Meeting counter terrorism officers in Cornwall on Friday
The surreal sight of President Joe Biden’s armoured motorcade driving through Chiverton roundabout marked the start of a summit which saw some of the most powerful people in the world gathering in little Carbis Bay.
Yes there was some disruption, yes, it would have been simpler to arrange the event somewhere more familiar to conference organisers and yes, the far west of Cornwall does not have the best transport links.
However, what an opportunity, firstly for the Government to show that it is serious about the ‘levelling up’ agenda that will see more attention and investment focussed on the UK’s regions, and for businesses to show off what a fantastic prospect investing in the South West of England is.
But also it was a chance for Devon and Cornwall to show off its policing style. Around 5,000 officers and additional staff came first to Middlemoor police headquarters in Exeter, and then on to Cornwall, from around the UK to help the force manage the largest security operation in the force’s history.
They were greeted by teams of volunteers armed with sun cream and cream teas before being briefed on the Westcounty policing ethos of working with our communities. Engaging with the public, speaking to them and explaining their role is a critical part of policing, especially here. It reduces tensions and promotes understanding. It’s a hallmark of how we police here.
Style and tone of policing is so important. The friendly, relaxed and secure atmosphere that officers generated meant that confrontation was largely avoided and the impact of this huge event on our communities was minimised.
The force, working with partners across Devon and Cornwall, had set aside formal protest sites to allow the many different campaign groups to have their say during the summit on everything from ocean pollution to the plight of developing nations that do not have enough Covid-19 vaccinations to go round.
These weighty issues were debated and discussed in the stunning surroundings of Carbis Bay behind world-class security by some of the world’s most important people.
The co-ordination at police headquarters, where the force worked hand in hand with security services from around the world and regional partners on the Local Resilience Forum was outstanding, as were the welfare facilities I visited to ensure officers, staff and volunteers were being looked after.
This professional effort was noticed, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson using his closing speech to thank the force for its incredible effort, and the Carbis Bay community for their welcome.
As the conference got under way I made it my job to get around and see my own VIPs. My tour started in Plymouth, where mini police cadets (pictured above) were handed certificates for completing their course. These Cathedral School children have been engaged by the Stonehouse Neighbourhood Policing Team as part of the Stronger North Stonehouse project. It is great that everyone in the community can be part of building safer communities, even, or perhaps especially, our younger generations.
Our Stronger North Stonehouse project kicked off last year with over £500,000 from the Home Office Safer Streets Fund. This year it continues, funded by my office and Plymouth City Council, as we work alongside the people of North Stonehouse to build a stronger, safer community.
Later that evening the Chief Constable and I visited some of the police officers in Falmouth and were delighted to find a relaxed and happy cohort of officers who were rubbing along well with residents and visitors.
Among the police volunteers helping out at this incredible event were my independent custody visitors. Run by my office to provide scrutiny of police custody centres this essential role involves assessing custody facilities and talking to detainees to ensure they are being treated appropriately. This scheme runs all the time but volunteers took on extra duties and specialist training as the force ramped up its custody capacity to cope with a huge influx of protestors that the summit attracted.
The wellbeing and welfare of police officers working long shifts over the G7 period has been of great importance and here again we have seen volunteers stepping forward to support our officers. From the dedicated police chaplains and street pastors from across our area to members of the community reaching out with a kind word or maybe an ice cream. However small they may seem these acts of kindness and support will have been deeply appreciated by the thousands of police officers on duty in the heat of the day or the darkness of the night.
Another group of fantastic volunteers are the International Police Association (IPA) members. Mostly made up of retired officers and staff this group, in bright blue IPA G7 jerseys, were another friendly and welcoming side to the security operation.
A special thanks must go to the Mayor of St Ives Kirsty Arthur as she was so good at liaising between the force and residents of her community.
I was also able to visit Falmouth’s Municipal Buildings to meet some of our fantastic councillor advocates from around Cornwall – these community-minded members of the public work hard all year round to forge closer links between their constituents and the police, fostering understanding and ultimately helping to make Devon and Cornwall safer.
It was a weekend that will create a lengthy legacy for Cornwall by putting the Duchy on the international map. Biden, Merkel and all may have now departed but the weekend showed we are fortunate to have our own VIPs - ones who work tirelessly for their communities all year round.
My deepest thanks go out to each and every one of you.