Big interview: Crime commissioner’s first year

Police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds
Police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds
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They say a year is a long time in politics, but for Northamptonshire’s police and crime commissioner it isn’t long enough.

Adam Simmonds, a former assistant director at Northamptonshire County Council, took office 0n November 22, 2012, after winning the election to take on the newly created role.

This week he said 12 months isn’t long enough for people to judge how well, or otherwise, he is doing.

In an interview to discuss his progress since taking on the four-year role, he said: “I’m playing a longer game, so this isn’t the best year to judge my performance.”

Mr Simmonds admitted that getting his message across to people was a real challenge, and said: “There are 700,000 people in Northamptonshire and it’s difficult to engage with them all.

“By 2016 I want people to know me.”

He plans to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to try to get his message across to as many people as possible, but is also going to resort to more old-fashioned methods.

Next year he plans to go out knocking on people’s doors so he can hear their opinions first hand, despite being hurt by some comments posted online about him.

He said: “I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with me, but I do have a problem with people being offensive.

“My challenge is to modernise the force and if I do that people will think I’ve been a success, but it is frustrating trying to communicate my vision for the force.”

Mr Simmonds had a rocky start in his new role, being criticised for appointing staff on salaries of £65,000, but he defends his appointments.

“Some people were going to hate me whatever I did because they were against the role of PCC,” he said.

“I had to decide whether to annoy them from the start or wait and annoy them later.

“I wanted to hit the ground running and to do that I needed an interim team around me.

“The people who hate the office of the PCC hate the fact I’ve got one more person working for me but I don’t think I need to apologise for that, it was a new role and I had to build the organisation.

“It is a bigger role than I, or any of us who first got involved, thought it would be.

“I can be driving to a meeting about counter-terrorism and get a call from a local farmer who wants action because his sheep have been slaughtered.

“It’s a very broad spectrum, and people have expectations of what you can do.”

Changing people’s perceptions of the force and its officers is one high on the list of Mr Simmonds’ tasks.

And he believes his assurance that the number of officers will not dip below 1,220, plus the recruitment of more specials constables, will help.

He said: “Deciding how many police officers we need is not an exact science.

“Some forces have recruited more officers and seen crime go up, others have cut the number of officers and seen crime go down, but I have said we will not have fewer than 1,220 officers.

“The community needs to feel loved by its police force and we’ve got a lot to do to make the community feel the force is on their side.

“A large part of policing is invisible, it’s things like child protection and counter terrorism where the officers don’t wear uniforms, but people judge by what they see so I want to recruit an extra 1,000 specials by 2016.

“Ten years ago people feared police community support officers, now they love them.

“I want specials, who will have powers to arrest people, to become as fundamental to the force as the Territorials are to the Army.

“But I want them to only work in their own towns and villages so they feel they are giving something back to their communities, and I’m looking into the possibility of paying them.

“I want the force to be more proactive in preventing crime; before we were too reactive, which means we’ve already failed because a crime has been committed.

“Most people never have to deal with the police and when they do I want them to have a gold standard service.

“Everyone should be treated the same, whether they’re the victim of a sex crime or have been knocked off their bike.

“I love this job, I’m excited by it every day and I want people to tell me how they think the force is doing. I want them to be engaged with the force.

“I’ve got lots of ideas and I want to hear other people’s as well. I’m just getting started.”

PCC believes in the power of individuals

A father-of-one, Adam Simmonds, 36, lives in Rothwell and is a former assistant director at Northamptonshire County Council.

Speaking after being chosen as the Conservative candidate for police and crime commissioner, he said: “I’m looking forward to a political role working on plans to tackle problems and lower crime and get rid of the fear of crime.

“When the new role was announced I was immediately interested as I believe in the power of the individual to make changes. I’m a big supporter of elected mayors. I think police authorities have had their time.”

He said resigning from his job to fight the election was a huge gamble but he wanted to do a job where he could make a difference.

Mr Simmonds graduated from the University of Greenwich with a degree in politics and political history.

The elections for the 43 PCCs took place in November last year and had a disappointing turnout – the turnout in Northamptonshire was just 20 per cent.

The role of PCC was created by the Government in an attempt to improve police accountability and to make the forces more responsive to the public.

The role replaced the police authority, which had responsibility for overseeing targets and setting budgets.

The new PCCs are also in charge of crime prevention and taking care of victims of crime.

Mr Simmonds has said victims of crime should be at the heart of the justice system.

New custody centre

Mr Simmonds has announced plans to close the cells at Corby and Kettering police stations and build a new £6m custody centre at the North Kettering Business Park.

Andy Sawford, the MP for Corby, has written to him asking for reassurances about the future of Corby police station.

Mr Simmonds said: “I believe people shouldn’t fight to protect police buildings, what’s important is making sure that policing works for the people.

“It might be better if the police work from a base next to a phone shop, for example, in the town centre, so that they are more part of the community.

“People can feel guilty walking into old-fashioned police stations.”