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HMICFRS State of Policing report rightly recognises challenges police face

On Friday 21 new police officers ‘passed out’ at Police headquarters after completing their initial training.

HMICFRS State of Policing report rightly recognises challenges police face

Hailing from across Devon and Cornwall, they will now head out into their communities for the next stage of their training, adding to the uplift in police officers which our communities have funded and so desperately need.

These officers will work antisocial hours, doing some of the most difficult jobs available in a vocation that will impact on them and their loved ones.

They will be, quite rightly, held to the highest possible standards as they carry out ‘normal police business’. Imbued with unique powers, they will experience situations in a single shift which most of us will not encounter in our entire career.

Illustrative of the type of challenge they now face was a case less than 20 miles away from their ceremony which was under investigation as their families came together to celebrate their achievement so far.

Two young men had been badly assaulted at Blundell’s School in Tiverton. With one teenager in custody, a community in shock and serious alleged crimes to investigate this was a multi-faceted and complex investigation. As with all such incidents my thoughts are with those immediately affected. Also we must consider the emergency services staff who are on the front line of a response and who have dedicated their careers towards keeping people safe.

Routinely officers and police staff face traumatic and difficult situations and must make decision in the heat of the moment knowing that they may have to justify or explain their course of action weeks, months or even years later.

It is a job like no other which requires people of the highest standard. 

When police fail to live up to these standards they fail their colleagues and impact the public confidence which they rely on to do their jobs properly.

On the morning of the passing out ceremony His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) issued its annual State of Policing report.

I agree with many of the conclusions Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke made in what is his first such report, which made for sobering reading.

For example, he and I both believe the police need to prioritise the issues that matter most to the public – road safety, antisocial behaviour, violence and drug abuse are priorities in my Police and Crime Plan because when consulted, the public told me those were the issues that most mattered to them.

Mr Cooke also concluded that forces were failing to get the basics right in investigation and responding to the public, and they need to concentrate on effective neighbourhood policing – both points I considered when on the search for a new Chief Constable last year.

This report rightly recognises some of the key challenges that all policing leaders face in repairing trust with the public. Confidence is fundamental to our policing system and something Police and Crime Commissioners are working to address as a priority.

I welcome the support that HMICFRS gives to Commissioners as part of their critical role in holding Chief Constables to account but disagree with the Inspector’s recommendation that Inspectors of Constabulary should have a role in recruiting chief constables, a task I think that should be exclusively for a Police and Crime Commissioner.

Unlike the police, elected Commissioners are the public’s voice and are therefore uniquely accountable to the public for our work and for the services we provide, including around victims and witness services.

Devon and Cornwall’s new Chief Constable was recruited by me in a process that involved local people, businesses and public sector partners.

If we are to rebuild trust and confidence in policing the link between those the police serve and those who lead policing must be strengthened, not diluted with the involvement of another body.

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