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PCC poses your questions to Norfolk’s Chief Constable

Questions posed by people from across Norfolk were raised with the county’s temporary Chief Constable at Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner’s latest accountability meeting this week.

The safety of women and girls and confidence in policing were the main topics of the meeting, which was held using a virtual format on Wednesday (20 October).

PCC Giles Orpen-Smellie is responsible for scrutinising the performance of the force and how it is working to meet the priorities set out in Norfolk’s current Police and Crime Plan.

As the county’s elected representative for ensuring Norfolk has an efficient and effective policing service, it was Giles’ second of his new-style PCC Accountability Meetings (PAM).

A total of 23 questions had been sent into the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in preparation for the meeting, with many of them about the safety of women and girls in the county and how the constabulary is responding to issues around confidence in policing.

Opening the meeting Giles, said: “Let me cut to the chase as the public’s representative. The horrific death of Sarah Everard has drawn attention not just to the despicable actions of one police officer, but to a small minority of police officers not adhering to the standard of policing expected.

“The vast majority of police officers have the best intentions of the public at heart but sadly get tarnished by the small minority.

“The public perception is that trust has been damaged. Rebuilding trust is going to take time and is going to take work and I expect more work will need to be done.”

Giles asked Temporary Chief Constable Paul Sanford and his team of senior officers to respond to the questions.

The constabulary were asked about numbers of serving officers with convictions for sexual harassment, sexual and domestic abuse.

Paul Sanford advised that no officers with convictions for such offences were serving.

He also told the meeting that in the last five years nine officers had received convictions – for a variety of offences which also included fraud and driving with excess alcohol – all of whom are no longer with the constabulary.

Questions were also raised around officer training for responding to domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, with the PCC being advised that officers receive training at several points in their careers, starting at trainee officer level.

In response a question whether officers were crewed in pairs (double-crewed) Mr Sanford said the Constabulary did not have the resources to double crew all the time, and it was not always operationally necessary – he added officers were mainly double crewed over-night.

He added: “We are alive to the fact residents may be concerned if they are approached by a single officer…we have given guidance to officers of practical ways they can reassure that person.”

Mr Sanford said work was ongoing to highlight the standards and values expected of officers and staff at the Constabulary.

“I have spoken to over 290 supervisors over the last two weeks setting out the standards and values of the organisation,” he added.

“I have also briefed senior management and made clear the scrutiny of policing is as high as it’s ever been.

“The majority of people come to work because they want to make their communities better and they have a determination to make their communities as safe as they possibly can.”

Mr Sanford said he hoped the new police hubs at Swaffham and Broadland would help bring investigation resources together to enhance the capacity to carry out digital investigations and provide a more personal service for victims.

The PCC also heard that work was underway to recruit more female officers, with the meeting hearing that the Constabulary currently has 775 female staff and 495 male staff members and 557 female officers and 1096 male officers.

Mr Sanford also encouraged public’s continued use of the national StreetSafe tool which allows residents to anonymously report areas where they feel unsafe - whether a crime has been committed or not. He added the force had received 266 responses so far and was already patrolling ‘hotspot areas’ where people had flagged concerns.

PCC Accountability Meetings take place quarterly and give the PCC the opportunity to question senior officers about the force’s ongoing performance, as well as raise questions submitted by people across the county.

Questions were also raised about rural crime, speeding, theft, modern day slavery, parking, cycling and the police dog unit.

Other items on the agenda included reports on three priority areas set within Norfolk’s current Police and Crime Plan:

  • Good stewardship of taxpayers’ money
  • Increasing visible policing – including the employment of digital engagement officers, safer neighbourhood team investment, the success of the police Park Walk & Talk scheme and work by officers in schools.
  • Preventing offending – How a range of out of court disposal options available in Norfolk are being streamlined to lead to a stronger approach and reductions in repeat offending. 

Giles added: "I've got a statutory duty to hold the Chief Constable and, through the Chief Constable, the Constabulary to account for the policing service provided in Norfolk. 

"The PCC Accountability Meeting enables me to carry out that duty so the public can see that their interests and concerns are being represented. I'm glad the public has this opportunity to put the things that concern them to the Constabulary in this way." 

Following his election as PCC in May, Giles launched a public consultation into the priorities for a new Police and Crime Plan for Norfolk. The consultation ran for four weeks and based on the findings and feedback from partners, stakeholders and members of the public the new Police and Crime Plan for Norfolk will be implemented in April 2022. Until then, the plan and associated priorities set by the former PCC remain in place. 

A recording of the meeting is now available to watch on our PCC Accountability Meeting webpage. Full details of the questions and answers will be published in due course.

Watch the meeting

The next PCC Accountability Meeting will take place Wednesday 26 January 2022. Both the July and October meetings took place in a virtual format while cautions remain about the transmission of Covid19 and a decision on the format of future meetings will be made in line with the most up-to-date guidance at the time.