The following is the first in a series of pieces collected  for manyvoices blog.  They will be from a variety of people who have a ‘stake in policing’.  It is intended that this will grow into a serious body of work comprising all manner of opinion and style by all manner of people with any vested interest in policing.  Which is, in fact, everyone.     Cate Moore.

 

TRANSPARENCY

 

Much has been made of transparency.  The PCC elections are nearly upon us and how many of us know what our candidates are really like?  How many of our candidates have got skeletons in their cupboards?

To me transparency is everything.  It is simple, or at least it should be.

We all know what is right.  We all know when we should or should not accept something that is offered to us.

In my view transparency is non-negotiable in public office.  It should be our starting point, not something we pay lip-service to along the way.

I have read recently, on Twitter and on blogs, that certain sections of our public sector are in the habit of accepting free meals from so called independent, non-partisan Think Tanks.  You only have to look at their heritage to know that that they are anything but that.  Most, if not all, Think Tanks are Registered Charities.  I have seen the question asked “Is it right for Public Sector leaders to accept free meals from registered Charities?”, particularly when those charities appear to have Party Political affiliations.  To the best of my knowledge that question has not been answered.

I have seen it stated that a meal given by a Think Tank was valued at £30.  What’s all the fuss about?  £30 isn’t much, it’s not like accepting a holiday was one comment.  No it isn’t, but I would like to think that our Chief Constables and Commissioners were truly independent and not leaning one way or the other in their professional lives.

It is not the value of the meal that is the issue to me.  At a lower rank one would be chastised severely for accepting gifts such as that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy to accept that they are gifts and not ‘bungs’.  If Constable Goody accepted a free meal every time he went to a Neighbourhood Watch meeting, or possibly a Ward meeting with local councillors might be a more appropriate example, would his line management just say “Put it in the Hospitality Register and forget about it”?

It’s not about taking a bung, it’s about putting yourself in a position where you can be seen to be ‘clean’.  If you must go to these meetings and a meal is offered, what’s the problem with paying for it?  No-one can make anything of that.

Make no mistake about it, personal integrity is VERY important in one’s professional life.  Police Force Hospitality Registers up and down the land are teeming with ‘gifts’ that quite simply did not need to be mistaken.  If Mrs Miggins is particularly impressed with the way you’ve dealt with her burglary and wants to donate a packet of biscuits to the Night Duty Tea Club, it would be rude to decline it.  If a local business engaged in outsourcing offers two tickets to the Hospitality Suite at the races is that the same?  Should we accept them?  They exist, they are recorded.  Are they right?

Whatever happened to discretion?

 

And then we have VETTING.

It makes no sense to me that the PCC Candidates are not being subjected to compulsory vetting.

Nobody wants all of the candidates to be vetted, I suspect, but the elections are on the 15th and Oath-Swearing is on the 19th I believe.  There is clearly insufficient time to vet anybody in that timeframe.

The MPS Vetting Policy (I use that simply because it was the first one I found and it’s clear to understand) demands that all persons with access to buildings, assets and information must be vetted to the appropriate level.  It’s not my place to define the appropriate level, but surely it is somewhere higher than Not Vetted.

Is there a problem with not allowing PCCs to take up their post until they have been vetted?  I have heard the argument that PCCs are elected and not appointed/employed.  Is the election process a suitable alternative to vetting? I suggest not.  If a PCC were to fail their vetting, that is not necessarily the end of the road for them.  There is such a thing as #’Risk Management’, and it should be well within the capabilities of each Force to manage the risk of a PCC failing their vetting.  Honesty and openness (or transparency again if you like) is what is important.

I was vetted, and I was told in no uncertain times that it was more important to answer the questions honestly.  The answers I gave might not necessarily lead me to failing my vetting, but getting caught lying most certainly would.

I leave you with those thoughts, they are my views and mine alone.  Fortunately I don’t have to contend with such issues in my own life as I am no longer in such a position, but the experience remains forever.

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