What happened to the squirrel?

If you want a bit of sport, send me, Michael Crick and the Police Foundation an email saying you intend to stand for the office of Police and Crime Commissioner in your area, wait a dignified amount of time, and then turn up at the next meeting of your local Police Authority. I visited mine today, and the rumours of my interest in the post had clearly got there before me, for as I walked into the room I was met by a selection of familiar faces that rapidly changed into either knowing grins or studied indifference. OK – there were also a fair amount of unfamiliar faces too – I don’t know everybody.

The meeting was far more interesting than the agenda might have led one to believe, interspersed as it was by insights from the authority members, such as an observation that people in Dorset eat squirrels. I’m not sure what that had to do with policing Lancashire, although from memory the Detective training course used to start with a complicated scenario where a squirrel was mentioned briefly at the start before a long set of distractions. Good detectives apparently were the ones who asked “What happened to the squirrel?”

Now, this site has visitors from the world over, but unsurprisingly mostly in the UK, and by the law of averages some must come from Dorset, so if you feel that the reputation of your county has been impugned, or if you feel that the non-Dorset section of the population doesn’t know what kind of delicacy they are missing, please use the comments section to let us all know.

The Chief Constable gave us what the agenda called an oral update, and this turned out to involve an update on crime figures. Now I’ve seen a lot of crime figures in my time, and I’ll not go into the details, which if you’d wanted to have, you could have got at the meeting, but they were not at all bad. Sure, one or two of the figures were in red, not green, and the force was at the wrong end of a couple of iQuanta charts, but these were the exception, not the rule, and with a little understanding of how these things are generated, and how certain offences work, it could be seen that the general picture was encouraging, and the force were trialing some promising solutions to the problems that remained.

The force has had to slim down over the past 12 months, and will continue to do so for the next year. I have no doubt that has been tricky, and having been consulted in the earlier stages of the review, I have reason to believe it has been wide-ranging. My point however is that there are some who will note changes to police numbers and changes to the odd crime category and seek to establish a link. We have been warned in the past of the dangers of any changes to police numbers, and the FactCheck team have had their work cut out in this, as various politicians have not appreciated the extent of work done to protect the front line. But the world has not ended. The fight against crime continues undeterred, and largely with success.

The outgoing Chair of the Authority commented that he had been sceptical of the Police and Crime Commissioner reform when it was announced, but that his work had led him to appreciate that the new Commissioner would be surrounded by people who would not let it fail. I suspect he might be right.

The sky is not falling, and for now the squirrels are safe. Except perhaps in Dorset.

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