All posts tagged 'Kent-Police'

A reboot for the Kent Crime Commisioner - but will it work

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, July 25 2014

A very different Ann Barnes appeared before the inquistory Kent and Medway Crime Panel this week, a month on from being told to "reassess her style" and repair the damage done by her appearance in the disastrous TV documentary "Meet The Commissioner".

It was a less combative, more consensual and contrite commissioner who set out a range of proposals to improve the way she worked, especially in terms of her engagement with the public and the force, where many officers remain deeply unhappy they have been tarnished by association by the public relations car crash the Chanel 4 documentary proved to be.

So, what did we learn? What was clear is that the commissioner has grasped that the  Ann Barnes "brand" that proved successful when it came to winning the election has become a toxic one in office. So, there was a common theme to many of the proposals, which was a clear move to "depersonalise" her role.

This even involves re-branding her social media profile: her Twitter account no longer features her image or even her name, which you could argue is contradictory when considerinig the underlying reason behind commissioners, namely that the public have a readily identfiable accountable person overseeing the force.

There is to be an end to what she described as "confetti big bang publicity" events -  another tacit admission that her personality is a weakness as much as a strength. In its place will be greater focus on the commissioner's "office"  - again, an attempt to take away the spotlight from her and turn it....well, we are not quite sure where.

There were still flashes of the old Ann, when she referred to the panel as "gentlemen" - overlooking the three female members present and stated it was not necessarily a bad thing to have "a distinctive" style, even though that is what has landed her in difficulty.

Then there is the future of the van - dubbed Ann Force 1 during the election - which the commissioner has determined needs to be retired. Why? Because, according to Ann, she no longer wanted it "to be the story."

This may seem inconsequential but it goes to the heart of her difficulties and what underpins this reboot. The van was actually quite a good PR asset - when it came to the election, she bowled around the county in it to drum up support and the media were regularly told where it would be calling.

But in continuing to use it in office during "meet the commissioner" events, stripped off the promotional stickers, still gave the impression in some quarters that its real purpose was to continue to promote Ann - in other words, some considered it was all part of a rolling election campaign with one eye on 2016, when the next elections will be held.

You might have thought that members of the panel would have murmured their general approval with this decision but in a bizarre twist,  a succession of councillors got to their feet to implore Ann to keep the van. Cllr John Burden, the leader of Gravesham council, was among the cheerleaders. He said that if it was cost-effective and did the job, she should keep using it. A double bluff? Who knows but support came from all quarters, regardless of political allegiance.

The commissioner herself seemed rather perplexed, saying she would reflect on what the panel had said - leaving the van's fate in limbo.

Evidence, if she needed it, that rebranding is not an easy thing - and that it is particularly difficult to de-personalise a brand that has become so toxic largely because of the personality of the person involved.


Our efforts to ask the commissioner a few questions about the changes were rejected when the meeting was completed. The commissioner said she had an engagement in Canterbury and didn't have time.



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Categories: Police | Politics

Ann Barnes under the spotlight - again

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, June 4 2014

Whatever else you might say about her, Ann Barnes has had unparalled success in raising the public profile of police commissioners. She gets the kind of attention and publicity that few other commissioner have received - the only problem being that much of it has been negative and of the kind not even Alastair Campbell could put any top spin on. 

Tomorrow, she faces an inquisition from the cross-party Kent and Medway Crime Panel over her decision to appear in the Channel 4 documentary  "Meet The Commissioner" - a toe-curlingly embarrassing hour-long programme that left viewers aghast as she struggled to define what her job was. 

She now also faces being quizzed about the latest crisis involving her second youth crime tsar Kerry Boyd, who is at the centre of allegations that she had an inappropriate relationship with a married father of two who gave her a reference for the job.

It is fair to say that committee members are deeply concerned about the adverse impact these recent events are having on the reputation of the force. Those concerns reflect deep-seated anxieties within the force itself, with officers said to be in despair about being tainted by assocation.

Whether any of this will translate into a call for a vote of no confidence - which might a tipping point -  is unclear although it is certain that some members of the panel will call for her to quit.

Such demands are likely to be resisted. She will not want the ignominy of being the first commissioner to be forced from office despite a decidely mixed track record since her election in November 2012.

The fact that she is having her authority publicly questioned is bad enough. 

But nothing is more damaging to public officials than being seen out of  their depth and lurching from one disaster to another. Ann Barnes may well survive tomorrow but it is hard to see how her credibility with the public can recover.


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Wanted: a new police chief

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, October 10 2013

The decision of Kent’s chief constable to retire next January means the job of finding a successor will fall, for the first time, to one person - crime and police commisioner Ann Barnes.

It will be her job to recruit a replacement for Ian Learmonth and it will help that, as the former chairman of Kent Police Authority, she has plenty of experience to draw on.

Nevertheless, the timing comes at a particularly challenging time for the force.

