What we've achieved across the country over the last nine years
As I come to the end of my time as the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, I look back on what I’ve achieved working with partners across the country.
Although my work has focused on Dorset, many of the issues I have dealt with have stretched far beyond the borders of our county.
Police forces do not exist in separate bubbles. Increasingly, they are part of a much larger integrated world, and so a lot of the work I have done over my two terms as PCC has been about making improvements regionally and nationally.
Embracing new technology
In 2015, towards the end of my first term, I was proud that our Force entered the first PCC-led Strategic Alliance, with Devon and Cornwall Police. The two forces now work together to improve how they deliver police work, and the Alliance has enabled us both to save money and become more efficient, as well as becoming more resilient and flexible.
It has also enabled the Forces to embrace new technology, essential to modern police work. A trial of the use drones in my first term led to the creation of the UK’s first dedicated drone unit across both forces.
As well as doing some outstanding operational work, such as vastly reducing the amount of officer time needed to map crime scenes and investigate road traffic collisions, the team has developed a ‘safer drone’ education programme for the public.
I’ve worked with PCCs and agencies in the South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership, aimed at stopping the revolving door of offending. Some of the ongoing work to come from this partnership has included prioritising women offenders and veterans, making sure they receive the right support before and during release.
Four of the five regional Forces in the South West also created South West Forensics, and I must thank Dorset’s Chief Constable James Vaughan for driving this innovation forward so well. Arguably we now lead the country regionally on what we do.
Nationally, I have led on issues including fraud. Sitting on the Home Office’s Fraud Task Force, I have lobbied strongly over the poor service originally delivered by Action Fraud, and for inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services to raise the profile of this growing crime, which costs victims across the UK billions of pounds every year.
Another key piece of work has focused on forensics, looking into how this essential service can be transformed to better meet the needs of 21st century policing.
Working closely with Dorset Police Chief Constable James Vaughan, who also leads nationally on this area, I have examined how the service can be modernised, become more efficient, cost effective and how innovative uses of technology can be shared between forces.
Impressive commitment and consultation across forces culminated last year with the launch of the Home Office funded Forensics Capability Network (FCN), hosted here in Dorset, which supports more than 4,000 forensic science specialists with critical technology, advice and services. The journey to setting up the FCN included the creation of the Transforming Forensics Programme by Dorset’s previous Chief Constable Debbie Simpson.
Wellbeing in custody
I’m also proud to have been chair of the Independent Custody Visitors Association (ICVA), an important organisation which places volunteers into custody suites across the country to ensure detainees receive their rights and that their wellbeing is respected.
The work these volunteers do is absolutely incredible and I am indebted to them.
As the national lead for custody and use of force, I have called for greater oversight into new pieces of equipment being used by officers on our streets – particularly Tasers and spit hoods. While the police’s priority must always be to ensure the public and officers are kept safe, we have a long-established principle of policing by consent and I have argued it is important the public continues to be consulted on any changes to police deployment of this nature.
Leading on mental health
My national work has also included leading on mental health issues – a huge issue which has massive consequences for policing as officers have been forced to do work which was previously carried out by other services.
I spearheaded a national campaign in my first term to improve crisis care for people with mental health needs across England. Working with the then Home Secretary Theresa May, we introduced the Mental Health Concordat across England and Wales, and with partners over five years we reduced the amount of people taken into police custody going through mental health crisis from 9,000 a year down to less than a hundred this year.
The icing on the cake, following this emotive and frustrating journey, is the imminent law removing police stations as places of safely under the Mental Health Act.
Since this, I have taken on the role as the national lead for suicide prevention, raising awareness of this worrying problem and the need for people – particularly men – to speak up on the issue.
During my first term, I was one of three PCCs responsible for reviewing and restructuring the old Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) which has now become the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) – a modernised and simplified body better able to represent policing nationally in a more transparent way.
More recently, I have been a member of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ EU-Exit Working Working Group, set up to get forces and PCCs across the country ready for the changes caused by Brexit.
While we always knew what came out of the negotiations would be inferior to what existed under the EU, my PCC colleagues and I were able to welcome the agreement that came into place in the final days of last year. PCCs also played a crucial role in securing funding for the International Crime Coordination Centre (ICCC), established to provide continuity for UK law enforcement following our withdrawal from the EU.
This was never going to be a comprehensive list, but I hope it gives you brief insight into what we’ve done over the last nine years.
I want to thank all my colleagues, not just in Dorset Police and in my own team, but across the APCC and in organisations across the country who have enabled me to do this work.
Elections for my successor and for PCCs across England and Wales take place on May 6. Please remember to make sure you’re registered to vote so you can have your say on the future of policing here in Dorset.