So it was reassuring to have a couple of firm reminders of how much our public appreciate and value our police, and of the difficult and vital job they do in society.
Firstly on Thursday Devon and Cornwall Police and the Crown Prosecution Service secured a minimum 31-year sentence for the murderer of Bobbie-Anne McLeod, with judge Robert Linford saying that he may never be released.
The dignity and professionalism with which officers and staff handled this terrible case has been exemplary. My thoughts all week were with Bobbi-Anne’s family, whom I hope will take some reassurance from the sentence and judge’s remarks, and also with the officers and staff who dealt with this harrowing crime on society’s behalf. It is a reminder that without their work some of the most dangerous people in society would be free to kill again.
The following day I was in Newton Abbot, to meet members of the community and discuss plans to reopen the town’s police station front desk.
Newton Abbot is one of four stations around the force area, with the others being Penzance, Falmouth and Tiverton, this Chief Constable and I have agreed to reopen to the public in 2022. Newquay, which as you can imagine sees a big spike in visitor numbers in the summer months, is already back open and will remain so under these plans.
Meeting Newton Abbot residents and business representatives on a sunny May day outside the station was a very positive experience. Several remember the role the station played in their community before it was closed under austerity measures and were delighted that we had listened and responded to their calls to reverse the cuts made a decade ago.
Research tells us that confidence in police grows when people have contact with them, so reopening stations has been an ambition of mine since I took up this role. For many people the 101 non emergency contact service has never fully replaced the experience of being able to walk into their local station and speak to someone.
Of course, the programme will take investment, but that investment is almost completely in people, the Police Enquiry Officers who are the front line of our force, and I think it is well worth it.
Nowadays these officers can spend time responding to email enquiries on the 101 system, so when they are not dealing with people face to face they will be adding resilience and resource to this in-demand service.
Police stations offer a place of refuge for victims and a point of contact between the police and the public they serve. They are hugely reassuring for many people, enabling crimes to be reported, victims to be protected and information to flow freely between the force and the public it serves.
With police officer numbers set to reach record levels in Devon and Cornwall Police thanks to investment by our communities it is right that we maximise opportunities for the public to talk to officers and staff directly.
Getting the front offices up and running will take a little work to employ some new staff, get them trained and organise for the police stations to be fitted with appropriate furniture and front counters, but by the end of the year we will start to see them fully functioning.
We’ll monitor how these stations are used and have plans for more reopenings in 2023 and 2024.
Anyone interested in applying for the role of Police Enquiry Officer in the locations should check the Devon and Cornwall Police vacancies site for opportunities, where they will be advertised in due course: Current Vacancies - What could you do? - Police Recruitment (recruitment-dcp-dp.org).