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I attended Community Question Time at the  Almiraj Conference Suites, 11 Wordsworth Road, Small Heath which was a well attended gathering.After listening to each candidates delivering their manifestos the audience had over an hour to ask questions which covered a variety of issues including terrorism, stop and search, policing priorities, community engagement, institutional racism and Islamaphobia.
The evening concluded with a request that the candidates sign the below described pledge. I was the only candidate who did not sign the pledge, other candidates made their own corrections or additions before agreeing the content.
I had sent a letter explaining my thoughts regarding the pledges whiich is on the blog after the pledges.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? SHOULD PCC's SIGN PLEDGES? IS THEIR IMPARTIALITY CALLED INTO QUESTION?

PLEDGES - lf I am elected as the Police and Crime Commissioner for West
Midlands, I pledge to:
1.     Increase resources to front line policing to improve community reassurance in areas with high crime and disorder
2.    Include lslamophobia as a specific hate crime flag on the police incident recording system similar to how racist and anti-Semitic incidents are recorded and quarterly publish the data
with clearance rate
3.    Introduce recording of stop and account encounters across West Midlands and produce annual monitoring report for each OCU
4.    Not allow any racist, fascist or extremist group to hold any rally or events in sensitive locations in West Midlands which will lead to undue fear and cause disorder in the community
5.    Establish a Youth Advisory Board and a separate Community Advisory Board with representation from faith, community and youth organisations, which will provide a platform to:
- engage in meaningful dialogue with the PCC to hear community concerns and suggestions on policing
- report on progress made by the PCC on delivering the crime plan and community concerns and suggestions
- consult on policing proposals and targets as well as influence local policing policies and practices

My response -
Dear Mr Hussain,

Thank you for the invitation to Community Question Time on 8 October 2012.

I will be attending the event however I am unable to sign the pledges.

Although I agree the pledges cater for some really important issues, I promise to be open and honest with everyone I come into contact with and for me these issues are too important to be signed off in their current format.

Let me explain my thinking;

1      Increase resources to front line policing to improve community reassurance in areas with high crime and disorder

There are many different ways to tackle high crime levels and disorder which include assessing levels of resourcing, utilising all relevant policing tactics and working in partnership with members of the community and agencies. I will work with stakeholders to provide a tailored prevention, reduction, enforcement and reassurance plan for each crime area which may include increased resources or other measures.  

2.     Include Islamophobia as a specific hate crime flag on the police incident recording system similar to how racist and anti-Semitic incidents are recorded and quarterly publish the data with clearance rate

I abhor Hate Crime(HC) of any sort and I will work with all the stakeholders to ensure that victims feel confident to report HC, that victims and witnesses are heard and supported, ensure the crime it is properly recorded and that effective steps are taken to stop the offending and challenge the offenders in the most appropriate way. Acknowledging that not all HC victims want to support a police prosecution.

I do not think there is a need to establish a local, bureaucratic and costly (i.e. changes to IT systems, etc) system of categorising outside of the Home Office counting rules. I don't underestimate the impact of Islamaphobia, Anti Semitism and other Faith based Hate Crimes - one only has to think of the attack on a Sikh congregation in USA to see what unchallenged HC can become -  and as I have said I want all HC victims to get the best response from the police and other agencies 

I value the work undertaken by MAMA (Measuring Anti Muslim Attacks) and will ensure WMP continue to support their aims and objectives. I will also ensure that WMP continues to work with 'Stop Hate UK', 'True Vision', Victim Support Service (VSS) and all of the other support networks that help victims of HC

As for detection rates, I will ensure that as far as practicable they will be published on the WMP website (as they are currently) and that they are as transparent  as possible.                                                           
3. Introduce recording of stop and account encounters across West Midlands and produce annual monitoring report for each OCU

Whilst I am reluctant to introduce counting measures that are likely to divert officers time from policing I fully understand the distress multiple stops and encounters can have on innocent people; I fully understand the real concerns people have about the disproportionality of BME young men who are subject of encounters or searches.

I want to have a frank and honest discussion with police Commanders whose officers are responsible for a disproportionate of stops and I want individual officers to be held accountable for their contribution to the statistics. I am working on ways to enable 'Non Target Criminals' who are repeatedly subjected to Stop & Search/Encounter to be able to address their concerns directly to Inspectors and LPU Commanders.

I believe Stop and Search is a legitimate use of police powers and used properly, according to the law, does deter criminals. If this was an easy problem to solve I can assure you that the police service would have done something about it long ago.

To explore the issues further HMIC will be conducting research into this area and I will ensure West Midlands is involved in the study.

I have already identified with other groups that Stop & Search/Encounter is an issue that I want to bring out into the open and take meaningful steps to tackle the reality and perceptions that surrounds the police use.

4. Not allow any known racist, fascist or extremist group to hold any rally, static demonstration or march in West Midlands which may lead to undue fear and cause disorder in the community

The police do not have the power to prevent people expressing their views on the streets of the UK, look at Northern Ireland during the 'Marching Season' to illustrate that fact. However, where there is intelligence to suggest that the presence of a particular group will incite Hate then I will expect the Chief Constable to use all of their available powers to eliminate or reduce the threat - as he and Birmingham City Council have done in the past.

But the way to ensure that such groups avoid Birmingham is to demonstrate that we are a cohesive city and that people of ALL ethnicities and Faiths will band together to challenge their hatred.

5. Establish a Youth Advisory Board and a separate Community Advisory Board with representation from faith, community and youth organisations, which will provide a platform to:
·         engage in meaningful dialogue with the PCC to hear community concerns and suggestions on policing
·         report on progress made by the PCC on delivering the crime plan and community concerns and suggestions
·         consult on policing proposals and targets as well as influence local policing policies and practices

This pledge mirrors thoughts that I have had about providing a framework to young people and faith/community groups to represent their communities. To debate, discuss and understand issues as well as received feedback. The details of this framework are best discussed with young people and the faith/ community groups across the West Midlands to establish a model that works for all.

If you have any questions about my response please contact me

Kind regards Cath Hannon




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