After months of extraordinary challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic it is fantastic this week to be able to write about something positive – the fact that in June Cornwall will host the leaders of the G7 countries.
This is clearly a major boost for our part of the world. The event will bring presidents, chancellors and Prime Ministers from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US to Carbis Bay, with neighbouring St Ives and other sites in Cornwall hosting scores of international delegates, security personnel and media. Also invited this year are leaders from Australia, India and South Korea.
The G7 brings together the world's advanced economies to influence global trends and tackle pervasive and crosscutting issues.
It’s very exciting that major decisions with far-reaching and international implications will be being made right here on our doorstep. I believe Cornwall’s incredible natural wealth and its long tradition of welcoming outsiders will make this a summit to be remembered.
With these leaders will come security staff, advisers and experts in policing. The summit will be an amazing chance for us to learn from them – but I hope too that they take the chance to learn from the way we police with the consent and involvement of our communities in Devon and Cornwall.
Macron, Merkel et al would be making a mistake if they thought that because it is a provincial force Devon and Cornwall is in any way backward. In fact South West policing has a proven track record of innovating to overcome some of the unique challenges being on a peninsula presents us with.
So here are seven key points about Devon and Cornwall Police for our G7 guests.
1 You’ll see that few officers carry guns. Yes, there are armed officers in Devon and Cornwall but for the most part our officers use powers of persuasion and their own judgement rather than a threat of force.
2 The engage and explain approach works well and is part of a solution that means our visitors will be exceptionally safe. Over recent years Devon and Cornwall residents have consistently enjoyed one of the lowest recorded crime rates in England and Wales. This is achieved by a community approach that was pioneered here decades ago. It is one I have pushed with a ‘connect to protect’ agenda, encouraging and helping communities to work together.
3 We care about victims. Visitors will be being looked after by a force that has won a World Class Policing award for its work to protect children affected by domestic abuse. Op Encompass helps the force share data with trusted members of school staff so after an incident children get extra care. Our Victim Care Unit provides people with experts in providing emotional and practical support.
4 Devon and Cornwall is geographically the largest police force in England and has remote rural and coastal communities. This means we have had to innovate. The force was the first to have a drone team to help search hard to reach locations. That was so cost-effective and practical that the idea has been replicated across the country and we plan to invest more in it next year.
5 Travel around Cornwall and you might see some unusual uniforms. Tri-Service Safety Officers are evidence of collaboration with other emergency services to create a blue light presence where it is impractical for each of the three emergency services to provide staff. In Devon there are Community Responders and Police and Fire Community Support Officers which we formed in partnership with the Fire and Rescue Service.
6 We deploy our volunteers with pride. Whether that is councillor advocates who give up their time to develop links with their neighbourhood policing teams or special constables who have worked extra shifts to add resilience through the Covid-19 pandemic, these people help us to be a force to be reckoned with.
7 We do not work in isolation. A system called mutual aid means that in times of need – when hosting a big event like the G7 or dealing with an unexpected disaster like the Salisbury poisoning, police chiefs can rely on each other, and additional resource from central government, to keep our communities safe.
These points, along with our wonderful hospitality trade, will assure a stay that is not only a welcoming one but one that enables a little bit of Devon and Cornwall policing philosophy to spread beyond the boundaries of the westcountry. Kernow A'gas Dynergh!