In the seven month run-up to the Police and Crime Commissioner election for Bedfordshire, and since taking office on May 12 2016, I made a series of pledges and added to these in my Police and Crime Plan. To mark the first 100 days of my new administration I am listing 100 promises kept, plans laid, funds distributed and partnerships created, below, for the public to be able to review my progress in this office so far, listed in order as far as possible:-
I published the first Police and Crime Plan of any of the 43 Police and Crime Commissioners in the country to give clear direction to the Force and keep the public informed.
I dispensed with the role of Deputy Commissioner – on a previous salary of £30,281 for a three day week – as I believe any of the small team of senior staff I appoint should be of the calibre to stand in for me, if required, or they should not be in the role.
I ended my office’s existing PR Agency contract, not because of performance, but as I should communicate directly with the public who have made me their democratic voice, both in person and through the media, and want to keep costs down.
I have explained my actions in the 8 county newspapers and on local and regional radio and television news at least weekly.
I refused a police staff officer, paid for and employed by the Force, and offered the opportunity, as a result, for the previous staff officer to return to police duty.
I brought in an interim management team of two experts in their field, whose past allegiances came from opposite ends of the political spectrum, demonstrating that my Oath of Impartiality is meaningful; one with more than 30 years’ HR and Recruitment experience to help bring high quality people into my key office vacancies as quickly as possible, the other with experience of reviewing best practice across the 43 police forces of England and Wales and of all PCC’s offices too.
To make such arrangements as transparent and open as possible, I arranged to meet with the Police and Crime Panel who hold me to account in my second week to explain them.
I arranged for vacancies in my office to be more widely and transparently advertised than ever before – nationally and throughout the county – and will recruit my senior team at approximately 3% of the cost of salaries, compared with up to 15% charged by recruitment agencies.
I launched Project Boost the Frontline to boost staff morale and explore ways of returning as many officers as possible from desk duties, restricted duty or long-term absence to full support of their colleagues on the frontline.
Management of long-term sickness and restricted duties is now at very the heart of the Force’s Executive strategy. Proper data is being recorded for the first time to track light and restricted duties.
My plans to improve Occupational Health provision to help support officers and staff back to full working, including a new centre for Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire officers at Sandy Police Station, are underway.
I have started to explore the possibility of working with the University of Bedfordshire to allow occupational health students to gain meaningful work experience at the end of their training, while accompanied by qualified supervisors, and for those on relevant courses to be given the opportunity to work alongside Bedfordshire Police across its many departments (including in research and photography for my own office.)
I initiated the break-through agreement for one of the most extensive blue light collaboration programmes between Police and Fire with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in my third week in office.
I launched Police, Fire and Ambulance service collaboration with the agreement of the fire service to now make forced entry in medical emergencies for paramedics, rather than police, releasing our officers for other life-saving 999 duties. We also announced that Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service will assist police in looking for missing vulnerable people (especially at night, using their heat-seeking equipment.)
Fire stations can now be shared in areas which have lost their police stations and the first co-location of Police and Fire will be in Leighton Buzzard, where the fire station is close to the town’s pubs, clubs and High Street, as the police station is at a greater distance from these, in the wrong place to meet greatest demand.
I agreed the sale of Leighton Buzzard police station, which has been in less than 20% use by police, to Central Bedfordshire Council as part of its regeneration plan for the town with an agreement for police to remain as long as necessary, rent-free.
The Fire Service and Police will now work together on procurement to drive costs down.
The two services will now explore the use of joint back office facilities.
The way is now clear for the same officers, from either organisation, to deliver both crime prevention and fire safety advice and a front office facility to this end is being planned for Ampthill and Leighton Buzzard.
I am supporting the introduction of a front office enquiries facility at the ambulance station in Leighton Buzzard.
I introduced a fourth round of recruitment, on top of that previously planned, which will deliver 8 further Community Policing constables.
Together with the Deputy Chief Constable and police colleagues, I addressed a public meeting to announce the new Community Policing Hub for Leighton Buzzard of extra officers, dedicated to more visible, high profile policing to assist in dealing with day to day nuisance and anti-social behaviour and gathering crime intelligence.
Leighton Buzzard, our third largest town, will now also gain a new Community Sergeant on top of the PCs promised so far.
