PCC Blog 22

My small flat is beginning to resemble a branch of PC World.

This is the effect of working from home. As well as the two computers and two printers my wife and I already have for personal use, I now have from the office: a laptop, a tablet, another printer and several miles of cable – all on or around a dining table.

I am not alone in this. When I have video conference calls, I see people at kitchen tables, jammed between the toaster and the coffee machine, or squeezed into lofts with old university trunks and eyeless teddy bears, or in conservatories surrounded by geraniums. Although the technology allows some to display a fake background – of a Caribbean beach or a clinical looking office – we all know they are actually perched on a stool in the children’s bedroom. (With the children making faces behind the camera.)

If working partly from home is to become the new norm for many people, that will affect the sort of houses we build in the future. We shall want an office. That will become as normal as a kitchen. And that will have implications for crime and policing. Such houses will make rich pickings for the determined burglar who just wants some high value, easily carried item – like a laptop or tablet.

We have been warned.

The Rule of 6

Representatives of the Police Federation (the association for most police officers) were saying quite vociferously last week that it will be impossible for the police to enforce the new restrictions – the so-called Rule of 6 – without diverting resources from something else. There may be some truth in this, but I am not sure how helpful it is to say so in quite this way. It could give the false impression either that we are about to receive less protection from the police because they are too busy enforcing coronavirus restrictions, or that they will not be doing any enforcing – neither of which is true in South Yorkshire.

But the Federation is right in pointing out that there are no spare officers sitting in police stations just waiting to be called upon to inspect every pub and restaurant to see what’s happening. If the government want that degree of scrutiny they will have to stump up the money for local authorities to employ marshals. The police do not have spare capacity.

Which means that as with most of the coronavirus restrictions, the onus has to be on all of us to know the rules and stick to them. That in turn depends on clear messaging from the government and a general acceptance that what the government is asking of us makes good health sense.

This would be helped if the UK could act throughout the pandemic like a united kingdom with the same rules for the same reasons from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

PCC Review

The Home Secretary is holding a review into the role of Police and Crime Commissioners and last week the civil servant who is leading on this quizzed PCCs in the north east (which includes us) for our views.

Some things became clear from the conversation. PCCs are here to stay. There is no desire to return to the old-style Police Authorities (mainly councillors) who were not thought very effective in holding the police to account and who were fairly invisible to the public.

The government likes the model of a single elected person whom the public can know and hold responsible at the ballot box. This is why it likes elected mayors and will be extending the model in more places. West Yorkshire, for example, will see its PCC go next May and the function transfer to an elected mayor, who will no doubt delegate to a deputy, as already happens in Manchester.

The review will look at the extent of the PCCs remit: should they, for example, play a greater role across the criminal justice landscape. And in the light of the answers, do they need extra powers.

The first part of the review will report before the May elections.

Permanent Secretary’s visit

Matthew Rycroft CBE, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office (i.e. the top man), visited the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) at Shepcote Lane, Sheffield, last Friday. This was quite something as he has only been in post a matter of months. But the department do seem to think we have a VRU that is beginning to make a mark.

He talked to Rachel Staniforth and Superintendent Lee Berry, who lead, and the team. He heard about the work of the Navigator projects.

Navigators work in the A&E Department of the Northern General Hospital and the police custody suite. They meet people who have been involved in a violent incident  – such as stabbings – and who, as they lie in a hospital bed or sit and contemplate in a cell, may be helped to realise that they need to turn their lives around or next time it might be the mortuary they visit. And some respond.

If they are in custody, this is not an alternative to the justice system, but it can be a ‘reachable’ or ‘teachable’ moment.

The Navigators act as mentors and stay with the men for as long as it takes – to get them off alcohol or drugs, to get them into training or a job. Just one of the many schemes that form part of the VRU’s preventative approach to violence.

Oh dear…                                                     

Last week I quoted some words a barrister had used in mitigation at his client’s sentencing (for arranging for a gang to get a gun), suggesting they were not very convincing. In light of what happened in parliament last week, he might try this next time: “Yes, my client did break the law, but only in a very specific and limited way”.

I hope you are staying safe and well.