TATTOOED officers could be forced to cover up while on duty as part of plans that Gwent’s new Police and Crime Commissioner has to boost people’s confidence in the police.

Speaking to the Argus, PCC Ian Johnston said he thought it was “wholly inappropriate” for officers to have tattoos on show while on duty.

Mr Johnston, 60, said: “It may sound old-fashioned and show my age, but it gives totally the wrong impression.

Somebody with a tattoo which covers the whole of their arm, it doesn’t reassure the public that individual is a police officer who is on their side.

“If they decide to have this body art, while they’re on duty they should cover it up.”

Mr Johnston said plans are under way to make this part of police policy.

This forms part of a wider range of plans to get people to have more faith in the force after a Home Office crime survey showed Gwent Police was the joint worst-performing force in England and Wales in a crime survey about people’s attitudes towards the police.

Only 53 per cent of 769 people asked said they agreed or strongly agreed that police deal with local concerns.

South Yorkshire Police also recorded 53 per cent.

In Dyfed Powys, 68 per cent of 788 people agreed, in North Wales it was 61 per cent of 758 people and in South Wales, 59 per cent of 727 people agreed.

The average for England and Wales was 61 per cent out of 38,107 people.

This poor performance came despite the fact that in the year to September, Gwent Police recorded the largest drop in recorded crime in England and Wales, the fifth quarter in a row the force has seen the largest or joint largest fall in overall crime, year on year.

Mr Johnston said: “This is good news, but I’m more concerned about the level of public confidence in policing in Gwent, It’s more important the public feel that the police are giving them a good professional service.

“A lot of people don’t believe in figures and my ambition is to make people safe and make them feel safe, it’s not just about crime figures.”

He said follow-ups from police officers after people report crime is important, and he and Mr Harris have been meeting community groups and individuals in order to find out about the issues they have, on which he calls officers to account.

'No point in interviews for deputy'

MR JOHNSTON defended his decision to appoint longterm colleague Paul Harris as his £52,000-a-year deputy.

Accusations of cronyism were levelled at him but Mr Johnston said Mr Harris, 54, is “somebody who can do the job and somebody I trust.”

Mr Johnston said: “To me, it’s more honest to appoint someone than go through the pretence of interviews.

In terms of time scale, getting on with the job and following the rules laid down, I thought it was the best way forward.”

He said when he made the decision to stand in June, he called Mr Harris to tell him he wanted him on his staff.

Mr Harris joined the force as a 17-year-old cadet, and patrolled in uniform in Pontypool and Cwmbran before joining CID and working in the force’s fraud squad. He retired from policing two years ago.

Mr Johnston was Mr Harris’ detective sergeant when Mr Harris was a detective constable in 1981. His appointment to deputy was approved by the Gwent police and crime panel with no objections.

Mr Harris said: “You could have gone through a charade [of interviews] and had Ian made the appointment, you would still have had the same flack.”

Mr Johnston said he and Mr Harris had been “extremely well-received”

by rank-and-file police officers and police staff and said he had a “professional relationship”

with Chief Constable Carmel Napier, whom he meets on a weekly basis.

When asked if he had a mandate with such a poor voter turnout in the PCC elections, just 14.3 per cent in Gwent, Mr Johnston said: “The reality is we’ve had the election, I’m here in the post and determined to make a real difference, whether I’ve got a mandate or not is academic, it’s here and now and we need to get on.”

COMMENT: Police boss is thorough

GWENT police and crime commissioner Ian Johnston has defended appointing former colleague Paul Harris as his deputy.

A fairly bullish Mr Johnston says it is far better he appointed someone he knows and, more importantly, trusts, than to take on some unknown after an interview. We can’t say we fully agree with this stance.

We see nothing wrong in a post being advertised, interviews taking place and the job being awarded at the end of that process. However, we appreciate Mr Johnston’s openness and honesty and his willingness to defend his policy against his critics.

We made no bones about the fact that we did not approve of the government policy to introduce PCCs.

And given the low turnout at the election we weren’t the only ones with that view.

But as Mr Johnston says, he is in post and must now be judged by his actions.

What is clear is that he is determined to make a difference.

He could have sat back and merely applauded Gwent Police for recording the largest drop in crime in England and Wales in the latest batch of statistics, but instead he has rounded on the one figure which was not so good for Gwent, covering the rates of public satisfaction.

He says the level of public confidence in the police can be just as important as results.

And we feel he may well have a point.