24 September 2012

Stop and Search Your PCC: A view from the candidates - Bob Jones

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StopWatch will be hosting blogs from the campaign trail in the coming weeks. We will be focussing on our three key areas of the West Midlands, Suffolk and Leicester. We welcome blogs from candidates from these areas, however if you are a candidate from elsewhere in the country we would love to hear from you as well. In this first blog Bob Jones, Labours West Midland's candidate lays out his priorities.

​The views expressed in these blogs represent those of the candidates and not those of StopWatch, StopWatch does not endorse any candidate standing in the PCC elections.

Bob Jones, Labour Candidate for PCC - West Midlands

To say that the new Police and Crime Commissioners will have to hit the ground running is an understatement. The newly elected Commissioner will have about five working weeks before they need to present a policing plan, budget, and council tax precept. They will have a similar timescale in which to decide whether or not to sign up to the biggest privatisation in policing history. You can add into the mix the West Midlands’ own particular issues: the legacy of the 2011 riots, seven councils with whom to negotiate the policing plan, and a police force facing its largest ever reductions in finances.

Faced with these challenges, any new Commissioner needs a clean plan to reduce crime, engage with the community, and make the best use of increasingly limited resources. These are complex issues, so let me explain a bit more what I mean.

Firstly, we need to be much more proactive in addressing the causes of crime and ensuring offenders are robustly managed. This will, in part, involve ensuring that partner agencies work together more fluidly to address issues such as drug and alcohol abuse.  We should also ensure more appropriate facilities are available to people with mental health problems – ending the use of police stations as places of safety – and ensuring survivors of rape and sexual assault have access to enhanced forensic examination services in an appropriate environment. Finally, we can and should work in partnership with local businesses to tackle the challenges associated with the night-time economy.

Secondly, if elected, I would make it one of my priorities to ensure we get the best out of our financial, physical, and – most importantly – human resources. It is important we retain the post of PCSO, recruit new officers when possible, and use mobile technology to reduce bureaucracy to keep officers out on patrol for longer.  If elected, I would also campaign against the government’s record level of police cuts and the unfair funding formula determining budgets, which results in forces with the greatest need suffering the deepest cuts.

Finally, any Commissioner worth his salt should ensure he and the police are accountable to the public. To this end, I would look to establish new community-led Policing Boards, bringing in victims, community volunteers, and local businesses to decide local policing priorities. Not only would this bolster the relationship between neighbourhoods and the force, but it would ensure that policing plans are genuinely community driven.

For example, one of the things people often raise with me is the issue of stop and search. The statistics bear repetition: Black people in the West Midlands are 28 times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. However, in the West Midlands, only 6 percent of all stop and searches lead to an arrest:  a rate much lower than the national average.

The Policing Boards I am proposing would be excellent ways of gauging the effect of this on communities – identifying, for example, any complaints or concerns from young people. Instances where stop and search powers are being abused can swiftly and easily be raised and remedial action – such as reinstating the recording of stops – taken.

This is my vision for policing: effective, efficient, and always community-led. I am no career politician and I do not see the PCC role as a stepping stone to other key positions. My sole concern is making this vision a reality. I have always been and will always be committed to ensuring the views and concerns of all people are heard at the highest levels. I have no truck with any initiative – government or otherwise – that the people of the West Midlands do not feel will benefit our area, our families, and our communities.