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Why PCCs are here to stay

There has been some recent criticism of the role of Police and Crime Commissioners and the manner in which they perform their duties.  I can best speak for my own actions here in Essex. 

One of my central pledges is ensuring local solutions are found for local problems.  As I’ve travelled round Essex, holding almost forty public meetings and attending dozens more with local councillors, local associations and residents’ groups, I’ve listened to the concerns of local people.  I’ve also discussed many of these concerns directly with the Chief Constable of Essex Police, stressing the importance of local solutions.   Essex Police is now consulting with key local stakeholders as the force introduces a new local policing model in all parts of our county, and you can see my comments welcoming this development here.  

I’ve also created the Essex Police Challenge meeting, where I hold the Chief Constable to account in public, as well as providing an opportunity for the public to ask their own questions of the Chief and me.  The next Essex Police Challenge event will take place in Westcliff-on-Sea on July 2, and I hope people will attend and have their say.

PCC Public Meeting in Basildon

I have just published an updated Police and Crime Plan for Essex preserving and developing the many strengths of Essex Police, and challenging the Chief Constable in a measured but determined fashion. At the heart of the Police and Crime Plan is a commitment to support victims, reduce domestic abuse, reduce re-offending and to tackle the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse, and mental ill health.  On June 20, we will be involved in a major mental health and criminal justice conference organised by South East and Central Essex MIND. 

PCC Alston and Chief Constable Kavanagh

As the Police and Crime Plan makes clear, we can all help keep our families and communities safe by knowing how to prevent crime and by reducing opportunities for criminals.  During the coming months, I will be taking a more active role on the pan-Essex Casualty Reduction Board, working especially closely with Essex Police, the Highways Agency and Essex County Council, to re-energise efforts to improve road safety.

I am committed to building on existing partnership working, and I believe Police and Crime Commissioners have both a national mandate and a tremendous opportunity to ensure that our many agencies and voluntary organisations work together as effectively and efficiently as possible.  As an example, I now chair the pan-Essex Domestic Abuse Strategy Board, with very high level membership and commitment from Essex Police, Essex Probation, the Crown Prosecution Service, Essex County Council, Thurrock Council, Southend Borough Council, and both local NHS trusts and NHS England. 

Every day in our county eighty domestic abuse incidents are reported to Essex Police. We must continue to give victims the confidence to report domestic abuse, offer them the very best support possible – including access to the additional Independent Domestic Violence Advisers that the Board has approved – and strive to bring perpetrators to justice, using evidence from police officers using body worn cameras that we have funded through a special innovation grant from the Home Office.  If we are to reduce the harm of domestic abuse in our county, we need all our agencies sharing information and working together closely and constructively.

Nationally, I have been a leading voice calling for the abolition of rigid performance targets because of the perverse and unintended consequences they sometimes lead to.  I am pleased that in the year to March 31, 2014, all crime has fallen by 0.8 per cent in Essex, with house burglary down by 5 per cent.  I am confident that these figures are accurate, and I have made it clear that crime will continue to be recorded ethically in Essex.   Chief Constable Kavanagh has made his own expectations clear, reinforcing some of the points I made before Parliament’s Public Administration Select Committee and in public statements.  The interim report of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary into crime recording was broadly reassuring, with Essex Police having the second best performance amongst 13 of our largest police forces.  However, I am not complacent, and on behalf of the people of Essex, I will insist that we continue to look into those few cases where crime has not been accurately recorded.  How else can we ensure that victims get the best possible service and our policing resources are deployed in the most effective manner?

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, has expressed concerns about ‘the intertwining’ of politics and policing, and the governance of our police forces.  I respect her views and the work that Liberty undertakes, but I profoundly disagree with her conclusions.  I believe elected Police and Crime Commissioners bring a degree of democratic scrutiny, of both support and challenge, to Chief Constables that did not exist under the former Police Authority structure. 

In our county, I have taken pioneering steps to enhance the governance structure of Essex Police still further.  I have created a Strategic Policing Board, an Ethics and Integrity Committee and a Finance Committee.    The independent advisors who will provide guidance to the Chief Constable and to me through these boards are all people of great experience and integrity. 

I have introduced these boards to ensure the decisions I make as the elected Police and Crime Commissioner are not just in the best short term interest of the people of our county and of Essex Police but also help to secure the medium and long term future of policing in Essex.  The decisions that the Chief Constable and I make now as we continue to deliver effective policing should not risk jeopardising Essex Police’s capabilities five or ten years in the future.

I am also conscious that whilst the vast majority of Essex Police officers, PCSOs and police staff perform with great professionalism every hour of every day, there are high profile national cases which have damaged public confidence in policing.  The creation of an Ethics and Integrity Committee brings insightful outside voices into the policing environment to ensure that we properly address the issues that may have undermined the trust of the public.  It will also ensure our plans for the future of policing in Essex take account of a wide range of informed opinion.  I strongly support the Chief Constable in the firm line he is taking with those few officers whose behaviour is unprofessional.

I believe elected PCCs are here to stay.   PCCs provide a vital two-way link between the public and our police forces, helping to ensure that we get the most professional, effective and innovative policing possible. 

Nick Alston at rural crime prevention event

I will continue to hold meetings around the county, visit community groups, and respond to a full postbag of emails and letters. Please come to our meetings, keep up to date with news on our website and let me know what you think about Essex Police and community safety more widely. I am here to serve you and welcome your feedback.

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex


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PFCC for Essex, Kelvedon Park, London Road, Rivenhall, Witham, Essex, CM8 3HB
01245 291600

If your enquiry relates to operational policing or a crime please contact Essex Police

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