I launched a similar new Community Policing Hub for Luton, as the largest town in the county, of 2 extra Inspectors, 4 Sergeants, 15 PCs and 20 PCSOs at a public meeting in Bury Park and explained the undercover and visible community support work being conducted to drive down burglaries in the town.
A new police enquires office will be opened in the centre of Bedford to bring more visible policing to the town to shoppers and workers by day, and as a base for officers policing the Night Time pubbing and clubbing economy.
Bedford will also receive a new Community Policing cohort of extra officers and these will be detailed at a public meeting I hold in the town this month, on August 25 2016.
Staff from Greyfriars station will be based in council offices at Borough Hall in another example of new collaboration, this time with the local authority.
I have agreed to the siting of further Community Hubs of new police, being recruited and trained throughout 2016, in Biggleswade.
And Houghton Regis too, and will hold further public meetings each month to the end of the year in these towns to give precise details of the new officers and address local police and crime concerns in person, accompanied by senior officers.
I launched a new Rural Crime Policy including a dedicated rural crime liaison officer, website to report crime in the countryside and a Rural Crime Intelligence Network of members of the National Farmers’ Union. Further plans to improve Bedfordshire Police’s rural crime response are in the process of being constructed at my request.
I am to hold a yearly Parish Councils’ Conference as I want to create a new, enhanced relationship with Parish Councils to share information about local policing. The first will be held on September 10 2016 at Central Bedfordshire Council Headquarters at Chicksands. The Chief Constable will attend and make a presentation, alongside me, and the conference will address rural crime, burglary and travellers’ camp issues as well as volunteering opportunities including Special Constable, Neighbourhood Watch, Speedwatch, Streetwatch, Horse Watch, Dog Watch and Independent Custody Visitor volunteer schemes.
I have already met with the parish councils of North Bedfordshire and Bedford and addressed them at events held at both Police HQ and Bedford Borough Council.
I have met separately with the representatives of all the Watch Schemes at an event at Police HQ and in a meeting with the leaders of the county’s Neighbourhood Watches and have taken forward actions to improve service as a result, such as the reporting of two drug dealing locations.
I want our police force to look and sound more like the communities it serves and have agreed with the Force that a BME (Black, Minority, Ethnic) representative will sit on all Recruitment Panels in future.
I arranged for a BME representative to be invited to sit on my Grants and Commissioning Panels to lead the way.
In addition, I engaged my HR and Recruitment consultant to bring his commercial expertise of recruiting across diverse organisations to bear to advise on recruitment questions.
It has also been agreed that the BME Recruitment Panel members and I will meet to examine these, and the recruitment process as a whole, for any sub-conscious bias.
I have arranged that the Police and Crime Commissioner will, for the first time, be sitting on the Scrutiny Panel which examines the Force’s use of Stop and Search Powers, to give extra confidence to communities.
I have agreed the sale of the redundant Leagrave station to raise money for necessary building projects, such as a replacement for the temporary custody block at Kempston.
I have agreed, in principle, the return of a police presence to Ampthill, by sharing the fire station in the town, and the sale of the abandoned station.
I have arranged for the Force to examine all possibilities in terms of outline planning permission in advance of placing redundant buildings on the open market, for it to examine the best methods of valuation and to work with other public sector bodies to learn of their best practise to obtain best value in the sales and rentals markets.
At the first official Police and Crime Panel meeting, I asked panel members to work with me, in future, on key elements of research such as a review of the Police Estates’ Strategy, regarding the buildings owned by Bedfordshire Police, which it conducted in 2012. They agreed to undertake this work to assist in future decisions about such buildings.
I approved £224,000 in new Force spending to provide extra support to our Public Protection Unit. This will pay for training of officers to a nationally accredited standard to meet the challenge of Domestic Abuse
The money will also fund an extra Sergeant in this unit.
It will also pay for joined up IT to help better protect the public.
I arranged for £449,000 of commissioning funds for Victim Support and Community Safety to be advertised across the county’s newspapers for the first time to allow more voluntary, charity and local authority bidders to be made aware of these possibilities than ever before.
I have invested £147,000 in grant funding to provide refuge for those fleeing domestic violence and to help them recover and rebuild their lives, supporting such services throughout the county since the overwhelming majority of 999 calls to the Force relate to such life-threatening abuse.
