Tony Hogg's half term warning

Devon and Cornwall's Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Hogg reflects on the first half of his first term of office for Police and Crime Commmissioners.

As I reach the halfway point in the first term of office for Police and Crime Commissioners, it seems appropriate to reflect on how the role is developing and why it will prove crucial in sustaining and building effective policing for the longer term.

I am responsible for the efficiency and effectiveness of policing and the justice system. Having one clearly visible, democratically elected and locally focused individual who the public can relate to and hold to account has a lot going for it, and I believe the concept of Police and Crime Commissioners is working.  I have a talented and hard working team which is putting victims first, pioneering new initiatives, challenging old practices and monitoring the new ones. Transparency, integrity and inclusion are the cornerstones of everything we do, and my primary focus is to reconnect the public with the police force.

However all public services face enormous challenges in the years ahead, and policing is no exception.  As other services reduce and withdraw, policing is expected to fill the space.  Government funding has reduced and will carry on doing so.  I will continue to fight our corner rigorously, but, in reality, it’s extremely unlikely that the government or any opposition party will increase the money available to us.

Every single day of the year Devon and Cornwall Police receive more than 500 ‘999’ calls, almost 2,000 calls to ‘101’ and record about 900 incidents.  The impact on policing shows no sign of abating. Two prime examples are the demands of alcohol abuse and mental health. The stark reality is that we need to find innovative ways of delivering this vital service with less Government money.

If we carry on regardless then Devon and Cornwall Police will simply go bust.
We need to act differently and this means better management of demands on the police, finding new sources of income and transforming the way we deliver services.

Locally, I need to explain to people what the police can, and more importantly cannot, help them with.  I want to see better signposting to other services such as local authorities or our many excellent charities. I will also be challenging the government to stop making demands of our police at busy times of the year to support national and international events such as the NATO summit.

Recognising the state of our public finances, I believe that many people and businesses throughout Devon and Cornwall would be willing to offer support to community safety.  For example, they might club together to erect speed awareness signs by their local schools to help make their children safer.  Elsewhere companies offer vehicles and other resources that can directly support policing.  I want to find out if there is any wider appetite for this form of self-help.

On a different tack, I will be seeking ways to make offenders more responsible for the harm and costs they create. Too much legislation and statute seems to protect the offender, as opposed to the victim and the taxpayer.

For many people the most valuable asset they can offer is their time and commitment.  As well as sharing the load, volunteering supports pride, a sense of achievement and prepares for employment.  My team and the police are working at providing greater opportunities for the public to volunteer across a whole range of policing functions.

We should all be grateful to the Devon and Cornwall Special Constabulary and I am increasing the numbers.  These warranted officers are teachers, bus drivers and accountants playing a direct part in keeping us safe and we should not underestimate the vital role they play in our policing team.

Of course it is absolutely essential that the public provide intelligence to the police and am I have started a fundamental review of the ‘101’ non-emergency telephone system to rebuild public confidence.

We are transforming the way in which we deliver services.  Towards the end of this year the police will start to use new mobile devices to reduce their bureaucracy, stop them having to return to stations to complete routine administrative tasks and improve their service to the public. Police web-based services are a decade behind industry leaders and we aim to transform the ways in which the public can access the police and community safety partners.

The police cannot work alone. Partnerships are working well, but the joining up of health, social care and community safety can be improved. We will also continue our important collaborative work with Dorset and the wider peninsular police forces to bring economies of scale and best practice.

The story in Devon and Cornwall would be bleak if we hadn’t carefully considered and formulated a long term plan. We have to make savings without compromising the efficiency of our policing services and we are on track to do this.  The plan is ambitious and challenging and it will only be successful with the support of the 1.7 million residents and our 18 MPs.

We must all play our part to maintain Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as a fantastic and safe place to live, work and visit.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg