Jane Kennedy is today marking the fifth anniversary since she took office as Merseyside’s first Police and Crime Commissioner.
Jane was voted into the position on November 15th 2012, officially starting in the role a week later on November 22nd 2012, the date when she took her first oath of office.
The former Broadgreen and Wavertree MP was re-elected to serve a second term on 6th May 2016, after securing 61.7% of the public vote.
During her five years in office, Jane fought against the potentially devastating cuts of up to 40% to the police budget proposed by the then coalition government, and has continually lobbied ministers for more money for local policing. Despite the Chancellor promising to protect police budgets in 2015, more cuts have followed although on a smaller scale.
She won public approval for a major plan to overhaul Merseyside Police’s stations and buildings and the 10-year strategy is now progressing well. New Community Police Stations have been opened at the heart of communities across Merseyside. A new Operational Command Centre in Speke is close to completion and plans are approved to build a new Merseyside Police Headquarters on a major gateway into Liverpool on Scotland Road. All of this work aims to save more than £2m from the annual running costs for the police’s buildings.
The Commissioner has established Victim Care Merseyside – a new package of care and support for vulnerable victims of crime.
Last year she appointed Andy Cooke QPM as Chief Constable following the retirement of the previous Chief, Sir Jon Murphy.
Reflecting on her five years in office, Jane said: “There is no doubt that this role is much bigger and much tougher than I ever imagined it would be when I was running for election.
“When I took office I made one simple promise – to work very hard to do the best job for Merseyside, for the police and for the community they serve. I’ve worked as hard as I can to deliver this promise and I believe that despite the depressing context of austerity there have been some major success stories.
“We’ve introduced a whole new system of care and support for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, with extra support for victims of the most serious crimes including rape, sexual assault and hate crime and young victims of domestic abuse and sexual exploitation.
“I’ve also been working hard to make sure Merseyside Police has the infrastructure it needs to fight crime and keep our communities safe. Many of the buildings our officers are working from are inefficient, out-dated and not fit-for-purpose. I’m committed to changing that. With the support of the public, I’m implementing a 10-year plan to modernise and transform our stations and buildings, ensuring the men and women of Merseyside Police have the facilities they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
“We have also improved the technology our officers & PCSOs use. Over the last five years, body worn cameras have been issued to frontline officers, as have handheld devices which enable officers and PCSOs to do more of their work on the move, out in the communities of Merseyside. I also secured funding for video badge cameras which are now provided to high risk victims of hate crime and anti-social behaviour to prevent crime and increase the likelihood of a successful prosecution.
“A lot of work has gone into improving the care for those in mental ill health who come into contact with the police. We now have dedicated triage cars and mental health nurses in our custody suites. I have also commissioned an Appropriate Adults service which ensures vulnerable people who are detained in custody have all the support and guidance they need during the process, while our Independent Custody Visitors check on the condition under which people are detained.
“Partnership has been key to much of this work and I’ve been fortunate to Chair both the Merseyside Criminal Justice Board and the Merseyside Community Safety Partnerships – two important boards which are making a difference to the way we keep our communities safe and deliver criminal justice in the region.
Jane has also reflected on the challenges facing the force and what lies ahead for the next three years. She said: “Merseyside Police has lost more than 1,000 police officers in the last seven year and over 1,700 people in total.
“This has had a dramatic effect, not only on the service that it can deliver but also on the people who are left behind. They are under increasing strain – crime is more complex than ever, the threat level remains high and there are fewer people than ever before.
“I have dedicated much of my time over the last five years to lobbying government, highlighting the unique demands we face in Merseyside and emphasising the need for more funding. One of my most pleasing moments as Police Commissioner was when the former Chancellor George Osborne did a dramatic U-turn in November 2012 by announcing there would be ‘no cuts at all in police budgets’.
“Sadly, it is has now been proven that the Government have failed to keep this promise. In real terms the police have faced major cuts, and there are still more to come. Merseyside Police is facing cuts of a further £18m by 2021/22.
“A huge amount of work is going into planning into how we can make these cuts in the safest way possible, with the least impact on our communities. However, there is no doubt that if these cuts are imposed there will be a significant effect upon the service Merseyside Police currently delivers.
“Protecting our communities and making sure people feel safe in their homes should be a primary responsibility for the government. Crime is now at the highest level in a decade, nationally there has been a worrying increase in violent crime and the threats we face are growing, yet officer numbers have dwindled to their lowest level since 1985.
“It is time ministers recognised their responsibility, put our communities first and put a stop to this reckless programme of austerity. I will continue to work with our local MPs to lobby government directly to reverse this trend and properly fund our police service.”