2 November 2018: Supporting policing doing ‘what policing and only policing can do’ to keep our communities SAFER

02 November 2018

Policing is under significant pressure, with operational demand rising and resources being stretched due to prolonged underfunding. The question of what police should focus on has become topical again following the APCC & NPCC Partnership Summit this week.

I support NPCC Chair Sarah Thornton, other senior police leaders, and like-minded colleague PCCs in the call for prioritising core policing. Policing must do first what only policing can do: Investigating and detecting crime, pursuing offenders and bringing them to justice must remain at the heart of policing. This applies to any crime, from the most serious violent crimes that cause great harm to a few, to the more common crimes that affect many more of us, such as burglaries and thefts. It also must include what the public want police to do to keep them SAFER within their local communities.

Enhancing this focus must recognise that something else must give, unless fairer funding is achieved or additional resources can be found.  Today, police continue to be asked: to record incidents that don’t qualify as a crime; attend incidents where those experiencing distress would be better supported by trained mental health professionals; or pursue offences where education would have a more lasting impact than a conviction. Recognising how stretched police resources are, it has been a primary focus of my work since my election as Police and Crime Commissioner to invest in initiatives that reduce demand on policing and allow officers and staff to focus on their core responsibilities.  Balancing operational activity and keeping our communities safest is so key for me and the communities I represent that I am raising it frequently with my Chief Constable, including at our COMPASS meetings.

Working with many partners, initiatives beyond policing that reduce demand on policing include:

  • Hate crime: Because it is not the primary focus of the police to record and investigate every hate incident that is not a criminal offence, I have invested £100,000 in tackling this issue across my area – including increasing the number of third party reporting centres, where those affected by hate incidents will find the help, support and advice they need. These centres also provide a triaging service by ensuring serious hate crimes are appropriately reported to the police so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.
  • Mental Health: I have only recently provided essential funding in collaboration with NHS commissioners to further improve access to mental health crisis support from trained mental health professionals rather than frontline officers. In the past five years, this partnership has decreased mental health deployments by Hampshire Constabulary by 45%, which is against the rising national trend.
  • FGM: Because it is more important to prevent young girls becoming victims of Female Genital Mutilation than to cause further harm by imprisoning members of their family, I am investing in support and advice services provided by other agencies and actively support their education and prevention work with those communities affected by FGM.
  • Diversion and rehabilitation: I continue to invest more than £1m in a significant number of projects run by partners aimed at working directly with those that are susceptible to being drawn into criminality, or are at risk of re-offending. Putting resources into early intervention and prevention as well as rehabilitation reduces the demand on frontline policing, meaning the police can focus more on enforcement.

Despite funding pressures, Hampshire Constabulary continues to be assessed by HMICFRS as GOOD, and the area I serve remains generally SAFE for people to pursue their lives and realise their potential.

Keeping people SAFER is not just a matter for policing but one that must be shared. It is just as much about tackling the root causes of crime as tackling the crime itself and its consequences. It’s this area of POLICING & BEYOND where Police and Crime Commissioners fulfil a vital role in fostering collaboration between public and third sector agencies and bringing together professional organisations, community safety partners, and residents to keep us all SAFER. It is through this collaboration that officers are released back to the front line where they are needed most and can deliver operationally effective outcomes that have a real impact on individuals and communities.

Neither I nor the Constabulary will ever be complacent about the real risks that people face and our responsibilities to work together to keep people SAFER, to prevent crime, and to deter criminal and harmful behaviours.