Posted: Friday 21st October 2016
I’m proud to live in a society where we police by consent. Set out in the Nine Principles of Policing issued to Met officers from 1829, while Sir Robert Peel was at the helm, it states – to recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour on their ability to secure and maintain public respect. For many the policing service is a respected entity. The police are the people who run towards danger, while the rest of us run away and for that I’m extremely grateful. For others, in particular those who choose to break the law, they will on occasion subject officers to behaviour that would not happen to anyone, in any other role in society.
Becoming a police officer, so I’m told by many, is a childhood dream, a lifelong ambition, a vocation. It’s a role which enables the individual to keep their community safe and feeling safe, protecting residents from criminal behaviour and supporting victims in their time of need. People do not become police officers to be verbally and physically abused by the people that do wrong. Sadly being slapped, kicked, bitten, spat at and punched has become a regular occurrence for many of our officers, with one to two officers a day assaulted across Avon and Somerset. Each day I am appalled by these figures, as is Chief Constable Andy Marsh, who is working hard nationally and locally on plans to bring these numbers down for good.
Earlier this year, the National Police Chief’s Council published a report looking at the number of police officers assaulted for 2015/16 across England and Wales. They found that over the course of a year 23,000 officers had been assaulted while on duty – that’s 64 officers on average a day. As a victim, officers will be supported; however this is not something they should regularly have to face. While many officers have become accepting that this is just a part of their daily role, assaulting an officer on any level is unacceptable behaviour and will not be tolerated. We need to do more, from ensuring rapid health response to encouraging more robust sentences for assaulting any of our officers, be that fire, ambulance or police.
Supporting victims has always been a priority for me and this week I was delighted to be able to announce extended funding for Unseen UK’s modern slavery service following a successful pilot. The pilot supported Unseen’s RIO team to expand the services on offer to frontline staff, enabling them to better support victims of modern slavery. With the further funding they will be able to continue supporting police and frontline professionals to spot the signs of trafficking, speak with potential victims about their options and support entry into the National Referral Mechanism.
Next week on Tuesday October 25, I will be in Bristol on one of my community days. In the morning I will visit HMP Bristol to find out more about how they’re working with charity Life Cycle on a project which supports prisoners in refurbishing old, unwanted or broken bikes donated by the local community. After a visit to Phoenix Social Enterprise, I’ll then be holding a public drop-in session between 12-1pm at The Buzz in Lockleaze. I’ll be joined by members of the local neighbourhood policing team so if you’ve got any questions for them or myself, I’d encourage you to come along.