From Borneo to Thames Valley: Meet Police Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld

Anthony Stansfeld at the PCC count in Aylesbury
Anthony Stansfeld at the PCC count in Aylesbury

I HAVEN’T checked, but I’m pretty certain none of the other Police and Crime Commissioners elected this week have led army patrols through the jungles of Borneo or commanded helicopter squadrons during the Falklands War.

But Thames Valley Police’s new PCC Anthony Stansfeld has done those things and more in a varied career which saw him rise to top positions in both the military and later in industry.

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Mr Stansfeld’s latest role, for which he stood as a Conservative and will earn a salary of £85,000, will see him preside over 8,000 police officers and an annual budget of £400m.

This week, speaking before he takes up his new position on Thursday, he told the Citizen:

* Milton Keynes is the part of Thames Valley he knows least about

* As PCC he will have the power to stand up to Central Government and influence the criminal justice system

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* Party political candidates were necessary as “there is nothing less democratic than an Independent”

* Turnout will increase for the next PCC election

* His pay is half that of the Chief Constable and more than 20 people in the Force earn more

* More cuts would downgrade the police force – but enough should have been made already

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Born in Newbury, Mr Stansfeld’s eclectic career started when, aged 17, he joined the Royal Green Jackets and saw active service in Borneo and Northern Ireland.

He later learned to fly helicopters and commanded various Army Air Corps Squadrons, including in the Falklands in 1982.

A four-month spell carrying out reconnaissance for the crossing of the Darien Gap in Panama and Columbia, and a period spent taking young people through the jungles of Honduras and Belize help make him as well travelled a PCC as you will ever find.

He then spent two years as Chief of Staff Intelligence in the Far East, before leaving the military to become managing director of aircraft company, Pilatus Britten Norman.

It is that industry experience that Mr Stansfeld says will help him deal with the huge budgets he will face as PCC – and the financial pressure that brings.

Thames Valley Police has already made major cuts due to the ongoing financial crises, but Mr Stansfeld said – barring more monetary problems in Europe – more cutbacks shouldn’t be forthcoming.

He said: “The police have already taken a big cut. In real terms, about 20 per cent. It was supposed to be over four years, but was very much front loaded.

“In some ways we have more police on the beat now, as a layer of police bureaucracy was removed which made considerable savings.”

He added: “Hopefully it is all done. We have no idea what the finances of Europe are going to do.

“It isn’t only outside my hands, but probably outside the hands of the Government as well.

“We live in a world where money is very tight. I hope there won’t be any more cuts.

“Any more will downgrade the presence of the police. We have to be very careful.”

Mr Stansfeld speaks from a position of experience, having been a member of the soon to be defunct Thames Valley Police Authority.

Last year he acted as chairman of the authority’s performance committee, setting the targets police have to meet and overseeing a 15 per cent fall in crime.

But he told the Citizen that as PCC he would have much more power to influence the Government – and to represent the people of Thames Valley.

“The Police Authority was 19 people. It did what it was required to do, but the most effective committee is a committee of one.

“As someone who is elected, all be it by a small number of people, you have a far more powerful base to say what needs doing to Central Government and to the criminal justice and crime prosecution systems.

“You are in a much more powerful position to get things done. There is more of a public interface.

“The Police Authority did its bit to get out to people, but it hardly got the public attention.

“PCCs have more power to kick the Government, whichever party it may be. I am here to stick up for the people of Thames Valley.”

And he said this ability to directly represent the people makes the role more democratic than its predecessor.

He also moved to defend the fact most PCC candidates across the country were affiliated to political parties.

“There is nothing less democratic than an Independent, as no-one knows what he stands for.

“Any expenditure of public money has to be done by someone who is elected. What this has done has made it far more democratic.

“The Home Secretary is relaying the Government position, as is the Prime Minister. They work with civil servants in the police force.

“What you have done now is give that authority to someone who is elected locally.”

Mr Stansfeld was also happy to address concerns raised about the low turnout across the region – and, indeed, nationally. In Milton Keynes, just 13.3 per cent of the population voted. The same amount turned out across Thames Valley as a whole.

But the new PCC said he was confident this would improve by the time the next vote took place following the end of his term in May 2016.

“I think there will be a much higher turnout next time.

“The elections will be held in conjunction with council elections and in the summer rather than a rainy autumn.

“I think people will understand it next time, that this is about democratising the police.

“There was a universally bad press nationally and a number of police organisations came out against the idea.

“The Government was hoisted between two flags. If it spent more on the elections it would have been hung out to dry. But the lack of free mail meant many people didn’t vote.

“It was the first time it was ever held and I was in a position where we made the best of it.

“We got thousands of leaflets out to voters. I hope at least 30 per cent of the population got our publicity.

“I fully accept that a lot of people don’t look things up on the web, but there was a web based information system.”

Asked about his £85,000 pay packet, he said he thought it was ‘reasonably fair’.

“It is half as much as the Chief Constable is getting and more than 20 people in the force earn more,” Mr Stansfeld said.

“Anybody who is earning less than somebody usually questions it.

“Compared to somebody running a quango it is very low pay.”

But he did admit his knowledge of Milton Keynes was far from encyclopedic.

“I saw the crime stats for Milton Keynes (in his role on the Police Authority).

“Do I know MK very well? I come to that part of the world quite often as my parents-in-law live in Olney.

“But I think the MK area is the one I currently know least.”

It is something he aims to put right and, with his history for getting out in the field, expect to see the new Police and Crime Commissioner in your area soon.

“I am hoping I won’t be stuck too much behind a desk. I aim to be visiting people constantly,” he added.