Stephen has spoken to the Eastern Daily Press newspaper about his time as Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner – and the challenges of taking up a role with no job description.
I’ll be straight with you; before I became your PCC two-and-a-half years ago I was a thorough sceptic. I was not convinced what value PCCs would add or what positive difference they could make. I am now a convert. No surprises there I hear you say, of course you are; you’re the PCC. Let me explain why I have changed my mind; something I am not known for.
“There was no job description for PCCs when I took up office, no blueprint, no previous incumbent. I was fortunate as I had a good working knowledge of policing having served for many years on the police authority. Again I’ll be honest, I had no idea just how much would be involved in the ‘and crime’ bit of the job.”
We needed a fresh approach and it won’t surprise you to hear that in Norfolk we decided to do different.
We restructured the commissioner’s office, bringing in co-ordinators to cover the main areas of work Norfolk people and partners asked us to concentrate on including mental health, drugs and alcohol, domestic abuse, sexual violence and the rehabilitation of offenders. Individually and as a team they have been able to work with key partners across the county and help drive change. The restructure also saved £350k a year, money I have pledged to the Chief Constable to fund PCSOs in our schools.
All very well, I hear you say, but what have you actually done?
- We have given out more than £2m through our commissioning grants to Norfolk organisations, making a real difference to people’s lives.
- With local charity Leeway, we have delivered training to all 115 GP practices in Norfolk, helping GPs and their staff recognise the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse.
- My office was chosen by the Home Office to distribute £5m of national funding to support survivors of sexual abuse. That money is now going where it is most needed nationwide.
- I helped secure a team of mental health specialists to work in the police control room, improving safeguarding for vulnerable callers and reducing the time police spend responding to mental health crisis calls.
- We are working with Norfolk’s business community to build employment and training prospects for ex-offenders aiming to stop the ‘revolving door’ of offending.
- We have funded a court video link for vulnerable victims to give evidence.
- We brought partners together to ensure Norfolk was first to commit to the Government’s Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat.
- We sponsored a Show Racism the Red Card event at Carrow Road where pupils from local schools took part in anti-racism workshops.
- I am working closely with forces charities to support veterans in custody.
Of course there is also the small matter of us having the best police force in the country.
Last year, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) deemed Norfolk’s approach to the funding challenge ‘outstanding’ and on-going collaboration with Suffolk Police ‘exemplary’. The exception, and worst moment of my term, was when the Suffolk PCC vetoed the control room and support services merger meaning we lost a potential £2.3m in Norfolk. It meant I was unable to save the frontline from further cuts and had little choice but to increase the policing element of your Council Tax.
I am proud to say that, despite the continuing financial challenges and thanks to the Chief Constable’s strong leadership, your police force and police family continue to perform exceptionally well and we remain one of the lowest crime counties in the country.
This list above is just a flavour of the work we are doing and I am under no illusions – there is much, much more to do. Finances remain extremely tight, tough decisions have to be made and we have to address the changing nature of crime. No longer do criminals need to wear balaclavas and take a sawn-off shotgun into a bank to steal your money. Frankly a cybercriminal could be attempting to do that from a bedroom anywhere in the world. As criminals advance, we must advance too.