Back to work

Having come back from Holland last night – swing straight into action with visit to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). First impressions are important – and wow they have nice offices. So when John Wadham tells me that there was a deliberate policy to distance this new organisation from the police and the sort of police atmosphere in order to establish that they are totally independent – I would say they have succeeded. This was more like an ad agency than those rabbit warren, linoleum floored, old institutional fortresses that we so associate with law and order.

And they have had a tall order. More usually famous for their headline inquiries (de Menezes etc) than the bread and butter work of investigating and monitoring complaints, the task to gain public confidence is all. Plagued by high profile leaks from their ranks which caused distress to employees and all, they brought in an independent investigator to sort out their leaks and security. This whole system needs safeguards – but it also needs trust. The public faith in the police and in the complaints procedure has to be paramount – and so security and independence is vital.

When I was first serving on the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) one of my roles was go round to different police complaints departments and look through case files. Needle in a haystack work – but the point was that you could pick out stuff; you could get a pretty good feel for what went on between police person and complainant and you could understand the frustrations on both sides. I don’t suppose unless every exchange was taped you would ever really know the absolute truth – but the audit trails must be capable of picking up trends in a particular station or from a particular officer.

Anyway – all of this transferred to the new IPCC who seem to have a pretty thorough grip on the work – albeit the workload is substantive. Outside of the headline investigations into murders and deaths in custody, they also supervise numerous other investigations as well as having a general remit on police complaints and appeals against decisions. Add to this the new roles of investigating complaints against officers in the immigration and asylum departments which is coming down the line in legislation – next week second reading in Parliament – and they have a monumental task on their hands.

I then dash off to do the Simon Mayo Program on blogging and pod-casting – only to find that the content has changed consequent on the publication of the Power Commission report. Basically the report finds that democracy is stuffed and we need a new electoral system and power to the people. ‘Scuse me – but it really cheeses me off as Lib Dems have advocated this for decades – but the media have taken no notice. Now it is Labour on Labour – they are sitting up and begging. Oh well……………. Helena Kennedy, Shahid Malik and me are in one studio with Mayo and others in another studio. We all have a short say on the Power Commission findings. I point out that people are just sick of the spin and falseness of politicians and are crying out for anyone who actually believes in anything and isn’t prepared to drop principles for the mere mention of a vote.

Then a quick lobby by BAA to try and persuade me of their sense of conscience and how they try to be sustainable – and to be fair they are trying. However, if attitude to airplane traffic is just to predict and provide – we will get nowhere in saving the planet.

That having been said – I went for three days to Holland last weekend. I decided to take the train both ways to be sustainable – and see the countryside. Of course, travelling all of Friday and Sunday for a Saturday there perhaps I hadn’t got it quite right and a longer stay is needed to justify the four trains each way and the length of travel time. But my conscience felt good!