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Introduce PCC webchats to engage with public

The OPCC has communication at the heart of everything it does. By communicating with our communities, we are able to deliver the priorities that matter to them and develop excellent relationships with members of the public, as well as organisations like local authorities, private and voluntary sectors.

Effective public engagement is a statutory responsibility of PCCs, who must seek the views of the community in order to act as the bridge between policing and the public. This is achieved through various methods, including public consultation, community meetings, surgeries and conferences.

The PCC has taken a position that no person or group is hard to reach, but that different approaches should be taken for different audiences. It is for this reason that the PCC wanted to introduce web chats as part of his engagement.

Since 2016, a number of web chats have been held in support of PCC engagement activity. These include the precept consultations, the Police and Crime Plan consultation and also recruitment drives for Independent Custody Visitors.

The number of participants has been encouraging and members of the public who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to speak with the PCC have been able to do so as a result of this tactic.

In January 2019, the webchat system was stopped by Dorset Police, due to the increase in costs from the provider. Although Dorset OPCC can use free facilities, these options do not come with the same level of options and can make for a less structured conversation. The OPCC Communications Department are now trialling two platforms as potential replacements.

The drive to re-establish engagement via webchat is driven by the feedback given to the OPCC by our previous webchat users. We have been told that many that ‘join’ the chat do so because they are unable to attend a public meeting in person, or simply prefer the convenience of being able to ‘be at home’ and find out more about policing in Dorset or raise a concern or ask a question of the PCC without leaving the house.

We want to make engaging with the PCC as accessible and welcoming as possible and we know that webchats give local people the opportunity to get involved in their community in a simple and convenient way.

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