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PCC questions Chief Constable about visible policing in Norfolk

Visible policing came under the spotlight at Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner’s second accountability meeting of 2023.

The PCC Accountability Meeting (PAM) was hosted by PCC Giles Orpen-Smellie at his Wymondham office yesterday, Wednesday 19 April. 

With the meeting coming only weeks after the publication of Baroness Casey’s report into the behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service, Giles was keen to ask the Chief Constable what his force was doing to address ‘Visible and Trusted’ in Norfolk – a key priority in his Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan.

Opening the meeting Giles, said: “My role as the Police and Crime Commissioner is to represent the public of Norfolk who elected me.

“The most important voice, it seems to me, is often the most difficult to hear, and that's the one of the silent majority.

“Last week I took the opportunity to listen to and think about what the silent majority is asking of me, and so reflect on that and refocus my efforts accordingly.

“And what I believe the public is making clear is what they want more than anything else is greater visibility of policing.

“If the police wish to restore the public's faith in policing, the police must be visible and accessible within the communities they serve.

“I do know the Chief is just as keen as I am to deliver that increased visibility, but I am mindful of what I have described in the past as the expectation gap between the public’s expectation and the competing demands placed on the police to deliver that visibility.

“It’s the practical effects of that gap and how we bridge it I’m keen to explore.”

Chief Constable Paul Sanford reassured the meeting work has been ongoing to address public confidence in policing, both before and after the publication of the Casey report.

“When it comes to public trust and confidence in policing you, you'll be aware that we do survey the public as a means of taking the temperature,” he said.

“In that survey work, we have seen what I describe as a marginal decline in public satisfaction rates. That still sees satisfaction in the Constabulary at 85%, which I would consider to be a good rate of satisfaction.

“The decline obviously concerns me. I think that that decline will be a reflection of events that have troubled UK policing and not just Norfolk Constabulary, but 85% of those surveys surveyed, feeling that Norfolk Constabulary were doing a good or excellent job, I think demonstrates a good level of confidence, nonetheless.

“The same survey does highlight that an area for us to focus on is understanding the needs of our communities, and I think that will really touches at the heart of neighbourhood policing.”

Mr Sanford said a review had commenced into the constabulary’s Safer Neighbourhood Action Panels – where members of the public help decide local policing priorities for their area – to ensure better attendance and in-put.

He also highlighted the number of Beat Managers and Local Policing Neighbourhood Sergeants had increased in the last 12 months. From 117 Beat Managers to 121 and 132 Sergeants to 147. Mr Sanford also highlighted the work of the Community Support Unit (CSU) - a team of eight sergeants spread across four geographic locations, and between 40 and 60 (which is variable) Student Police Officers. He said the aim of the CSU was to ensure every officer leaving the unit has an in-built “neighbourhood community philosophy”.

“The Constabulary is making sure that we have the right people with the right mindset with a neighbourhood community chip in-built,” he added.

The meeting came only days after the publication of Giles’ latest blog which outlined his commitment to ensuring visible policing in Norfolk.

It is the second time this year Giles has hosted a PAM where questions raised by members of the public can also be posed to Mr Sanford and colleagues. 

Under Pillar 6 of his plan - Safer and Stronger Communities - based on questions submitted by members of the public to his office, Giles used the occasion to also question Mr Sanford on a number of road safety related matters.  

The quarterly PCC Accountability Meetings (PAM) have been set up to allow Giles to publicly question, challenge and hold the Chief Constable and senior officers directly to account for their delivery of policing in the county.  

Although the main focus was on the ‘Visible and Trusted Policing’ priority of his Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan, the meeting also heard about police progress made against his five other priorities: 

  • Sustaining Norfolk Constabulary  
  • Tackling Crime  
  • Prevent Offending  
  • Support Victims
  • Safer and Stronger Communities  

A recording of the meeting is now available on our PCC Accountability Meeting webpage

The next PCC Accountability Meeting will take place on Wednesday 5 July from 10am. The event will be held in the Conference Room, at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Building 7, Jubilee House, Falconers Chase, Wymondham, Norfolk NR18 0WW.