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Col Tim Collins
Friday, January 27, 2012
Iraq war hero explains what he would do as Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner
Since I announced last October that I wanted to be Kent’s first elected Police and Crime Commissioner, I have been talking to people across the county, listening to their views and sharing mine. One message has come through loud and clear: policing really matters. That is why it is so important that in the coming months we have a sensible debate in Kent about policing and crime.
Sir Robert Peel, the founder of modern policing, said: “The police are the public, and the public are the police.” I believe strongly the people of Kent need to feel a greater degree of ‘ownership’ over their force – not in the sense of interfering with operational independence, but in having a bigger role in how it is run and how they’re given information about what is being done and why.
I want to radically overhaul the Special Constabulary and create valuable new ways of volunteering in a Kent Police Reserve. At its peak the country had over 136,000 Specials – Kent now has fewer than 400. There are many fine men and women serving the community as Specials, but I want to introduce a new tier which is around people giving what time they can, and ultimately acting as a strategic reserve to be used during crisis situations (such as last August’s disorder which gripped the country) or for use on ‘days of action’ when particular crime types are focused on and the county is locked down for the criminal. I would like to see a council tax discount for those who volunteer to serve, as a thank you for their contribution to their community.
I want greater transparency of operational information to harness and engage the power of the people in solving crime. For example, why shouldn’t we have a local equivalent of the sort of top 10 ‘wanted list’ that you see the FBI use to great effect? Shouldn’t we all be contributing to running down those criminals causing the greatest harm in Kent and working with the force to bring them to justice? Working together, we can make a real difference.
Victims should be updated and have complete transparency about every stage of their investigation, with an audit trail of who has done what and when to bring offenders to justice. I will ensure that if you are a victim of crime, you will have a right to that information in an easily accessible format. And the wider public too must know not just that crime has been committed, but what the outcome of the investigation and the court process was.
There is one group who seem to me to get the worst deal in the criminal justice system, and that is victims. Once a victim experiences the criminal justice system, they believe it to be less fair and their confidence drops compared with the expectations of non-victims. A third of people feel victim’s rights are respected, compared to 80 per cent who think the rights of criminals are respected. This needs to be turned on its head, and the police, the courts, the Crown Prosecution Service need to put the victim first in everything they do. Charging decisions need to be faster and in the interests of the victim not some set of Whitehall targets. Justice needs to be faster, and not dragged out to suit the felon. The criminal needs to be afraid of committing crime in Kent, and victims must know that the system is on their side.
Col Tim Collins lives in Whitstable