Comment: Why Greater Manchester Police boss should spare 15 mins to answer your questions

For eight weeks MM sought to speak to Greater Manchester Police boss Tony Lloyd about these crime statistics – but he was ‘unavailable’.

During this two month period when we sought 15 minutes of his time either face to face or on the phone he earned more than £15,000.

Here’s why MM believe his refusal to enter into a dialogue with a media organisation trying to address YOUR concerns was wrong.

Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioners are elected

The new police and crime commissioners were first elected in November 2013, although with just 13.93% voting it would appear few people seemed interested.

The purpose of directly-elected police and crime commissioner was set out by Home Secretary Theresa May in November 2013: “They’d be elected, visible, well-known in their communities and accountable to the electorate.

“[They] would bring – probably for the first time ever – real local scrutiny of how chief constables and their forces perform.”

As a democratically-elected representative MM believes that the PCC has a duty to engage with the media, who are part of the democratic process, who have a legitimate role to play in holding politicians to account.

MM are concerned that recent crime statistic reports from the government raise serious and important questions about public trust in the police and were keen to give Greater Manchester’s PCC the opportunity to discuss these concerns – concerns that are shared by many of the public.

After all, more than half of the country do not believe police reports that crime has fallen year on year over the last decade. In fact, 60% believe crime has risen in recent years.

Objectives and questions

Mr Lloyd set out his objectives in his Police and Crime Plan published on March 28, which outlines his nine objectives.

These include a commitment to ‘building and strengthening partnerships; protecting vulnerable people; putting victims at the centre; and building confidence in policing services’.

One of the key implications of the crime reports we wanted to discuss with Mr Lloyd is that around a third of the time victims are failed, offenders escape punishment and communities lose faith in the public justice system.

As key elements of Mr Lloyd’s Police and Crime Plan, MM felt sure he would want to discuss his plans to address the issues of crime recording that are threatening to derail his self-avowed commitments to the public.

In declining our request for an interview, Mr Lloyd’s office said: “The matter of perception of crime is something Tony is also working hard to address, backed by his desire to improve transparency across the police and public service.

“Perception of crime is absolutely a matter of considerable public interest and is something that can only be measured through effective community engagement.”

MM believe that ‘effective community engagement’ and improving transparency can only be achieved by being open about the statistics and being available to enter a dialogue with the public – rather than just pre-prepared statements sourced via his website.

Discussing this with media outlets would be one obvious way that police commissioners could achieve ‘effective community engagement’, yet Mr Lloyd’s diary did not have a 15 minute slot available for this during a two month period. A later date was not offered either.

Mr Lloyd attended a Q&A last night at Manchester Central for city centre business group CityCo.

Here he discussed how to achieve ‘improved partnership working across city stakeholders and how to tackle the crime and disorder issues that presents challenges to Manchester businesses’. 

But why couldn’t find a 15 minute slot to discuss the perception of crime and disorder with a media outlet so that it could be relayed to the general public, not just Manchester business owners and stakeholders?

One visitor, Athena Caramitosis, tweeted one of Mr Lloyd’s soundbites for the night: “A lot of people still don’t know that I’m there or what I’m supposed to do.”

When he doesn’t take the opportunity to discuss a key part of his job – discussing the perception of crime within the community – how does he expect people to know that he is here and doing things? 

When Tony Lloyd is paid £100,000 a year of taxpayers’ money, MM believe it is his duty to address concerns of those taxpayers.

During the eight-week period when we sought 15 minutes of his time he earned more than £15,000.

Confidence and commitment

Politicians of all kinds have lost public confidence over the last few decades, as evidenced by poor voter turnout and disillusionment.

Much of this disillusionment stems from the over-reliance on press releases and pre-prepared statements supplied by press officer – ever helpful, but in the end only messengers.

Closer dialogue with the public and the media would surely lead to greater engagement, a better understanding and therefore higher democratic participation.

MM hoped that the PCC would welcome the opportunity to engage with the public and to re-build some of that public confidence – yet all we were offered was more of the same bland press releases.

Unfortunately our hope was in vain.

All MM wanted was 15 minutes of real, face to face dialogue. We even said over the phone would do.

Was it too much too ask? Apparently so.

Image courtesy of British Security Industry Association vai YouTube, with thanks.

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