It has been over five years since the Police Commissioners came into existence. The idea had been around for some time but had never made much progress as the problem it was supposed to solve, making the police accountable to communities, was already addressed by the elected councillors who made up the Police Authority. Still, scraping around for policy ideas, the Coalition Government dusted off the proposal and here we are, so no doubt you now feel the police are far more accountable to you.
But, how do we hold the commissioners to account, I hear you ask? Well, we have a body made up of elected councillors…just like the old Police Authority…funny old world? This is a body I’ve served on before, although given the commissioner always deflected my questions by claiming they weren’t for her but rather the Chief Inspector–who reports to her, it was an uphill struggle.
Nonetheless, I read the paperwork religiously and was interested to see next Friday’s meeting will review Sussex Police’s four year Transformation Strategy. Every part of the public sector is having to undergo ‘transformation’ in order to weather austerity and it can lead to significant performance improvements. The problem for the police is that the strategy fails to explain convincingly how what is happening now will actually improve performance.
The reality is what local residents complain to me about on a regular basis. When fireworks are thrown at cars, the police lack the resources to respond. When vehicles are broken into the police lack the resources to investigate. When a visible police presence on the high street could make a difference, it is left to door supervisors to keep law and order in the town centre. That’s the ‘lived’ reality and no pie chart is going to explain it away.