I've always had a lot of time for Mike Fuller, Chief Constable of kent Police. Years ago we had real problems in Pembury with anti social behaviour, and I contacted Mike to ask for help. The response was astonishing, and within a few weeks Pembury's problems had largely been resolved.
So I take very seriously his comments in today's Guardian, "Labour Making Our Job Harder" (click here to open link). He claims that as a result of government ministers ordering police to "deliver" more criminals to justice, our prison system is now creaking under the strain - to the extent that hardened offenders are either being released early, or worse still, escaping the prison system altogether in order to keep numbers down.
He also commented on the performance inspection regime, a topic which often causes concern in local government. It appears that as a Chief Constable, much of Mike Fuller's time is spent reporting to no less than thirteen separate official bodies.
This isn't the first time I've heard these kind of problems in the emergency services; the Fire and Rescue Service are in the same ridiculous situation, being over-managed and over-regulated.
Indeed, a much-trumpeted new local government performance management culture promised to reduce the thirteen hundred-odd performance indicators to around two hundred. I heard yesterday that a new range of indicators will take us back up to around thirteen hundred for Kent County Council.
Why can't our police force just be left to police?