As a Councillor I am also a member of other groups and panels and one of those panels is the Police and Crime Panel (PCP) our role is that of scrutiny over the decisions made by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). After the current Chief Constable Simon Ash announced back in November it was his intention to retire the process began to replace him.
Now I`m not going to go over the selection process and how we reached were we are today but I will give a little insight into the PCP hearing, What the prospective candidate had to say about his plans for suffolk and my thoughts on the man in question.
The PCP had a statutory duty to hold a public confirmation hearing and review the PCC`s preferred candidate and make recommendation as to whether he should be appointed or not.
The candidate was a Mr Douglas Paxton who since 2010 had been serving as the Deputy Chief Constable with Staffordshire Police, He had previously worked in North Birmingham and has also worked in West Suffolk.
The hearing started with the PCP asking the PCC about the recruitment and selection process and then we got to ask Mr Paxton about his plans for suffolk and what he would bring to our Police Force.
Mr Paxton explanined that Protecting the vulnerable, ranging from reducing the risk of serious injury or death on the roads to those subjected to serious threats or harm, He also spoke of the importance of partnerships and how Curbing troublesome families and steering prolific offenders away from crime will involve working with other agencies. Among the other areas to be targeted will be the problems caused by alcohol, helping those with mental health issues.
Mr Paxton also spoke of the need for transparency when questioned about some the national issues that have clouded police forces across the country. He said: “We have ended up in a situation where the public doubt the leadership and intent in the police service. “I would like this to be the most transparent police service in the country. Part of that is for people to work with us. “All of what we do should be part of a crystal clear focus from the public.”
This lead me on to my question for Mr Paxton which was a two part question, Firstly when looking though Mr Paxton`s competencies I could see while he was in Staffordshire he was responsible for delivering high quality services and outcomes to communites, While in this role Mr Paxton says he identified that black and minority ethnic (BMA) victims were significantly less satisfied with the service than their white counterparts. Mr Paxton revised the Forces strategy in relation to victim contact with BME victims. This led to a reversal of the trend of poor BME victim satisfaction and the county achieved parity across all strands of its communites. In Ipswich there are concerns over the fact that statistically you are six times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are BMA then white. I asked Mr Paxton if there were any transferable skills or knowledge from his experience in Staffordshire and Birminghan that he could bring to suffolk and add to how Stop and Search is dealt with. Mr Paxton responded that he would have to look into what the current process are but that the key was transparency, Making communites feel safe and know that the Police are working for them at that policing is intelligence based.
I also asked about the lack of BME officers in Suffolk police with the county having a 5% BME population but only 2% of officers coming from a BME background. Mr Paxton said the police need to work with its partners to broaden its scope and help in this matter. He raised a good point that there are some people in some communites who may look up see a police uniform and could never picture themself doing that. We need to engage with people though other methods get people to see police officers in another context, prehaps have people join organisations or partners that work with the police and they will have a better understanding of what the police do and hopfully see that it is an option for them.
The PCP voted to recommend that Mr Paxton be appointed as Chief Constable. I got the chance to talk to him briefly afterwards, I was impressed with what he had to say and how he delivered his message. He seemed to have a passion and be glad to be back in Suffolk and I feel he may be the right man at a time of change across the county.