15 November 2012

Leicester PCC Hustings - Report

Kam Gill's avatar

On 5th November the Leicester PCC campaign and StopWatch organised a hustings for Leicester's three Police and Crime Commissioner candidates at Highfields community Centre. Karen Chouhan provided this report of the debate that took place.

Leicester PCC Hustings at Highfields Community Centre, Melbourne Road
7pm – 9pm
Chair: Karen Chouhan – StopWatch and Equanomics UK
Facilitation: Dave Macfarlane, Priya Ravat

Key issues raised:

- Relationship between PCC and Chief Constable

- Use of serveilance technology around Leicester

- Outsourcing of Police functions

- Policing of protest, particularly in relation to Thurnby Lodge

Each candidate was asked to introduce themselves and why they are seeking our votes to be elected as a PCC

Sarah Russell (SR) (Labour)
I’m running for the PCC because I have already developed relations with partners – Neighbourhood Services. Will focus on crime prevention. I moved to Leicester 12 years ago to go to university. I decided to become a councillor when my children were very small. My partner and I decided to stay here to raise our family. When my children were still little, I saw things I didn't like and wanted to change and make better, not just for my family but for all families living in that area. So I began to volunteer at the local Surestart and schools. Then I decided I wanted to do more so I put myself up to be a councillor. After I was elected I took on various roles and recently I took on Neighbourhood services, with a budget of £32 million pounds. I have been involved in making some difficult decisions on matters that are important to the local communities, whilst protecting the frontline. Partly why I decided to take on this role is that I'm already doing it in part working in the safer partnership area, which includes NHS, crime, local economy and other factors that keep our people safe and reduce crime, also making good use of public monies and resources. We need to make sure also the various agencies do work together to help people. If I get this role as PCC, I will focus on community policing, to get people to know the local police and the police to know the communities. Policing requirements needs are different in each area. I want to make sure victims get the right services and to focus on crime prevention.

Suleman Nagdi (SN) (Independent)
I have a history of community work including stop & search and Schedule 7 long before running to become the PCC. The role of the PCC is to understand the community, I have been a community activist for 25 years, working on issues of charity, mainly on a voluntary basis, I have worked on polling issues or the last 15 years on matters of policy and advisory on PAGRE and JAGS and other forums. I have been commenting on issues of stop and search long before it was discussed locally and abroad, such as in Budapest, not only about stop and search, but also in relation to the counter terrorism act and immigration matters. I have addressed is that the police force should re-connect with the communities. What I am demonstrating is that I have been immersed in policing by being a critical friend on my many issues. I have run my own successful business, which may not have been in the millions, but in the thousands, nevertheless, I had to balance the budget, which was my own money, not the public's. The experience in the business sector, should be helpful in dealing with the budget, even-though we will have advisors and experts to work with us.  It is the voice of the community we need to understand, the county has not changed much, but the city of Leicester has, where no one community has dominated. There are people coming from different parts of the world and we need to understand the dynamics of these new arrivals. The police force needs to be independent of political interference, hence why I'm running as an independent.

Sir Clive Loader (CL) (Conservative)
I have been in charge of a lot more money before.  I will help drive crime down and extra help for victim support. Policing is not a national service running from London. It is not a further politicisation of the police. I was a harrier pilot and rose to a four star Air Force officer, with responsibility for 31,500 people with a budget of £2.6 billion pounds, for which I was legally and personally responsible. I have built and maintained teams in very difficult and demanding circumstances, I have instilled standards of integrity and probity, within the uniformed services, not too dissimilar from the police. My vision is not too complicated, it is to help drive down crime. I want to cut down crime in the countryside and here in the city, I want to see better support for the victims of crime, I want to engage with various agencies across the board, including the third sector (charitable sector). I will work with the chief constable to forge a new relationship.

Questions that were asked of the PCC candidates of Leicestershire:

Q1. How would you tackle the root causes of crime? (Isaak Abdi, Somali community)

SR: I will be trying to engage with the public more, I know it’s a big task however I feel it’s an important issue for community policing. One example, I had the privilege of attending a meeting with the police and the Slovakian community that arrived here about two years ago and were having issues. As a result a good relationship had developed. It is important to me that good relationship on the ground is developed. Getting trust is very important to me also.

SN: I have been involved with community watch since 1964 and therefore am deeply involved with the local communities. Mental health issues are one of the strongest reasons why people end up in the criminal justice system, there are issues of people recommitting crimes again, and in fact 67% of criminals reoffend in the first two years. So repeated crime must be tackled. One of the roles I have at the rehabilitation centre is to address this matter. The visibility of police on the street is important, this acts as a safety net, but also as a deterrent to those who would commit crimes. I have concerns about CCTV; there are some not pointing in the right direction and the images sometimes are not very good. Then we have to balance the arguments with civil liberties. I don't think cameras are the answer, but face to face contact is, and taking on board that one size does not fit all, as we have to deal with different communities arriving in this area.

