Plans will “make policing local” and enable police to embed in communities.
West Midlands Police would work with local communities to draw up local policing plans, explaining how neighbourhood teams will be based in their communities, according to manifesto proposals from Cllr Jon Hunt, Liberal Democrat candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.
The proposals respond to widespread public unhappiness about the state of policing in the region, reflected in recent surveys by the Liberal Democrats but also in recent National Crime Survey analysis.
They also set out an alternative to the “ill-considered” programme of police station closures around the region and set out how the “failed” post of policing commissioner can be replaced.
Jon Hunt (pictured), who has worked with local police teams on innovative projects during eighteen years as a councillor in Birmingham, sets out how effective community policing will work as more police officers are deployed across the region.
Jon Hunt said: “I volunteered to stand in this election because I have worked with good local police teams and have seen the distressing collapse in local policing in recent years – often linked to the ill-considered closure of police stations. In my area a new police facility was built with conference facilities – but the local police team was barred from using it as a base and sent elsewhere in the city for clocking in and clocking out.
“Getting good local policing is not just about not closing police stations and not just about putting more officers on the street. The Police and Crime Commissioner post in this region has failed in its prime duty to represent the public – and this has created dangerous distance between the police and communities. The lessons of forty years of urban troubles have simply been forgotten. That’s why I see no reason why it should continue in its present, bloated form, sucking up resources that should be spent on local policing.”
The local policing plans would build on ideas developed two decades ago in the region when neighbourhood police teams worked with their local communities to set local priorities.
Jon Hunt wants them supported with investment – so the local plans can set out how the local officers will start their day working in the community and end their day there. It may involve rethinking the use of existing police stations or it may involve forging links with councils and other public organisations to use community centres and libraries.
In a supporting video, Jon visits a community centre in New Invention, Walsall, which local councillors have suggested could be a secure police base.
Welcoming the post-2019 commitments from all parties to increase policing numbers, Jon calls for police officers and police community support officers to be equipped with more skills for being in the community – so they can engage with young people, schools and youth clubs and undertake projects, for instance around road safety, working on crime prevention and victim support. Jon can talk about a project he was closely involved in when the police in his area supported a local campaign for speed restrictions – and went on to set up a local restitutional justice scheme, exposing speeding drivers to victims of deadly accidents.
In the manifesto, Jon repeats his pledge to seek to abolish the post of PCC, replacing it with an elected deputy Mayor, who can work closely with the regional Mayor and local councils to deliver these changes.
In his introduction, he states: “Our surveys have found widespread dissatisfaction in all parts of the region with the absence of a local police presence. In some of our most troubled communities, the police have become an alien force. They neither reflect the local community or live with it. No wonder recruitment is difficult. It is evidence that the post of PCC has failed.”
Jon Hunt and the Liberal Democrats conducted an on-line survey across the West Midlands earlier this year. Bearing in mind it was conducted during lockdown, the survey found 52% of respondents “very dissatisfied” and 27% “fairly dissatisfied” with police visibility in their local community. In total nearly 80% were dissatisfied. There were 358 responses. 88% of respondents were opposed to the police station closure plans, even in areas not obviously affected by closures.