Infographics are all the rage these days. Some of them eloquently explain complex subject matters in a more accessible form, such as this one on inequalities from The Guardian, some dress up simplistic information so as to make it seem more impressive. Katy Bourne, recently elected as the first Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, fell into the second category when she decided to list the achievements of her first 100 days in office. Her infographic, below, amply damages the old adage that a picture can be worth a thousand words. In this case it can’t even justify the fewer than 100 words in it.
All Police and Crime Commissioners are obliged by law to produce a Police and Crime Plan. Therefore, Katy Bourne can hardly claim that her fulfilling her basic job description is much of an achievement. Perhaps if she had produced two or three…? Seriously though, it takes a competent reader less than ten minutes to digest her ‘Plan’. It reads like everything else in public life since Blair invented the verbless sentence. Perhaps she discovered the Laughing Bhudda’s mission statement generator? In other words, it says jack shit.
That’s hardly surprising, since she had very little to say before the election. The only departures from bland say nothing politics were in an interview with me, when she claimed that the public in Brighton had a liberal attitude to drugs and that she thought that policing should reflect local needs. Despite being frequently asked about that ~ a wild position for a Sussex Tory ~ she has chosen to ignore all the questions, as if she never said such a thing, yet she hasn’t denied the veracity of the interview either.
Knowing that a Tory was bound to be elected, Sussex Police started the cuts early, so Ms Bourne didn’t have to raise the tax after her election. In exchange, she rehired the existing Chief Constable. That was her big chance to stamp her policy portfolio on the job and she blew it. She tells us that £1,625,000 has been “allocated” across Sussex. That means practically nothing. The money hasn’t been spent. I tried to discover who this money has been allocated to but that information does not appear to be in the public domain. Not much room for scrutiny there then. Without scrutiny, there can be no praise.
Katy Bourne has relentless attended meetings, much as she did before her election. No policy initiatives have emerged from these meetings. During one of them, she told a friend of mine that she had to be addressed as, “Commissioner Bourne“. I’ve been following her political career and this seems to be the only initiative so far: clarifying her proper title. You’d never guess she was a Tory would you?
Most absurdly, she lists the number of followers the official account had on twitter after 100 days. The number is pathetically small. It’s only a couple of hundred more than little old me. By the time of writing, with a bit of self-promotion from her and those who steer her in the Conservative Party Head Office, she’s bumped it up to a couple of thousand. Well done her. Call me churlish but I reckon if you paid me £85,000 a year, I could probably rustle up more followers in the first three months.
She also gives the numbers subscribing to her weekly email newsletter. That’s more a measure of how many press agencies there are in the country than anything else. Neither this nor the twitter follower count have the slightest relevance to policing. The Tories have discovered social media but have not yet discovered what it is for.
Personally, I wouldn’t have bothered with an infographic in these circumstances. If there’s no news, there’s no news. However, she’s the boss of Sussex Police and I am only a humble blogger so rather than moan, I’ve decided to help her out by producing a more honest infographic for her.
All the election candidates wanted to encourage more people to report crimes of domestic abuse. Katy Bourne chose to do this with a campaign (read, press releases) and a 24 hour tweetathon. Elsewhere, in her official literature is says that, “this activity resulted in a marked increase in the reporting of domestic abuse incidents across the whole Christmas period that the campaign was running.”
Did you see the relevant figures for the marked increase in the official infographic? No, neither did I. That’s because they don’t exist. Apparently, prior to the campaign, Sussex Police received about 40 such complaints per day. Possibly that figure might normally be higher during the Christmas period when any lawyer will tell you, the sudden assembling of families leads to much more conflict (there is an surge in fork stabbings, for example). Presumably, calling the increase “marked” is more dramatic than giving the actual figures. I’ve asked Katy Bourne for the figures. If she doesn’t provide them, I’ll stick in a Freedom of Information Act request. Then we’ll see what she means by “marked“.
Update paragraph: 4th March 2013 (same day as original post): Ms Bourne pointed me to two web pages, which were not linked to from the blurb about her first 100 days. Here is the first page and here is the second page. These pages make it clear that reports of domestic abuse rose by more than 50% during the tweetathon. Many bloggers would just delete the paragraph above but I prefer to leave in situ. It looks like I was wrong, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the picture isn’t quite as clear as all that. The increase only relates to a short period of time. It is possible that what might have got reported at other times, got squeezed into the tweetathon period. We won’t know one way or another, until we see the figures for the whole year. It’s also worth highlighting that the figures related to what was reported rather than what the police saw fit to record as crimes. However, I got my facts wrong. For example, the police receive an average of 55 calls about domestic abuse each year, not 40 as I said above. Why didn’t Mr Bourne include this success in her infographic?
She also reports that she has, on eleven occasions gone to work at seven in the morning and has, on an unknown number of occasions, been at work until three in the morning. Credit where credit is due. Not many Tories know what a full day’s work is.
In conclusion, Ms Bourne says, “These first 100 days have been a whirlwind of activity and so much has been achieved.” Shame she couldn’t tell us what.