CL: I would like to talk to the communities and have community lessons to involve more people to have a better understanding of the policing authority systems. I don't like using the term tough on crime, as far too many people use that term. I am a compassionate conservative and I believe that certain parts of our community need all the help that they can get, which they deserve. I am into reducing reoffending. I visited a place called 20/20, a charitable organisation in Loughborough, that deals with disengaged and disaffected youth.  Cultural and other aspects needs to be there in policing, I know and understand that. The training and make up of the police force needs to reflect the communities at large. Robert Peel stated when he established the police in 1829, that the people are the police and the police are the people. It was true then and it is true now.

Q2. Regarding the scrapping of the police authority which consists of 18-20 members, how will you cope on your own dealing with these matters? Secondly, the issue of Thurnby Lodge, which is between a Muslim group and local residents, which has been going on for the last 4-5 months and the council has failed to sort it out and I believe Sarah is in charge of it as well, if you were the Police Commissioner today, what you do to resolve the issue?

SR: I am not in charge of the Thurnby Lodge issue or ever been in charge of that issue, it was a housing land issue, which the city mayor is in charge of, what I did do was to make myself available to the local community and to meet with the groups and listen to what was going on. I understand that there is a meeting this evening with the city mayor and both groups, with further consultations planned. How I would handle it, is similar to what the police have done to handle a peaceful protest, but making sure that people are protected. It would not be possible for the commissioner to say what should happen. I have a lot of respect for other groups who have been trying to resolve this matter.
As to the police authority, if I was in government when this decision was being made, I would not have voted for the PCC. The police authority has held the police service to keep to its budget account and allowed for people from a diverse range of backgrounds, politically, economically, geographically and ethnically to ensure a diverse set of opinions before they make decisions. Whoever gets elected will have a big task in getting around to the diverse groups, it will take time. I would like to see some sort of advisory panel that we can call on a regular basis.

SN: On the issue of Thurnby Lodge it is a multi-agency problem, unfortunately the police were left to hold the can, there should be joined up thinking to find answers to this.
With regard to the police authority, there has to be partnership working, it should be strong enough that when things go wrong, we become the critical friend to resolve the issues, because that is what you would expect us to do and I assure you that's exactly what I would certainly do.

CL: With regard to Thurnby Lodge, perhaps the role that the PCC could play, is that of a trusted person, to whom people could go. I believe £400,000 has been spent on this, which could have been better spent if the matter was resolved earlier. The PCC could operate as an early listening ear.
With regard to the police authority, it was not a disaster area that needed to got rid of immediately, but a metamorphosis in government attitude for more local voices to be heard, it's a fact, that 93% people have never heard of the police authority and that has been confirmed when I spoke to people, which is rather sad actually.

Q3. Do you have plans to reduce discrimination in stop and search, by presenting fair and equal policing in this area? How would you ensure that the police reflect the community in recruitment and make up of the Force if this is your responsibility? (Abdikayf Farah – Somali Parents and Community Association)

SR: I will not be in charge of recruitment, that remains the responsibility of the force, however we have a fairly diverse force already. Budgets will be tight and it will be difficult to recruit. I may look into volunteer work and have specials to work alongside full time police. I would certainly hope that we would recruit more special constables.
In terms of the second question around stop and search, I understand that the force has engaged in research over the last two years with De Montfort University, which is really useful having that external look, which gives the police a different view, which will be helpful for the PCC.

SN: On the issue of recruiting, I have written an article many years back, in which I try to address the matter of mindsets, one of which is the stereotypes of Asian communities. We need an aggressive marketing policy to attract members of the BME community, I do not believe in positive discrimination, I believe everybody goes on their merit, as we cannot have a two standards or two tier service.
In relation to stop and search, I have been challenging the figures for a very long time, I do understand that it is a tool to be used, but it appears that it is been used to discriminate. Another great fear is the use of stop and search at ports of entry, it has not got judicial or ministerial overview. It is a piece of work I've undertaken with Lord Carlisle. There is an issue of civil liberty here where various things are taken from you at ports of entry, such as DNA, credit card details, phone SIM cards, fingerprints and photographs, the disproportionate levels are quiet frightening and I have addressed this with the Attorney General to ask who is policing the policing.

CL: With regards to recruitment of PCSOs, I would do so by encouragement in the community. I am not going to be in charge of recruitment, but I can use my voice to encourage in order to get that shade of the police service that I've mentioned.
With regards to stop and search, we are on a road. There is a 50% drop in searches and the arrest rate has doubled to about 11%. Are we there yet?, of-course not. We are not perfect, but the PCC  can ensure that we get better and better. And one of the ways to do that, is for the PCC to act as a sounding board. It is important what police service do is down to trust.

Q4. Question to Sarah with regard to Thurnby Lodge and that her response earlier that it has nothing to do with her, but it is that of Sir Peter, was inadequate when £400,000 had been spent.

SR: If you have too many people when you are trying to negotiate you will end up with confusion. There was some confusion when Peter and I were engaging different groups, so I stepped back as he had seniority over me, it is not wanting to be involved or take responsibility, but recognising that in the chain of command, people wanted him to be actively engaged. In terms of the policing bill, the police have responsibility in law to allow effective protest peacefully.

