The Importance of Professional Standards
Since being elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex I have said on many occasions that I have a high regard for the outstanding work that the overwhelming majority of our police officers in Essex do day by day to keep us safe, to respond to crime, to care for the vulnerable and to respond where we face major incidents such as the recent tidal surge.
In thinking about the role of Police and Crime Commissioner, and certainly since taking on the responsibilities, I have formed a strong view that over several years we have let our police down through inadequate governance that has led to often variable and sometimes poor standards of leadership. Both nationally and at the local level, Chief Constables have not been sufficiently rigorously challenged nor has there been the right form of support to enable police leadership, and the policing service that is shaped by that, to be as professional as it needs to be and as well informed by public expectations of the values and culture of our policing tradition.
I believe strongly that the election of Police and Crime Commissioners gives us an opportunity to restore full confidence in our policing through the effective challenge and support of our Chief Constables. That is certainly the principle to which I am working in Essex. I have had the privilege to appoint a Chief Constable who epitomises professional policing and who offers not only clear leadership but also deep integrity and a commitment to the values of policing that I know – from talking to police officers every day – they want and expect to espouse.
I expect the Chief Constable to support his officers and staff as day by day they exercise discretion, often in very difficult circumstances, to keep the people of Essex safe and to deal with offenders in a way that makes it least likely that subsequently they will reoffend. When Essex police officers and staff do their best and act in accordance with their training, with integrity, and with compassion, they should expect and will receive support. It may be inevitable however that within a large organisation and particularly after a long period where there may not have been clarity about the expected values, that individual officers might let themselves, the force and the public down through their behaviours. When this happens I expect there to be a fair but rigorous discipline process. It is not my role to intervene in that process. It is my role to make sure that the Chief Constable operates the disciplinary process fairly, consistently and ultimately with the interests of the Essex public, whom officers serve every day, at its heart.
The Chief Constable has made it clear to his officers and staff that he will offer them strong leadership, that he will set high expectations for values and integrity, and that he will support his staff where they act professionally according to those values. He has also made it clear that those who do not meet the standards he expects will be dealt with fairly but appropriately.
I make clear that I am not aware of the full details of the case that has been made public today, though in due course I would expect to review details of the disciplinary process as part of my scrutiny role.
My own more general view is however that police officers or staff must never exploit or abuse a position of trust with regard to a victim of crime with whom they come into contact. If and when they do I would always expect firm action to be taken by the Chief Constable.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex