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Police chief responds to Council questions

October 12, 2018 4:28 PM

Police car"Everyone in Northumbria Police highly values community engagement. It is the best way for issues to be brought to our attention at the earliest opportunity and enable us, together with our partners, to respond accordingly. In this regard I am delighted to note, especially in such financially challenging times, our local officers remain accessible to our local communities, " the Chief Constable oo Northumbria has told Liberal Democrats Councillor Robin Ashby in his response to a number of questions posed after his presentation to Newcastle City Council.

"It is so reassuring you have sought to raise the issue of officer safety, as we too take this matter extremely seriously and place significant value on the protection and wellbeing of our entire workforce. As such, deployment decisions are based on a formal assessment of the risks officers may face during their tour of duty and is based on local knowledge (by way of professional judgment) and operational requirement, as well as health and safety considerations. As is so often the case in modern-day policing, such a process often has to contend with the competing demands of public protection and officer safety, so as to ensure we remain in a position to deliver effective policing services to our communities whilst operating against the back-drop of a reducing, increasingly hard-working workforce.

"In the main, this results in officers being deployed 'single-crewed' during the day, however, our Communications Centre staff, together with the supervisor officers on-duty at the time, make an informed and professional decision as to how many officers are deployed to each incident and whether or not specialist resources are required. In addition, supervisors can also decide to allocate additional resources to specific incidents and where necessary/appropriate, deploy officers in pairs and in accordance with our 'safe-crewing' policy. The reality exists that deploying officers in pairs routinely is not a viable option on a number of levels, including risk assessment according to the nature of incidents most-usually attended and size of workforce considered against competing needs.

"I am afraid I am not able to provide information regarding how far officers have travelled to provide back-up as we don't have a suitable system of measuring/recording such issue. This being said, given the huge expanse we are fortunate enough, in the main, to enjoy in the rural areas of our beautiful county, I believe it can, indeed, be the case that officers become separated, on occasion, by considerable geographic distances. However, please be assured that where this is the case, active consideration is given to the most appropriate way to mitigate the situation, by deploying the appropriate and/or nearest resource; whilst also ensuring officers are deployed with appropriate officer safety skills and personal protection equipment. This being said, I do feel it appropriate to share my frustrations at the lack of an effective process within the police budgeting arrangements to allow for the specific and often unique elements of rural policing to be catered for, effectively, within any resulting police funding/settlement awards. Should any opportunity arise where, from your position as an elected councillor, you are able to lobby, on our behalf, for more appropriate funding arrangements, I would urge you to do so - to what I genuinely believe would result in the betterment of the service we would then be able to provide.

"One of our stated and ever-present ambitions is to have an engaged, healthy and motivated workforce - this is something I believe in personally and passionately. As part of our desire to understand issues that affect our staff, we do record information regarding the number of officers absent from work as a result of stress or PTSD. The recorded figures show, between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2018, a total of 110 officers were recorded as being off work due to stress (11 with Post-traumatic Stress and 99 with stress). Obviously such symptoms can arise as a result of a wide range of factors, but, may give an indication of the levels of difficulties, arising from a variety of factors, officers now face.

"When officers do experience such difficulties they have access to advice from Occupational Health and/or Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) services - TRiM being a peer-led programme designed to identify officers and staff who require additional support and signpost them accordingly. Personnel who have received training are also able to carry out a confidential TRiM Assessment, allowing respondents to discuss their thoughts and reactions before, during and after an incident.

"I believe the use of Body Worn Cameras across the force has demonstrated commendable results and as such we have already embarked on an exercise to increase the number of devices available for use. As a result, the Capital Programme for 2018/19 has provision for significant increase in the number of devices available and the Police and Crime Commissioner has recently agreed to a procurement process that will enable us to provide personal issue devices to all front line officers and some specialist resources. On an associated note, you may be aware I have recently introduced spit and bite guards for the use of all officers in appropriate circumstances, in an effort to ensure all those going about policing duties on our behalf are able to avail themselves of emerging/appropriate protective measures to mitigate against injury/infection.

"With regard to TV documentaries, I assure you we do think very carefully before allowing film crews to accompany us; seeking to ensure the resulting 'programmes' are in-keeping with our values as an organisation. As I am sure you will appreciate, only a few of the incidents attended reach our television screens, but, the editorial control does sit with those doing the filming and this is why we seek to ensure those doing so are seeking to report accurately and responsibly; hence our active considerations before allowing access to the complex and complicated world our officers inhabit on a daily basis.

"Finally, I am delighted your granddaughter may feel reassured by our current reduction in knife crime. Young people seem to be exposed to information, news headlines and other types of coverage of human behaviour in ways that would have been unthinkable some few years ago - often in an un-sanitised and all too often in a sensationalised and ill-informed manner. As such, as a force, we do seek active-engagement opportunities where police officers and staff are accessible to provide reassurance. You may be familiar with our work alongside the Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Nexus, St John's Ambulance and Sainsbury's at Safetyworks!, which, is used by schools and community groups from across the area, promoting personal safety and positive actions.

"I feel sure she is too young for our Ride Along Scheme, where members of our community have an opportunity to experience, first-hand, what a police officer on patrol encounters whilst carrying out their duties. (She's pictured "driving" a police car recently during Great North Run weekend on the Quayside) However, such scheme is being used by us to provide valuable insight into what we do and how we go about protecting people, fighting crime and keeping Northumbria as safe as possible - perhaps when she is a little older she might avail herself of such opportunity and for anyone else you feel may benefit from it, more details are available on our website: http://www.northumbria.police.uk/services/community_opportunity/ride_along_scheme/

"In ending I would just like to reiterate what I said at the beginning of the council meeting we were both at recently - Northumbria is a good force, yes we can better at some things and will do our level best to do so. However, the funding cuts we continue to be subjected to cannot fail to have significant impact on how we go about trying to offer the same service and levels of protection we have all become accustomed to. This being said, despite every single officer, staff member and volunteer across the force working harder than they have ever had to do before, amidst increasingly difficult and complex issues, we will, all of us, seek to do our very best in the service of an area and community we too call home - policing is a privilege we all recognise and will keep doing our best to uphold its best traditions."