Commissioner's Blog and Office Update - 20th May
Since the Government announced a partial relaxation of lockdown rules, allowing people unlimited time outside of their homes for exercise and the freedom to travel wherever they want for exercise we have seen a predictable response. Some people will use this freedom to its maximum lawful extent and some will take it even further. Others have decided they won’t change their behaviour and worry that any relaxation of the rules is dangerous and too early. There remain those who for health and age-related reasons remain ‘shielded’, effectively isolated, and who cannot see a safe route out of their current situation without a vaccine or cure, or both, so will remain shielded. There is the additional consideration that infection rates vary from area to area, so what some people believe may be done with relative safety in some parts of the country would carry a potentially enhanced risk in other parts of the country. So, that’s all clear then?
Then today I read that one so-called ‘human rights’ group has criticised the lack of nationally consistent policing of the rules around Covid 19, their view based upon the number of fixed penalty notices issued by different police force areas. Whilst I have stressed the need for a consistent and evidence-based approach to dealing with this whole crisis, I would challenge anyone when faced with the current situation, as described above, to deliver a policing intervention that is intended to save lives, enforce the rules as they currently apply and meet the whole range of expectations expressed by the general public, in a manner that delivers equitable numbers of fixed penalty notices compared to the number of people who live in an area. Real life has a tendency to shatter concepts dreamt up by those sat behind desks producing theories.
Humberside Police remains at the lower end of fixed penalty notices issued for breaches of the rules applying to the Covid 19 pandemic. The approach of Humberside Police has been consistent, at a local level i.e. within the area policed by Humberside Police, and the Chief Constable has shown clear, consistent and vocal leadership in stressing the approach of the Force to engage, explain and encourage compliance. The fact that in the Lake District, for example, where relatively few people live but loads initially attended in breach of the rules, Cumbria Constabulary issued a lot of tickets compared to its actual population, doesn’t bother me much; or at all, really. The phrase ’postcode lottery’ is often bandied around as an easy throwaway when someone wants to imply something is evidently wrong, without any deeper consideration. Context, however, is everything in policing. I am a great believer in policing retaining links to the local community and when it does, a one-size-fits-all approach just won’t do. I would be more worried if every force in the country was issuing around the same number of tickets per head of population. That would suggest, in my opinion, an unhealthy degree of centralised control.
Another issue that popped up in the press this week was a supposed call from the national Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) for a wholesale and urgent review into the police training and use of tasers. For those that may have seen the headlines but did not read further just let me clarify the APCC did not, in fact, ask for this to take place. There have been a couple of recent instances in other police force areas, that have been widely viewed on social media, where there appears to have been an apparent misuse of taser. The first thing I would say is that these instances will be properly investigated and, tempting though it is, people should not jump to conclusions. All the evidence and surrounding circumstances will be examined and if officers have misused the equipment they will be dealt with accordingly. There is however a lawful process to work through first. The PCC for Dorset, who leads on ‘use of force issues’ for the APCC, issued a statement in which he stated he called for review of training around use of tasers. He does not have the authority to issue such a statement on behalf of the whole APCC and a number of PCCs, including myself, immediately came out and disassociated ourselves from it. This is another issue in which a considered and measured local approach with the broader public interest in mind is called for, not issuing a statement aimed at appeasement of certain groups or bodies or virtue signalling. Each police force carries out its own taser training. I have visited the Humberside training and seen for myself the high standards that are taught. As with all training, as lessons are learnt from around the country they are fed into the training to ensure it stays as up-to-date as possible. Whilst the force looks at every use of a taser, including where it hasn’t even been fired, merely drawn and a ‘red dot’ used on a person, I also host a ‘Use of Force Scrutiny Panel’ with independent members of the public on it that review all types of use of force, including use of taser. That Panel has a direct access to me should there be any suggestion the force are not dealing with issues identified. Let me be clear – with the level of violence officers face on a day to day basis I support the issuing of tasers to all officers the Chief Constable believes should have it. I also believe if we are to maintain public confidence, openness in how it has been deployed is required especially when there are doubts about its proper use. That does not translate into an expensive and time consuming national review of all training based upon isolated incidents elsewhere.
The Force is currently bringing together plans for how to shape its services as the lockdown eases even further in coming weeks, assuming instances of Covid 19 continue to stay within the limits set by public health experts. There will be no let-up in efforts to try to keep the lid on crime as reports have decreased during this period of lockdown. We all want fewer victims of crime and that is what the planning is aiming to achieve, as criminals will see the easing of the lockdown as their signal to figuratively don the stripey sweater and pick up the swag bag again. The resilience of the force has been outstanding during this period illustrating a committed workforce and reliable, competent special constables and volunteers and I look forward to seeing how they face this emergent challenge and continue to work on our behalf.
We rightly laud our health and care professionals who have prevented so many deaths during this pandemic and care for our sick and those with additional needs, but I hope some of you reading this share at least some of my pride in the way Humberside Police have reacted to this unprecedented period in our lives, with a sense of duty, professionalism, focus, humility and good humour. That is the essence of British policing and we are all very fortunate during these tragic and trying times to have the police supporting us, not suppressing us, as so many others unfortunately experience elsewhere across the globe.
Police and Crime Commissioner
In the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) we have continued our work attempting to shape services for the vulnerable and victims to meet the changed circumstances. Last week we launched a package of measures to help prevent the targeting of young people for exploitation through their increased use of electronic devices during the lockdown period. We are doing this through Not in Our Community, a brand commissioned through the OPCC that has been doing this type of work directly with young people for a few years now. Given the changed circumstances we wanted to expand its offer to support parents and schools also to get involved in protecting children from this enhanced threat. For full details about the Not in Our Community home schooling kits click here.
Our domestic abuse awareness social media campaign has now been running for almost a month and we had have positive feedback from both the public and our community safety partners with messages being widely shared. If you, or someone you know is affected by domestic abuse, you can find contact details for support agencies in your area HERE
My Community Alert
You may be receiving this blog because you are one of over 30,000 people now signed up to the My Community Alert service which enables users to receive regular local updates by email, text or telephone from the police and fire services in addition to the Police and Crime Commissioner. It's a really useful service, even more so in the current climate, so if you're not signed up yet go to www.mycommunityalert.co.uk to get started.
Coronavirus Information where you live
For links to local council advice sites and other information CLICK HERE
Domestic Abuse - Don't Suffer in Silence
Posted on Wednesday 20th May 2020