Commissioner's Blog and Office Update - 10th June
It has been another eventful week in which policing has featured significantly as the protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd have multiplied across this country as well as in the USA. Hull has seen some protests and others are planned in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. I am pleased to say that those locally have been peaceful and the people attending them have made their point with dignity and restraint.
As I wrote last week, I stand with those who condemn a society where people of any ethnicity or persuasion suffer disproportionately simply because of the colour of their skin, their religion or any defining feature that makes them who they are. Although achieving a society where that no longer is the case is something many have worked towards over generations, it remains true that we have not yet achieved it. This country may be better than most, but we must listen to, and actually hear, those affected to understand that there is some way to go yet.
I see many attempts to somehow offset the messages of BLM, with people highlighting deaths of white people or children, or drawing attention to the background of George Floyd, or writing/saying that all lives matter not just black lives and, in so doing, suggesting or implying that these protests are wrong or misguided. The people who do this are the proof that there is still a long way to go; people who deny the lived experience of those who continue to suffer discrimination in both treatment and outcomes and who fail to see there is a difference between any individual tragic event, even where someone may have lost their life, and those continually perpetrated by agents of the state against identifiable minority groups. Of course I acknowledge, and did so last week in my blog, the significant differences between the operation of policing in the UK and the USA but that does not mean we can sit back and believe we don’t have lots of work to do here also, in almost every aspect of society.
None of that excuses the violence we have seen in this country during some of the protests. The right to protest is of ultimate importance in a democracy, but that must be confined to peaceful protest. Police Officers and PCSOs who attend marches and rallies to facilitate them being held, and promote the safety of those who attend and other members of the public, are performing a public service and duty. They are individuals with the right to go to work without the expectation of being abused and assaulted. The hugely important message intended to be conveyed during these protests risks being lost in the violence and destruction caused by the minority, probably many of the same people who attach themselves to so many protests in the hope of being able to create disturbances. I condemn unreservedly those who turn to violence to promote their cause. I would also point out that protesters ignoring current public health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid 19 are irresponsible, regardless of the cause. Putting other members of the public and health and care workers at risk while protesting is not the way to honour anyone. I am grateful that in this area, at least, protests have been peaceful and largely respectful of social distancing guidance.
Of course, we have also seen large gatherings of people on beaches and other public spaces as the weather got hotter. Although the lockdown rules have been amended to allow some more flexibility this kind of gathering also places at risk heath and care workers. The police cannot, in reality, maintain adherence to the amended rules as there is so much latitude in them now and the government say that we all must apply our own judgement and common sense. I appeal to everyone to act appropriately, in line with guidelines and rules, to help prevent Covid 19 infections starting to rise again. We are, by no stretch of the imagination, out of the woods yet. Our best chance of an early return to something approaching normality remains a consistent application of the guidelines and the spirit of them. Remember, having seen someone else breaching the rules does not give you a protective shield if you decide to do the same. Everyone is at risk so please act accordingly.
As lockdown has eased Humberside Police has been progressing Operation Galaxy targeting criminality across the Humber area. At the last count I saw arrests had reached 286 which is a fantastic effort and will undermine the efforts of criminals to just restart their criminal careers as we emerge back onto the streets. Of course those arrests have to be converted into convictions or returns to prison and for that to occur we need the whole criminal justice system (CJS) working as well as possible. I chair the Local Criminal Justice board where all the agencies involved in the operation of the CJS come together to try to develop as smooth and efficient an operation as possible. During this crisis the courts have closed and although some video-enabled trials have started and video links from police stations to courts have been set up for new prisoners, the throughput of cases is way below where we would all like it. There is limited flexibility within the courts service to change practices locally as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the national courts service direct the whole service at a national level with little local discretion. For that reason, as Chair, I have been raising concerns directly with government ministers and we are submitting a paper highlighting the challenges we face and some potential solutions. It is vital that the government really prioritise this aspect of recovery from Covid19 to maintain confidence in the CJS, especially for victims who deserve justice.
