Suffolk: Chief Constable Douglas Paxton says there is optimism for the future of policing in county despite the tough climate
PUBLISHED: 11:00 02 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:29 02 June 2014
Pressure to slash £16.4million from Suffolk Constabulary’s current budget by 2018 has provoked concerns for frontline policing in the county.
Despite already having made cutbacks running into millions of pounds over the past four years recorded crime is down. Today chief constable Douglas Paxton takes stock of the present and outlines his vision for the future.
It is now more than a year since I took up the role of chief constable of Suffolk Constabulary and I continue to relish the challenge of keeping our wonderful county safe.
As an organisation, we are facing great change as we look to find ways of working more effectively, both as a single organisation and with partners, to ensure we continue to provide a quality policing service to local people, businesses and visitors.
So, how is the Constabulary performing at the moment? I believe we are in a strong position.
Recorded crime is down by 7.1% on last year. The decrease includes falls in violence, robbery, domestic burglary, vehicle crime and criminal damage. At the same time, crimes solved increased by 2.4%.
When people need us, we get there quickly. We attended more than 90% of emergency incidents within our target time. And surveys show that more people are saying that they are satisfied with the service they receive when they need us.
As an organisation that is going through such change, our performance against the measures set in the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan is a source of real pride. I believe it demonstrates the depth of our focus on dealing with matters that concern the public with compassion, professionalism and excellence.
This in turn gives confidence to the most vulnerable people in our society, which means they are increasingly willing to report their concerns to us, knowing that we can be trusted and relied upon to deal with their situation with sensitivity and dedication.
As with other police forces, we are facing a financial challenge. But I have no doubts that we will meet this challenge and emerge with a policing service which continues to keep people safe and of which we can be proud. There is no question that it will be hard work and we will be re-designing an organisation which will have fewer people and less resource to spend on services.
The aim wherever possible as a priority is to minimise the impact of cuts to the front line and provide policing services of the highest quality – especially to the most vulnerable in society.
Collaboration remains key, both with our colleagues in Norfolk and with other public sector organisations in Suffolk and beyond, and there are many projects we will be working on in the weeks and months ahead.
Fortunately, our finances are in good shape for the next couple of years – so we have the time to do this work and bring these projects to fruition.
Already, we are making progress with a significant ICT project which will see both Suffolk and Norfolk Constabularies using a joint system linking key areas of our business including HR, duty management, finance and procurement.
This is a huge project which will affect the whole workforce, result in more efficient working practices – and should help us towards our savings targets.
At the same time, on the operational policing front, we will continue to embrace technology which helps the frontline work more efficiently, including the roll-out of mobile data terminals, investment in automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and body-worn video cameras.
There are, of course, emerging crime challenges.
We need to ensure that we have the right resources in the right places to be ready, particularly to protect vulnerable adults and children, while ensuring that we have enough capacity to deal with crimes such as burglary which will continue to occur.
We also need to work much more closely with other agencies to tackle issues such as mental illness, which can lead to unnecessary demands on policing services. Already, we have made progress.
In partnership with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, we have launched an initiative aimed at improving the joint response to people coming to the attention of the police at times of mental health crisis and ultimately reducing the amount of people detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
Following successful trials in Leicestershire, Cleveland and West Midlands a mental health triage car has been introduced in Suffolk, which sees a police officer and mental health practitioner available to attend incidents where people are experiencing mental health difficulties.
Where previously the person may have been detained, for their own protection, under the Mental Health Act and taken to a place of safety, which may have been a police station cell, the practitioner will now be able to assess the individual’s health records and provide an assessment that takes full account of their mental health needs.
But I am keen to ensure that Suffolk Constabulary is not just an organisation that can be relied upon to do its job – but is open, transparent and engages with its local communities to help make a real difference to people’s quality of life.
I like to lead from the front – and, together with the Police and Crime Commissioner, I am currently holding a series of engagement days at town centres across the county, as well as attending evening community meetings which give local people the chance to question us about policing in their area, give us feedback and let us know their concerns.
Looking ahead, I remain committed to leading Suffolk Constabulary with confidence and optimism. The performance in the past year has been a huge success.
Crime is down, we are solving a greater percentage of offences and satisfaction rates are up.
Officers and staff are purposeful and feel that they are winning the fight against crime while protecting vulnerable people.
And the constabulary is working as a team both in its own right and, crucially, with its partners.
I am very proud to be leading such a great organisation in such a wonderful county.
Having started my policing career in Suffolk, I can say without hesitation that it is great to be back – and I am looking forward to leading the organisation through the challenges ahead.”