Dorset Police and Crime Panel - the need for accurate and balanced reporting
Following last week’s Police and Crime Panel (14/12/22) there were a number of inaccuracies reported within the local media and I want to set the record straight.
Before I do that, I would like to invite you to watch the Police and Crime Panel from last Wednesday – this gives you the opportunity to hear about some of what I and those in my office do on your behalf. You can also find the relevant reports here.
The Dorset Police and Crime Panel reviews my work and the delivery of my Police and Crime Plan. The Panel also has a role in scrutinising my decisions.
It is usually the case that members of the media attend or indeed watch the live feed of the Panel. However, some coverage last week appears to have been completed prior to the meeting taking place and this possibly explains why there are errors, omissions, and a lack of contextualisation, which in some reports has led to the overall tone of the coverage being unreasonably negative. This, in my opinion, devalues not only the work of my office, but more importantly that of Dorset Police and indeed devalues the service the media provide to you, the people of Dorset.
First of all, I would like to set out that the report to the Police and Crime Panel refers to Quarter 2 (July to September 2022) of the year and so the statistics contained within the report are not technically the ‘latest’ and the ‘red’ areas that have been referred to in some media coverage reflect a rating system of progress used by my office to assess delivery of the commitments within my Police and Crime Plan. The Plan is set for the period of 2021-29, so as a broad summary, we start everything off as ‘red’ and aim to move it to ‘green’ as we work through your priorities.
I would now like to address the inaccurate points made in the news articles in question:
Less than 80% of 999 calls to Dorset Police answered within 10 seconds
This refers to a timebound situation – it infers it is the current situation, but it is not. The statistics in the report refer to Q2, the highest demand quarter that occurs where Dorset Police had the highest call volume ever recorded. Dorset Police receive no extra funding to address this demand, driven by the greater transient population in the summer, all of which was discussed at the Police and Crime Panel. By not contextualising this ‘headline’, it gives a misleading picture. Also, it was not mentioned that following that high summer demand I challenged the force to rigorously analyse those responses to try and improve further and to prevent that dip in the future.
Indeed, the latest statistics are at 92% which is above the national guideline.
In some areas the force is not performing as well as expected with attendance at the scene of burglaries flagged red as a cause for concern. In the same category is support for young people while the figures also show a rise in cases of domestic abuse crimes.
The text in the Police and Crime Panel papers, clearly states that Dorset Police has already confirmed they attend all residential burglaries in the county. Dwelling burglaries and non-dwelling burglaries are in fact down 17% and 22.2% respectively, as shown on the same page of the report.
Support for young people is not marked as red, it has moved to amber as work progressed in that area with our local partnerships across the summer. Further, the report clearly shows a reduction of 18.2% in domestic abuse crimes. Finally, there is also a failure to explain that the report refers to Q2 data and is not contemporaneous.
With regard to domestic abuse, the papers report a reduction of 18.2% in domestic abuse crimes and the panel actually welcomed and congratulated me upon the work that is being done to tackle domestic violence, sexual harm and the fact that stalking prevention orders have doubled since the previous quarter as we have recruited more vulnerability lawyers for this vital work.
Comments made about the police budget.
At the meeting, further information was given to the Panel which provided reassurance that the budget gap was closing as my office and Dorset Police continue to make sure that every penny counts for the people of Dorset.
Further, omitted from the news articles were the good reductions in anti-social behaviour, rural crime and the successes of Operation Viper and Scorpion – not to mention the really good progress against the Police and Crime Plan, where there were many areas highlighted in green. Also omitted was the fact that for this time period we had moved up to the seventh safest area in the country (we are now sixth). None of that was communicated to the public via the negative media reporting.
My office and myself believe in an open and healthy relationship with the media – at any stage the articles could have been checked with us for context and accuracy, but that was not done. As it is, this lack of accuracy, combined with a failure to mention any of the many positive things contained within the reports and discussed at the meeting itself, comes across in my opinion as biased.
To only report one side of the story is disrespectful to the police officers that work so diligently and put themselves in harm’s way and keep Dorset safe and indeed, such reporting, in my opinion, falls a good way short of the high standards of accuracy and impartiality that I think the people of Dorset deserve.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner