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Interview with the Chief Constable

Posted on 1st November, 2015

Below is the full text of the exclusive interview given by Alan Pughsley to Emily Hunter on 22nd October 2015:

Now that the National Terror Level has been raised to severe, should police officers be routinely armed?

In my opinion no, the threat level to the United Kingdom includes a non-specific threat to police officers, so what that means is if you look at the threat from ISIL or ISIS, the United Kingdom is a target, and included in that target are police officers. It doesn’t stipulate any force, or any individual, so we’ve heightened our resilience, awareness and activity. However, it doesn’t support changing the whole basis and ethos of British policing which is policing by consent and policing according to the level of threat, harm and risk and this level in my opinion is not enough to routinely arm police officers. I have enough police officers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the streets of Kent with firearm capability, so they’re out there, they’re working, but I don’t need every officer armed.

How many traffic officers are on duty at any one time?

I never give out to the public how many dedicated officers I have on because that’s an operational tactic we use all the time whether it’s firearm officers, road traffic officers or anything remotely like it. But we have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week police officers in uniform, some of them specialised in traffic, some of them not specialised in traffic but they can all deal with road traffic offences so there’s enough on all the time.

What are Kent Police’s main priorities?

Probably three to start with. Number one is to provide first class service to every member of our community, so that is making sure that my officers and my staff are providing a quality service. Number two is making sure that the service we provide is focused on victims and witnesses being at the heart at everything we do, so whatever we’re dealing with, whatever crime, the victim and the witness should have a real quality service. Number three, we’ve got a culture entrusted to go and do the right thing based and focused on the victim’s desires and wishes. Therefore, we don’t go down the road to thinking we know best, we try to tailor the service to the victim. If you break down certain crime types then as priorities then of course terrorism is a priority, of course domestic extremism is a priority, child sexual exploitation is a priority, domestic abuse is a priority and obviously residential burglary will always be a priority. So they’re the different crime types that just sit below those priorities of quality service.

Do Kent police officers have to arrest a certain amount of people per month?

No, we have no numerical targets in this force, so we don’t have any targets for any of my officers or any of my staff that they have to achieve on a daily, weekly, monthly or indeed yearly basis. We have all of that information with my analysts and teams downstairs, and what I expect them to do and then provide out to my staff is to understand what the data tells us, and understand therefore the threat, harm and risk  and then deploy the resources appropriately, and then go and do the right thing. So that’s what they’re told, and that’s what we do here in Kent. I can’t speak for other forces elsewhere, but here in Kent nobody, and I mean nobody in the force has any numerical targets. It could, if you’re not careful, skew activity so that they go and chase the target, rather than do what’s really important, so we don’t do that here.

Why is there less crime in West Farleigh, compared to other places in Maidstone?

From a policing perspective, the social demographic will cause crime problems, anti-social behaviour problems or indeed perception of those problems. If you’re in an area where it’s more urban, we are more likely to get called to those sorts of places, whether that’s just people hanging around on corners, whether that’s people having a bit of a push or a shove or a fight after coming out of a pub, or indeed a nightclub. So sometimes it’s a responsibility for professional reporting by the media, in reporting the facts – don’t report a story looking for sensationalism. So I think when the facts are reported, areas where there are either demographic problems, more people, more nightclubs, more going on, the police get called more to those areas.

An article on The Guardian said that the police force could lose 22,000 jobs. Is this true and if it is, how will it affect Kent?

