What does a chief constable actually do? Well last week was a bit more frantic than most but on the other hand gives an idea of how I spend my time and the range of issues I deal with.
Last Monday started with leaving the house at about 6.15am to get to MediaCity for an ITV interview on the threat from the situation in the Middle East and how to prevent British people from travelling out there to take part in the conflict. Next was a quick change from uniform to a suit and then across to Piccadilly station to catch a train to London. There was then a meeting at the ACPO office with representatives of Police and Crime Commissioners on various national issues. I then fitted in two more television interviews BBC and Sky before making my way to a meeting with fellow chief constables. That made a total of eight TV interviews and two radio interviews on that subject over that weekend. Next there was a two hour meeting between chief constables, the Home Secretary and other Home Office ministers. We covered a number of subjects including the changing nature of demand on the police and the threat from internet based crime.
The Home Secretary gave an input in which she emphasized that the tight control on public spending would continue and therefore more savings would be required. From this meeting it was on to an evening session run by an organisation called City Forum where I was speaking about policing as a profession and how we need to achieve ever higher standards of expertise and professional ethics. There were a number of other speakers there from other professions as well as the Chair and Chief Executive of the College of Policing. I sat next to Vic Goddard who was the head teacher featured in the Channel 4 programme Educating Essex who I found inspirational in his drive to get his students to believe in themselves.
I stayed overnight at my mother’s house in Essex and the following morning it was back into London for a series of meetings on terrorism issues including the Police Counter Terrorism Board which is chaired by the Minister for Security and where we are held to account for our performance and our use of the funding provided. It was then back on the train to Manchester; a chance to get changed, and then off to a charity event organised by the Manchester City Centre Crime Panel in aid of the Children’s Hospital. The crime prevention panel brings together businesses in the City Centre to work on various projects to reduce crime and in particular supports public information campaigns.
On Wednesday it was in to police headquarters to do some signing and sort a few things out before driving to Preston to meet other chief officers from the police forces in the North West. With the budget pressures on all of us it is important that forces collaborate to share specialist functions. So we all supported further work on how to share firearms capability and strengthen the fight against organised crime. We also have a regional motorway team in the North West and the Underwater Search Unit. The meeting also received an update in the national efforts to combat Internet fraud and a report from Action Fraud which receives such reports from the public and businesses and decides which force will investigate them. It is fair to say that the report was worrying given the increasing level of Internet crime and the attacks from overseas on computer systems. There is need for increasing national capability and just no sense in forces trying to develop this separately. In the afternoon the chief constables met with the police and crime commissioners from the North West to discuss oversight of the various regional functions and a number of national issues. I then had a phone call with the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper to answer some questions she had about people travelling to Syria.
On Thursday I was back in my own office for meetings with various people and updates on force operations and then onto a meeting with the new High Sheriff of Greater Manchester Paul Lee. The High Sheriff is appointed for a year and has a number of functions particularly supporting voluntary effort so we discussed how his work during the year could support our efforts with the community to reduce crime and disorder. I also met a local businessman who does fundraising for the NSPCC Childline about how the force and the charity can work closer together and about charity fundraising in general. In the afternoon the Police Minister paid a short visit to the force and so I spent some time discussing current issues with him. I then had a flag raising ceremony to publicise the force’s support for Armed Forces Day and then did I a radio interview with the BBC Asian Network.
On Thursday evening I went to a reception given by Churches Together for the mayors of Greater Manchester. The Bishop of Manchester David Walker was the host. At the meeting I proposed a joint statement by faith and civic leaders against hate crime. This was driven by a number of recent incidents particularly the desecration of Jewish graves in Blackley. The statement was supported by everyone there.
Friday morning was devoted to AGMA the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities basically the local councils, the police, fire service and NHS. We have an ambitious programme of how we can have greater impact on the various economic and social challenges facing Greater Manchester and how we can work much closer together. We are all dealing with the same families, the same vulnerable people, the same streets and communities. From all our work we have learnt that a relatively small number of families place a significant burden on all the public services and we must integrate our work in dealing with them to reduce duplication but also to actually try and solve their problems. One of the big challenges is on adult social care and the growing number of elderly people. During the morning I gave an update to council leaders on the performance of GMP and current policing issues. I also discussed the proposed statement on hate crime with them. I explained how our current top priority is people being attacked in their own homes both in terms of domestic violence between people known to one another and attacks by intruders. Afterwards I had meetings with individual chief executives on some local issues including the protests against the building of a new mosque in Bolton.
It was then off to Bolton Police Station to talk to some staff there and then go out on foot patrol with one of the local officers in the town centre. We talked about the current problems of crime in the town and how officers are working with the shops to reduce shoplifting. Bolton is changing and lots of new people have moved into the town some are immigrants and asylum seekers and some are students as the university expands. I could see how that created concerns for some local people and pressure on services. We also visited the skateboard park which is to be expanded and the young lads using it acknowledged that the police officer I was with had played a key part in getting the new work carried out.
Friday evening was the Chief Constable’s Excellence Awards held at the Midland Hotel Manchester all paid for by businesses and other organisations who support the event. The staff present had been nominated by their colleagues for their dedication and commitment in a number of categories such as police officer of the year, PCSO of the year, the partnership award and leadership. The bravery award went to two officers who were attacked by a man with a knife with one of them being stabbed a number of times in the head. It was a great night, very uplifting to be able to celebrate the work of staff who take their responsibilities to the public very seriously. Andy Tattersall won the lifetime achiever award for having investigated around 400 murders. Special Constable Lyndon Riley was recognised for 45 years of service voluntary service. I was also very pleased to recognise the work of the team who have recruited and trained our 300 new volunteer youth cadets.
I was at home during the day on Saturday a chance to catch up with some chores and also to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. In the evening it was off to Old Trafford Cricket Ground for the Urban Hero Awards recognising young people who have overcome adversity to make a difference in their communities. The event was run by the Message Trust a remarkable Christian organisation started by a local businessman who sold his clothing factory and started a band to spread the Christian message to young people. The Trust now works in schools and prisons, runs youth buses and has converted a disused factory into an enterprise centre for offenders coming out of prison who want to rebuild their lives and get a trade. There were about 700 people there and I said a few words at the beginning about the importance of local community effort and the need for churches in particular to give a lead in helping those who are in need. An inspiring end to a busy week.
Throughout the week there were many emails and phone calls to deal with and updates received on current operations. It is a 24hour a day responsibility as chief constable but you will see that it is a huge privilege to see so many different aspects of community life in Greater Manchester and to have so many dedicated highly professional staff. There are inevitably many meetings at force, regional and national level. This is a busy time of the year for events and it is unusual for me to be out five nights in one week and not a good example in terms of work life balance but as we get towards the summer holidays I know it will calm down a bit and I will get more time to get out on patrol which is the part of the job I enjoy the most.
Sir Peter Fahy
Greater Manchester Police