Organised criminality and the coronavirus have this in common: they bring misery to individuals and communities and they pay no regard to boundaries or borders.
This is why, as far as the virus is concerned, our whoops of joy at being the first country to secure the vaccine will be short lived if the immunity it gives is very time limited and if other parts of the world are not able to secure their citizens against the disease as well. International travel and trade requires global and not just local solutions. We are in this together.
Similarly with crime. Whatever measures we take here, unless we can work successfully across borders, we can still be impacted by criminals operating elsewhere. This is why I have to keep asking the Chief Constable what the police have in place, nationally and locally, for when we exit the European Union on 31 December.
As we have noted before, leaving the EU has a range of consequences for policing, principally around crime, counter terrorism and missing persons. Quite simply, from 1 January we shall no longer have access to EU policing and security instruments. EU countries will no longer be able to access shared data and see who is missing in the UK or who is wanted by us – and vice versa. We shall no longer have access to the European Arrest Warrant which enables UK suspects, who have fled to another European country, to be arrested and returned to face justice – and vice versa.
As an example, at the moment, if a car is stopped in Germany, officers there can look at data in real time that will tell them that the person driving is wanted by British police – and they can detain them there and then. This facility will be lost.
Fortunately, the police and security services have been planning for this, as far as they can, because the situation was going to be like this, deal or no deal. The National Police Chiefs’ Council established the International Crime Co-ordination Centre (ICCC) to find alternative solutions, which they have largely done. But the alternatives are more cumbersome, more manual, more time-consuming, less automated and therefore less real time. As a result, forces will have to be far more pro-active – and therein lies the risk. This is why I need re-assurance that the force’s Gold Group understands what will have to happen from the New Year.
The virus and the criminal will both exploit any complacency or lack of preparedness, and, crucially, neither recognises borders.
Police Officer Numbers
One of our local MPs states on their website that ‘as part of the government’s promise to recruit 20,000 new police officers, 269 … have been recruited in South Yorkshire over the past 12 months.’
This is quite misleading. More than a year before the general election in 2019, we had already decided to use local resources to increase police numbers in South Yorkshire. We believed that the loss of 600 officers in the county between 2010 and 2019 had contributed towards a growth in serious crime. We felt we had to reverse this and committed to increase police numbers overall by 220 (between 2019 and 2023-24), paid for from our resources, including council tax.
So officer numbers will increase through local initiative as well as government, in this way:
Officers funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner
Officers to be funded by government grant
*The total number to be funded by government is at this stage a guess on our part as to what our share of the 20,000 might be. We have received nothing in writing.
Sorry is the hardest word
A northern police force has just received one of the most hard-hitting inspection reports that I have ever read. The inspectors found multiple failings and raised serious concerns about domestic violence, child protection and the recording of crime. One in four violent crimes, for example, were not being recorded, and this was denying victims justice. The extraordinary thing is that the force had already been warned about its crime recording twice before in 2016 and 2018. The inspectors also found that the approach to vulnerable victims had ‘significantly deteriorated’ since an inspection in 2019. This is surely going to impact on both the morale of officers – especially those who are giving of their best every day – and the confidence of the public – not least those who want to be supportive of their police.
In South Yorkshire we know very well what it is like for a force to face criticism. But we also know that the only way forward is to acknowledge the reality of what has been shown and to act swiftly and decisively to put things right. Above all, there must be no denial. Denial keeps you rooted in where you are.
Christmas cheer, New Year misery?
Two weeks ago I wrote this:
The worry now is that by relaxing the rules at Christmas and allowing more social mixing, we may be laying up trouble for ourselves in the New Year, when hospitals are in any case always facing winter pressures.
I am more sure of that than ever, because we are still a long way from having most of the population vaccinated. I believe, therefore, that this is a relaxation too far. I can see that the government is under pressure to give us a bit of cheer at Christmas, but it would be a mistake to throw away what we have gained for the sake of a few days with family and friends. There will be other Christmases. There are times when leadership requires us to do what is right and not what is popular.
I hope you are staying safe and well.