APCC Chair Marc Jones speech at Partnership Summit
Marc Jones, Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners
Ladies and gentlemen. It’s truly a privilege to have the opportunity to open this partnership summit alongside Martin Hewitt. This is my second and final summit as Chair of the APCC, and I can honestly say that this event has never been so timely or important. Not just for policing, but for community safety, for criminal justice and, of course for victims and the public we all serve.
The agenda is packed full of thought-provoking sessions and engaging speakers and I hope you will all get an immense amount of value out of being here.
The public, who expect, and are entitled to expect, the very best from our police service are looking to the leaders in this room to rise to the challenges we all face.
In my role as Lincolnshire PCC, as you would expect, I meet police officers and staff every day and I know what a fantastic job the vast majority do in our communities. Running to danger and going above and beyond in order to keep our communities safe.
However, we know that without the public’s confidence we can’t do everything we need to in order to reduce crime and keep them feeling and being safe. Last week’s HMICFRS report into vetting, misconduct and misogyny once again exposed some uncomfortable truths. And we can’t and won’t shy away from that. Policing cannot close ranks, deflect, or play down these concerns. These issues must be tackled head on. This is owed to every member of our community and also to every one of the decent, dedicated men and women that serve their community as part of the policing family who deserve the respect of society for everything they do for us.
As with so many things it comes down to effective leadership. Setting and maintaining standards and rooting out the problems in an open way to show the public the true nature of policing and what it stands for.
And when it comes to transparency with the public, we do need to be clear about what policing is for and what the public can expect from it. I was delighted when it was agreed that the whole police service was to join those forces already committed to attending all home burglaries going forward. There are very few more invasive crimes than home burglaries and the public rightly expect to see it prioritised.
Alongside this comes the need to ensure the way crime is being recorded reflects the true nature of crime occurring in our neighbourhoods. You only have to look at the crime survey for England and Wales to see the vast difference between police recorded crime and the public’s experience of crime. With 600 pages of guidance for the police to follow on recording crime and 26 ways to close a crime file, is it any wonder that it is a system that doesn’t deliver for policing but more importantly doesn’t work in the public interest.
Policing can only work within the system it is given but I believe that it is time to question what we need the police to record, why and what we expect them to reasonably do about it. We need a system that is transparent, proportionate and does not have the unintended consequence of creating an unfounded level of fear in our communities.
It was 10 years ago next week that the first Police and Crime Commissioners were elected but policing governance goes right back to the days of Peel. We have always had public oversight of policing as should every healthy democracy. I myself was elected in 2016 and I can say without equivocation that this current group of PCCs have never been better placed to deliver for their communities on both the policing and crime elements of their mission.
Over the last 10 years, elected PCCs and now Mayors and their Deputies for Policing and Crime have established their role as the public’s voice to policing, the champion of victims and survivors of crime, the convener and leader of a myriad of local partnerships and the commissioner of countless initiatives and services to reduce crime, protect the public and see safer communities flourish.
The APCC has this year- been highlighting some of the key areas where PCCs have been making a real and lasting difference including their work to tackle violence against women and girls, crime prevention and reduction initiatives, serious violence (more on this in a moment) and anti-social behaviour to mention a few. I would highlight the incredible partnership working going on in the South West to reduce the illegal drugs trade through Operation Scorpion which has seen five PCCs and forces join together to make their area truly hostile to those wishing to prey on their communities.
Commissioners have also driven effective governance and stronger public accountability across policing which we should all welcome. We are there to appoint Chiefs and yes to hold them to account but also, vitally, to support them in keeping our communities safe. We each have our role to play and whilst respect for our independent remit really matters, so does our join mission to deliver for the residents we serve. I make no apology for highlighting the elevated level of transparency and accountability that PCCs bring to policing. We are the public’s voice and we are charged with ensuring their priorities are delivered and are held accountable for it.
And we know we can do more. The PCC Review Part 2, published earlier this year, recommended that PCCs should be given more levers to improve the criminal justice journey for victims and witnesses. Something that we very much welcome. I would make clear that this does not mean an encroachment into judicial independence. We all respect that cornerstone of our criminal justice system but that should not be a barrier to better ways of working for the public good, something we should all welcome. One of the key areas of improvement over the last ten years has been how PCCs have been able to move victims closer to the centre of the criminal justice system. I would at this point like to pay tribute to all of the staff and volunteers who work to support victims and survivors of crime. Whether making those initial calls to reach out to victims, delivering restorative justice, working in the sexual assault referral clinics, or as ISVAs, IDVAs, witness support or any of the vast array of roles undertaken. Thank you.
And a word on prevention. It is the first of the Peelian principles, after all. All police and crime plans have prevention as a priority, clearly it is something which is significant for us all. With the right funding and investment we can help ensure policing maintains and builds its focus on prevention. For example, the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund, first introduced in 2020, has successfully enabled PCCs and local authorities to bid for significant investment into prevention initiatives valued by communities across England and Wales. All PCCs are demonstrating their commitment to support policing to tackle crime at its root causes. After all, many key areas of demand for policing are driven by societal challenges that require partnership approaches that PCCs are uniquely placed to drive forward.
We fully support the policing uplift programme, working with policing organisations to ensure that the pipeline is in place to get the strongest and widest pool of talent right up to the chief officer ranks. The College of Policing is of course key to this mission and I very much welcome the decisive action being taken by CEO Andy Marsh to address issues in this area and his drive to deliver real and lasting positive change in leadership and training for all ranks. I really believe that the College is coming into its own at this very pivotal time. There is of course still debate regarding the entry routes into policing and whether a route that doesn’t require the attainment of a degree is desirable. I will not make a case one way or the other here today but I would simple state that we need clarity and quickly. Force leaders need to plan and this issue needs putting to bed once and for all.
As I mentioned earlier, PCCs have a key role in tackling serious violence. They are leading work in the twenty most affected areas using funding from Government to establish multi-agency Violence Reduction Units. They are bringing together local government, the voluntary sector, health agencies and law enforcement, to jointly work to reduce levels of serious violence in their communities. Other areas, such as my own haven’t received the central funding but have still prioritised violence reduction and are driving public health approaches to see the violence fall for the long term.
When I stood here last year I spoke of my desire to make the APCC the home of policing governance for the UK. I am delighted that this year our membership has grown with the addition of the Scottish Police Authority, alongside the Civic Nuclear Police Authority, the Ministry of Defence Police Authority and the British Transport Authority. I am ambitious for the APCC to truly be the voice of UK policing governance and I am confident that our membership is still growing. By working together this way we can share best practice and leaning as we strive for an evermore efficient and effective police service for communities.
And policing governance has never been so important. Yes, there are key areas that we will work closely with policing, but we must never forget our role to hold policing to account.
Out approach to partnership working has been refocused as well. We have significantly strengthened ties with the Local Government Association, initiating a number of workstreams on key issues including tackling antisocial behaviour, substance misuse, violence and civility in public life.
Policing must be transparent and accountable and between us we need to develop a modern policing service that is agile enough to prevent and reduce crime in a challenging and ever changing environment. Whether it is developing a better digital capability (including getting Teams to connect reliably, the bane of modern flexible working), tackling serious violent crime or providing the neighbourhood policing that we know people desire and deserve, policing needs that whole-system approach in order to make a difference.