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Commissioner Jones, water cannons, chocolate tea pots and the half pint of beer budget

Commissioner Jones, water cannons, chocolate tea pots and the half pint of beer budget

🕔07.Feb 2014

What a week it’s been for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones.

In the space of a few days he’s managed to move into sound bite overdrive.

The latest thoughts of Commissioner Bob are as follows:

– Water cannons would be as much use in a Birmingham riot as a “chocolate tea pot”.

– The Government’s decision to cap police budgets is “ridiculous, absurd and short-sighted”.

– Any suggestion that police commissioners are about localism and devolution is a “hollow deception”.

“Has Bob got himself a new speech writer?” you might ask. He’s certainly got plenty to say 15 months after being elected in a miserable turnout of voters.

And for someone who doesn’t want to be commissioner, doesn’t believe there should be commissioners and yearns for the camaraderie and relative anonymity of the old Police Authority committee system, he’s valiantly trying to be the public voice of West Midlands Police.

The week ended with what could have been a PR disaster as Bob focused his attention on the highly sensitive matter of domestic violence.

A press release headed “PCC explains why he welcomes increase in domestic violence reports” might have backfired badly. Surely, police commissioners aren’t supposed to be happy about incidents of violent crime going up – by a whopping 38 per cent in this case.

But in Bob’s eyes this is a good thing because it means more and more women, particularly from ethnic minorities, feel able to tell the police that they have been harmed because they now believe something will be done about it.

This means, of course, that incidents of domestic crime in the past have been far, far more prevalent than the police force ever knew, and that quite possibly even the latest figures are under-estimated.

Old hands may recall that ever since the 1980s police forces have routinely sought to explain away increased crime by blaming changes in the way crime is reported, or as is happening now, a new emphasis on encouraging victims to report crime.

Pointing out that reducing domestic violence is a key priority for the police, Bob states: “There is a paradox here, in that the aim is to create a strategy that, rather than reducing the number of reported incidents, arrests and prosecutions, actively works to increase them.

“The reason for this being that part of the very nature of these offences is that they happen behind closed doors, in secrecy and silence.

“For all sorts of reasons, vulnerable victims find it difficult to report what is happening, or may not even understand that what is happening to them is against the law and that they have a right to protection.”

Meanwhile, on the subject of protection, Bob doesn’t think there would be any point in using water cannons to prevent rioters from looting shops. The Metropolitan Police are reportedly looking to buy some cannons, which they would generously lend to forces like the West Midlands at a reasonable rate per day should the need arise.

Bob explains why he is dead set against the idea: “I was given advice during the recent disturbances that a water cannon would have been of no use whatsoever, as the groups of people involved in the disturbances dissolved to avoid confrontation with any significant police presence and reformed elsewhere to loot etc.

“If anything a water cannon could have been more of a liability than an asset, which scarce police resources would have needed to protect.  The only circumstances where it might have value would be to a fixed pre-planned event where it might be needed to deter disturbances.

“In summary I feel such equipment would be as much use as a chocolate tea pot.  I fail to see why we should pay towards a provision I cannot see us using.”

At the end of the week that was, Commissioner Jones is left to fume at the Government’s decision to require any police force wishing to increase its share of the council tax by two per cent or more to ask voters whether they think this is a good idea in a referendum .

Sneakily, he will fix the council tax increase at 1.99 per cent, thereby avoiding the need for a referendum. He had been planning a three per cent rise.

It’s not really going to make much difference to hard-up household one way or another.

A three per cent increase would have cost six pence a week, while a 1.99 per cent increase will cost three pence a week – thereby saving the good people of the West Midlands £1.56 a year, which is hardly enough to buy half a pint of CAMRA member Bob Jones’s favourite beer.

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