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Why you’ll rarely see me at a desk

In her latest blog, Alison talks about public engagement and police officer numbers.

One of the things I love most about my job is meeting people and finding out what you think about your police service, what works well and what needs to improve. I take this element of my work very seriously because you’re at the heart of all the decisions I take.

My team and I make ourselves available at many public events every year to hear more from you about your experiences of dealing with the police and how crime is being tackled in your area. It is always interesting to hear views directly, face-to-face and then take those thoughts back to share with the wider force allowing you to directly shape what your police service looks like.

I have always been clear about my commitment to improving your accessibility to both myself and the police. It is also part of legislation with the Government making it a duty for all PCCs to consult with their local communities. This is to ensure that when a decision is made about improving or changing services, I can be confident it has been properly informed by you all.

And listening to your views has made a real difference to how our police service has been shaped over the last few years.

One of the key issues that has mattered to you the most has been the number of police officers across Devon and Cornwall. Hearing your views first-hand allowed my office to formulate our successful ‘investing in police’ campaign which was part of campaigning that influenced the Government’s decision to increase officer numbers nationally by 20,000 over the next three years.

The first 6,000 are being recruited and trained as I write. In Devon and Cornwall this means our total number of additional officers that have now been recruited and in training or in probation since I took office to the end of the financial year in March this year is 173. And now with confirmed resources for next year it will be 317 by April 2021. The national uplift is combined with us all paying more in our council tax to make it happen. 

In addition, we’ve invested in tri-service safety officers in Cornwall and community responders in Devon to add to the strength of the frontline in our communities because it’s what you tell me you need to feel safer and be safer.

It is also important that you have the opportunity to hear about our work. In 2019 we were more accessible than ever at over 160 public events, of various sizes, including trade exhibitions, district shows and livestock markets. We talked to people from across all sections of society resulting in over 14,000 conversations and producing a wealth of anecdotal evidence which tells us how the public feels about its police force. If you were one of those I spoke to, I am so grateful for your time.

We also have many face-to-face talks with community groups by myself or a member of my office or our ‘meet the PCC’ stands which are a vital way of telling people about our work and how they can help us to improve their police service or fight crime. My stands are usually in locations where you already are such as supermarkets or in the middle of town centres.

The range of places I go to are varied too – last week, for example, I talked about our work to the residents of Halberton organised by their community association, discussing everything from the ethics of drug treatment programmes to my reasoning behind the £31m investment in new Liskeard and Exeter police stations with a very informed and interesting crowd.

I am also speaking with Women in Torbay and Totnes, a professional network and catching up with our councillor advocates who work with my office to better fight crime in their areas. People also had the chance to ask me about my work when I appeared on BBC Radio Devon from 1pm to 2pm on Tuesday (Feb 18th).

I firmly believe that face-to-face conversations are vital in gauging your views and you being able to question or challenge me about my work, but it is also important that we continue to invest in developing our digital footprint. Our online communities via our social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram continue to grow – we now have around 9,000 followers across these channels, a high number compared with other OPCCs.

So, I hope you will continue to talk to me in 2020. Only by doing so, can we better understand your perspective and concerns about issues that matter to you allowing me to shape our vision for policing. When I make myself and my team so accessible it helps give a voice to those who may feel left out of political and policy debates.

Good conversations and being accessible means that the Force will ultimately be able to give a better service focussing on the issues that matter the most to you.

If you are part of an organisation or community group and you would like us to visit you to hear more about our work and how you can get involved, then please do contact us. For direct information from my office sign up to Neighbourhood Alert via my website devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk.

Alison Hernandez