They were talking nationally, so from a Kent perspective the numbers go like this: over the last four years, we’ve had to reduce our budget by about £60 million. My budget is roughly £330 million. 85% of my budget is on people, which leaves a small percentage for cars, buildings and everything else. So over the last four years, we have reduced Kent Police by about 500 police officers and about 700 members of staff, so about 1200 altogether. Going forward, for the next four years, we’ve got to take out of Kent Police about another £47 million, so it’s not hard to work out that at the end of that eight year period there will be about a third less in policing than there was eight years previously. Big risk. Big challenge. So we have to do things tremendously differently because that means you’re not going to have as many police officers, you’re not going to have as many PCSOs and you’re not going to have as many policing staff so we have to do things differently to make sure that we’re still out in the community, and we’re still doing those priorities that I talked about at the beginning. These are things like mobile cameras going on all my police officers because it reduces the demand on the officers and on the victims and people going through court because the camera is used as evidence rather than the paper system. The officers are also given more technology, so tablets, and everything else that you youngsters like to use these days. My officers and staff will have all of those so that they can stay on the street rather than coming back to the office to do the work on the computer. This again gives the officers more flexibility on the street. And the third one is, we are dealing with things in a very different way, so three years ago if any crime was reported pretty much every time I would send a police officer to them, whatever crime it was, whether it was a high risk crime or a low risk crime with no vulnerability. We don’t do that anymore. What happens now is that when a crime is deemed that there is no threat to the public, there’s no vulnerability or repeat offending, and there are no obvious lines of enquiry, the investigation is initially dealt with over the telephone, rather than send a police officer. That’s saving every crime about two hours of my time or a police officer’s time, so it means they can be out there and concentrate on what’s perceived as more important. So big challenge, probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever had in 32 years of policing but at the moment we’re delivering successfully. Terrorism is government funded centrally, so we have some bespoke funding here in Kent for my terrorist style police officers, and that’s a separate funding stream and that’s still looking pretty secure. But I’m not a politician, I’m a police officer. The politicians decide what the economic climate is. People voted for this government again, only a couple of months ago, so they voted for austerity and they knew what they were voting for when the general election was taking place. A big majority voted for the conservative government, therefore none of us should be surprised that austerity is carrying on. But, it’s a big challenge for policing.

When do the police get involved in cybercrime?

Cybercrime is the newest emerging crime at the moment. I have a serious crime department. It’s shared by Kent and Essex and is about 1100 people strong. It can range from someone from a cyber point of view trying to attack my whole IT infrastructure system and the whole Kent Police infrastructure system failing. That hasn’t happened and I hope it never does. We’ve got some good systems in place to support that. This goes all the way down to identity theft in effect, on the computer and then fraud taking place through the identity theft on the computer. It ranges across the whole police. So most of the ones that happen in Kent that we are dealing with, what we would have called in the old days would have been fraud. They are now being perpetrated, in effect, over the internet, therefore making it cybercrime. So I’ve got a dedicated resource that deals with it. It is new, it is emerging, how much of a threat will it be in the next year, two or three? I don’t know what the volumes look like yet because it’s a new crime, but we’re watching it, we’re monitoring it, we problem solve and we analyse it and we’re in a good place to deal with it.

How do you protect vulnerable people from cybercrime?

The best way to deal with children is through a partnership approach, so we’ve got a good schools program, that we do with the local authorities, Kent County Council, my partnership team which works with the local authorities and schools and education and health etc. So it’s part of an ongoing school’s program that deals with all vulnerability, as well as cybercrime, so whether it’s “trolling”, that sort of activity that we’ve all seen going on via social media, which is horrendous. It might be cyber bullying, if it’s poor driving by people when they get to that age, we do some good work with the schools around a really shocking video about the impact of driving too fast and what happens at the end of it. That school program includes cybercrime and the risk, road traffic offences and the risk, criminality and the risk, how you can protect yourself, education to parents, saying that there are ways of checking what your children are doing, don’t leave them in their bedroom for ten hours of the day, and talk to your kids about what they’re doing. So it’s working, is it perfect? Probably not, but I think there is some personal and parental responsibility as well. We will do the best we can, but there is something about the responsibility of being a parent as well I think.          


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Comments (1)

Well done Emily, a very insightful interview. It is always interesting to hear how influential people view such important areas of our lives and I thought your interview covered some relevant current issues. Again, congratulations to you.