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Guest blog: Openly demonstrating accountability through public facing meetings

Posted: Monday 18th January 2016
Blog: Blogs

When Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens was elected, she made it clear she was committed to holding public facing meetings to allow residents to come along and for her to openly demonstrate accountability. Since November 2012, Sue and Office of the PCC have travelled across Avon and Somerset holding bi-monthly meetings in a variety of venues with the relevant Area Commander.

The format for each meeting is very straight forward and is designed to inform local people of policing issues local to their area and for them to feel both informed and comfortable to ask questions of the PCC, the Area Commander and both senior and local police officers.

Over the last three years, we have visited a variety of venues and locations including:  Cheese & Grain, Frome; Kingswood Civic Centre; The Guildhalls in Chard and Bath; The Beach Hotel, Minehead; Gordano School, Portishead; The Town Hall, Weston-Super-Mare; Shire Way Community Centre, Yate; Trinity Community Arts Centre, Bristol; The Methodist Church, Keynsham and Agusta Westlands Leisure Complex, Yeovil.

When selecting a venue we consider the location and then approach a range of possible event spaces from community halls and schools to leisure centres, hotels and council buildings. Sue has always said that she is committed to listening to the voices of local people and therefore wants to make herself available at a time and location convenient to them.

As an Office, we then work with the Constabulary to start to promote and publicise the event.  Our promotional activity includes posters in local community buildings, social media updates and messages sent via Neighbourhood Watch community contacts.  We also work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams to make sure residents aware of the meeting as well as informing local media of the event, putting details on the PCC website and in some cases wider promotion via local radio adverts.

At the forum, attendees receive a welcome by the PCC and an overview of local policing by the appropriate Area Commander, before being invited to take part in a question and answer session.  In the open forum the audience have the opportunity to put their questions to the PCC and Area Commander.

A wide range of topics have been raised and discussed at these meetings including road safety, the impact of budget cuts, anti-social behaviour and Neighbourhood Watch amongst other areas. After each meeting, the transcript of the question and answer session is published on the PCC website: www.avonandsomerset-pcc.gov.uk/Openness/PCC-Public-Forum.aspx

Where possible, we aim to live web stream the forum to give residents who are unable to attend the opportunity to watch the forum live from home or to view the footage at their convenience. If technology doesn’t allow us to web stream, we video record the forum and publish the recording on our website.

In addition to the bi-monthly forums we have also hosted a number of public meetings in relation to specific issues.  Examples of this include the public meeting to present agencies' flood response to communities held in Taunton in November 2014 where over 100 people attended and the Road Safety Summit held at City Hall in Bristol in December 2013.

Sue has always maintained her commitment to the fact that the role of a PCC is all about representing the public voice, connecting public views with the police and wider partners - acting as a bridge and ensuring that people get a more direct say in policing.  The forums are a means of local people giving Sue their feedback on their policing service.

Our next PCC Police Public Forum will take place on Thursday, 21st January 2016 at Somerset College and if you would like to attend please register your place here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/taunton-pcc-police-public-forum-tickets-19820558825.


Kate Watson

Office and HR Manager

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