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101 phone call times, PEEL report and exploitation of children discussed at Performance and Accountability Board

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Last Wednesday (20th of September), PCC Mark Shelford put questions relating to members of the workforce being checked against the Police National Data Base, exploitation of children, 101 phone call times and Avon and Somerset PEEL report to Chief Constable (CC) Sarah Crew at the Performance and Accountability Board.

The meeting was broadcast live and sees the PCC discharge one of his most important legal duties, which is to hold the Chief Constable to account for delivering policing that is efficient, effective, and legitimate.

At the beginning of the meeting, the PCC followed up a point from this meeting in March, where CC Crew told us about the process whereby all members of the workforce were being checked against the Police National database. They then discussed action taken because of this work, and CC Crew reassured the PCC that checks of Avon and Somerset Police offers and staff had been completed in July, two months before the deadline.

Questions then focussed on topical issues; the PCC emphasised that the exploitation of children is one of the most harmful crimes and can have a devastating impact on a person for the rest of their life, so preventing this is critical. He went on to ask Assistant CC Will White how Avon and Somerset Police work with schools to identify children at risk of exploitation.

The Assistant CC explained how ASP works with schools and partnered agencies to identify young people that may be at risk. Schools are able to speak to their dedicated link officer if they need to discuss any concerns.  

Assistant CC White also referred to other teams such as Violence Reduction Units, early intervention teams, Operation Topaz and the cyber team. These organisations play a huge part in preventing and responding to child exploitation.

Following this, the PCC asked the questions on the issues the public have contacted him about, such as the time it takes for calls to be answered on the 101 phone line. The PCC stated that feedback supported in the performance data shows a higher abonnement rate of 101 phone calls over the last year, he asked the CC what is being done to address this, and can we expect to see the performance improve?

CC Sarah Crew explained that this is an area she has particularly investigated and scrutinised, she gave some context that in the last 30 days, Avon and Somerset Police has had 86,500 calls into their emergency control room, and over a third of those were 999 calls. This is 6,000 more than what was seen in the same period last year.

She emphasised that 999 calls trigger a response that absorbs staffs time and energy. CC Crew also stated that it’s the same staff members that answer 101 calls and 999 calls, so therefore emergency calls will take priority. She also stated that ASP is trying to reduce the number of ‘pocket dials’, where people accidentally call 999, learn how to stop this here.

Finally, Chief of Staff Alice Ripley moved on to the Avon and Somerset PEEL report. She outlined that ASP was graded as “requires improvement”. One of the areas identified relates to the quality assurance and supervision of investigations. Alice asked Assistant CC Will White what ASP are doing to address this issue.

CC White said that the key part is how ASP has increased its capacity, in line with the Government Uplift Programme. Avon and Somerset Police has increased the number of trained CID officers, so it has a greater ability to deal with more complex investigations. ASP has also looked at every single role in relation to investigation to ensure that training is bespoke and specific to the job requirements.

“Many thanks to Chief Constable Sarah Crew and Assistant Chief Constable Will White for joining me at my Performance and Accountability Board.

“The meeting is an opportunity to be open and transparent with local people and partners and address their policing and crime concerns.

“The board is broadcast once a month for 30 minutes, with the next meeting happening in October.”

PCC, Mark Shelford