Q5. What are the potential benefits of a PCC?  What significant changes will you bring forward? (Dr Perry Stanislas, De Montfort University)

SR:  I do have some reservation about this new system.  I feel it is better to get involved to make a difference. Making sure organisations are coming together. As it is difficult to get others involved to work with the police, I feel it will help by sharing resources.

SN: As the Parliament has spoken therefore we are having a PCC. I will add value to the police service as part of the community. I will also look into the external input of the policing system as I feel that certain issues are media driven. I will bring confidence to the people.

CL: I have different views to the others. I want to increase the level of trust of police who serve the community. Many people are not happy with the level of service they receive, so they would prefer someone that they can contact, an ombudsman or whatever you call it, to whom they can go.

Q6. What if there is a clash of visions with the Chief Constable, what action will be taken from there? Do you see it as an advantage or a disadvantage to work with the existing systems that are already there? (Winfield Belgrave)

SR: I have already been working with the Chief Constable; I will work closely together with him and negotiate effectively in order to meet the needs of the community. The policing crime plan and budget is something we have to agree together through negotiation.

SN: The continuation of having the Chief Constable is essential, as they want to see crime rates go down, so does the PCC and the community. It will be a working relationship that is important to have.  You cannot step into any position without any background. I have worked with last 4 Chief Constables, at times there has been agreement and disagreement, but we remain critical friends, I believe what the Chief Constable and what I want and you want is the reduction in crime, but it is how we get there that needs to be agreed upon.

CL: The critical relationship in order to make the PCC work is that of the Chief Constable and the PCC.  I will be a friend and willing to listen carefully to the Police Chief Constable as I feel it is an advantage to have the continuity of knowledge. I am also willing to take the blame if things do go wrong. I have had three stars working for me and they knew where the buck stops, but I listen to them carefully. I would do the same in this instance. I will tell him the things that you the public have asked me to do and ask him if it is practical do so within the reality of the policing operation capability. It is an advantage in having some members of the current team there.

Q7. Will you review stop and search powers? Start recording all stops and account, so that communities can better judge the extent of disproportionality. (StopWatch)

SR: In regards to stop and search I will look at the figures, impact on the community and reflect upon the outcome in an objective way with the chief constable and the current review by DMU. As to stop and account, I will not give an undertaking here and now but will look at it. I would look at how it was reintroduced in the Met and to see if here is best practice out there.

SN: I will review the rules and understanding of stop and search and then take it further from there. We need to look at this from the top and find out what is the understanding of the issues around this. Thurnby Lodge is an example. We need a good education programme to get people to understand this, because we can become very defensive about this.

CL: I will talk to the Chief and look into the criteria. However there has already been half the number of stop and searches with an 11% arrest rate; I will look further into the matter. I can understand that there is angst about this. I would like to have talk with the Chief Constable about this; I need to understand the totality about what's happening, before I give an undertaking. We may need to look at the use of modern technology to help.

Q8. Are the any strategic plans for policing ratios?  – Engaging youth as with all other communities. Will you be ensuring proper strategies to represent young people and to work with them and consult them?

SR: I feel it is wrong to imply that all young people are the same, there're some fantastic young people out there doing some very good work. I would like to work with young people to encourage positive youth activities – employment and find other ways to engage them with society. We need to have positive campaigns to get the message that young people can have a fantastic career in the police force. We need to increase youth employment and to make them feel that they are not pushed out of society. I would look at extending peer mentoring.

SN: There are a lot of young people working around me and I therefore encourage this. However I know it’s a complex issue however I feels that if the net is thrown wider you might find the answers. 85% of my staff are young people. There needs to be a wider debate about youth crime.

CL: I would like to invite youngsters to see a valuable and valued career in the police force; as I believe there is an enormous pool of talent. I would like also to protect the public by looking at issues stopping people offending and a key issue – re-offending and rehabilitation. I will look elsewhere to see if there is best practice. We need a system that reaches out to young people. We need to stop reoffending and preventing it in the first instance. We could use other projects out there to help.

Q9. How will you work with the budget to save money by the next election? Have you signed the pledge by the Howard League for penal reform running a PCC campaign, which is to run a clean campaign and avoid using stereotype or derogatory remarks about young people?   (Ross Little.)

SR: I feel in Leicestershire it is a very well run force and it is lean. I will still look into what’s working and what the risks are. I want to keep the level of work there to save money in the long run, as I don’t want to take away one part and then everything falls apart. I have signed the pledge and read the small print. I don't believe that further outsourcing is the best route for our force.

SN: I will look at ways of outsourcing in order to save money, as a last resort and after consultation. I have pledged to work with young people.

CL: I do not want to force any difficult decisions; yet will look at the books and the team. I will save money where I can and carry out the front line work. It is very hard not to affect people, as 85% of the budget is people. We have to look at outsourcing, but I will have to see how the books look. I have not signed the pledge, but I have not signed any pledges as PCC candidate.