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Commissioner Sue Mountstevens answers your questions in live web cast


PCC Sue Mountstevens and The Post Crime Reporter Daniel Evans

Residents and local people were asked to get in touch about what they wanted to know from Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens.

The Post's crime reporter Daniel Evans asked the questions during the #AskSue webcast hosted by Bristol City Council last night (29.05.14).

Here are some of Sue's answers, and a video of the webcast in full.

On concerns from members of the public about closures of police stations in Bristol in the next few years...

"Obviously with the custody cells being moved from Trinity Road we can't keep a half-empty building going so what we're doing is we're looking for an alternative close by.  I will be talking to see if we can keep the Bridewell open for 24 hours a day and that's less than a mile away from Trinity. The police are not moving from that area. We are closing down a station that is too large and we will be moving into something that is smaller and better fit for purpose.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work that has been done in that area around Stapleton Road. I've walked around the area and seen the difference. It would be very foolhardy to makes such dramatic changes.  The plan is to sell the buildings. There may be a timing difference, because we will want to get the best possible price for those buildings because that money is going to be reinvested so that we can keep as many officers and PCSOs on the street, because that's what people are asking for.

“The reducing of budgets is going to be business as normal. I do not think that whoever gets in at the next General Election is going to ride over the hill and give a great big pot of gold to Avon and Somerset.  In fact, if you look to the projections in 2016/17 we have to find a considerable amount of money.

“I think it's up to about £50 million we've got to find. So what we've got to do is make sure out officers and PCSOs have the mobile technology and kit they need so that they don't have to be going back into police stations, because if they are in policing stations, they're not visible."

On the effectiveness of 20mph speed limits in the city of Bristol, introduced by the city council...

"The police didn't make the speed limit, but what we've got to do is look at areas where there are particular problems, such as around schools.  I want to support a lot of community speed watches because that's what gives the evidence of where people are speeding. Local people know where people are speeding and at what times.

“They can then ask for the mobile cameras – we've got nine vans and three bikes now which can get into narrower places.  It's still very early days for 20mph speed zones. It's first of all to do with education, and then will come enforcement.  But there will be enforcement times when the constabulary believes there is enough evidence and local people have requested it, particularly through neighbourhood forums.  But 20mph speed zones will never be uniformly policed, just as we never did it with 30mph zones. It all has to do with education and almost an expectation where people have to manage it themselves.

“After all, it wasn't that many years ago we didn't wear seatbelts, when people did drink and drive and society has persuaded us, through ways and means, that it's not acceptable and I believe that will be the case with 20mph speed zones, that we will police ourselves.  At the end of the day, if we save a child's life I'm prepared to take a few more minutes by driving slower."

On the value of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in modern policing and whether they should be abolished...

"If the gentleman who asks the question came to any of the public meetings that I hold on a very regular basis and listened to the sheer support for PCSOs, local people and groups of residents absolutely value their relationship with their PCSOs.

“That's not to say that there is not room for a whole range of support, whether that's officers, PCSOs, Special Constables, volunteers – we need to tackle this all together. Community safety is too big for the police alone, so we have to work with as many streams as possible, but with a reducing budget."

On how seriously police take "tagging" and graffiti crimes...

"I think the neighbourhood teams work very hard with residents on graffiti. There is a very thin line, because someone's street art is someone else's graffiti, but if there is a particular issue people should take that up with their neighbourhood policing teams.  I know that people do quite a lot of work and I also know that probation work very hard with ex-offenders to clear up the damage.”

On the issue of dealing with complaints being made against the police, or misconduct cases...

"I believe very strongly that whenever things are going on behind closed doors that the public, especially at the moment, feel the police are up to no good.  Cases of gross misconduct, I would actually like them to be held in public so people can see how they're being treated.  With independent people on the panel as well, I think it would give them a considerable amount of confidence to see how seriously we take those cases.

“The more we can make open and transparent the complaints system, the better it will be.  I was only talking to the Home Office this morning and asking why can't we start again with a blank sheet of paper and think of a better complaints system?  I think what we've got now is very legalistic, very jargonistic, a very blame-ridden process throughout and that automatically gets everyone on the defensive.

“I think we need to move away from that and feel very comfortable with, if an officer has done something wrong, or a PCSO, actually saying sorry. That is the first step.  I actually think it's a good sign when the numbers of complaints are going up because, actually, I think people are then more comfortable with coming forward.

“I want to work with local people and improve their police service. I've introduced and independent residents' panel that will dip sample and look at the complaints against the police and do a report, which goes on my website, and will be answered by professional standards at the constabulary. The panel's comments have already made real changes."

On how Bristol uses restorative justice and mediation between victims and offenders...

"Bristol is renowned for being a restorative city and we've actually got some additional funding from the Ministry of Justice to look at restorative solutions across the whole of Avon and Somerset so that we can see what practice is and where it's right, we can roll it out more.

“When we've looked at the stats, the victim satisfaction rate is much, much higher from doing a restorative meeting than it ever is even if a perpetrator is convicted through a trial. Cost really is not the driver. If you ask the victims, it is nearly 90 per cent satisfaction when they have been able to come away from their perpetrator having looked into the whites of their eyes and seen how it's affected them."

On the validity and effectiveness of the force's crime recording procedures and performance compliance...

"In years past there has not been enough focus on crime recording and there have been different views over the years about that. We're very clear, the chief constable and I, that we need to comply completely with the Home Office accounting rules, which are not very clear or simple. We have focused on that in this last year, we have a dedicated group that is looking at these figures on a regular basis, we now have a full time registrar and a team that look at that.

“We've also introduced another force from outside the area that has come in and scrutinised our figures and we're now about 90 per cent compliant.  No matter what figures you believe in – and I accept there is doubt in some of the figures – whether it's the police recorded or the crime survey, all crime is coming down."

On justifying the role as Police and Crime Commissioner as valuable to the public....

"I replaced the police authority. In the last year, they had about 250 people who contacted them. Because I'm more identifiable than a committee of 17, of which I was one, I've had over 5,000 people contact me wanting to see improvements in their police service, but also giving me positive feedback.

“I can feed that right back into the police service. I have a much wider remit than the previous police authority. I can bring people together about how we can make changes. For example the NHS have agreed to fund, and we have now opened, four beds – places of safety – for those who are mentally ill, which means they do not need to be kept in police cells.

“I think PCCs have relevance, but we will be judged by the number of people who come out to vote in May 2016."

On enforcing cyclists using lights and wearing high visibility clothing...

"The police have been doing a lot of work educating cyclists and motorists. We do need to do more education and there will be more enforcement."

On the badger cull....

"There are very high feelings on both sides on that, and the police do not have a view. The badger cull was introduced by a freely-elected government and the protestors have the absolute right to protest against it.

“What the constabulary have to do is make sure that public safety is paramount. It is a very fine line. I have listened very closely to what the protestors have said and they've given me some very good ideas which I have fed back to the constabulary. The police have to maintain their impartiality. The NFU and cull company operatives never controlled the police's actions. They never give directional control over officers."

Posted on Friday 30th May 2014
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