I have directed funding of domestic violence services to provide help and support for women much more widely in Central and South West Bedfordshire than previously existed,
I have provided Bedfordshire Police with an Emergency Refuge Fund for the first time for such victims to pay for them to travel to safe places out of the county, when all available refuge spaces have been filled, to avoid the risks of being housed temporarily in hotels, as happened previously.
I have provided access to a Polish-speaking, legally-trained, advisor to assist Eastern European women to escape from domestic abuse, given the number of such women in the community.
I have, similarly, funded such services in the main languages spoken across our key diverse communities in the county concerning domestic violence to try to arrange equality of access to the help such victims so urgently require.
I have given financial backing to services counselling victims of honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, delivered in an all-female setting to encourage disclosure and cooperation with police.
I am providing a video link for rape and child sex abuse victims so that they can give evidence remotely and do not need to face their attackers, or risk encountering their associates, in court. The Force has never had this facility, even though the law to allow this changed in 2003.
There are new video-links to allow officers and offenders to give evidence from the custody suite in Kempston, and facilities being fitted in Luton. I have backed two slots per day to be held open in Magistrates’ Courts in future so that domestic violence offenders, who are more likely to plead guilty while remorseful, can be dealt with on the same day, or next day, as the offence. I have raised this with the Crown Prosecution Service and will address the issue again at the next Criminal Justice Board.
I backed and publicised the first video-link trial – and conviction – for historic child sex abuse, of a defendant who claimed he was too unwell to attend court. It established the principal that if the criminal cannot come to the court, the court will come to the criminal. The judge did not find him too unwell to be convicted and remanded to prison.
I have visited sections as they come on duty first thing and late at night where possible. As a result, I discovered the difficulties being experienced by frontline staff because of a lack of cradles and chargers for the Force’s new phone information system, tuserve, and arranged for these to be ordered.
I have publicly shared the conviction rates which arose from the Criminal Justice Board so that those who commit crimes including hate crimes, sexual offences and domestic abuse are aware as a deterrent that, despite the supposed difficulty in prosecuting these, Bedfordshire Police’s rates for successful convictions are excellent: The conviction rates for Luton Crown Court for January to March 2016 stood at 93.5% for hate crime, 77.8% for sexual offences and 75.8% for domestic abuse. They continue to be excellent.
I have secured an offer of new support, advice and training from the Crown Prosecution Service for Bedfordshire’s Rape Unit detectives to help increase the number of successful prosecutions and convictions for rape.
I am funding the first alcohol detection tags here, which can remotely monitor alcohol content in perspiration of those who wear them, to be used by repeat offenders who have caused domestic abuse who are trying to break the cycle of crime, on the Force’s Integrated Offender Management Programme.
I am paying for a pilot scheme to create a Junior Police Cadet project in Central Bedfordshire, Bedford and Luton schools to establish a positive experience of the Force at an early age and to help aid future recruitment.
I have funded a project by Central Bedfordshire Council to establish the effects of Domestic Abuse on children and the support services needed.
I am funding an anti-hate crime project in a selection of schools across the county to teach of the danger of prejudice and to create school ambassadors.
I responded to the wave in hate crimes nationally, which were reported following the Brexit vote, by researching the position here and widely promoted the message of tolerance which it suggested through the small, but significant, decrease in crimes in the county in the four months to July 28 2016, including the post-referendum period.
I am providing £10,000 to the Streetwatch and Speedwatch schemes for further equipment to extend these volunteer community safety services and help to monitor and send warning letters over speeding, especially in the villages.
I have supported the delegation of police powers to parking and traffic officers in Luton and am backing this uplift of powers for such wardens in Central Bedfordshire too to deal with obstruction, parking and weight limit matters which cause such daily nuisance to residents.
I have agreed, in principle, to share the income from average speed cameras costing Central Bedfordshire Council around £80,000 to install in proven accident hotspots, as the Force would not receive the income otherwise and the council covers the cost of the cameras, not the police.
I am giving £30,000 to the Road Victims’ Trust, which works with Bedfordshire Police to support those who have been bereaved by a road death, accompanying them to inquests and court cases and offering trauma counselling for as long as the victim considers necessary.
As I am determined to use the income from road crime to help victims, I have decided to fund £30,000 worth of core expenses of this charity each year from income from the Force’s Cameras, Tickets and Collisions Unit from 2017. The Road Victims’ Trust has been informed to allow them to plan ahead for a more sustainable future.
