SOUTH Wales Police Commissioner Alun Michael’s takes office today — here he tells Post crime reporter JASON EVANS about his priorities.
POLICING in Wales enters uncharted territory today as the new elected police commissioners take power.
The controversial posts come with a huge number of responsibilities, including control over force budgets, the ability to decide policing priorities and sign collaboration agreements with other forces, and the power to hire and fire chief constables.
The man in the hot seat in South Wales Police in former Labour MP Alun Michael, who beat-off competition from a Conservative and two independent candidates in last week’s election.
He said: “On taking the oath of office — it’s a promise to serve the public of South Wales — I make three initial pledges to the people of South Wales.
“My first pledge is to serve, and represent the interests of, the whole population of South Wales without fear or favour and without bias.
“My second pledge is to place the strongest possible emphasis on the importance of values in the governance of the police.
“There are the principles of honesty and integrity and transparency, but I also believe in some principles for action — to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime; to put co- operative values into practice; to pursue social justice as well as justice; and to both hold the police to account and protect the police from political interference from whatever quarter.”
He said his third pledge was to abolish the use of the initials PCC for police and crime commissioner, which he said were a barrier to the public.
Every force in Wales and England outside London elected a commissioner last week to replace the now abolished police authorities.
Mr Michael said the South Wales Police Authority had done a good job since it was established in 1995, and under its guidance the force had moved up the national rankings performance.
He said: “The challenge to the commissioner is not to mend something that’s broken — it ain’t broke — but to continue and to accelerate the process of cutting crime, improving performance and winning the support of communities in every part of South Wales.
“And that depends on the people of South Wales, the individual officers and members of staff who make up the South Wales Police, the engagement of local authorities and other agencies, and the local people and voluntary groups who are the heart of every community.
“To me, the challenge for the commissioner is to balance the formal role — deciding the budget, deciding the ‘policing plan’, holding the chief constable to account — with the creative or informal role of providing leadership in partnership.
“It’s the ‘and crime’ bit of the title of police and crime commissioner that gives the clue.
“The first role of the police, said Sir Robert Peel when he set up the first police force, is to prevent crime — in other words to cut offending and re-offending — and it’s my job to work with everyone to enhance the work of the police in South Wales to that end.”
One of the first jobs on the desk of the new commissioner will be grappling with the £250 million budget of the force, and deciding the contribution the public in South Wales will have to make to policing through what is known as the Council Tax precept.
Work on the finances will have to start almost immediately in order to be able to set a lawful budget in the new year.
Mr Michael admitted he was going to have to “learn fast on the job”.