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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 26th 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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20 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Mick DaviesJune 26th 2009.

No-go areas. I live in Langworthy. This may not in the true sense of the word be a no-go area but when the police aren't around the youths do what they want. Having said that I really enjoyed the interview and respect Fahy's comments and hope he gets his district justice idea off the ground....soon.

This is importantJune 26th 2009.

Forget Michael Jackson. This guy is talking some sense. And he's the chief. He's not had any number one hits though. So maybe we feel that we love shallow rather than the things which affect our lives.

KJune 26th 2009.


MartinJune 26th 2009.

That's a very good point about bringing justice closer to the community. This guy seems eminently sensible.

AnonymousJune 26th 2009.

We should not have to have identity cards. It is not british.

DescartesJune 26th 2009.

Creeping? You sure about that ;)

rosieJune 26th 2009.


FFJune 26th 2009.


SBJune 26th 2009.

Voluntary but you won't be able to move without one.Say no to the creeping Orwellian state.

Andrew BarnesJune 26th 2009.

So Vespasian what you're saying is an ID card to supposedly make it easier to stop terrorism doesn't have to be produced on demand if the police ask to do so? What on earth is the point then? Why the £5bn bill? This is crazy.

FFJune 26th 2009.

So is K.

TrevorJune 26th 2009.

I thought this was a serious piece and this silliness does it no credit because everybody in a position of power should look to bring about the local justice idea.

Trace GeeJune 26th 2009.

He doesn't like ID cards. He's the police chief. I've waited so long for someone to in real authority to say that. ID cards are so wrong, so as the man says, un-British.

FFJune 26th 2009.

I've been seeing your sister x

spicyJune 26th 2009.

Er, vespasian, ID cards may be voluntary in the initial stages, but the likelihood is that after trialling it the government may decide to make them compulsary. The problem is that while they may be voluntary, they will be voluntary in name only. Look at what they are doing at Manchester Airport - they are trying to MAKE all staff have them. It probably will not be a legal requirement for you to produce your ID card on demand to a copper, but what do you think will happen if you don't? It will appear that you are being obstructive which would probably give the cops grounds to stop and search. ID cards are fundamentally unBritish, the legislation is an expensive mess and the chief constable merely appears to be reflecting the level of wariness that many others have. And good on him. He's put his head above the parapet on this one and it's good to see he's not going to play the government's game.

KJune 26th 2009.


NO2IDJune 26th 2009.

Again, the really scary thing about ID Cards isn't what they're used for now, it's what future governments use them for. And let's not forget, Airport workers are being forced to get them at application (or they can't get a job) and existing workers are going to have to get them as acceptable ID

VespasianJune 26th 2009.

Actually, when you listen to the interview, he says he's against having compulsory ID cards that people have to carry with them all the time. Considering ID cards are voluntary - you don't have to have one if you don't want one - and the law (Identity Cards Act 2006) says the police specifically CAN'T demand to see your ID card, unlike your driving license by the way, then the ID card we're getting already meets his worrries. And he did say he'd be happy to have one too. That's what's wrong with the ID card debate in this country though. Everyone thinks they know what they are: compulsory; the polic can demand to see them etc;, and almost nobdy has bothered to find out the truth which is completely different. Even Chief Constables apparently.

KJune 26th 2009.

Marry me babe x

K's sisterJune 26th 2009.

I have something to tell you, FF...............I'm a man

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