the media present. I do this because the citizens of Kent have a right to see and hear what I am doing in their name.

 

During this morning’s meeting, I challenged the Chief Constable about the report. I set out my level of disappointment and my anger on behalf of the victims that have been let down. That is my role on behalf of the people of Kent.

 

I have left the Chief Constable in no doubt that this situation must be improved dramatically and speedily. I will accept nothing less.

 

But there is another aspect to my role. As well as ‘holding to account’, I have a duty to offer support to the Chief Constable and the Force. It’s important to remember, even after the receipt of a report as difficult as this, that every day, the men and women of the Force do a demanding job often in very difficult circumstances.

 

All the time that the Chief Constable and the Force are striving to sort out these problems they will have the benefit of my confidence and support.

 

I am urging all my Commissioner colleagues across the country to do as I have done and investigate crime recording practices in their Forces, as I believe that much of what has been found in Kent will be present in those other Forces.

 

I have requested that HMIC revisit this subject here in Kent this December and I am sure that these problems will be history………..

June 18, 2013 14:30

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Help Me to Fight Further Cuts in the Funding of Our Community Policing



Today I launch my on-line campaign to save our Community Policing in Kent.  

Policing Budgets have already been slashed by Central Government. The Government announced a 20% reduction in the grant to Kent Police covering the 4 year period 2010/11 through to 2014/15. The Government is possibly to make an announcement in June this year about further potential cuts in the future years 2015/16 and 2016/17. I am committed to fighting any such cuts. Any more cuts will be false economy and threaten the safety of Kent. I am urging every person and every organisation that values our way of life in Kent to help me in my fight by signing my petition and asking as many friends and family as possible to sign up too…

Please sign up to save our Community Policing at  http://www.annbarnes.co.uk/fight_cuts.html

Kind regards
Ann Barnes

May 14, 2013 7:48

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A few thoughts on recent media stories………



Thank you for logging onto this, my personal blog – and before anyone in the national media feels the need to check – my personal blog is paid for by me, not the tax payer.

 

I’m blogging in my own personal capacity for two reasons. The first is really quite simple – I like hearing from people directly on issues outside my remit of Policing and Community Safety in Kent, although any issues directed to me via this website that are to do with policing and public safety will be forwarded to my office to deal with. Second, there are some issues that I need to address and talk about without involving the formal role of the Office of Police & Crime Commissioner.

 

Many of you will know that I won the election for Kent Police & Crime Commissioner against all odds in November last year. As I made abundantly clear during my election campaign, I am not a politician. I have never stood for publicly elected office before.i have absolutely no interest in party politics.


After the last batch of media reports, I am left feeling that the fact that I won the election by such a large margin (I won in every Parliamentary constituency in a County where every MP is Conservative) seems to have upset a lot of people. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all the media comment surrounding the difficulties with my appointment of a Youth Commissioner was wrong. I’ve accepted responsibility for the fact that things went wrong on my watch and I expect to take some adverse press for that.

 

But things have moved on from that. Now I have a feeling that some who my victory offended are seeking to use any and every opportunity to try and discredit my work. Fair enough, it’s a free country! But I hope they’ll accept that having a personal blog such as this gives me the freedom to challenge some of their attacks free from the conventions I must observe when using any communication channel from the Office of Kent Police & Crime Commissioner.


So what of these recent attacks. A prominent Kent Conservative MP has attacked my appointment and use of advisors. Yes, I appointed 3 advisors last December. Do you know what I did immediately after their appointment? I press released all the details to the local media. The people of Kent have a right to know what I do. I was not asked to do this by a journalist – I just did it to stand by my commitment to be open and transparent.

 


 

  • Fact number 1, this is not a new story! 

In my press release I fully explained that as the newly elected Commissioner, I was ‘single handedly’ now responsible for a Budget of over £310 Million. The Kent Police Authority that I replaced had 17 (yes, 17 ! members). I set out that there was a need for a team to help me. There were skills gaps that needed to be filled. I took the pragmatic decision to appoint advisors on short term contracts until I could assemble a full team with the appropriate skills.

 

  • Fact number 2, these advisors are doing things that need to be done – they are not appointed because they are my ‘cronies’ or ‘friends’. In fact, I did not know two of these people until as recently as last summer. 

The local Conservative MP seems to be making much of the fact that one of my advisors is a reasonably well known Lib Dem. Gosh! What he didn’t mention was that his colleague has traditionally voted Conservative! Am I alone in wondering if this dwelling on someone’s politics is a sensible contribution to the debate – or just the normal silliness of Party politics before a County Election.

 

  • Fact 3, the political sympathies of people in my team are no doubt many and varied. But that’s their private business, not mine. It does not impinge on the work of my office . I am an Independent – and am increasingly more thankful that I am. 

Then there’s the attempt to brand me as being profligate with public money. This from a Conservative MP whose Party pushed through the new Commissioner posts at a cost which was equivalent to the pay of 16,000 Police Officers! But let’s get back to the specific case of my approach to public money here in Kent. What the national media have NOT explained is that I am currently under spending the Office Budget (inherited from the outgoing Kent Police Authority) by about 15%. They also omit to explain that I have not appointed a Deputy or Assistant Commissioner as has been done in many other parts of the country, and that filling a vacant position for Chief of Staff is a lawful requirement, not a luxury on my part or an extra job in my office.

 

  • Fact 4, because I am an Independent, I have no Party machine to support me, I’m doing the job without a Deputy and am on track to under spend my inherited budget. 

At the heart of my job as Commissioner is making sure that you, the people of Kent, get the best Police and Community Safety services possible. The flak that I have received over recent days will not deflect me from that. I have already boosted front-line Policing by 60 PSCOs and 20 Police Officers. I am working with the Force on all my manifesto pledges which include exciting developments such as a new Mobile Police Station service for vast areas of the County. More of this and other initiatives will follow in the coming weeks.



 

I hope you’ll keep in touch with me privately through this personal blog and on my personal twitter account @annbarneskent


I hope you’ll also agree that I can take the flak, but that I won’t hold back when I feel that the record needs to be put straight!


Ann Barnes

April 19, 2013 16:42

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This is my personal blog and the posts shown reflect my personal opinions and views. They are NOT in any way connected to the communications issued from my Office of the Kent & Police Crime Commissioner.  For the Official Kent Police Commissioner's Website  -  Please go to: www.kent-pcc.gov.uk


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