Posted: Friday 2nd May 2014
This week has seen an exciting time for local policing and a chance to reinforce the commitment myself and the police have to serving our local communities. Since I began in this role I have had to make some tough decisions and continue to find savings. This work will continue over the coming years as the savings we have to find mean tougher and tougher choices. Therefore despite the austerity, it is very rewarding to see innovative new developments in the three new police centres in Patchway, Keynsham and Bridgwater. Which will not only be more cost effective buildings to run, they also demonstrate the very future of policing.
As the Constabulary get ready to move into these three state-of-the-art centres I want to be clear with local people about the future of local stations. The aim of the plans are and have always been to meet the needs of local communities, police staff and operational policing, while helping achieve the savings required over the coming years. I am aware that this is a concern for many residents as they feel that police are withdrawing from their local area. I want to reassure all residents that this is not the case. The decision for the move into the new centres is intended to reduce the cost wasted on oversized and under-utilised buildings and ensure police are meeting your local needs as and when you need them.
These concerns were also raised by Dawn Primarolo MP on behalf of the residents in her constituency, specifically regarding the closure of Bishopsworth Police Station. I would like to reassure Bishopsworth residents that the local policing team will continue to serve the local area and be accessible in many ways including local beat surgeries and attending community meetings and events. Mobile police stations will also be operating in the area. Many of the stations were previously designed for much larger teams of people who no longer operate out of these buildings. Furthermore these stations do not receive the footfall that they once may have done. Therefore the cost of retaining the buildings which are not fulfilling their potential cannot be justified.
Regardless of the changes I want local people to be assured that they are at the heart of everything that the police stand for and how they serve their communities.
This week I hosted Avon and Somerset’s very first Mental Health Crisis Care Conference which bought together partners to develop an action plan for supporting people in mental health crisis. I was joined by Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson and Lord Victor Adebowale, Chief Executive of Turning Point. I was delighted to see representatives from the NHS, police and local charities come together to discuss how people with mental health problems can be better supported.
I have always been very clear that police cells are not an appropriate place to detain someone suffering mental illness. All too often I have heard about people being detained under the Mental Health Act even though they have committed no crime. In Avon and Somerset in 2012-13, 1086 people were detained under the Act and 646 of those ended up in a police cell. This is 646 people too many. People suffering mental health crisis and being detained in police custody is something that I am very passionate about. I am hopeful that the move to the new police and custody centres will further help my aspiration to have no mental health detainees in police custody.