Friday marked something of a watershed moment for my office. For the first time since last February the police and crime panel that scrutinises my decisions met in person instead of virtually. It was also the first meeting since my re-election.
The panel is made up of councillors and lay members from around Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, so the virtual meetings had a lot going for them, allowing members to tune in and take part from around our geographically dispersed force area. They were also more sustainable as they significantly reduced the need to travel.
Having said that it was great to be back in the council chamber at Plymouth for this meeting and seeing panel members and the public in person for the first time in a long time. I expect a hybrid meeting, where some attend and others participate through an online connection, will provide the best of both worlds.
While the panel provides an opportunity for elected members of councils to scrutinise my decisions and the work of the office there is also an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions.
I was pleased that police officers, staff and volunteers who made the policing of the G7 summit received praise from panel members. Although they came from all around the UK, these individuals were ‘sheep dipped’ in the Devon and Cornwall Police approach at headquarters before being deployed to Cornwall. Initial feedback showed that the community-policing approach has been well received by residents of the force area.
The £932,000 secured by my office from the Government’s Safer Streets Fund for work to make Exeter ang Plymouth Safer, further collaboration with other emergency services and the pilot project to reopen some police stations closed under austerity were all discussed.
Sadly, just before we went into the panel meeting we heard that two officers had been injured quite badly while at an address in Princetown involving a blade. My thoughts are with the officers and their families and I wish them a speedy recovery.
I have pioneered a partnership designed to combat this in conjunction with the Chief Constable. Although Devon and Cornwall has the fourth lowest level of knife crime in the country, a single case is one too many and we need to address this from every angle.
So although the first panel meeting of my term of office was an opportunity to reflect on some of the successes of the previous months and years, it also provided a stark reminder that there is much more to be done.
If you want more information on the panel, which is hosted by Plymouth City Council, and how it works please visit the website Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel | PLYMOUTH.GOV.UK.