Pasties are no longer on the menu for detainees in Sussex - a sign of tough new measures introduced by the new police and crime commissioner.
Katy Bourne, elected last November on a Conservative ticket, also ignored the disapproval of the Police and Crime Panel when appointing her deputy in February, and has just delivered the budget and police and crime plan in under 100 days.
Speaking to the County Times six months into the job, she maintained that morale within Sussex Police will increase because of more contact time with communities despite continued funding cuts.
She said residents have asked the force to focus on road safety, anti-social behaviour, and domestic violence. She was also keen to look at early intervention in cases involving young children and the issue of re-offending.
After watching first-hand a detainee screaming and shouting because he had not been given a pasty, she stopped the ‘luxury’ item because ‘that’s not the right of a detainee’,and is looking to renegotiate parts of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which sees Reliance run custody facilities in Sussex.
Mrs Bourne said: “It’s busy but really challenging and quite exciting because we have delivered the plan and the budget but we have frozen the council tax which is important.”
While she understood the new role would be a tough task Mrs Bourne admitted the amount of hours has been a surprise. She attends three evening meetings a week and spends a lot of her time in the evening reading.
During the election Mrs Bourne pledged to put a special constable in every rural village, and Sussex Police is recruiting 120 across Sussex, but she wanted to recruit more people who ‘volunteer for volunteering sake’ rather than using it as a way to enter the force.
This comes as residents have expressed concerns over new police and community support officers having to cover wider and wider rural patches. While she said that she could not stray into operational matters, she could facilitate a conversation and asked any concerned villagers to contact her office.
Sussex Police is well on the way to identifying around £50m of savings needed by 2015, and she is working on the assumption of a ten per cent decrease in funding when the next allocation from central Government is announced.
Mrs Bourne explained: “We are living in difficult times but I’m hopeful for Sussex because the police authority did leave the books in a good state.
“That said, there’s still a lot we can do to work more effectively. The use of technology for officers allows them to stay out in the community longer.”
Sussex Police has just installed a new IT system, with new community hubs also offering longer contact hours with the public.
Mrs Bourne added: “If we can find ways of being in the community more effectively we should be encouraging it more and access people on their terms.
“From a morale point of view it represents a big change in policing, one of the biggest since Peel began,” she said.
“My job is not to be at one with the police. My job is to hold them to account to challenge and scrutinise them.”
Sussex Police and Crime Panel, which has the job of scrutinising her decisions but has no veto, disapproved of her decision to appoint Steve Waight as her deputy PCC, advice she went against.
She has granted the funding for the community safer partnerships for another year, but now that the funding is going through her office rather than the county councils and unitary authorities she will be holding them to greater account.
She explained: “If they want funding I need to see the return on investment and how they do that is up to them.
“I want to hold people to account and make sure taxpayers’ money is used judiciously.”
She attends a 7am officer briefing every month to see community policing in action.
“It’s getting me in front of staff and I learn a lot not just about policing but what works on the ground and what does not work,” she said.
Sussex Police has done away with a lot of targets, not to be confused with performance data she says, as they often had unintended consequences with officers in other forces guilty of massaging statistics.
A 3,500 per cent increase in correspondence is showing a huge increase in engagement with people across Sussex.
Mrs Bourne said: “We are not going to get everything right but I think we have made a good start and I hope the public tell me what they like about issues and what more we can do.”