Chief Constable: Full interview

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Here is News reporter Jeff Travis’s full interview with the Chief Constable of Hampshire, Andy Marsh

How does it feel to be the chief constable of Hampshire police?

It’s an immense privilege to be chief constable of such a well-established, recognised, progressive force.

It’s a huge responsibility to be leading the 5,500 men and women, but actually a huge responsibility to make the communities even safer.

I want us to put those communities first – that’s who we are here for.

How are you going to reduce crime and make people feel safer?

We are going to be effective – what we’re going to do is going to work.

We are going to reduce crime in three particular ways.

We will be targeting people who commit crimes, we have put a lot of effort into that. We are catching more people than we had done before.

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are going to be very hostile environments for people who want to commit crime.

There’s a good chance you are going to get caught.

The police and crime commissioner is setting a very strong agenda to work with them to prevent re-offending.

What we don’t want to see is a revolving door. We want to see their criminal behaviour prevented and stopped.

The second big area is about vulnerability. I worry about the vulnerability of people to crime and I want to work with them, with communities, with partners, to make communities and individuals more resilient to protect themselves against crime.

The third area we can look at is why is crime happening in certain places? It could be that it’s alcohol-related or it could be other situational aspects.

We will tackle criminals and the causes of crime and then we will work with criminals to prevent re-offending.

Which crimes are you going to target?

I will work to a police and crime plan which the police and crime commissioner is currently consulting the public on.

I’ve got a good idea of what’s going to be in there, but it would be wrong to pre-empt a decision on that.

When that plan is published it will be very clear what the public have asked the commissioner to hold me to account to deliver.

We anticipate that he will be looking to reduce all crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly violent crime.

I think he’s also concerned about the impact of crime in rural communities and making sure all of our communities get a fair deal and good quality of service.

I’m certainly anticipating he will want to put a big emphasis on preventing re-offending.

Figures show that crime is going down, but some people in the Portsmouth area say violent crime is happening on their doorstep. How are you going to make them feel safer?

The figures won’t make them feel safer alone.

When they say come down to Gosport and come to different parts of the community, I will.

The community will see me about.

I will patrol with the police officers. I will see, touch it and feel it for myself. I do speak to victims of crime.

The figures are reliable to some extent.

For example, if people’s houses are burgled or their vehicles are stolen, there’s a pretty good chance they are going to tell us about it.

Some types of crime are well-reported and actually those types of crime are going down significantly.

Yes, society is too violent, and yes, I am committed to reducing it further.

How, specifically, are you going to reduce violent crime?

When I look at individual violent crimes – and I do look at a lot regularly – I see violent offenders that need to be brought to justice more quickly to stop their offending escalating, getting worse or happening again.

What we want to do is intervene early with violent offenders – whether it’s in the street or whether it’s domestic violence in the home – and to work incredibly hard to tackle the reasons why they are offending.

But also to make it clear to them that there are consequences. If you break the law and you hurt someone, then someone is going to be catching up with you soon.

You’re facing large budget cuts. How are you going to maintain frontline policing in the face of this?

We’re in a comprehensive spending review of four years and it ends in April, 2015. Over that four years we need to save £55m (out of a budget of £320m).

It’s about 20 per cent and it’s a lot of money to save.

What we have got to do is transform the shape of the organisation and the way we work.

We’ve got to equip our staff to use common sense and sound judgment to cut bureaucracy.

There are ways in which we can take money out and we have made savings that we intend will not have a negative impact on the quality of service to deliver.

We must work incredibly hard to protect policing services because we know how vital they are to communities.

Do you think there are enough police officers patrolling the streets?

I am a police officer and have been for 25 years.

I have seen the difference policing can make when it focuses on problems.

Absolutely, policing works and cuts crime. Of course, I would like to see more staff on the ground and of course, these cuts are incredibly difficult.

But actually the public expect me to do better and they expect me to do better with less money because of the difficult financial times we are in.

So where possible, that is what we will work hard to do.

We are the third cheapest police force in England and Wales per head of population.

Do you think that’s a good thing?

I think value is a good thing. I’m a taxpayer and actually the public expect people like me to get every single penny of benefit out of every single pound that is spent out of the public purse.

I want to provide brilliant policing services and you need money to do that.

How will you be different to your predecessor Alex Marshall?

I will be different by being myself.

I am not going to emulate the style with which Alex has done things. He’s been a very fine chief constable and it’s been a privilege for me to work with him.

But the things that I will look to develop and build upon is I want Hampshire Constabulary to be built upon excellent leadership. We’ve got less people working for us – almost 1,000 fewer than three years ago.

I need to create an environment where those individuals flourish.

We need to work them hard, but we need to say thank you to them and listen to what they have got to say. I’m going to invest a lot of time in leadership.

