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The Big Interview: Chief Constable Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police.

Give communities power over policing, say no to ID cards and lose some police officers: Jonathan Schofield puts the Chief on video

Written by . Published on June 24th 2009.


The Big Interview: Chief Constable Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police.

Here are just five comments from Confidential’s interview with Chief Constable Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police.

“At the moment we are in a regime where it’s about league tables, statistics, targets and comparing one Force with another. My point is that if you’ve had a burglary, what good is it to you if I tell you that burglaries are down by 50 per cent. It’s a meaningless figure. People trust their experience. Is the area getting better? Do they feel safer? Are they happy to let their teenage kids go into Manchester city centre at night or to let their kids go down the park?”

“There are no no-go areas. There are no untouchables and that includes the most serious criminals and feral youngsters.”

“It shouldn’t be about more laws but altering the balance so that local people have more say in policing. It should be about the criminal justice system listening to what the communities are concerned about, to finding stronger forms of community justice for those individuals who are causing grief. We then need visible forms of punishment taking place within the local area.”

“Would I like a system where I have to produce an ID card on demand to a police officer? Absolutely not. That is crossing the line.”

“We police with the consent of the public. The British have always been sceptical of the power of the state. That’s why British police are routinely unarmed. That’s why there are 43 police forces and not a national police force. With all the debate around the DNA database, the use of CCTV, we have to recognise the need for the public to feel that their liberties are being protected.”

Peter Fahy is forceful in what he says, he has strong ideas. We think you’ll find the whole interview very interesting.

It was based on the 17 pages of questions you sent us. The result was a wide-ranging conversation covering local policing issues from ASBOs and police officers’ attitudes to national topics such as ID cards.

There were several surprises, not least the Chief Constable’s disdain for ID cards and the need for more support staff and less police officers.

His big idea is about returning decision-making back to local communities over policing priorities and subsequent punishments. He thinks the league table culture has gone too far. His ideas are refreshing. He also is clear on how police officers should behave.

For the record, no subject was off limits. In some ways the interview, despite being twice as long as expected, was too short, as we couldn’t give some subjects as much time as they may have required. But Mr Fahy has agreed to meet Confidential again, at a later date, to pick up on further points.

This video interview will be backed up by a full written article shortly.

Chief Constable Fahy: the interview timetable.

Because of bandwidth issues we’ve had to split the video into three parts.

To save you having to watch the whole interview – which we recommend – here’s a guide to the themes and topics you may wish to skip to. It’s in minutes followed by seconds.

Finally, a technical note.

This was meant to be a half hour long interview, but it ended up twice as long. This meant the camera memory became full. Please then excuse the shaky camera technique as Confidential slipped seamlessly into back-up mode. Ah, the beauties of technology for the twenty-first century writer, ah the joys of the Nokia N95 phone.

Part one
00:00 Discussion of poster campaign involving jailed murderers Colin Joyce and Lee Amos and whether their ‘human rights’ had been infringed - as claimed by human rights campaigners Liberty.
02:00 Public confidence in the police.
03:38 Street policing, the visibility of the police, knowing who your local officers are, government accountability and the need for more local decision making.
05:38 The problem with statistics and how much freedom the police have from “public sector managerialism”.
07:57 The “inhibitor” of bureaucracy to more police officers on the street. “Crime is just a small part of our business”.
12:22 Is Society getting more peaceable? Plus the efficient use of time and better communication.
13:36 Community support officers (CSOs) and their role.
14:30 The effect of the recession on budgets and the ratio of officers to civilian support staff. A possible need for less police officers.
Finish at 15:58

Part two
00:00 More on civilian support staff. Untouchables, ASBOs, courts and sentencing.
05:40 And the problem of the various agencies, police and social services working piecemeal.
07:11 Is there a level of criminal activity the police tolerate? The “don’t grass” culture.
Finish at 11:31

Part three
00:00 Is crime ‘tolerated’ in some areas more than others. The “don’t grass” culture.
03:40 The attitude of police officers, the standards expected in their relationship with the public.
04:57 Police officers who conceal identity numbers.
06:57 Should we have ID cards?
09:32 Detention without charge for terror suspects.
13:32 Is there too much emphasis on car offences, speeding and so on?
15:46 If Chief Constable Fahy could have one measure with which to improve policing which would he choose? Why the criminal justice system needs to go local.
Finish at 18:21

The interview was conducted by Manchester Confidential editor, Jonathan Schofield in the Chester Road headquarters of Greater Manchester Police on Friday 19 June. Original edit by Tahir Yousaf. Edit split by Tristan Welch.

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