The Work of the S. Yorks. Police and Crime Commissioner – Dr. Alan Billings 15th April 2019

Dr. Alan Billings was born in Leicester and read Theology and Philosophy at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He has been a parish priest and an aca­demic as well as being active in polit­ics. (For full details go to — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Billings)

Dr. Billings had planned to return to Sheffield to retire but was elec­ted as the S. Yorks. Police and Crime Commissioner (P.C.C.) in 2014, repla­cing the first Commissioner who had been a Rotherham Councillor and had held a senior pos­i­tion in Child Services. He resigned after a report exposed child sexual exploit­a­tion in Rotherham between the years 1997 and 2013, which Rotherham Council and S. Yorks. Police had chosen to ignore.

Police and Crime Commissioners have been elec­ted through­out the coun­try since 2012, to replace Police Authorities. They were made up of Local Councillors and the public, but the new posts provide a focal point. Prospective can­did­ates are sponsored by polit­ical parties, and the Labour Party now sup­port the scheme, although ori­gin­ally fear­ing politi­cisa­tion of the posts.

The duties of a P.C.C. include pro­du­cing a policy plan (reviewed annu­ally), for poli­cing and crime pri­or­it­ies, and then, to ensure that the police force follow them. There are monthly meet­ings with the police, press and the gen­eral public, and the P.C.C. also scru­tin­izes police reports. All this helps to determ­ine what type of police force is needed and where funds are to be alloc­ated.

The two prin­cipal sources for funds — Government 73%, Council Tax 27%, are alloc­ated thus :-

-           The police budget – 96%

-           Commissioning ser­vices for vic­tims

-           Running activ­it­ies for com­munit­ies

The 3 pri­or­it­ies for poli­cing, in the 2019 policy plan (copy avail­able on the inter­net) are :-

  1. Protecting vul­ner­able people

A greater pro­por­tion of police time is spent on this sub­ject :-

  • It is pre­dicted that by 2045 more than a third of the pop­u­la­tion will be over 60 years of age. With public ser­vices shrink­ing, more time is spent find­ing demen­tia patients who have wandered off.
  • Children are brought from the South of England , to homes in Barnsley and Sheffield where it is cheaper to look after them. The police, rather than the homes, spend time find­ing those who have broken their curfew hours.
  • Grooming either in person or on the inter­net requires more police staff in offices.
  • Since 2010, police officer num­bers in S. Yorks. have reduced from 3000 to 2500, but in 2019 a fur­ther 55 officers will be recruited, of which 40 will go into Neighbourhood Teams and be seen on the beat, and will be able to make arrests — a matter reg­u­larly reques­ted by the public. Police Support Officer num­bers, (intro­duced by David Blunkett, who dealt with anti-social beha­viour), who cannot make arrests, will not be cut.
  1. Tackling crime and anti-social beha­viour

On this matter, the P.C.C., who has no exec­ut­ive power, meets reg­u­larly with the Chief Constable to dis­cuss :-

-Knife crime, (which is mainly a London prob­lem). Incidents since 2018 in S.Yorks. are fall­ing, dis­cus­sions taking place as to why.

-Sex crime

-Cyber crime

-Drugs. This is wor­ry­ing and is linked to knife crime. Once when there were turf wars, based on post codes, the police knew the gangs, but now the gangs are under­ground with vul­ner­able young chil­dren being groomed to carry small pack­ages for a reward. The gangs offer an ‘altern­at­ive family’ so it is essen­tial to under­stand their psy­cho­logy. Failure within the gang means brutal repris­als.

The 4 pris­ons in Doncaster have drug prob­lems which the police are deal­ing with. Unintended con­sequences of drug leg­al­isa­tion, are also under con­sid­er­a­tion.

-Anti-social beha­viour. S.Yorks. has a minor­ity diverse eth­ni­city, unlike Leicester where the ethnic minor­it­ies are the major­ity. Our pit vil­lages are white, with noth­ing for the chil­dren to do, so anti-social beha­viour, rather than crime, is the main prob­lem. But city centres are dif­fer­ent, so there is more police demand. The Roma/Slovaks give prob­lems due to cul­tural dif­fer­ences, and traf­fick­ing is a world­wide prob­lem, with can­nabis farms involving vic­tims as well as crim­in­als.

  1. Treating people fairly, whether victim, sur­vivor, wit­ness or sus­pect.

The three main ongo­ing costly ‘legacy’ issues for S.Yorks. police are :-

  1. The Hillsborough dis­aster
  • It is the 30th The ongo­ing court case is paid for by Legal Aid but Civil claims are being made by around 600 people, who were affected by the tragedy.
  1. The Child Sexual Exploitation Case in Rotherham
  • 200 extra detect­ives in Rotherham are seek­ing the 1400 alleged child vic­tims, cost­ing £40million/year.

£20million has been alloc­ated for civil claims for both the above cases.

Dr. Billings has applied to the Home Office for spe­cial grants, but they still require S. Yorks. to meet £2.4m for each of the above issues.

  1. The Miners strike – still an issue.

For other fair­ness issues, Dr. Billings has set up Independent Panels such as the Ethics Panel to think through situ­ations, e.g. ‘stop and search’ with the body camera issue.

-    The P.C.C. can put pro­pos­als and oppor­tun­it­ies to the police to con­sider and report on, but cannot order the Chief Constable what to do. The N.H.S., the Local Councils, etc. are also involved and all work together as a team.

Dr. Billings con­vinced us that he has a tough job on his hands, which he said felt ‘like turn­ing a huge oil tanker around’, although there are not­able suc­cesses.

He was heart­ily thanked for a very enlight­en­ing and well delivered talk.