I would like to start by wishing you all a Happy New Year.
I also want to let people know that I have come to a decision regarding my role as your Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
After two exciting, challenging and productive terms as an independent PCC I have decided I will not put myself forward for re-election in May. As one of very few independent PCCs across the country I vowed to keep party politics out of policing and delivering this has been of the upmost importance during my two terms in office.
I make this decision with mixed emotions but absolute conviction that after eight years of working with you in the police, as well as our key partners, to serve the people of Avon and Somerset that this is the right decision for the public, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), the Constabulary and the right decision for me.
The last eight years have seen us work together to deal with a steady stream of challenges and opportunities. I feel fortunate to have been part of decisions and projects that have found solutions and pushed boundaries of innovation in our police force and within shared work with our partners in the criminal justice system, local authorities, health service, charities, community groups, businesses and local residents.
Following my initial election as PCC in 2012, when the roles first came into effect, I was very honoured to be re-elected for a second term in 2016. This gave me the opportunity to galvanise the momentum of work on a vision that was victim focussed and protected the most vulnerable in our society as well as working better together to achieve more.
I have always been acutely conscious that this opportunity was only afforded to me because the residents of Avon and Somerset allowed it, giving me more time to try to make an impact with our vision, and trusted in me to represent their interests in policing. I hope I have repaid their trust with the focus of our work and all of our achievements.
I feel strongly that the OPCC and all the work we have done over the last eight years with our partners has been a catalyst for enormously positive change. None of which would have happened without my incredibly conscientious team of staff in the OPCC who have worked tremendously hard. I am very grateful for their unwavering support and contributions to making important improvements.
I’m extremely proud to have represented the voice of victims, ensuring their voice is heard and that everything we do is looked at from the pivotal perspective of their journey through the criminal justice system.
When I see how the Constabulary now works with victims through services like Lighthouse and mental health triage, I can see that the voice of victims is now well and truly embedded in our approach to all our work.
The support now provided to women and girls who are survivors of sexual violence, through the investment in Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) who hold the hands of those people through stages of practical, psychological and emotional recovery, is also a staggering achievement. It is testament to the shift in culture that has put victims at the heart of everything we do.
I am proud to have been able to reflect what residents told me about the importance of community policing by ring fencing the funding for neighbourhood teams at a key moment during the years of austerity. I take great pride that, even under the biting demand of swathing cuts to our budgets, the Chief Constable Andy Marsh and I were able to ensure that we kept our beat managers and PCSOs as a reassuring and preventative presence for people in all our communities. Many other forces across the country were not able to do the same.
I came into office shortly after austerity took hold and I have been part of a huge period of change that has seen testing and sometimes demoralising times for the police service.
Although I have been in post for a substantial period of time which has seen turbulence in the context of national politics and local events, the examples I come across each week of the exceptional work of officers and staff who regularly go above and beyond the call of duty to help people, to protect people or to save a life, never ceases to amaze me. This been a great source of personal inspiration to carry on through some difficult times. For that I would like to thank you.
Going forward I believe there are two big areas of work that need our continued focus, drive and innovation.
The first is the crucial role of violence reduction units. Over the last few months we have seen the ages of perpetrators and victims of stabbings and serious violence as children of 14 and 15-years-old. The families of those children, and whole communities, are affected forever by the impact of these devastating crimes.
This has served to reinforce to me that early intervention is the only way forward. This will only be achieved successfully by working with partners and with young people to help them stay in mainstream education and make them feel part of the society to which they want to contribute and belong.
The second is reducing reoffending in the South West by working with our criminal justice system partners locally to bring the right people to the table and share budgets to effect change and deliver fairer, better, results.
Please be assured we will not be taking our foot off the pedal between now and the elections. I am still your Police and Crime Commissioner until May and I will be doing everything I can to push forward the good work you are all doing in the most crucial policing matters to help improve the lives of the people who work and live in Avon and Somerset.
We are now heading into a momentous period of change for the police service with central government turning on the financial taps once again. This will signal a different role and relationship for Police and Crime Commissioners with their police services and with central government. It is right for a new PCC to come in and take up that fresh role and relationship in Avon and Somerset.
Whoever is elected will have the full support of one of the most outstanding Chief Constables in the country and I know that together you will continue to keep our communities safe.
It has truly been a privilege to work with so many skilled, talented and dedicated people who I know will keep fighting the good fight.
Posted on Tuesday 7th January 2020