I’m going to continue to keep the force at the cutting-edge of technology – that will mean lots of things, from body-worn cameras, to mobile technology that’s taken into people’s homes, to digital paperless files.

What do you mean by mobile technology?

I mean something like a tablet. If you are a victim of crime, I can bring it into your home, take an electronic statement and secure your witness signature.

That statement would go into a paperless file into the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts. We would be cutting out all sorts of bureaucratic transactions.

Technology needs to be replaced every two to three years and actually it’s getting cheaper and cheaper.

We need to get the very best technology to get the best out of our most expensive resource, which is people.

Eighty five per cent of our budget is spent on people so we need to equip them to deliver.

Does every police officer have a tablet?

No. Most safer neighbourhood team officers have BlackBerry devices which enables them to do all sorts of searching and inputting tasks which actually keeps them out on the streets rather than going back to the station to do it.

But you can’t take the statement on the BlackBerry. Our investigating officers are now just being equipped with laptops, which they can take statements on.

We are developing the tools so they can take all the functionality of their desktop computer out into the field when they are dealing with witnesses.

The reason for doing that is they will be more visible, less bureaucratic and they will provide a better quality of service to victims. They will able to manage risk better, so if there is someone risky or dangerous, they will have the information they need to deal with them and arrest them.

Do you want every officer to have this at their disposal? How long will that take?

Yes I do – as quickly as I can. We are already piloting the use of about 40 tablets.

I spoke to the technology service providers yesterday and they are developing apps which take all of our systems around building files, investigating and serving the public into a tablet-style device. So yes, we are very close to being able to do that.

I want to see officers out of the police station for most of their duty. I am not having them come back to the police station to do any tasks involving technology.

One of the biggest drains on police resources is alcohol-fuelled crime and binge drinking. How are police going to tackle that?

There are lots of things that drive crime – drugs, alcohol, homelessness, unemployment, poor educational background, domestic violence in the home that leads young people to be out on the streets.

So actually, I want us to be an intelligent organisation that understands the drivers and causes of crimes, that doesn’t dish blame out.

Blame generally doesn’t do well.

We want to work with the public, partner agencies and the voluntary sector to tackle the causes of crime.

We know alcohol is a big one. Drugs are a big one. One of the good things about the role of the police and crime commissioner is it is a police AND crime commissioner. The commissioner can bring influence to bear on other agencies, other organisations, within the criminal justice system and has the ability to commission services that help to solve problems long-term.

We will work with licensed premises so that they can continue to develop ways of selling alcohol responsibly.

If someone is drunk, they are going to stop serving them.

What happens as a consequence of alcohol being abused or misused, is that some people can’t take it and think it’s okay to damage property, act in a disorderly way or use violence. We will bring those offenders to justice, absolutely.

But one of the examples of where we can use that information in an intelligent way is if you commit a violent-related crime in Portsmouth and we bring you to justice, I would expect you to be banned from licensed premises in Portsmouth.

That would be quite a significant restraint on your behaviour that I think you would take pretty seriously.

I will try and prevent alcohol being used and sold in a way that leads to anti-social behaviour, and secondly, I will bring the consequences of offending that’s related to alcohol to bear on the people who are causing it.

They will suffer some consequences that will look to reduce their re-offending behaviour.

The police and crime commissioner wants us to develop the way we deliver justice.

So we would be looking at more use of restorative justice. As an offender you would be brought to bear personally on the consequences of your crime to the victim.

What we know from the way that’s been conducted in this force and other forces is that it certainly makes offenders think twice.

It’s not that often that offenders have to confront personally the damage they have caused.

We will see more of that going on.

What are your thoughts on drugs?

There’s an illegal drugs market out there and it costs money. It’s expensive. People can make money out of it but if they want to buy drugs they need a lot of money.

One of the unfortunate consequences, apart from the misery caused by drug addiction, is that people addicted to drugs unfortunately commit a lot of crime to fuel that habit.

If I want to be successful in reducing crime where people are stealing things to get money I have to work with drugs treatment providers and other services to treat people who are addicted.

I also have to work with young people, schools and communities to intervene early to prevent people getting involved in drugs in the first place.

There’s a lot of things we already do and we will certainly look to build on them.

Do you think people respect the police?

I do know from surveys that we do that the police do have a lot of respect and support from the communities we serve.

But there isn’t any way I take that for granted.

We have to do a good job to be respected and we have to care for people. We have to be there when they need us and we have to have the highest possible standards of conduct and integrity.

Society is rightly very questioning of its establishments and they expect the best from us – and they deserve the best.

We will work hard to build up trust and confidence and build upon the already strong levels of support and respect we have.

What role do you think parents can take in preventing their children getting involved in wrong-doing?

I’m a parent myself. I know it’s a tough job. In some respects it’s tougher than being a chief constable because you are never going to get it right all the time.

I’m not sitting here saying parenting is done badly, it’s the root all of all problems. I know it’s difficult.