We asked the prospective Police and Crime Commissioner candidates to answer a few probing questions.
This response from Paul Kennedy
Paul Kennedy (Liberal Democrat) is a former barrister, accountant and actuary with 30 years’ professional leadership experience
What are your views of the previous Chief Constable Lynne Owen? In your opinion was the PCC justified in the criticism he levied against her? If you disagreed with the Chief Constable would you demand his/ her resignation if you considered that appropriate? In your opinion is a clash between Chief Constable and PCC inevitable and perhaps even healthy? If you were elected how would you ensure a positive, effective and efficient relationship with our Chief Constable?
This question goes to the heart of the problem with PCCs, and why I want to restore collective community oversight, not put more powers in the hands of one fallible individual. The political nature of the role gives PCCs too many incentives to undermine the Chief Constable – taking credit when things go well but blaming the Chief Constable when they face criticism, especially in the run-up to a re-election bid.
Lynne Owens is clearly an impressive police officer, but as Chief Constable she must accept her share of responsibility for the failures identified by HMIC, and the “culture of blame” which she conceded had developed in Surrey Police. However, it is intolerable that Kevin Hurley should hold her entirely responsible. The failure to safeguard victims happened on his watch, he failed to challenge the police adequately over this issue during earlier years, and he only reacted when HMIC started to make criticisms. The “culture of blame” in Surrey Police is also a direct corollary of his “zero tolerance policing” approach.
Disagreement with the Chief Constable is not proper grounds for dismissal. It is incompetence as exhibited by their unwillingness or inability to perform their role. The PCC’s own failures to provide constructive and timely challenge may well be a mitigating factor where the PCC has undermined her.
Based on my experience of overseeing other public interest bodies I consider timely challenges to be healthier than after-the-event clashes. The PCC should be ensuring the Chief Constable and other agencies anticipate and address potential threats to our safety not waiting until problems occur and then looking for a scapegoat.
As a civilian, I would find it much easier to avoid undermining the Chief Constable than if I were a retired police officer. I would also give more open and balanced reports to the public. Kevin Hurley’s annual report claims 2014/15 was “another really good year” when it clearly wasn’t.
Effingham Residents Association held a Gypsy Traveller seminar earlier this year. This collective ethnic minority group is subject to prejudice from the wider community. Do you consider that some of the police are prejudiced against them? And if the answer is yes or maybe, what should the PCC do about it?
I agree there is prejudice against Gypsy/Traveller groups in the wider community, and it is inevitable that a minority of police will reflect that prejudice to some extent. That said, the officers I’ve met are scrupulously fair and even-handed. A greater problem is elected politicians using dog-whistle politics to scapegoat the Gypsy/Traveller community for their own ends – as our Conservative MP did recently.
As PCC I would uphold and defend the rights of all members of the community to be treated fairly and equally by the police, and challenge and hold the Chief Constable to account for the conduct of the force.
This ethnic minority group fear pedophiles in the non-gypsy community. Statistically what justifications have they for fearing this? And what, through the police, should the PCC be doing to bring about an end to child exploitation? How should the PCC, through Surrey Police, warn kids and parents about the growing risks of grooming and the use of the Internet?
I am not aware of specific statistics, but anecdotally I am sure that fear is justified.
Surrey Police is currently responding to the HMIC criticisms of its failure to safeguard children and vulnerable adults, as well as victims of rape and other sexual crimes. I would ensure that vulnerable groups are properly picked up as part of that response.
There is a national programme to tackle grooming – my daughter who is a secondary school teacher outside Surrey has herself been required to undertake training to recognise the signs of grooming – and I would ensure Surrey plays its full part in that, taking further initiatives where available.
Now that there has been an increase in Council Tax to fund Surrey Police are you confident that you will not require more funding over the next term of office? On the other hand, if you do intend to seek further funding – how much do you consider Surrey Police need and why?
No, I’m afraid I don’t trust the Conservative Government to maintain its share of police funding for the next four years, or to maintain funding for other agencies which work with the police. However, the cost of holding a referendum makes an increase of more than 2% inconceivable. So we will have to live within our means, working together with other agencies, neighbouring forces and the National Crime Agency (headed by Lynne Owens) to provide a police service which is both national and local.
Reviewing your past job, what are you happiest about and what were you least happy about?
I’ve had a variety of jobs, and it’s that variety I’m probably happiest with, and which gives me a wealth of experiences on which to draw.
For the last ten years I’ve been overseeing other public interest bodies on a non-political basis – and it’s that job I want to do for Surrey Police.
I was in one job for nearly eight years, and I have to admit that by the end I was getting bored and a bit stale. As in business – where we need regular rotation of directors and auditors – a change of personnel is healthy. That’s why, if elected, I would only want to serve one term, and in 2020 would campaign to abolish PCCs and replace them with collective community oversight.
Why should we elect you to do this – what have you got to offer?
I’m offering a fresh approach – based on my extensive professional leadership experience and my commitment as a Liberal Democrat to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society.
I’m a former barrister, accountant and actuary with 30 years’ professional leadership experience in private and public sectors – and a strong background in criminal law and finance. For ten years I’ve provided strategic direction and independent oversight to other public interest organisations on a non-political basis.
Like many people I disagree with PCCs, but we’re stuck with them while the Conservatives are in power. That’s why I’m offering a positive, balanced, community-based alternative – not more prisons, privatisation or meaningless ‘zero tolerance’ promises.
I’ll focus on what actually works to prevent crime:
bringing back community policing
safeguarding victims and vulnerable children and adults
working with our neighbours
modern police training and equipment
designing out crime with safer roads and activities for young people
tackling offending behaviour through restorative justice, education and treatment for mental health and drug problems
tough community sentences with longer prison terms for dangerous and persistent offenders.
I’ll work with and challenge police and other agencies to address and anticipate threats to our safety, fight crime and defend victims. I’ll be fiercely independent of government, demand proper funding and efficiencies to keep policing public, and give fair, frank, balanced reports back to the people of Surrey.