Thursday, 17 January 2013

Meeting with Commissioner Hogg

Today saw the first meeting for the new Police and Crime Panel with Commissioner Tony Hogg - the person elected to set the strategic direction for the police and to oversee their budget and work. It's a complicated relationship. Mr Hogg oversees the police and we scrutinise his work.

The main business was the first look at the Commissioner's draft crime and policing plan for the coming year. In this plan he will set out what he believes the key strategic focus should be and he will set performance targets.

Mr Hogg told us that his key priorities would be support for victims, listening to residents, putting more effort into 'hidden crimes' such as domestic violence and dealing with hate crimes. I cannot fault him on these priorities. But the draft document that he talked through seemed to indicate that everything was a priority so I asked him what was less important to him. He refused to answer this directly but indicated that if it was not listed in the document then it was probably less of a priority. My concern is that there are some pretty big areas which I could not see listed and I would have liked a direct answer on what level of focus he would give to them. The police (and the commissioner) cannot focus on everything, but I think there should be transparency about what is more important.

But much of what was in the draft plan is admirable. I like the fact that the commissioner believes he can influence change in the economy, health and wellbeing, business and to help young people reach their potential. It's a tough ask, but it is good that he is looking that way.

Mr Hogg was also asked about his office and support network and whether he would be appointing deputies and other staff - an issue that has been controversial in other areas. To date Mr Hogg has directly appointed a chief adviser and his office has taken on a Communications Manager. Mr Hogg told us that he would be appointing other advisers, including a victims adviser as a first priority. My notes say that he said he would consider appointing a Deputy in due course although his office have subsequently said that he has no plans to appoint a deputy.

A question was asked about the appointment process and whether this would be through open advertising and recruitment. Mr Hogg gave a commitment to advertising the victims adviser position but not necessarily other posts. I am concerned that public money (typically £60k for a Deputy) should not be spent without a proper appointment process and will be following this up. The people appointed should be the best available, not just people the commissioner knows or has recommended to him by his chums.

Finally, I asked the commissioner about the leak of the name of his proposed candidate for Chief Constable. The acting Chief Constable, Shaun Sawyer, was announced by Mr Hogg on Tuesday morning at 10am. However there had been a leak to the BBC who were running the story much earlier. Mr Hogg assured me that the leak did not come from him (and I take him at his word) although he said he could not give the same guarantee about his staff. I think it is very unfortunate that there is already a culture of leaking somewhere within the new set-up and hope that it stops.

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