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Guest blog: Listening and responding to local people's views on policing

Posted: Thursday 28th January 2016
Blog: Blogs

Sue Mountstevens’ ‘mailbag’ is big for one locally elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and all questions, enquiries and feedback from members of the public – positive or negative – are welcome.  The PCC and Office of the PCC makes it a high priority to listen and respond to each person and acts as a bridge between the public and the Police.

Over 13,300 contacts have been recorded by the PCC from members of the public since November 2012.  This excludes Tweets and Facebook posts, conversations and discussions every week when out and about and meeting people across Avon and Somerset.

The ‘mail bag’ is mostly emails but also includes telephone calls and letters which are all received 24/7, 365 days a year. The mail content is varied and the writers are diverse, which is most welcomed. There is a spectrum of ages, abilities and disabilities, for example it may be a young person making an enquiry to the PCC about a project or a retired resident about a neighbourhood concern. The person usually lives in the local area, but people do contact the PCC from across the UK and abroad. Contact can also be from an organisation, a group, parish or town council or an MP.

Feedback from police officers and staff is also of interest to the PCC in recognising best practice, commendable work occurring across the force area, as well as welfare and conduct matters for PCC oversight and scrutiny. The mail content can also be a compliment about a police officer or a member of staff, for going the extra mile and/or doing something exceptional. 

The PCC also receives enquiries that relate to operational policing matters, which are strictly outside of the PCC’s remit. As operational policing matters are under the independent direction and control of the Chief Constable these enquiries, sometimes complaints, are forwarded to the Chief Constable’s Office to redirect to the most appropriate person or department to handle and reply directly, with the PCC receiving feedback.

Road-related issues are the most common theme for the PCC’s ‘mail bag’. Opinions vary significantly, whether in favour of speed enforcement or anti-speed cameras, pro-cyclists or reporting anti-social or illegal cycling behaviour, parking on the pavements, lack of lights and illegally using mobile phones.  The Police and Crime Plan priorities are set by the PCC and although the Chief Constable is held to account for the police service delivery, the public hold the PCC responsible in her Police oversight and governance role and remit regarding crime. The priorities of tackling burglary, reducing the impact of anti-social behaviour (ASB) on communities, tackling violence against women and children and putting the victim first in the criminal justice system – in addition to road safety - generate important enquiries from members of the public.

Hearing from people within all of our diverse communities is incredibly important and cards detailing how to contact the PCC are handed out widely, at meetings and public events, in addition to the information on the PCC’s website – www.avonandsomerset-pcc.gov.uk.

Trust and confidence in our local Police is crucial for policing by consent and listening to local people is very important. The enquiry to the PCC may be voicing personal opinions; they have even been regarding Christmas lights, Fireworks and local Police policy for Hover boards. There are also frustrations about the lack of police resources affecting Police visibility and accessibility, and also the police budget - all requiring the PCC’s views and response.

Victims of domestic abuse – both male and female – provide valuable feedback to the PCC on their experience as a victim/survivor, having experience with various support services (including positive feedback about the new victims service ‘Lighthouse’), as well as their interaction with the Police. The top three ‘mailbag’ subjects for the PCC are roads-related, reporting ASB and the Police response to crimes and incidents.

Finally, the PCC is always delighted to receive mail about positive partnership working and multi-agency working to achieve positive, evidence based outcomes. Volunteering for the Police, members of Neighbourhood Watch, Community Speed Watch, Farm Watch and other ‘Watch’ schemes, the Cadets, IAGs (Independent Advisory Groups), as well as PACT (Partnership and Communities Together) and Police drop-in surgeries all complement the Police Service, benefiting individual people and the wider community and the PCC receives letters from all of these people, in various supporting roles.

Kathryn Palmer

Public Contact & Standards Officer

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