Posted: Friday 19th June 2015
One of the things I wanted to do to when I campaigned to become Police and Crime Commissioner was to throw open the doors of Avon and Somerset Police and invite the public to be more involved with their police service. I’m always looking for new ways to do this because they bring with them an independent and common-sense approach as well as a wealth of experience to draw on.
Earlier this year I wanted to satisfy myself that the service being delivered to our local residents is the same standard across the area and that the service was the high standard victims and witnesses expect. This was a great opportunity to involve local people and so last week a team of local people and experts – including people who work with victims, academics and the Probation Service - began the first of three service delivery assurance visits.
The team reviewed crime files in four priority areas; anti-social behaviour, hate crime, burglary and violence against women and children. They made an evaluation of the level of service provided and will provide me with their report in due course. I also had a quick debrief from my team and I’m cautiously optimistic about the report. I was told about files – which had been picked randomly – which were perfect or very close to it.
This was the team’s first visit (concentrating on South Gloucestershire and BaNES) and they will also be visiting the Bristol and Somerset policing areas. I’ll watch with interest to see the feedback from the other visits.
What struck me from this exercise is that if you listen only to complaints you could easily get bogged down and think everyone gets a poor service all of the time. I know there will be a few occasions when the police get it wrong but what was very clear to me is that the police do some phenomenal work and often in a very pressured environment. We’re lucky to have them.
The exercise also shows the positive relationship my team and I have with the police. When I announced what I was planning to do they were supportive of the move and recognised the value the feedback (both good and bad) would have in improving what they do and how they do it. They knew I wasn’t going into it looking to find fault – I was very open minded about what I would find - and accepted that it was a necessary part of my role scrutinising the Constabulary.
Our relationship is built on mutual respect; I respect their operational independence and they respect my position as the communities’ representative. They know that I will have to hold them to account when their performance is poor but that I will also champion their successes. After all, that’s what scrutiny is all about – the good and the bad.
Until next time,