'Visionary' chief constable Nick Dean shows who's boss


Chief constables of Cambridgeshire: Left: Nick Dean (2018-present). Right: Alec Wood (2015-2018) and Simon Parr (2010-2015) - Credit: Archant

Nick Dean was described as a “visionary” when police and crime commissioner (PCC) Jason Ablewhite appointed him chief constable of Cambridgeshire.  

By last October, when he began a consultation on cuts, Mr Ablewhite had, of course, gone. 

The three candidates for PCC urged suspension of the cuts until after this month’s elections. 

Mr Dean went ahead anyway, slashing numbers of PCSOs by half and axing all bar two public enquiry offices.  

Losing walk-in and immediate contact is not popular.  

One woman told us if it wasn't for being able to go and talk to someone in person about a crime “then I would have never gone forward with contacting the police.  

“For victims of crimes it can be more anxious for them to 'book' an appointment and for some if they are unable to talk face to face then the crime will go unnoticed”.  

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In Ely a mother told us: “My one-year-old and I were knocked off my bike. 

“You can only report online for property damage. Injuries you have to report in person, which meant going into Cambridge with my toddler in the middle of a pandemic.  

“I cried at the guy on 101. I didn't report it.”  

Lib Dem PCC candidate Rupert Moss-Eccardt believes the cash to keep the offices open was available. 

 “Cambridgeshire Police should not be retreating behind locked doors,” he says.   

“Online or phone access are not always appropriate and is a further weakening of community engagement.  

Mr Dean defends his position, saying that “we are having to streamline our services.   

“It is with regret that we can’t keep our walk-in services at more of our enquiry offices but unfortunately with the financial constraints that I outlined last year it isn’t possible.”   

Not since Ben Gunn has a chief constable for Cambridgeshire stayed in post longer than five years.  

He been here for three, the same length of time served by his predecessor Alex Wood (2015-2018).  

Simon Parr held the reigns for five years, the same length of time served by her predecessor Julie Spence.  

Tom Lloyd managed three (but there were special circumstances for the curtailment of his time in office) whilst Mr Gunn managed a healthy eight years from 1994 to 2002.  

Casting aside Mr Lloyd’s three-year term (he resigned in 2005 after claims he had made “inappropriate sexual comments to a woman official”) it was to Julie Spence that Cambridgeshire police turned for leadership. 

In 2010 she retired noting that Government spending cuts will have an "impact" on frontline policing. 

She complained that £1m was being trimmed from the Government’s annual grant and ordered a recruitment freeze. 

That same year Simon Parr took over, again being forced to look at costs.  

Two years in, he promised senior and middle management posts were being axed to allow more front-line officers and PCSOs to be recruited. 

He put community policing at the centre of the police agenda.  

"The government getting rid of great big national targets has been beneficial... meaning much more freedom for our area commanders,” he told one interviewer. 

"This means that wherever you are in the county, if something is important to you, the police can crack on and deal with that," he said. 

"That's much more important than meeting some anonymous national target.” 

By 2015 he was ready to retire observing that with “a   new government in place and a new round of spending challenges” it was time to hand over to some to lead the force through the next five years. 

Alec Wood, who took over, retired after three, having vowed to keep the number of constables on the frontline at about 1,300. 

The argument persisted then, as now, as to whether Cambridgeshire receives the national average funding and whether it continues to have fewer officers per head of population. 

Many, including those from his own Conservative party, believe acting PCC Ray Bisby has been ineffectual in taking on the chief constable.  

How a new police and crime commissioner – from whatever political party -reacts with the chief constable will be seen after May 6.