Thursday, 16 February 2017

A reply from the Police and Crime Commissioner on PCSOs

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to the Police and Crime Commissioner about the new Police and Crime Plan (2017-2020). As a councillor for the China Clay Area, I raised concerns about the proposed reduction in Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and how that might impact on our area.

In particular, I referred her to newspaper reports that stated “no decision has yet been taken on which communities are likely to lose a PCSO” but that “large towns and cities are expected to see little change.” I obviously asked where that would leave communities, such as the China Clay Area, which do not happen to be a large town or city?

I have received a reply, which fails to address the key concern that I raised and I have already written to her again asking for further clarification. I have also asked that my concerns also be extended to the Chief Constable.

In addition, I will be at the China Clay Area Community Network meeting in St Stephen on Monday night, when the Commissioner’s Chief Executive will be present. I certainly have plenty of questions.

Her letter to me was a follows:

Since taking office last year I have been listening to the views of the public across Devon and Cornwall. What is overwhelmingly clear is that whilst the vast majority of the public support their police, they feel at times too distant from the police and call for greater connectivity. This was the case even in areas where they voiced strong support for their existing PCSOs. I have sought to address this desire for greater connectivity in my new Police and Crime Plan.

My new Police and Crime Plan provides a direction to help communities become safer, more resilient and better connected and makes a Local Policing Promise to ensure that policing is accessible, responsive, informative and supportive. To support this I have been able to unlock additional funding, including releasing a significant sum from our reserves.

However, decisions regarding the shape and make up of the workforce are made by the Chief Constable. He has now set out his outline plans and I have supported this on the condition that the enhanced structure fully delivers my police and crime plan which has connectivity at its heart. Through the investment that I have provided the Chief Constable has proposed to increase police officer numbers by 94 to over 3000, appoint 50 new criminal investigators and employ a team of 30 police staff who will directly support front line policing, for example by taking witness statements over the telephone. We expect that this investment in statement takers alone will free up 60,000 police officer hours – which is the equivalent of another 30 police officers on our streets.

The Chief Constable also proposed to make a significant reduction, over time, in the number of PCSOs working within our communities. No decisions have yet been made about where PCSOs will be deployed in the future and I have made it clear to the Chief Constable that I expect him to engage with communities, as well as the workforce, to inform him as he moves forward.

The Chief Constable is preparing a connectivity plan that will set out publically how he intends to fulfil the requirements set out in my plan and I shall be ‘signing off’ a set of service standards that the police will be required to meet. Connectivity for me is about building and keeping a strong link between the community and the police. At the moment that link for many people comes primarily from your PCSO – but we need to ensure that our links with the community are wider and stronger than just one person.

Over the coming years the shape of policing in Devon and Cornwall needs to alter – to reflect the changing nature of crime but also to help us respond quickly to emergency calls across our rural and our urban areas. We also need to improve the connection between the public and the police. It is for the Chief Constable to decide the composition of his workforce and to make decisions on how those resources are deployed.

While PCSO numbers will be reducing over time, it is the intention that existing PCSOs will move into these new roles, as police officers or other staff roles. I have the Chief Constable’s assurances that there will be no redundancies over the next twelve months and that redeployments will only take place following engagement with those localities that will be affected. As your representative, I will be resolute in holding the Chief Constable to account on behalf of the pubic particularly for the increased connectivity that the people of Devon and Cornwall have said is important to them.

I fully appreciate that you will continue to have concerns as to what local policing will look like in your area in the coming years. I would encourage you to write to the Chief Constable to let him know your concerns. I am sorry that I am unable to attend the upcoming Community Network meeting on 20th February. Andrew White, my CEO, will be attending on my behalf and will be able to talk to you further about this issue and answer any further questions.

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