HMICFRS’ Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales
Response from: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Hampshire and Isle of Wight.
What are the most significant issues and difficulties which have faced the police service in England and Wales in 2020, and how well has the service responded to them?
Responding to the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented difficulties, but what is has shown is the dedication and determination of our police force. Hampshire Constabulary continues to have one of the lowest rates of COVID staff absence during this time, implementing the necessary precautions for staff and wellbeing support has supported this, alongside commitment to keep the force protecting those in need.
As a result of the pandemic, where new laws have been brought in, navigating the landscape of centrally enforced lockdowns and associated fixed penalty notices, our officers continue to deliver to the 4Es (Engage, Encourage, Explain, Enforcement). With our vast coastlines and rural hotspots for visitors, the safety of our officers and the public has remained at the forefront of our engagement, while working our way through these challenges.
Online presence cannot replace the need for face to face engagement and reassurance. Online tools have facilitated virtual communications, however, for those digitally excluded we continue to work to ensure communication is available to as many residents across our policing area as possible.
Recognition that the impact has been significant upon our residents, especially from a wellbeing and mental health perspective. We’ve seen those who were not known to police now present as higher intensity users due to their support networks being restricted and in some cases paused. The termination of face to face support, not being able to access public services while also not being classed as vulnerable has left those previously coping now surfacing with more needs.
What do you consider the service does especially well, and in what respects should it improve?
Keeping people at the heart of policing is an area Hampshire Constabulary performs especially well. The majority of our officers have the innate drive to help, to protect. We believe this core aspect of policing is a driver for maintaining our good service delivery even under some of the toughest of circumstances over the years, from reduced funding through to the current pandemic.
There are always improvements that can be made across forces. Following the last twelve months and the feelings of isolation and loneliness, communication is key. Engaging with communities, making information around policing accessible is an area where we can continue to develop.
What should the police service be doing now to ensure it can provide the best possible service to the public in the year ahead?
Continuing to target those who cause harm to residents, to our communities. As we see crime types evolving, the targeting of those vulnerable across our communities, our approach to disrupting and stopping criminal activity evolves. Cross agency working, cross force working, the sharing of data and intelligence is key to this. Here in Hampshire we’ve seen with the emergence of our Violence Reduction Unit and the multiagency practices being developed, this collaborative project approach supports the development of the intelligence picture, especially as criminal activity is borderless.
How do you think the police service is facing the challenges of the changing face of criminality?
The continuing demand from traditional crimes such as burglaries, theft and vehicle crime do continue and remain at the forefront of the public’s perception of crime.
The approach to tackling those hidden crimes which represent the greatest risk to the public are often not those on the mind of the community as their highest priority. Yet they must continue to be the focus of the Constabulary.
Landing the messages of the Constabulary’s Force Control Strategy will be key, and help inform the public as to what will keep them safer.
Significant changes in criminal behaviours and methods of delivery are evident. HMICFRS inspectors should respond to these changes and focus on what will be required to demonstrate operationally effective, modern, forward looking and sustainable approaches to fit constabularies for the future. The best forces will be innovative, manage risk within resources available and continue to deliver for the community.
The change to growing regional and national partnerships within policing should be recognised through the inspection program. And other partnerships should also be tested for maximising policing outcomes in a holistic environment of public service to the community.