I am to fund a £15,000 study to establish the problems of mental health and ways of supporting pupils in schools, given the link between mental health and policing.
I helped to launch the Mental Health Street Triage Scheme, which puts a mental health nurse, a paramedic and a police officer in a police car to deal with such cases and divert patients away from custody and to a more appropriate place of care. I will mark my 100th day in the PCC role by taking part in a ride-along with this outstanding service.
I am giving £20,000 in funding to the Youth Offending Service (YoS) to upgrade the support given to 13-17 year-olds at the point when they come in to police custody, so that an advisor will be made available to such youngsters in custody across the entire county, and not just in Luton, by next year.
I believe strongly that community cohesion policing is the key to harmony in our diverse communities and am providing £5,000 towards a Community Cohesion Thankyou Dinner to those who work together with Insp. Hob Hoque and his team, throughout the entire county, to this end.
I have met regularly with religious leaders, building my network of friendships with the Mosque Presidents and Seniors and Gurdwara committees.
I have been able to make progress on community crime issues raised with me and by my office with the Community Safety Partnerships (CSP): for example, Mr Abul Hussain, the President of Bury Park Mosque, showed me the overgrown trees, fly-tipping and waste causing a breeding ground for drug dealing in Maple Road East, Luton. The Luton CSP was informed by my staff and, within days, arranged for the trees to be put on the council’s schedule for trimming, leafleting of all households telling of extra council patrols and for the fly-tipping to be removed.
I want to work across all three main councils, irrespective of political colour, to ensure properly joined-up multi-agency working to improve safeguarding of the vulnerable – especially children – and to drive down Serious Organised Crime across the whole county. To this end, the Deputy Chief Constable and I visited the exemplary Manchester Op Challenger hub involving police, borders and immigration staff, HMRC, DWP and ten borough councils which uses all their criminal and civil powers together, with the Mayor of Bedford, Dave Hodgson and Cllr. Colleen Atkins, the Community Safety portfolio holder for Bedford. A visit is planned with the leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, James Jamieson, and his senior team. The CEO of Luton Borough Council, Trevor Holden, has visited with the Chief Constable,
The Central Bedfordshire Council leader and department heads met with me, the Deputy Chief Constable, Mark Collins and the Superintendent for the South of the County Sharn Basra, to agree ways we can work together to improve community safety and protect against nuisance including using powers relating to the breaking of tenancy agreements, where these families’ youngsters are involved in nuisance motorcycle, moped and quad biking.
As part of my holding the Force to account, I have been working with the Chief Constable and ACC Mike Colbourne, to boost activity and Force commitment around Op Meteor – the Force’s strategy to deal with such nuisance bikers. Improvements include increased orders to seize and destroy bikes, the trialling of a device to stop motorcycles and the recruitment of responsible, older, off-road bikers to educate and divert youths.
I have met with the CEOs of the local authorities, the leader of Luton Borough Council, Cllr. Hazel Simmons, and the Head of Children’s Services at Central Bedfordshire, to urge joint working to help police protect those looked after children in council care, whether in children’s homes or foster care. I am urging for full records to be kept, even where children from outside the county are housed as these homes are still licenced locally; these records should include mobile phone numbers, photos and key addresses for family and friends to give police reliable and meaningful information to work on, if they abscond.
I am commissioning a website to act as a one-stop shop for victims of crime to access details of the services available to support them in the county. This is particularly important as I have a legal duty, as PCC, to support such victims even where they have not reported crime to the police.
I have approached the Bedfordshire Victims’ Partnership, who have extensive experience of providing quality counselling and support services, to agree a benchmark and visit organisations who may qualify for the Victims’ website, to make sure they are of an appropriately high calibre. I will meet their out of pocket expenses for this work.
I have engaged the retired officer who helped to create the highly regarded Cambridge Victims’ Hub to help design and establish this website and to assist me in delivery of the best possible victim care in Bedfordshire, as a consultant, from September.
My own office website has been updated and replaces previous arrangements resulting in an annual saving of approximately £3,000.
I have transformed the approach to complaints sent to my office. Instead of forwarding to Customer Services, those which can be dealt with on the basis of Control Room incident and response information, are examined in a weekly meeting with the Head of Control Rooms.
The Chief Constable is also supplied with the complaints information, ensuring that the Force - right to the top - is aware of the public’s most pressing and frequent concerns, to help us all improve service together.
