When police and crime commissioners were first proposed by the coalition government, the idea was that they would make police forces more accountable.
According to the Association of Police and Crime Commisioners:
The role of the PCCs is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing.
PCCs aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their force area.
PCCs have been elected by the public to hold Chief Constables and the force to account, effectively making the police answerable to the communities they serve.
So how’s that thing about holding the police force to account going down in Grimsby, Humberside?
Not well, if this story from the Grimsby Telegraph is anything to go by:
A POLICEMAN’S lot is not a happy one, according to the latest figures for stress, absenteeism and depression among staff.
There has been a rise in the number of days off by staff working for Humberside Police.
The Grimsby Telegraph has been told by a serving officer that on some shifts there are just four officers between 3am and 7am, when there should be a minimum of eight.
Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Grove dismissed the claim and said: “If any police officers are telling you the number of officers on duty, they are breaking The Official Secrets Act and becoming criminals.”
I think we’d all agree the best way to make publicly-funded organisations more accountable to the public is to create new elected positions from which politicians can threaten those who feel compelled to whistleblow with the Official Secrets Act.
As for the bit about keeping crime down, things aren’t looking good on that score – and it’s thanks to FOI (surely on the list to be outlawed in Grimsby soon?) that the Telegraph could report how Mr Grove was dealing with a 10% increase in crime:
A FREEDOM of Information Act submitted by the Grimsby Telegraph has revealed 30 FEWER police officers are based in the town now than a year ago – against a backdrop of some of the largest increases in violent crime we have seen.
And, this comes despite the Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner’s pledge that the town would receive more officers – something he told this paper last November.
But today the commissioner, Matthew Grove, was adamant the area would see better policing, with more officers available for deployment at times of most need.
Figures obtained by us show that compared to five years ago there are now more than 40 fewer Humberside Police officers based within Grimsby and 30 fewer than last year alone.
When the Grimsby Telegraph asked Mr Grove back in November about the impact of the proposed restructuring, he said: “There’s going to be a lot of people in Grimsby. Grimsby is going to have a lot more police officers than it has and in the past. I actually believe that Grimsby has not had enough police officers in the past and I have seen that with my own eyes. So there will be a bigger police presence in Grimsby.”
When it comes to accountability, it feels, here at least, that the Thin Blue Line has got a little thicker – with the local Press now responsible for holding both the police and the person supposed to be holding the police to account, to account.