On a regular basis we intend to invite leading figures from policing to contribute to this forum so that PCC candidates can gain a better understanding of the wide range of relationships they will need to build once elected. Our aim, as always, is to help you to achieve your objectives and we hope that the topics chosen will reflect your interests and requirements. If they don't let us know and we will do what we can to keep you better informed either through this blog or by other means.
PCCs will be elected on a local mandate - so how will they reconcile delivery at neighbourhood level with meeting cross-border demands? National Crime Agency Director General Keith Bristow gives us his views. 02.10.2012
If you are a PCC candidate you are probably very familiar by now with the Strategic Policing Requirement. It sets out the national threats that police forces are expected to address and the capabilities they need to protect the public from them. Organised crime is one of those national threats, along with terrorism, civil emergencies, large-scale cyber incidents and public disorder..
It warrants its place on the list. Organised crime costs the UK between £20 billion and £40 billion every year and, rather than regarding geographic and organisational boundaries as obstacles, organised criminals see them as potential opportunities to exploit.
The SPR is one part of a wider move to integrate the UK's collective law enforcement response, along with the creation of the National Crime Agency. My ambition as the NCA's Director General is to deliver a truly national agency, combining powerful operational crime-fighting with leadership of a joined-up response to serious, organised and complex crime. The new agency will have a broad remit. As well as tackling organised crime it will strengthen border defences, accelerate efforts against economic crime, build on CEOP's work to protect children from sexual abuse, and establish a national centre of expertise on cyber crime.
The value of integrating the national response resonates with senior officers across the board and I fully expect newly-elected PCCs to find their Chief Constables supportive of playing a role in tackling national threats.
But PCCs will be accountable to local voters, whose support for stumping up local resources for a national agenda certainly won't be won by the existence of high level documents.
I believe it will be won instead if we can bring into clear focus for people the fact that national level crime threats aren't about something happening, somewhere else, to somebody else's life. Organised crime causes direct neighbourhood-level damage for all of us, wherever we live.
Support will also come from fostering a better understanding that, in protecting people from that local level damage, no single force or agency can confront national level criminality alone. Local policing, strongly grounded in communities, is vital. So is collaboration across force boundaries, and across the range of national agencies. The key is being part of a unified team which pulls together when needed. It is a two-way deal and it makes us greater than the sum of our parts.
This is where I think my role as Director General of the National Crime Agency most closely aligns with yours as prospective PCCs.
In meeting the requirements of the SPR, PCCs will need to provide their constituencies with answers to the question "What does supporting the national response do for us". As head of the organisation which will be tasked by Government to lead and coordinate that national response, I need to answer the same question for you.
The first thing the NCA will do for you as a PCC, for your force, and for the public you protect, is to provide greater coordination across the different parts of law enforcement, with clear leadership of the action against national crime threats.
It is my view, and it seems the view of the wider law enforcement community, that the picture has relied in the past too much on everyone playing nicely. We need a framework which makes cooperation and coordination the rule, not just a happy accident when relationships are good.
Subject to progress of the Crime and Courts Bill, in some circumstances this might mean the Director General of the NCA is able to ask any UK police force or UK law enforcement agency to undertake a task that helps the NCA to fight serious, organised and complex crime.
In very rare cases where agreement cannot be reached, or reached in time, on the action needed, it might mean the Director General having the power to direct forces in England and Wales to carry out specific activities.
That power is for use in extremis only and I firmly believe we will achieve what we need to through mutual cooperation and strong operating models. But I am equally clear that the power needs to be there.
Consider, for example, that every gram of Class A drugs in this country has to cross an international border and then transit through potentially numerous force areas.
The community damage caused by those drugs is felt most acutely at the end of the journey. The force dealing with that damage can bring the street level dealers to justice but they are expendable in the eyes of the criminal network and will be replaced quickly.
It's unlikely too that a force in the north of the country, say, will readily mount an expensive surveillance operation in a south coast force area to try to take the drugs out of circulation before they reach the streets. So for an effective investigation which causes lasting damage to the organised crime group: where does the investigative response best sit? With the force whose region the drugs first arrive in? With one of the forces whose area they transit?