My office is liaising with Suzy Lamplugh Trust to acquire extra help and training over Stalking for the Force.
Similarly, we are working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare to explore training and advice over wildlife crime and the importation of live animals and banned animal materials, such as ivory and rhino horn.
I have started working with Bedford Improvement District (BID) to explore the possibility of recruiting “Retail Specials” – with employees or contracted store detectives released as part of larger businesses’ Corporate Social Responsibility programmes, in paid time where possible, to train as Special Constables. This would up-skill the workforce, reduce demand on police and help deal with increased stock losses since the introduction of paid-for plastic bags, with customers leaving stores carrying goods.
Bedford BID and I also agreed for its Blue Cap guides to introduce new Community Policing Hub officers to business and shop owners in the town to build a framework of contacts for police at street level.
I have been working with my PCC colleagues, in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, to agree a new online arrangement across all three forces to allow the public to report crime online and receive information. This so-called Digital Public Contact is anticipated to come into use within a year and should transform the ease with which the public can communicate with Police.
I have arranged for a representative of The Police ICT Company, the national body charged by the Home Office with making sure IT technology is appropriate across policing, to be part of the procurement, design and delivery process of Digital Public Contact to make sure the triforce is a properly informed “intelligent customer” to manage risk appropriately.
In an alliance across all 7 police forces of the East - Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent - I have been building plans to collaborate to gain savings and efficiencies, together with the other PCCs and Chief Constables. For example, we have agreed to appoint an Eastern Alliance Head of Procurement to get maximum value for money from bulk purchases across all forces where possible. This arrangement will also be made flexible enough for other collaborating blue light services, such as Fire, to be part of.
I backed a winning bid for £660,000 to Central Government to explore ways for all seven forces to work together to bring about such transformation and innovation.
I am investigating new arrangements regarding court bail to make sure offenders are not set up to fail, after information from Leighton Buzzard which suggested those on such bail are asked to report daily to Dunstable Police Station, which is a £10 return bus fare away. Those on benefit, and others on limited incomes, are unlikely to be able to afford such fares and the Deputy Chief Constable and I are actively investigating other arrangements with the courts to deliver a reporting service locally and to identify any other problem areas of the county relating to such bail.
My office is currently researching the possibility of introducing a Night Time Levy on establishments which sell alcohol after midnight as late-night businesses represent a disproportionate demand on policing in our town centres. This would need the support and involvement of the licensing authorities, who would keep a portion of the levy, in law. It must be able to be ring-fenced for frontline policing in the towns, as promised, and must be cost-effective to collect.
I have lobbied central Government over the Night Time Levy legislation as, currently, it must be collected across an entire borough from businesses selling alcohol, rather than simply in town centres (although timing restrictions can be applied, such as the after midnight rule.) It excludes other businesses, such as snack bars, which also create additional policing demand when open in the early hours of the morning. I feel strongly that amendments to the law to deal with these issues are desirable.
I am backing a Police Transformation Bid from Central Government for the Force’s Child Sex Abuse team for the appointment of a Child Psychologist to help frame detectives’ questions of a child in such cases, in a manner like to reduce trauma. The aim would be, ultimately, to allow filming of such evidence-gathering with a view to reducing the number of interviews with a child victim to an absolute minimum. This method is a significant part of the “Barnahus model”, developed in Iceland, and recommended to me and other PCCs by the Childrens’ Commissioner as best practice.
I have held two internal forums, in both Luton and Bedford, inviting all officers and staff to meet me to raise concerns and suggest improvements.
100. I am hiring a team of specialists to my office which is tiny by comparison to other OPCCs. I will employ the minimum number of permanent staff possible and need to ensure best value. My new senior team of just 5 individuals need to be of high calibre to help support the Force and drive reform and improvements in key areas. They will, therefore, form a multi-disciplinary team leading on individual projects according to their own areas of expertise, in addition to their main role and responsibilities. Those receiving job offers, and going through the thorough vetting process, already possess specialist knowledge and extensive work experience including, but not limited to, the following areas; rural crime, immigration, human trafficking, vulnerable missing people, gun, gang and knife crime, youth violence, domestic abuse, counter terror, international policing, transport, airports and customs and excise issues as well as of key policing institutions, including the Home Office and College of Policing.