The Police Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, will attend the meeting to take questions from the Committee.
The Chairman welcomed the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Alison Hernandez, to the meeting.
Members had submitted a number of questions in advance;
Where has the money that we the public contributed and were told would result in policemen being on the beat in Cullompton been allocated to?
The PPC informed Members that she was investing £24m in policing which would fund an extra 100 officers and 50 investigators for a period of 4 years. However she could not specify where they would be sent as that was an operational decision that would be made by the Chief Constable. The PCC went on to say that although it seemed a lot £24m was not enough and it would also be necessary to change the way in which the force operated. She had requested a Connectivity Plan, in which there would need to be a change to the workforce mix and a change of priorities. The Plan would be ready later in the year.
Discussion took place regarding the removal of the Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) role and the PCC explained that this would be a phased operation and that there would be no redundancies, just natural turnover. She explained that PCSO’s could not be deployed to emergencies and although they were a visible presence they could not protect the public in an emergency. A range of new roles, across the emergency services, were being explored.
Discussion took place regarding a perceived lack of patrol cars on the motorway. The PCC explained that road policing had been cut but now that more armed response officers were being appointed there would be more availability for this work as they undertook road duties when not armed. She also explained that a lot of resource was required for dealing with online crime such as harassment, safeguarding and supporting the vulnerable.
I would like to know how large the cyber-crime team is for the area and is there any facility to brief small rural businesses about cyber security. Realistically if someone falls prey to cyber-crime/attack is there any likelihood of the protagonists being caught?
The PCC explained that there was now a Digital Capabilities Unit which was part of the Serious and Organised Crime Branch. She considered this to be a weak area nationally and that catching offenders was challenging, particularly as many of them were abroad. She was keen to put resource into prevention; to stop people getting caught-out, and this help could be accessed through groups such as the Federation of Small Business and Chambers of Commerce. There was a lot of free training available to help people to help themselves.
Do we have robust plans in place for natural or human induced disasters and specifically terrorist attack -accepting that details are likely to be confidential? Do we have local armed response teams?
The PCC responded that the Police and Crime Plan focused on safe communities and that the biggest threat was flooding. There had been a couple of terrorist linked incidents in the South West and she considered that the best cure for Devon and Cornwall would be prevention. Numbers of armed response units had increased with extra funding from Government and these were being deployed as part of a 3-County function with Dorset. Connectivity was important and the police needed to connect with the public and be visible. Armed response would be spread across the counties.
Is Brexit likely to affect information sharing between European countries or in any other way compromise our security?
The PCC stated that she did not expect any reduction in the sharing of information within Europe following Brexit.
What is the priority for rural policing?
The PCC explained that consultation had taken place over the summer and the public were asked their priorities. She explained that there had been 1500 responses on Facebook, mainly from the over 65’s, and those responses indicated that people did not feel connected or know what was going on. This had been fed into the plan. She had maintained funding to the Community Safety Partnerships and was pushing for extra funding for Districts.
Discussion took place regarding the 111 service. The PCC informed Members that response times for answering telephone calls had now improved and that callers shouldn’t have to wait for more than 5 minutes. However many calls were from people calling back to find out what had happened regarding something they had reported and the PCC considered that the feedback process needed to be better. Sometimes this included a failure to feed back when something had been dealt with which gave a bad impression, so realistic deadlines needed to be put in place.
Discussion took place regarding the amount of paperwork that officers had to complete following an incident and whether an inappropriate amount of time was being spent on this. The PCC informed Members that mobile working had been introduced, which though there were some coverage problems, had helped, however this needed further development. She was also supporting a Victim Care Unit which, whatever the crime, victims could ring and get support. A number of agencies could be commissioned to provide support.
Regarding domestic abuse the PCC stated that it was illegal and a serious issue. The Community Safety Partnership were involved with areas such as teaching people about healthy relationships by helping them to recognise what a healthy relationship looked like.
Have you given any consideration in respect of the efficacy of police stations? In Tiverton, one is reduced to picking up the outside phone and to find that one is talking to Plymouth, I believe, even though there are several police cars parked outside.
Discussion took place regarding Tiverton Police Station, which although being manned, was not open to the public. The public had to use a telephone outside of the building and speak to staff in Plymouth. The PCC suggested that if Members had better ideas for how things could be done they let her know. She gave an example of Newquay Police Station which now had a front desk manned by volunteers. She asked for ideas to help make policing more accessible. She agreed to look at the external telephone at Tiverton to see if it could be made more private, without making it isolated.
The PCC also highlighted ‘safer places’ which was a scheme whereby shops had a sticker on the door to let the public know that if they felt at risk or in danger this was a safe place to go. This scheme was currently in place for people with special needs but could be extended.
What is your opinion of the Government Crime Recording Standards Guidelines?
The PCC agreed that crime recording had not been done well for a number of years. This was because only master crimes were recorded and not other associated crimes, for example a burglary could be reported but not the assault which was associated to the burglary. Currently 83% of crimes were being reported well but 17% were not. The Chief Constable had set up a Gold Group following a HMIC report in which Devon and Cornwall performed worst of the 7 constabularies inspected. She said that there was a need to focus and to train officers to record properly. The PCC informed the Committee that better crime recording would result in a higher crime rate.
The PCC informed Members that Devon and Cornwall had the highest public confidence rating in England and Wales but in some service areas could be better. Her role was to help the Chief Constable to provide better services. A new Deputy from Dorset, as part of the alliance, had been put in place to manage Operations as a temporary trial as well as a Deputy in charge of business change. The PCC was confident that when the HMIC returned the force would get a better rating.
The Chairman thanked Mrs Hernandez for attending the meeting and for her thorough answers to the questions raised.
Note: - Questions * previously circulated and attached to Minutes.