It continues to wrestle with the impact of government budget cuts that have already seen some 1,500 jobs lost from the force, of which 457 were police officers.

More cuts are in the pipeline as the government squeeze on public sector spending goes on.

It also comes at a time when the force is seeking to restore public confidence after a critical report that concluded there was a target chasing culture that led to one in ten crimes being misrecorded.
Ian Learmonth departure means some of the momentum he has built up on that could be lost.

Whoever the elected commissioner chooses, she will want someone who can continue to drive down crime rates in a large county with complex needs.

The week started with Ann Barnes announcing her determination to press ahead with finding a new youth commissioner after the debacle of the first appointment.

It has ended with her facing the much more significant job of finding someone to lead one of the largest forces in the country.


A bit like Margaret Thatcher, Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes is not keen on U-turns.

Which explains why she is to push ahead with another recruiting a Kent youth crime commissioner.

The unfortunate events that surrounded the appointment of Paris Brown as her youth crime commissioner, who quit the role days after getting it because of abusive tweets, has not deterred her.

She told members of the Kent and Medway Crime Panel this week that she was "passionate" about the role. Not every member of this cross-party committee was convinced although - indeed, the most sceptical was Cllr Mike Hill, the former vice chairman of Kent Police Authority who implored her to back away fromtthe idea.

Those who expressed reservations were told they would eat their words in a year's time.

It was characteristically forthright and uncompromising stuff. The commissioner has staked a great deal on the role - it was one of her key manifesto pledges although during the meeting she asserted that the original idea was not hers but the public's.

That was apparently a case of "misspeaking" - what she meant, she later clarified, was that it was in her manifesto and people expected her pledge to be fulfilled.

It was a revealing comment though. The commissioner knows that she will be judged by voters on whether she has done what she said she would do.

Failing to deliver a youth crime commissioner would hand her opponents a handy stick to beat her with. It is not one she wants to give them.

The commissioner is not for turning.



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Are the odds stacked against independents in the police commissioner race?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, September 21 2012

IT looked like it was becoming a crowded field but the race to become Kent's first elected police commissioner has lost one of its hopefuls just weeks away from polling day.

Independent candidate quits police commissioner race>>>

Independent candidate Ian Driver has quit and says he is doing so because he cannot find the money to run a campaign. It is not just a question of the £5,000 deposit - not necessarily refundable - all candidates need, he says.

On his calculations, the minimum a candidate will need is £30,000 just to get a leaflet to Kent's 1.2million voters.

So, are the odds stacked in favour of the main parties?

Financially as well as practically, they may be as they have access to foot soldiers in the form of activists, councillors and party supporters who - even when their party is unpopular - can usually be co-erced or cajoled into helping knock on doors, stuff envelopes and yes, dip ino their pockets to pay for meetings and literature.

Where does the independent candidate get access to that kind of support network from a standing start? It's worth noting that candidates in Kent, will under the Home Office rules be able to spend up to £228,338 each on their campaigns.

Independents can't even really get an upper hand through social media - everyone, including the main parties - is attuned to how useful that is now in generating interest.

Ian Driver, who had some interesting if controversial ideas, says he won't be the last to have to drop out because of the costs and I agree.

The irony is that the coalition said it wanted to encourage candidates from outside the political mainstream to stand but in many areas will have elections in which the front-runners will prove to be conventional party stalwarts from fairly traditional political backgrounds.

Is that what the Home Office hoped for? Cast your mind back to the Conservative party conference when Home Secretary Theresa May announced that Iraqi war veteran Tim Collins was in the frame for the Kent job as a Conservative candidate. He was, she said, an example of the kind of independent person the government wanted to stand for the job.

Collins lost interest but in one of his early interviews before opting out had said:

 It is important that it doesn't become just a talking shop for knackered old policemen or a sunset gig for some trough-loving councillor."

Perhaps the independents have one advantage.

It is that with a record low turnout predicted, a few could squeeze through the middle just as they have in council elections for directly-elected mayors.

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Categories: Police

The twists and turns in the Conservative race to become Kent's first elected police chief

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, June 8 2012

Having lost the Iraqi war veteran Tim Collins from the contest before it had begun, some may have thought that the race to become the Conservative candidate for the role of Kent's first elected police commissioner stood to become a damp squib.

Read our special report on elected police commissioners>>>>

But the final shortlist of three is more interesting than it might have been, notably because of the presence of Jan Berry, who was the national chair of the Police Federation for several years and then became a government adviser on cutting police red tape. She also rose through the ranks in the Kent force, which she joined in 1971 and retired 37 years later as a chief inspector.

So, no-one could say that she lacks relevant experience or expertise - although if I was the Kent chief constable, I might be a little disquieted at the prospect of having a former "shop steward" taking such a key role. On the other hand, rank and file police officers would probably be rather reassured at the idea. It's not entirely clear when Jan threw her hat in the ring with the Conservatives but she's certainly someone who, on paper, has a good CV.

