Keeping the Public Informed: Every household in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton will this month receive a leaflet with their council tax bill for 2019/20 that explains how the policing budget is spent.
The substantial support from residents and the Police and Crime Panel for my recommendation to increase the local council tax policing precept by £2 per month for a Band D property will enable me to raise £16 million of essential funding this year to protect local policing and keep communities safer. When making the case for the increase during the last three months, I was clear from the outset that those essential funds will unlock the recruitment and training of more than 200 new officers and 65 police staff investigators, and I am pleased to say that a new cohort of student police officers commenced their training in February.
However, investing in and delivering for policing involves more than just putting more boots on the ground.
Earlier this month, I held a small ceremony to bury a time capsule in the grounds of the Eastern Police Investigation Centre (PIC) in Portsmouth, marking a major milestone ahead of the PIC’s completion in June this year. When officers move into this modern custody and investigation centre in the summer, it will have been almost three years since we secured the site and even longer since the need for improved facilities was identified. The centre will no doubt modernise policing in Portsmouth and the eastern area of the county and improve officer’s ability to keep us all SAFER. Its industry-leading design enables people to be processed more efficiently so frontline officers can return to duty quicker, encourages working across teams, and provides a much better working environment for officers and staff.
With the improved wellbeing of officers in mind and recognising the high pressure and risk police officers face on a daily basis, I have also recently invested £760,000 in a package to enhance the support given to officers. Police officers put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe, sometimes at great cost to their own health and wellbeing. We must protect them, as they protect us. The funding boost will enhance the support given to officers who have been exposed to traumatic incidents, expand rehabilitation services for those who have been physically injured in the course of duty, and provide greater access to health screening services so that health risks can be better treated and prevented.
In other cases, delivering for policing takes the form investing in services provided by other organisations to make an officer’s job easier. Recognising how stretched police resources are it has 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 which will be available 24/7 later this month. Through working in partnership with health services, mental health deployments by Hampshire Constabulary have almost halved in the last five years, which is against the national trend. This latest initiative is excellent progress which will help reduce mental health deployments even further and, most importantly, provide those most vulnerable with the appropriate professional support they need.
Whilst police officers and staff are the ones dealing directly with crime, keeping people SAFER is not just a matter for policing, but one that must be shared. Police and Crime Commissioners fulfil a vital role in fostering collaborative working that helps release officers back to the front line where they are needed most, and enabling them to undertake their role in conditions that support their physical and mental wellbeing.