My role within the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) is Community and Stakeholder Engagement, here I will outline what the role involves and why it’s important to the overall work we do at the OPCC.
What is engagement and why is it important?
Engagement is a meaningful two-way conversation that achieves visible, positive, and collaborative change. One of PCC Mark Shelford’s Police and Crime Action Plan’s four priorities is engaging, supporting, and working with communities, victims, and partner organisations.
A key part of my role involves organising the PCC’s Friday Engagement activities across the Avon and Somerset area. Visiting organisations, partners, elected leaders and communities to hear their work and interaction with the police is important in building confidence and trust in policing and for scrutiny. This is vital particularly considering the impact of the recent review by Baroness Casey of policing in The Met which highlighted the level of distrust between the police and the communities they serve.
Local insight and experiences
We know local people have the greatest knowledge about their area, so you want as many as possible to give their views on changes happening around them, and be able to voice concerns on crime, safety, local infrastructure updates, new housing developments and how that will affect them etc.
I work to engage with diverse communities and making sustainable connections with community groups. My role also includes attending other organisations, community groups and OPCC partners’ events.
Engagement in action
The reason for writing this piece is that, recently I had the pleasure of attending a groundbreaking Avon and Somerset Police Intelligence Community event. The aim of the event was to open the police’s intelligence tasking process, show how they process information and make decisions, so that communities have confidence in the way they handle the intelligence that comes into the force and can trust that the actions taken are done with the very best of intentions and with public safety as a priority.
The event was held at Avon and Somerset Police Headquarters. As one of the participants, it was refreshing to see influential community stakeholders and leaders from diverse communities across the region attending.
The event used a role play to guide participants through the world of intelligence. This was fascinating and brave of the force’s Department of Intelligence to engage community leaders through this trial-run. In law enforcement, the word “intelligence” suggests top-secret, covert operations, yet it is about information gathering and analysis.
I understand the police face a myriad of challenges, including trust and confidence issues. However, its commendable to see the ASP’s Intelligence Department being bold and opening their intelligence tasking process to community leaders. This was echoed by the Chief Constable Sarah Crew, who opened the day.
Chief Constable Crew said: “We are an ‘open’ organisation. When the public understands what we are doing they will be more prepared to help us do it.”
Accountability and transparency are key principles of policing that help to improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.
While police departments, especially the Intelligence Department, must be cautious to protect individuals’ right to privacy and safety including of their staff, this open approach was commendable to show how information gathering helps to tackle crime. The department is responsible for gathering information, covert intelligence and undertaking some of the police’s most demanding, complex and sensitive policing operations.
Detective Chief Inspector Neil Rice who organised the event said: “By taking part in this event, our community stakeholders got a feel for the types of information we receive and the decisions we must make based on this information, in real time. It was fully immersive and highly realistic and gave an insight into the challenges we face in processing and acting on information we receive from communities.
“My hope is that we can build on the success of today and hold more insight events with our communities, to be open and accountable for the decisions we make, improving trust and confidence and building stronger relationships.”