The other two candidates are Francois Gordon, a former UK Ambassador to Aleria, the Ivory Coast and British High Commissioner to Uganda. He is also a European strategy adviser to Kent Police, although I have to admit I'm unclear what this entails.

The final name in the hat is that of Medway councillor Craig Mackinlay, who was brought up in Kent, trained as a chartered accountant and tax adviser and is now a partner in a Kent firm. He stood as a UKIP candidate in three general elections - the last for Gillingham in 2005 - and also stood as a candidate for the party in European elections before signing up with the Tories in 2005. (It will be interesting to see if UKIP decides to put up a candidate in the race).

The outcome should be known in a week after three hustings meetings have taken place.


It seems Kent Police are determined to adopt a low key approach to the Olympics.

At least, that is the conclusion I have drawn from a response the force made to a Freedom of Information request I submitted trying to elicit a few details about its contigency plans to deal with various security and transport issues.

Apparently, the force will adopt a "business as usual" procedures at spots such as Ebbsfleet station and the Channel Tunnel - advising me that these are strictly the responsibility of the Port of Dover Police and the British Transport Police anyway. As to immigration matters, "such specific details relating to these locations will therefore not be held by Kent Police" as they are primarily the responsibility of the Home Office and the UK Borders Agency.

When it comes to dealing with illegal or ad hoc camping sites "there are no plans held" and "any such matters will be dealt with on a case by case basis" - wait for it - "as business as usual."

When it comes to dealing with contingency plans to deal with an incident involving mass casualties or fatalities "there are no plans held by Kent Police...that relate specifically to the Olympics."

One step the force is taking however is to restrict police leave "to ensure that a maximum number are available for any increases in demand throughout Kent" - an interesting phrase as it does not even concede that there will, for the biggest event staged in the UK ever - be any increased demand for extra officers.

I am guessing the response is designed to be reassuring. But for some reason, I can't help thinking it's not.

Indeed, as the chairman of Kent Police Authority Ann Barnes put it in 2011 when she complained about the lack of extra funding for security coming Kent's way to deal with the Games:  

"There's a £500m security budget and not a single penny coming to Kent despite the fact that because of the geography we have a huge policing operation here."

"We don't have events but we have dozens of training camps, we're the gateway to Europe, and we'll have hundreds of thousands of people coming through the ports and the Channel Tunnel."

Indeed, as we reported recently, KCC has already voiced concerns about the influx of tens of thousands of visitors through the county and the prospect of disruption and congestion at key points of the transport network.

Read the Kent Police FOI response here  PoliceOlympics.pdf (240.22 kb)

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Categories: Olympics | Police | Politics

The race to be Kent's first elected police chief loses a prime candidate

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, May 18 2012

The news that Iraq war veteran Tim Collins has bowed out of the race to become Kent's first elected police chief will disappoint Home Secretary Theresa May.

He was paraded before the Conservative party conference last year and hailed as the kind of person the government wanted to see take strategic leadership of police forces. "I wouldn't like to be a criminal if he gets elected," Ms May quipped.

Now he is out the Conservative slate looks like being one with a little less stardust and Ms May's party could end up with a candidate from the local government world - not exactly what was envisaged when it came to finding people to galvanise the electorate.

There was in any case some doubt about whether Tim Collins would win the race: there were mutterings among some local activists who disliked having a candidate with Central Office backing semi-imposed on them and it was entirely possible he may not have made it through the hustings.

It does seem odd that he withdrew after discovering he would not be able to attend all the relevant selection meetings, possibly indicating he was in any case cooling on the idea.

He did some damage in his comments that he could take on the job part-time - not exactly ideal PR when you consider the post carries a salary of £85,000 and at a time of austerity and high unemployment.

For what it is worth, my money for the Conservative candidacy is the county councillor Bryan Sweetland but when constituency activists are involved, anything could happen.


The flak coming Shepway council's way after unveiling that it wanted to get people's views on a possible nuclear waste site must have got the authority wondering why it has bothered. The idea has been trampled on by just about everyone with the leader of Kent Council heading the charge and making it abundantly clear that he wants it buried as far under the ground as any of the nuclear rods that would be trundling through the county in 25 years time.

The only politician to have been rather more cautious is Ashford council leader Peter Wood, who had a go at those who had damned the proposition without giving it a fair hearing (I wonder who he had in mind?)

It's hardly a surprise that there has been an outcry locally but the political backdrop to this is that Kent Conservatives at County Hall are particularly sensitive - away from anything else - that they will be on the campaign trail next year .

The last thing they want is to have to confront voters on the doorstep anxious about a procession of nuclear lorries or trains loaded up with toxic nuclear waste material carving through the Garden of England.



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