Let me begin where I will also end and wish you a very Happy Christmas. In this brief newsletter I will pick up on a few current issues and things that have happened since the last newsletter.
Policing at Christmas
The police service nationally and locally will be running campaigns over this season reminding people of the hazards and dangers of drinking and driving. Hopefully, that will reduce the number of road collisions. Sadly, however, there will be incidents, some of which will change the lives of those involved for ever, and some of which will end lives. The most likely group to be involved are men aged between 17 and 29. We should be grateful to those officers – in all the emergency services – who will be on duty over the Christmas period. Some of them will have to deal with situations of considerable distress. This will test both their professionalism and their human qualities of sympathy and concern. We thank them in advance for the good job we know they will do.
Some good news…..
New Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner. In my first two years as PCC I did not appoint either a Deputy or an Assistant PCC, as almost every other PCC has done. However, I found that I was getting more invitations to meet groups than I could deal with. So after advertising and interviewing I have been able to appoint Sioned-Mair Richards as a part-time APCC. Sioned (pronounced ‘Shon-ed’ – she is originally from Wales and speaks Welsh) is already well-known in the county and she looks forward to meeting others as her work develops. I shall have to start signing myself: Comisiynydd yr Heddlu a Throseddu ar gyfer De Swydd Efrog! (I think.)
Ben Needham. The operation on Kos was brought to an end and has generally been seen as very successful, although it did not result in anything completely conclusive. But South Yorkshire Police professionalism was been seen at its best and Ben’s family can be reassured that everything that can reasonably done to answer the question of what happened to Ben all those years ago, has been done. The cost of the operation was met by a grant from the Home Office.
Operation Duxford. Residents in the four districts of South Yorkshire – Barnsley, Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster – will gradually become aware of this police initiative. Briefly, the operation will concentrate a large number of officers – and council staff – in each district in turn to make a real impact. Warrants will be executed, arrests will be made and a very visible presence will bring a real sense of assurance that our communities are being kept safe. At the time of writing, Operation Duxford has been in Barnsley and Sheffield.
New local policing model
In May, I commissioned with the interim Chief Constable a peer review of SYP. Among many findings it said that neighbourhood policing had been stretched to the point where it had virtually disappeared. When I appointed the new Chief constable, Stephen Watson, I asked him to make the recovery of true neighbourhood policing a top priority. This is now being worked upon. It does not mean a simple return to what we have had in the past, since the resources of funding and people, will not be there for that. But it does mean having officers who are dedicated to neighbourhood work, and it will mean that a new place-based approach will have to involve closer working with the local authority and the Fire Rescue Service. SYP will also need to think about what buildings it needs for this new style of policing. Sharing buildings may be a better use of the resources than trying to maintain all existing police buildings with fewer officers. Ideally, we would like to see the police badge alongside that of other partners – such as Fire and Rescue. If you have any ideas on this, any suggestions about use of buildings, let us know.
Maltby Police and Fire Station
Along with Councillor Pat Haith of the Fire Authroity, I was pleased to take part in starting the work for the new joint Police and Fire Station at Maltby. This shows how we can collaborate successfully together. Bringing police and fire officers together in the same building should help to get better co-ordination when responding to incidents. It could be the first of other such ventures.
The future of the police and fire services
You may know that a bill is currently going through parliament that will do two things. First it will require all the emergency services to work more closely together. But second, it will give Police and Crime Commissioners the power, should they wish to exercise it, to bring the Fire and Rescue Service in their area under their wing along with the police service. I recently met the Fire Authority and told them I was not thinking of this at the present time, though government pressure to do this may become even greater than it already is: we know that the direction of travel for the government is to see PCCs become Police, Fire and Crime Commissioners. But I have suggested that in the first instance we form a new joint committee to allow a more co-ordinated approach to how we work more closely together. This body could look at buildings, procurement and workforce matters to get greater efficiencies and effectiveness in both organisations. I believe the Authority will also invite me to sit on their board. So 2017 will be a further year of change!
So I end where I began and wish you a Safe and Happy Christmas.