Police play down Chief Constable poll

ESSEX Police officers and staff are being asked to take part in an unofficial poll to gauge their opinion of the force's Chief Constable Roger Baker. The survey was launched after Mr Baker came under fire on a police internet site's discussion forums, allegedly from his own rank and file officers.

By Roddy Ashworth

ESSEX Police officers and staff are being asked to take part in an unofficial poll to gauge their opinion of the force's Chief Constable Roger Baker.

The survey was launched after Mr Baker came under fire on a police internet site's discussion forums, allegedly from his own rank and file officers.

But yesterday a police spokeswoman insisted the poll was not reliable because there was no way of knowing who was voting or whether they were actually police employees at all.


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The anonymous poll forms part of the independent Police Oracle website, which caused controversy after members criticised Mr Baker's policies and style of management.

The poll asks of Essex Police staff the question 'Do you support Mr Baker?' and gives five options for voters to choose.

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But yesterday just two of the votes were cast for “Yes he is doing a great job” while 63 votes - or 96.9% - were cast for “I have no confidence in Mr Baker or his methods”.

Yesterday however, Essex Police spokeswoman Kim Perks said: “The numbers reflected in the so-called opinion poll are tiny in the context of the 6,300 full and part-time staff that Essex Police employs and there is no evidence that it is Essex staff who have voted, or that the same person hasn't voted numerous times.

“That does not mean we are not taking the comments on the website seriously. If any of the comments are true we need to get to the bottom of them and address them.”

The state of Essex Police and Mr Baker, who became chief constable 13 months ago, are the subject of more than 25 pages of discussion on the Police Oracle website.

The online debate has been viewed more than 22,000 times, with more than 520 opinions expressed, many of them highly critical of Mr Baker's tactics.

Essex Police said the criticisms were “misleading and inaccurate”.

And some of those posting supported Mr Baker, suggesting that problems within the force were not of his making but were the Government's fault.

However one anonymous contributor, known online as “Mr Plod” and described as an Essex officer with more than 20 years' service, alleged the force was a “total mess” and morale was “lower than I have ever known”.

The contributor added: “Since taking over one year ago, practical policing has gone out the window - instead it is arrest, arrest, arrest. No matter who, or for what, just figures, and every section has weekly targets.

“As a result, discretion goes out the window and folks, mainly law abiding who have committed minor misdemeanours, are being lifted for offences that are going nowhere. This of course allows prolific criminals to run round doing as they like.”

Another complainant told the website that “The only word coming from the top is detection” and alleges Mr Baker has a “do it or I'll find someone else to do it” attitude.

There are also allegations that Essex Police “massages” its crime figures and that the public is being misled on the real level of crime due to tactics being required of junior officers.

Mr Baker was not available for comment yesterday as he was on leave with his family.

But Essex Police Authority Chairman Robert Chambers said: “I am 150% behind Mr Baker.

“If there are any officers who are unhappy with the policies of the police authority or the police force then they should contact the chief constable - he is more than happy to talk to them.

“I can understand if you have a junior constable that might appear a bit foreboding, but that is the kind of man Mr Baker is.

“I am quite sure if there are genuine concerns they will be looked into.”

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