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Police response to pandemic under spotlight at virtual accountability meeting

Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has held a virtual accountability meeting with the Chief Constable to scrutinise the policing response to COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic on the county’s policing service.

Due to social distancing requirements introduced in March, the PCC moved to virtual meetings with the Chief Constable and senior officers to ensure he could continue to monitor and oversee the work of the Constabulary in delivering the county’s Police and Crime Plan.

Digital platforms, such as Skype, have been used to facilitate regular meetings between the PCC and Chief Constable – such as the Strategic Governance Board where the Chief Constable provides a confidential briefing on operational policing matters, and the Estates Governance Board where decisions are made in relation to the police estate and major infrastructure projects.

Now, with COVID-related restrictions still in place, PCC Lorne Green has held his Police Accountability Forum – which would normally take the form of a public meeting – virtually too. The minutes of the meeting, which took place on 21 July, will be published alongside the written reports for members of the public to view.

The virtual meeting included an update from the Chief Constable on how the Force has responded to the demands and challenges of the pandemic. The PCC also received a report on the Constabulary’s financial position, as well as how it is working with emergency service partners to improve community safety, efficiency and maximise resources.

Other topics covered included the latest crime statistics from the Office for National Statistics which, for the period to 31 March 2020, showed decreases in crime categories such as burglary and theft, while figures for violent and sexual offences, and domestic abuse, continued to rise.  The PCC also questioned the Chief Constable on the Force’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and how it was working to address disproportionality and bias in policing, and make its workforce more representative of Norfolk’s communities.

PCC Lorne Green said: “Over the last few months we have found ourselves in unprecedented circumstances. It’s been a very challenging time for our police force, our communities and the organisations working to support victims of crime and the vulnerable.

“My term as PCC was due to end in early May but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the election was postponed until next year. I’ve been a public servant all my life; I was elected to serve so I will continue to do so for as long as I am required. That duty includes, but is in no way limited to, keeping a close watching eye on the work of our Constabulary, supporting and challenging as needed.

“I have remained in daily contact with the Chief Constable, with regular virtual meetings focused on the demands and challenges being faced by the Force, including by those on its frontline called upon to police the lockdown. We’ve been closely monitoring workforce resilience, our officer and staff absence levels and their well-being. Another priority has been, and remains, paying close attention to the policing budget, forecasting and planning as best we can for any number of scenarios which could play out over the months to come.

“What the Police Accountability Forum does is bring those priority areas into focus in a public arena. Through the reports and minutes of the meeting being published on the Norfolk PCC website, Norfolk communities can get a real insight into the key issues affecting their policing service and a whole gamut of work being done to address them.

“I am justifiably proud of our Constabulary’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how hard all its officers and staff have worked in order to maintain law and order, fight crime and support our communities. However, there is no room for complacency.

“There is always more that can be done and, for example, where the most recent crime statistics are concerned, or efforts to tackle disproportionality and make our police force more representative of the communities it serves, I will continue to scrutinise, challenge and support our police force to do better.”

The agenda and reports for this meeting have been published - Agenda and Reports for the Police Accountability Forum - 21 July 2020 (PDF, 2.5 MB)

The minutes of the meeting will be published here in due course.