10 July 2019: Responding to Home Office Front Line Review

10 July 2019

The Commissioner responds to the Home Office Frontline Review which prioritises wellbeing and mental health of officers:

This is a timely and well evidenced report that delivers what it says on the tin – It is the voice of the Front Line across policing. And it is another, and an authoritative, call to action.

There is much to digest, but I particularly welcome the emphasis on police officer wellbeing. Police officers put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe, sometimes at great cost to their own health and wellbeing. As a Police and Crime Commissioner, it has always been clear to me that we must protect them, as they protect us. And that this foundational responsibility is added-value beyond the moral justification for protecting our Front Line – it also delivers greater impact from policing for all our communities and contributes to all of us being SAFER.

With this in mind, I am delighted to have been ahead of the game in regards to wellbeing – I invested £760,000 earlier this year in a package to enhance the support given to officers who have been exposed to traumatic incidents or have been physically injured in the course of duty. This investment also enables greater access to health screening services.

Other recommendations identify the pressures that arise from issues related to mental ill-health.  Recognising how stretched police resources are, it has also been a primary focus of mine to invest in initiatives that reduce demand on policing, such as the improved access to mental health crisis support from trained mental health professionals rather than police officers. I welcome the progress already made and the reinforcement of a national priority for a consistent approach to delivery of appropriately expert services available 24/7.

So very often, policing is the point of last resort for members of the public, and our Front Line will not willingly fail those in need, it is in the core value set and ethos of policing. Keeping people safer is a responsibility that must be shared through collaborative working that helps release officers back to the front line where they are needed most.  I have always sought to be in partnership with colleagues to ensure the vulnerable are served by those with the skill and expertise to best protect, and ensure preventative action, response and appropriate support is available.  I recognise the pressures reported from the Front Line in this review of the over-burdening of already stretched resources and the adverse impact on effectiveness by this additional burden on policing that should more properly lie elsewhere.  Leadership at all levels must get the message clearly given in this review and respond.

A key part of a PCC remit is to challenge – as a critical friend – the Chief Constable, to examine what practices need updating and changing to meet demand, now and into the future.  My challenges seek to hear how the operational plan is delivered with the resources, capacities and skills that we have today – the tactical now.  But I extend my discussions and challenges to establish the impact on all our communities’ safety from stretched budgets and to understand clearly when risks have grown too large.  This is a time of change, but we should change to meet the need, and not for the sake of it.

Whatever the pressures, we must make some early progress and commit to stabilising and strengthening, I am proud to have fought for my Force and very glad Government, through this review will provide added momentum set consistent national approaches for best practice – including some pioneered here in my own area and by Hampshire Constabulary.