I had intended to say something about the Association of Chief Police Officers “Guidelines for Interaction with Police and Crime Commissioner Candidates” before it moved steadily down my list of things to do, until I was reminded by what Bernard Rix had to say about it.
Bernard has highlighted one candidate who may or not be in breach of the guidelines, and it needs to be said that such breaches are not hard to find.
Take section 7, which opines on the issue of pre-existing police images
What's a 'police image'? Is it an image that falls under a force's copyright, or is this an attempt to cover images of police officers, equipment and buildings, no matter to whom those images belong? If it is the former, the restriction hardly needs to be stated, but if the latter then it produces a range of bizarre consequences.
Jas Parmer, Conservative candidate in Bedfordshire, includes a photo of himself on his website, from when he was a police officer. Would anyone really suggest he needs police permission for this?
TopOfTheCops regular Clive Grunshaw, Labour Candidate in Lancashire, illustrates his website with a photo of him stood next to a brick wall – from Lancashire Constabulary Headquarters.
His Tory rival Tim Ashton, uses the same wall on his site.
Do ACPO expect Lancashire Constabulary to leap into action to defend their rights over this wall?
Of course candidates are going to use images related to police and crime in this election. Some will have extensive libraries of images from their past achievements in policing and crime reduction, whereas others will need to take any opportunity to pose next to a passing police officer, police car or, if they're not quick enough, by less-mobile police premises. What is curious is the idea that this might be taken to imply police support for the candidate.
But this is the Church of ACPO – when agreeing on professional practice they formulate something called 'doctrine' and they expect obedience from their communicants. Never mind that their pronouncements actually come from a private company, and lack any special legal force.
There are other issues with the guidance. Elected representatives get a degree of engagement for which candidates, as ordinary citizens, apparently don't qualify. Except that some of them will be elected representatives, and will have privileged access. The curious thing here is how ordinary members of the public appear to be accorded only a third-class status by ACPO, beneath elected representatives and ACPO members.
There is the counter-productive requirement at 6.1 to publish all information given to candidates.
And then there is what looks like an attempt in section 13.6 to extend restrictions on police officers, to ensure they don't sign nomination forms. Of course, police officers aren't banned from signing nomination forms. There is nothing to say their assent to a nomination is an expression of support or an attempt to persuade other people to vote for them. It would be brave to attempt to define such a signature as political activity, when the senior judiciary now accept that magistrates can stand for PCC without breaching their impartiality, and that sitting magistrates may be able to engage in leafleting.
I can see that ACPO may have the nightmare where a particular candidate attracts 100 signatures from officers in the local force, as might very well happen where a candidate opposes problematic police pension reforms. Senior officers may feel they need to summon the menace of career consequences for offences which don't seem to exist, but surely that de facto extension of the law is exactly the sort of policing we need to avoid, and we need to remember that police officers have rights as citizens too.
Sent: Monday, 1 October 2012, 11:40
Subject: Re: Use of Kent Police Livery
Thank you for your email of 27 September.
My reply to your email (not addressed to me but to the chief constable and Mr Carter from KCC) raising issues over the use of the Kent Police livery was dated 21 September. I replied to you on 27 September – six days after your original note.
Addressing your new questions I would say this:
1. I cannot answer why Mrs Barnes would use police images in her PCC campaign – you would need to address that question to her. I have no involvement in Mrs Barnes’ campaign and I am not in communication with her (save for any invitations for briefings that have been sent to all PCC candidates) since she resigned from the authority.
2. In keeping with the above replies, I do not know the dates Mrs Barnes’ filmed her campaign video – that is a matter you would have to take up with her.
3. I cannot prevent any prospective PCC candidate from using police/policing images in their campaign material. My only intervention in such an area might be if there were an attempt by a candidate to gain special access to the Kent Police and obtain images that might suggest they (the force) support a particular candidate. As I said in my earlier reply to you, Mrs Barnes’ images of Kent Police have, as far as I can ascertain, been obtained by simply filming what is a public building from a public vantage point – something you or any other candidates could also do.
There is categorically no collusion with any propsopective PCC candidate either by myself or by the force. We have a strict protocol in place to ensure complete probity over the PCC election period. It is being adhered to throughout by organisations. The force and myself respect the democratic process and would never compromise the hugely important principles underpinning a public election in the way you have suggested (‘Still the same “Old Boys” or “girls” Club then?’).
4. In terms of escalation of this matter, you can of course complain against me if you wish. Alternatively, you may wish to take up your representations to the Police Area Returning Officer for the election Mr Nadeem Aziz at Dover D.C.
Mr Graham Hooper C E KPA.
Interesting, 6 months ago I used the Dorset Police logo on my website, obtained from the internet (and not copy writed) and received an email and a letter requesting it be removed asap, as they retain copy write, and because it suggests favouring a particular candidate. I have not used anything police related since, though I was prevented from filming a video near the Police HQ sign, which was on a public road.
I actually think Dorset Police got it right, and I think some of these candidates have got it wrong.
Just for clarity: Mrs Barnes also uses Kent Police vehicles in her video campaign.
Mr Hooper C E of KPA was not aware, I made him so aware.
I am currently awaiting a reply about that issue from KPA. I will keep you posted.
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Date 12th October 2012.
I said to you in my email of 2 October I would get back to you on your further representations about the suggested use of police premises/police livery by Mrs Ann Barnes in connection with her campaign to be Police & Crime Commissioner for Kent.
I made enquires with the force and they have confirmed that no access to police premises or police vehicles has been afforded to Mrs Barnes relating to her PCC campaign. They concur with my initial assessment that any photographs or images featuring Mrs Barnes in front of Kent Police buildings or vehicles, will have been taken with her in a public space, where of course it is perfectly lawful for her to be.
I don’t think I can be of any further help to you on this issue.
Best regards as always,
Chief Executive, Kent Police Authority