By Adam Simmonds
1,267 days. 3 years 5 months 20 days. 181 weeks. Whichever way you look at it, it’s been far from a quiet, uncontroversial, part-time job.
The role of a Police and Crime Commissioner in England and Wales is still young and in its early stages. There are new powers in the offing; there are bigger opportunities to influence wider public services and make a difference. The public are yet to fully appreciate the role and its scope, but my personal view is that it is simply a matter of time and not enough time has yet come and gone.
In the time that is left to me, as the first PCC for Northamptonshire I am reflecting on whether I have made a difference; whether the role has proven to be what I thought it would be; and what the future looks like for the person who gets to take this amazing job further.
I can be a very introspective person. So the question of, have I made a difference, has been a constant companion during my term.
It’s not asked in a vanity kind-of-way, but in the serious tone of am I using all the time I have been given, the powers I have been entrusted with to do the kinds of things which make lives better and safer. The answer perhaps is best left to history and those who will objectively look back on decisions and outcomes with a detachment I am never going to be able to pull off.
But I do know what I am proud of and what I hope people will think was worth it, even in years to come.
I am proud of being the first PCC for Northamptonshire. The opportunity to set out the terms of engagement with the new role; be able to push the boundaries and do things people never believed would be possible. Being the first is an honour I won’t share with anyone else.
I also believe setting up the first inclusive victim and witness service, Voice has been pretty significant. The services we now offer, the opportunities of help that people have is something we led the national agenda on and we continue to be a pioneer as we roll out more restorative solutions, support directly for young people as victims of crime and also the families impacted by road traffic collisions.
I am incredibly proud of founding the Institute for Public Safety Crime and Justice. This new organisation will continue to grow and develop and make a local, national and international impact. It will bridge the gap between academia and policy and translate the ‘what works’ for those people like me so we can take decisions based on evidence. We have a talented Institute Director in Laura Knight, leading a new breed of academics and I am very confident on the return to the people of Northamptonshire.
I am also proud of reforming Stop and Search overseen by Superintendent Andy Cox, and of the delivery of bringing police and fire services and teams together, led by Deputy Chief Constable Andy Frost. This piece of policy and activity alone has influenced the UK government and become a case study and model.
By our leadership we are able to lay claim to the piece of legislation going through parliament right now. It will change the way emergency services are delivered for a generation and more.
I am proud too of the protection of front line police officer numbers. No losses no reductions since 2012 when I came into office. We have also added hundreds and hundreds more police officers through the special constabulary. This considerable investment has increased visibility, diversity, energy and proven that there is a tremendous appetite from the public to make a contribution.
I am pleased too with Office for Faith Based and Community Initiatives led by Helen Boardman. The 40 projects being delivered by local community groups, supporting them to deliver in communities and helping them become sustainable has been an incredibly important step in ensuring the state doesn’t remain the inhibiter of success.
We’ve spoken and engaged with nearly twenty five thousand people, thousands of them young people. We have challenged the government and the system through our publications and campaigns attitudes to online safety, healthy relationships, victims and gaming.
I am also incredibly proud of taking the decision to invest more money than ever before into improving and developing the police’s buildings and assets. Over the next 20 years or so we look to save £40 million. We will reduce the number of buildings and improve the quality of those left behind. The money being reinvested from the sale of buildings will be invested in technology and making the force more agile.
Through the slimming down of buildings it causes us to ask ‘what do we really need?’ However controversial the sale of the current HQ has been, in the years ahead the notion of having one location that is business critical will be seen as a poor strategy.
The legacy of the HQ site will be a school. A school Northampton needs, serving up to 1,200 young people from five-years-old to 18. The school will offer a unique curriculum and experience and it will have its roots in policing and criminal justice. Our long term solution to preventing crime is to put more effort into our young people and their families and I believe our contribution via the Wootton Park School is an important one.
The role of PCC has been bigger and better than I ever imagined. The people I have met, the personal stories of success and tragedy have impacted in equal measure. I have been proud of the people I have worked with who have had to cope with me and all the ideas and activity we have experienced.
I feel saddened that our county still faces such high levels of violence. But the force with its partners have set about a new strategy which I believe if held to will reward us with a safer place.
The job of PCC needs energy, it needs commitment, it needs objectivity and also the consistency of message to get things done. The many years ahead with different PCC’s taking on the role will see much change, and with national priorities and finances changing there will be different interpretations.
But this is what I love about living in a democracy. It has been an honour to be Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire and I will miss a great number of things and a great number of people. I wish the next holder of the office – Stephen Mold – the very best and I leave office offering him my full support and my full will that he will succeed.