Norfolk’s PCC and Chief Constable address policing and crime questions
The Police and Crime Commissioner’s latest accountability meeting took place on Wednesday 26 January with more questions posed to the county’s Chief Constable by local communities.
Known as the PCC Accountability Meeting (PAM), the event was the third of its kind hosted by PCC Giles Orpen-Smellie – and the first for 2022.
The quarterly meetings 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 the county’s current Police and Crime Plan, as well as raise questions submitted by people across Norfolk.
Questions sent into the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in preparation for the meeting included concerns around the road safety of vulnerable road users (motorcyclists, pedal cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders) and the use of body worn cameras by police officers.
Giles asked Chief Constable Paul Sanford and his team of senior officers to respond to the questions.
Paul Sanford moved to reassure people his officers took “reports of collisions involving all members of the public very seriously, particularly when involving vulnerable road users”.
“We have a number of initiatives to make our roads safer for road users” he added but stressed the “significant increase in attacks on vulnerable road users” was not reflected in police data.
The meeting heard that statistics show there were 39 Killed or Serious Injury (KSI) collisions involving pedestrians in 2021 compared with 48 in 2020, 46 KSIs involving pedal cyclists in 2021 compared to 54 in 2020 and no KSI incidents involving horse riders.
More than 19% of KSIs involved motorcyclists (72) in 2021.
Mr Sanford said initiatives aimed at making the roads safer for all included, the Safe Rider Scheme for motorcyclists and Close Pass events which educate motorists about the safe distance needed to be taken when passing cyclists. He advised the constabulary was looking to extend the Close Pass scheme to educating road users about horse riders.
Operation Snap also continues to encourage cyclists and motorcyclists to send in head cam footage and where these provide enough evidence offenders will be prosecuted.
The constabulary was also asked about its use of body worn cameras by officers and the “reliability of evidence” if not backed up by video evidence.
Mr Sanford advised body worn cameras should be worn and turned on by officers when “an evidence gathering opportunity is in place”. He added cameras are not on all the time as they would soon reach their recording capacity, but officers were also advised to wear and record when using particular policing powers including stop and search and when attending potential domestic abuse incidents.
“Whenever we are gathering evidence cameras should be switched on,” he added. “We do carry out dip samples and if they are found not to be on we are asking why that is the case.”
Highlighting the question of police visibility, Giles Orpen-Smellie also asked Mr Sanford for an update on the number of ‘park, walk and talk’ foot patrols carried out by the constabulary to give members of the public the opportunity to talk about issues affecting the community while being visible in neighbourhoods.
Mr Sanford said a recent update by the constabulary showed officers had been involved in 1,531 such patrols and had carried out a total of 736 other patrols in areas across the county where people had reported feeling unsafe via the national online tool Street Safe since its launch in October 2021. He advised more information was available on the police website.
On the subject of Violence Against Woman and Girls (VAWG) Mr Sanford advised the meeting that between 1 November 2020 and 31 October 2021 there had been just under 14,000 recorded crimes of domestic abuse (DA) in the county – 9,802 (70%) against females resulting in 823 prosecutions to date. For the same period police recorded 2,300 serious sexual offences (SSO) of which 1,935 (83%) involved female victims with 58 prosecutions to date. Mr Sanford added that many of the cases remain live investigations so more prosecutions will be forthcoming.
Mr Orpen-Smellie asked Mr Sanford to clarify if this meant 30% of DA recorded crimes and 17% involved male victims or where gender was not available. Mr Sanford confirmed this showed DA and SSOs were not crimes just affecting females but “nonetheless such crimes overwhelmingly disproportionally affected women and girls”.
Moving onto resource implications caused by Covid, in particular the new Omicron variant in December and January, Mr Sanford advised the meeting he felt internally the force had seen its peak with a 9.6% sickness rate associated with Omicron. He advised the force had contingency plans in place for far higher rates so expected a “minimal operational impact” and had moved resources where necessary to match demand.
Following the end of Mr Orpen-Smellie’s latest Police Budget Consultation for 2022/23, the PCC asked the Chief Constable to explain how the extra increase in funding raised by the policing element of council tax (policing precept) last year (2021/22) had been used by the constabulary.
Mr Sanford advised the extra funding – 22p a week for a Band B property and 29p a week for Band D – had been used to allow the force to “keep its service at the current level” prior to the 2021/22 consultation while dealing with increased demands. He advised the force had been able to increase the number of officers to 1,791 this year “the highest number of officers in our history” and “way above” the Home Office’s Uplift Programme target for the county. The Chief Constable also advised the force has been able to employ more digital investigators to “help unlock lines of enquiry” extracting data for policing colleagues from mobile phones, dash cams, laptops for investigations including rape, fraud and sexual abuse.
“I hope that sets out in more detail how we have used the money increase last year. I hope we have helped to make a real difference where it matters the most,” said Mr Sanford.
Other items on the agenda included reports on three priority areas set within Norfolk’s current Police and Crime Plan:
- Supporting Rural Communities – Including updates on the police’s rural policing team Operation Randall, the police drone team, including taking part in a national trial to expand the use of drones up to 30km in distance and a 50% drop in hare coursing thanks to the efforts of the Rural Crime Team.
- Improving Road Safety – Including updates on statistics around Killed or Serious Injury collisions showing a reduction between 1 December 2020 and 30 November 2021, likely attributed to travel restrictions imposed through the pandemic. Updates were also given on fixed and mobile speed camera offences.
- ·Good Stewardship of Taxpayers’ Money – Including updates on the police budget showing the Constabulary Revenue Budget is forecast to be underspent by £0.372m at the year-end – in the main due to staff pay vacancies offset by the increase in officer numbers in excess of the planned recruitment targets. The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk (OPCCN) is forecast to be on budget at the end of the year.
A paper was also presented on the Constabulary’s Professional Standards Department, providing an overview of complaints covering the period 1 April to 30 September 2021, and an update report delivered on police collaboration.
Giles added: “Such meetings give me the opportunity to understand the issues of importance to people living and working in the county – crucial ahead of the development and publication of my new Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan in the spring.
“It’s incredibly important to me that our constabulary are delivering the best possible service for the people of the county and it is by seeking answers to concerns or worries that we can understand what is working well and where improvements can be made.”
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, Crime and Community Safety Plan for Norfolk will be implemented in April 2022. Until then, the plan and associated priorities set by the former PCC remain in place.
The full agenda and reports as well as a recording of the meeting can be found on our PCC Accountability Meeting page where the minutes containing the questions and answers will also be published in due course:
The next PCC Accountability Meeting will take place on Tuesday 26 April 2022. Previous meetings have taken 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.