The messages I would like to relay now on behalf of the Criminal Justice Board are that:
- The Criminal Justice System is not yet operating normally, but it is operating
- People should continue to report crime to the police
- Whilst the system is running more slowly, offenders will still be brought to justice
- Courts, when they do re-open, will do so in a Covid-safe way.
In terms of the broader CJS, for those who have an interest, there is a link HERE to a document published outlining how the Probation Service has planned for recovery from the crisis.
It is also worth noting that in response to the threat of Covid 19, the MoJ and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) took decisive action to protect staff and prisoners. The decision to bring in these restrictions was not taken lightly, and with a full appreciation of the consequences for prisoners and their families. The result however, has been only a limited number of infections and they have been well contained within our local prisons.
The national framework sets out how the Prison Service will take decisions about the cautious easing of these restrictions, guided by public health advice and the best available data. There will not be a simple easing of restrictions across the estate, but this national guidance will ensure there is consistency in decision making by Governors.
In the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) our Engagement Officers in each of the local authority areas have been maintaining whatever contact they can with community groups and partners, providing support where needed and, as always, ensuring links are made between groups or individuals where they can add value. We have also, in the OPCC, been administering a bidding process whereby third sector organisations supporting victims of domestic and sexual abuse could bid into a pot of funding that we secured access to, provided by the MoJ. We acted quickly to promote this fund and, despite some strict criteria, 14 local organisations submitted creditable applications which we will now submit to the MoJ with our support. The sum total of this bid is £315,499, a not inconsiderable figure and one that will bring additional support to victims of abuse and funding for the organisations that provide the support. Hopefully we will get the actual money within the next two weeks and this is really good news in a week when most other news has been more sobering.
Police and Crime Commissioner
Office work update
The current pandemic has not stopped our team from continuing day-to-day work. All staff are working from home with mobile IT and conducting meetings online, which after three months have now become a normal way of working. The Commissioner, Chief Constable and other senior OPCC team members recently participated in the Humberside Police and Crime Panel's first-ever online meeting, where local government representatives and independent members were able to ask questions ion current work and progress. There is more information on the Panel HERE
In these difficult times please remember that help and support are available if you, or someone you know, are being targeted simply because of who you are. Crimes committed against someone where the motivation is because of their ethnicity, religion, disability, trans-identity or sexual orientation are hate crimes and should be reported to the police. If the crime isn’t an emergency, call 101 or you can report online HERE
Call 999 if you’re reporting a crime that’s in progress or if someone is in immediate danger.
Neighbourhood Watch Week
This week we recognise the efforts of the many Neighbourhood Watch schemes across our area who do great work in helping to keep our communities safe. There is more information HERE or if you would like to join or start a Neighbourhood Watch scheme where you live, local contacts are below.
Protecting Children Online
The office have been busily pulling together a bid into the Home Office Youth Endowment Fund. This fund was made available to support children and prevent them from becoming involved in crime and violence. The context of social distancing and stay at home measures has seen access to school and youth services restricted or reduced.
The result of this has been that a number of our most vulnerable children have lost the support that they relied upon and as a result of this they became increasingly visible and vulnerable to exploitation. These stay at home measures have also seen a massive increase in on line gaming and the amount of time young people spend on line, in a positive way this has been keeping them in touch with friends, but we are all too aware of the dangers this can present with exploitation, grooming, bullying and aggression.
The fund seeks to develop new and innovative methods to engage young people and prevent them becoming involved in such incidents, relating to crime and violence. We'll provide a further update once the outcome of our bid is known. Meanwhile, our online package of home resources for parents and carers continues to receive a high amount of visitors.
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has a vacancy for an Information and Outcomes Analyst. For full details and to apply click HERE
My Community Alert
You may be receiving this blog because you are one of over 30,000 people now signed up to the My Community Alert service which enables users to receive regular local updates by email, text or telephone from the police and fire services in addition to the Police and Crime Commissioner. It's a really useful service, even more so in the current climate, so if you're not signed up yet CLICK HERE to get started.
Coronavirus Information where you live
For links to local council advice sites and other information CLICK HERE
Domestic Abuse - Don't Suffer in Silence
If you, or someone you know is affected by domestic abuse, you can find contact details for support agencies in your area HERE
Posted on Wednesday 10th June 2020