It is sometimes said that I never miss an opportunity to point out that Gloucestershire is a safe place to live, work and raise a family. I do this for three reasons, firstly because it’s true, secondly because it’s important for the prosperity of the county and thirdly because it’s proven the fear of crime can be more damaging than crime itself – especially in isolated and rural areas.
We are fortunate to live in a beautiful safe county but that doesn’t mean the Chief Constable and I are complacent. County Lines gangs have tried to get a foothold here and other gangs still target rural business – and when the market suits, they turn to stealing dogs and other hideous crimes.
A founding principle of the British Police, that still holds good for Gloucestershire as the oldest force outside London, is that “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them”.
I say this because if we all saw the intelligence that passes the Chief Constable’s desk, or were exposed to as much crime, violence, hurt or hopelessness that police officers are, I doubt we would sleep easily.
Another founding principles is, “The police are the public and the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties”, That’s one of the reasons the Constabulary was able to weather 10 years of austerity and still keep crime relatively low.
It’s also why, to a large extent, they repelled the County Lines gangs who tried to dominate and expand the corrosive illegal drug markets. It was against the backdrop of cuts in 2017 they conducted ‘Operation Emperor’ which saw London and Birmingham gangs jailed for over 100 years. See here:
Yet another founding principle for the police which I hold dear, but which the new structure of elected Police & Crime Commissioners puts at risk is, “the Police should seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.”
The line between the Commissioner and the Chief Constable needs to be clearly understood and respected. The Commissioner must speak for the public and the Chief Constable must have operational independence under the law.
Being an Independent Commissioner makes that task so much easier.