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Spiritualist standing in new Police and Crime Commissioner elections

Mike Rumble
Mike Rumble

A Stourbridge Spiritualist is standing for election to the newly created role of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, writes Sue Farrow.

Mike Rumble, a member of Stourbridge Spiritualist Church for the past 13 years, is West Midlands born and bred, and joined the police service as a cadet in 1974. He became a constable in 1976 and later a CID detective.

Mike, who is also a qualified police dog handler, was subsequently seconded to regional crime and drugs squads, involving him in operations at both national and international levels. He retired from the force in 1999, having suffered a heart attack following an assault by a suspect he was in the process of arresting.

Since 1999 was the year Mike first visited a Spiritualist church, I asked him if the two events were related.

"Very much so," he says. "In fairness to the offender who assaulted me, it was probably going to happen sometime down the line. Heart conditions are an issue on my mother's side of the family. But to be honest it wasn't the heart attack that worried me. I was only 38 and very, very fit, and suddenly I realised I was not immortal. It's the mental side of it that damages you. You find yourself worrying about dying all the time.

"A friend of mine took me to Stourbridge church and I purposely wore tatty jeans and a T-shirt, because I didn't really want to go through the doors. I'd gone to a C of E church when I was young and to be frank the vicar was a horrible man. He looked down his nose at working-class people and of course I was a working-class lad, so I expected the same attitude. But when you walk through the door at Stourbridge they don't look at what you're wearing, they're only interested in you as a person.

"I received some very good survival evidence over the next few weeks, which put my mind at rest and stopped me worrying about dying, and the reception I received from Eric Hatton on that first visit inspired me to return time and again."

Mike has since retrained as a defence advocate, establishing his own business to provide agency staff for solicitors' firms throughout England and Wales. He plans to resign from the business if he is elected on 15th November.

The proposal for elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) was part of a controversial package of police reforms put forward by Home Secretary Theresa May in a 2010 consultation paper - Policing in the 21st century, which she described as the "most radical reform of policing in 50 years."

The new PCCs will replace current Police Authorities and set their areas' policing priorities over a five-year plan. Further wide-ranging powers will include holding Chief Constables to account for delivering those priorities, managing the entire police budget and commissioning victim support services.

Mike, who states in his campaign manifesto that he has never "been a member of any political party", is funding his election campaign out of his own pocket and feels things are going well.

Crime Commissioner.jpg
"I'm getting a lot of support from police and community support officers," he says. "I'm also getting emails from people who like my independence. I think, as well, there's a feeling that people would like someone who has a history with the police."

Mike says he is "very pro-police and proud of a service that is the envy of the world," but adds that he is "not blind to their faults and occasional failures. The police service is undergoing a period of massive change, much of which the public are not aware of." Morale in the force, he says, "is at an all time low."

His attitude to crime and law enforcement appears down-to-earth and full of common sense. He intends to prioritise funding of victim support services and wants to allow officers "to police using their training, experience and professional discretion, being proactive and firm but fair."

As to zero tolerance policy, he believes it is simply rhetoric. "My experience of zero tolerance is that you alienate the public and arrest the grandmother who forgot she walked out of the shop without paying. That is not policing, it is propaganda."

Mike's use of the word ‘discretion' struck me as interesting. Could it perhaps be translated as the freedom to use common sense? And might that common sense be brought to bear on policing situations other than the forgetful grandmother?

"Absolutely. That would probably occupy the officers for the rest of their day's tour of duty, just dealing with that one incident, rather than allowing them to use their professional knowledge and training."

So what will be top of Mike's list if he's elected?

"The thing I look forward to tackling first would be the budget, to ensure that we have officers and support staff who can actually be there to police the West Midlands. We can't afford to cut any more staff. There's a cash reserve available to the Commissioner and I shall use it to secure jobs, so that we can actually have a presence and deliver a service.

"I also feel very strongly about victim support. All the services must be victim led. Support for offenders is a good thing because we have to divert them away from crime, but at the moment there is too much of that support and very little for victims, and they must be the priority."

Police hat

Consultation is a high priority for Mike, who clearly favours a democratic and inclusive approach to policing. "If I am elected I will invite key organisations, who are experts in their field and in representing the public at large, to form a policy consultative committee," he says.

"Organisations such as Victim Support, Neighbourhood Watch, Barnardos, Age Concern, the Chamber of Commerce and others, instead of campaigning from the outside, will be invited to share their client groups' concerns. In that way I can make the most informed decisions, based on best practice and a truly broad consultation process."

The West Midlands force currently boasts the lowest recorded crime rate in the UK, but Mike underlines the word ‘recorded'.

"At the same time, out of 43 police forces, we are 39th on the list for detection of crime. Given that we're the second-largest force in the country, that's an appalling state of affairs. I think it demonstrates that the public have no real trust in reporting crimes to the police unless for some reason they have to, perhaps for insurance purposes. Obviously that's supported by the fact that the detection rates are so low, and that needs addressing."

Mike believes that under-staffing plays a role in this low detection rate, as do the many changes in the force's structure during recent years.

"They've got rid of a lot of experienced officers under the new A19 regulations - which to you and me would mean redundancy - after their contracted 30 years. Police officers can't be made redundant, so they have to use those regulations. As a result, they've lost a lot of expertise and that makes them weaker."

Crime Commissioner2.jpg

And what about that word ‘discretion' when it comes to policing relatively minor offences?

"When I was an officer, especially a local police officer, there were times when I would find out who had been responsible for things like graffiti or minor damage. I'd go to them and give them the option of apologising to the person who had been affected, or going to the station or court.

"They'd go round and apologise sheepishly, and I found that when the victim knew who the offender was, that took away their fear. It also put that offender in a position where people knew what they'd done, and made them feel really embarrassed. But they also knew that they had been let off, which left them thinking that they could communicate with that officer because he was fair. It worked really well.

"The problem is that we are all born to make mistakes and if you criminalise them formally at that point your can affect young people for the rest of their lives. That has been reflected in the PCC elections, even up to last week,when a Labour party candidate had to withdraw because he suddenly remembered that he had received a minor conviction years ago when he was a juvenile."

For more information on Mike Rumble's election campaign, visit: www.mikerumblewmpcc.co.uk


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