There is no single right answer and it will always depend on the circumstances. And therein lies the core of the tasking issue: sometimes it can take more than one force to determine how we arrive at the best collective outcome, and sometimes the answer doesn't suit everyone perfectly. But as the PCC who is answerable to the people at the end of that drug's journey - who in turn are better protected because of the right intervention at the right point in the process - you have much to gain by knowing that the tasking option is in our shared armoury. In exchange, on occasion, your force would be looked to for a decisive role in delivering the best collective outcome.
Part of the collective response of course will include the NCA's own operational teams. Let me be clear in case there is any doubt: the agency will be first and foremost an operational crime fighting body which deploys officers in its own investigations and in support of other forces. So the second thing the NCA will do for you is reciprocate, by providing powerful operational resources, specialist skills and capabilities, and the ability to reach across international boundaries to tackle national level threats closer to their source.
Let's return to our hypothetical Class A drugs operation. Every gram of heroin and cocaine that individuals consume in the UK, that addicts rob for, that dealers fight over, and that gangs seek to control, is grown and processed overseas.
It is a fundamental truth that the closer you can intervene to the source of a problem, the more effective your intervention will be. This is particularly true in law enforcement when it comes to drugs. As you get further from source, the product is split, cut with other substances, and re-sold. In short, its footprint multiplies like a virus.
The further from source you intervene, the more resources you need. If you wait till the drugs are at your country's border, or inside it, or on the streets of your community, the resources you need increase accordingly.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency's international partnerships to intervene close to source have been a success story and the NCA will build on those. Our intervention further up the chain can reduce the resources local forces need to tackle drugs at street level.
There is also a preventative angle. You may have seen the results of a YouGov poll in June which questioned 1700 people about PCCs. There were several headline grabbing points but what interested me was the list of crimes the public cares about most.
At the top of the list was burglary. I'm not sure this has ever been tested, but there is a long-held anecdotal truth in law enforcement that if you ask people who have been burgled whether they would prefer the burglar is caught and punished or whether they would prefer the burglary never took place at all, most if not all will say the latter.
I'm quite clear from my years in law enforcement that there is a direct link between the damage caused by burglary to people's lives and to their confidence and well-being, and the desperate compulsion which comes from feeding a drug addiction. Intervention upstream by the NCA and its partners can make a difference to what happens on the streets you are elected to protect and for which you will be accountable.
This two-way principle on operational support also applies to information sharing. The third thing the NCA will do for you and your force is provide a single, shared national intelligence picture around serious organised crime which prioritises targets, the activity against them, and the resources to tackle them.
The UK has never had this and it is essential in my view if genuine partnerships are to have a chance of success. The NCA will be home to an Intelligence Hub which supports that single picture, disseminating intelligence as well as receiving it, identifying opportunities across a wider landscape, and deconflicting multiple sources. We will give your force confidence in the information it receives, enabling it to make the right operational interventions and allocate its resources accordingly.
Running as a thread through all this is efficiency. You will have to satisfy yourself and your constituency that the money you spend delivers the best possible return in protecting the public. With fewer resources we must all use what we have to better effect and recognise where we can avoid duplication and where we can complement. The changes which the NCA will bring are designed to maximise collective efficiency, and streamline and target responses. Quality intelligence, mutual support, and strategic planning mean there will be a powerful link between tackling national level crime threats and how you deliver your local priorities.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges we all face is how we measure our success. The paradox is that, whilst most people would rather a burglary never took place at all, the public as a whole still tends to judge law enforcement according to the numbers of people entering the criminal justice system, and the sanctions applied to them, rather than the damage law enforcement is able to prevent. If better protection for the public is our priority this is a challenge we need to meet. I am not comfortable settling for satisfying an appetite for statistics about retrospective action. Yes, the NCA will target the most serious criminals harming the UK; it will collect quality evidence against them, and will work with its partners in the criminal justice system to ensure they are punished. But I also want to achieve a shift into sharper focus of the value of preventative and disruptive law enforcement. It may be harder to demonstrate in terms the public relates to now, but it is a vital part of our ambition to deliver greater protection for the public overall, and it is absolutely essential to bring the public with us.
SOCA will be working with forces and PCCs on national and local crime issues for around a year before the NCA becomes fully operational at the end of 2013. In the meantime I very much enjoyed speaking at the APCC's briefing events at Ryton on 29 June and London on 11 September and found the question and answer sessions dynamic and interesting. I hope to continue meeting many of you as candidates and look forward, in due course, to working alongside you as elected PCCs.
Good luck with your campaigns.