New PCC - I will lobby home secretary to crackdown on police abusers
- Credit: Archant
Norfolk’s next police and crime commissioner says finding a new chief constable and ensuring tougher sentences for assaults on emergency workers will be at the top of his agenda.
Giles Orpen-Smellie was elected as the next police and crime commissioner (PCC) on Saturday, beating out his nearest rival by over 50,000 votes.
Mr Orpen-Smellie had been selected by the Conservatives to replace former PCC Lorne Green in 2019 before the election was delayed due to Covid.
Two years on, one of the first issues Mr Orpen-Smellie will have to address when he is sworn into office is replacing the retiring chief constable, Simon Bailey.
"Simon Bailey has done a great job, I'm sad he's going, but he's decided that it's time to move on,” Mr Orpen-Smellie said.
"Selecting Simon’s replacement is probably the most important decision I will make in the next three years - get the leadership right, everything falls into place - get it wrong then things will begin to unravel."
The most important thing will be selecting someone he can work with, Mr Orpen-Smellie said.
“One thing you do not need is the chief constable and the PCC bickering among themselves - we've got to be working together.
“That's not to say we agree on everything. I'm a great believer that the chief constable should feel free to challenge me in my views and I should feel free to challenge the chief constable."
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Setting out his top priorities for the role, Mr Orpen-Smellie said he first has to write a police and crime plan, which will tailor government policy into a “bespoke Norfolk solution”.
Another issue he aims to tackle is police funding, with hopes to see police services given a "proper" three-year funding settlement from the government, rather than the single year agreements of recent years.
He added that this will then feed into decisions about the police precept, a levy attached to council tax to help fund the police.
“We need to ask: what do the police need to keep the county safe? What is the public willing to pay to keep the county safe?" he said.
Going forward he wants to set out a vision for what policing in Norfolk will be like in ten years.
“One big example is that the government has set a major target for carbon neutrality by 2030. What does that mean for policing? What is green policing going to look like?
“What will crime look like in 2030?
“In the last 30 years burglary rates across this country have fallen by 70pc, but in the same time the internet has gone live where a huge amount of crime now goes on.”
While cybercrime is on the rise, Mr Orpen-Smellie said the public wants to see more "Bobbies on the beat”.
"[The public] don't associate an absence of crime as being kept safer, but they associated the absence of police officers as being less safe.
"The police, meanwhile, are working flat out on all this hidden crime. It’s not just cybercrime, there's domestic abuse, there are county lines drugs, a whole raft of other forms of crime that go on behind closed doors.”
Despite identifying it as an area of concern, Mr Orpen-Smellie did not feel the gap would be closed completely, largely because of a lack of resources.
Asked if PCSOs - which were scrapped in Norfolk under Simon Bailey and former PCC Lorne Green - should make a return, Mr Orpen-Smellie said was a difficult decision, that was right at the time.
“The police have been working back up to the numbers of police officers they would like to have, there have been some gaps in the neighbourhood policing capability," he said.
“And because of PCSOs being withdrawn there has been a slight loss of communication between the police and public.”
Mr Orpen-Smellie illustrated this by pointing to Safer Neighbourhood Action plan meetings, where PCSOs had been regular attendees but police are often too busy to attend.
While not against bringing back PCSOs, he said they are more expensive than a probationary police officer and not much cheaper than a fully trained officer, so would rather use the money to employ more police constables.
Throughout the pandemic there have been reports of police officers and emergency workers being spat at by people claiming to have Covid, and Mr Orpen-Smellie said he will be lobbying the home secretary to go further on assaults on emergency workers.
“In 2019-20, the figures given in the PCC's last annual report, Norfolk had 1,500 police officers, 659 - 42pc of them - were assaulted in the year and 127 of them - 8pc - required A&E treatment.
“Would you go to work if you were to be assaulted in the course of your work? No one goes to work expecting to get hurt.”
He added: “I believe we've got to put in sanctions of sufficient strength that people will think twice before they throw a punch at a police officer.
“To me it's unacceptable, I'm delighted that the home secretary is doubling the prison sentence.
"I would like to see more people facing the force of the law and I would like more people in public to think about that.”