Reflecting on my first term
As we welcome a new Police & Crime Plan for Dorset, now is a good opportunity to reflect on some of the key areas focused on during my first term of office, where progress was made and what more can be done.
Through chairing the national PCC Mental Health Working Group, I am particularly proud of the role I have been able to play in driving improvements in the way that services are delivered to those suffering mental illness. This culminated in the launch of the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat in February 2014 - a set of shared national principles establishing a multi-agency response to individuals in mental health crisis.
Locally, I have been determined to reduce the number of times a custody suite is used as a place of safety for those in mental health crisis. Recently, Sir Thomas Winsor rightly pointed out in his annual State of Policing Report that public safety is put at risk when officers are left to plug gaps in other cut-ridden public services. Mental health should never be criminalised.
While we battle against the reality of police officers acting as first responders in cases where alternative services are needed, I have taken steps as your elected Commissioner to reduce the likelihood of mentally ill people spending the night in a police cell.
In addition to a new, bespoke mental health training programme that all Dorset Police officers receive, mental health practitioners now sit in our Force Command Centre and give real time advice to front line officers when they encounter individuals who appear to display signs of mental health crisis. As a result, July 2015 was the first month that a custody suite was not used as a place of safety for people suffering a mental health episode - a major achievement, but there is much work that is yet to be done.
Increasing support available to victims was another key priority throughout my first term and will remain a core focus going forward.
Through the many victims surgeries I have held as Commissioner, it was and remains abundantly clear that being a victim of crime can be deeply distressing and receiving the right support can go a long way. I was the first PCC to locally commission the services of the independent charity Victim Support. Funding allotted to the charity facilitated the doubling of the team to ensure that Victim Support could be more effective than ever before for local victims.
From inception, the service has received 36,750 referrals from Dorset Police, of which 25,857 identified needs. 1,462 children and young people have received support from specially trained case workers, alongside 1,222 victims of domestic abuse and 4,171 families following burglaries. In total, 9,140 hours of face to face and telephone support has been provided.
Alongside victim care, I was determined to tackle the uncertainty that can create unnecessary anxiety for victims. I commissioned the Dorset Police Victims’ Bureau to provide a dedicated team who actively work to keep victims informed during the course of the investigation. They inform victims when a suspect has been arrested, charged or bailed, and notify victims of the bail conditions and the decision regarding case disposal.
To find out more about the activity of my Office in my first term, read our most recent newsletter.
I am humbled to have been re-elected for a second term. There’s always scope for further progress, fresh thinking and new evidence-based approaches. We have a strong foundation to build upon and I remain committed to bringing about further positive change to improve local experiences of policing.