I imagine that any reader of this column will have at least a vague recollection of the fact that, some months ago, we elected a Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset.
Now that Commissioner Underhill has had time to fit his feet under the table, I was keen to meet him – and he has evidently been doing the rounds of Dorset MPs in just the way you would expect.
I have to report that Mr Underhill is both charming and impressive – and I say this notwithstanding the fact that he is an Independent and defeated an excellent candidate from my own political party.
So far from grandstanding or political posturing, what Mr Underhill offers is a combination of seriousness in holding the police to account and advocacy for Dorset’s policing interests.
As we talked it became clear to me that the new commissioner has already become someone with whom Dorset residents communicate in a way that was never possible with the inevitably much more anonymous police authority. People make contact with him and he is making contact with people – so he genuinely has a sense of what it is that concerns people about the way they are policed.
It is also clear, however, that because of his own background in policing, he has a real sense of what is really going on in the Dorset force, and understands very well the pressures our police are under.
I was particularly keen to find out whether the Commissioner had proper and full access to all the relevant information – and it became evident that he does indeed have such access. He is nobody’s fool, and in his quiet way I would imagine that he is a pretty decisive figure when it comes to discussions with the senior management from the Chief Constable downwards.
We are fortunate to have a good police force in Dorset – but I am pretty confident that Commissioner Underhill is going to make it an even better police force.