‘Breadth of expectation’ on police never higher, says chief constable
PUBLISHED: 05:30 25 October 2019 | UPDATED: 08:03 25 October 2019
LAUREN DE BOISE
Suffolk’s chief of police has said he wants fighting crime to be in the DNA of his officers – not something that gets in the way of ever-widening obligations.
After six months in the job, Chief Constable Steve Jupp suggested it's time to simplify the mission of police - to catch criminals, keep the public safe, and put victims at the heart of investigations.
As the service prepares for the biggest recruitment drive in decades, Mr Jupp was realistic about what can be delivered.
Midway through his tenure as deputy to Gareth Wilson, officer numbers had fallen more than a third under the government's austerity programme.
By the time he took charge, successive tax precept rises, and changes to the policing model, saw numbers approaching 2010 levels.
In July, a change at the top of government meant Suffolk was promised a share of 20,000 officers over three years - presenting a challenge to recruit, train and accommodate an anticipated 200 constables, while replacing those lost through natural wastage.
"The government wasn't talking about reinvesting in police when I took over," said Mr Jupp.
"Two or three months later, there was a real push around law enforcement and an uplift in constables.
"It's going to be a real challenge, but it's a great challenge to have.
"I'm getting 54 officers in 16 months, which is really good, but, spread over the county, it's not going to deliver every community everything they want."
The recruits will enter a public service where obligations on staff have grown to include thousands of annual calls involving mental health and repeatedly missing people.
"When I began as a young constable, those complex issues around abuse, victimisation and drugs were still there, but the breadth of expectation wasn't.
"There wasn't the same level of interest in the more microscopic areas of policing. It's absolutely right that there is now, but the breadth of what we're asking our PCs to do is a lot broader.
"We have to get back to simplifying the mission. Our job is to catch and convict criminals, and keep the public safe, but also to remember there's a victim at the heart of everything we do."
Mr Jupp acknowledged some link between police numbers and rates of certain crimes, but said the incontrovertible connection lay in the wider conduct of society.
"This is about behaviour and values in society," he added.
"For me, they are intrinsically linked. We can't police our way out of a lot of these things because we don't have that amount of officers and we don't have that budget.
"It's about how we work cohesively as a society.
"In the short term, I want us to deal with those who make a choice to commit crime. In the medium term, we need to work with partners to prevent things happening in the future.
"The government has promised 20,000 officers. I estimate we'll get about 200 over three years.
"While I've made no decision about where they will go, my preferred view is that they're agile and can be moved rapidly around to deal with emerging crime.
"It's about being smart with our resources."
During his time at West Midlands Police, Mr Jupp saw the launch of Birmingham's Total Place Pilot, which aimed to address root causes of problems before having to alleviate the more extreme consequences - an idea he would like to revisit.
"I'd like to learn lesson from the past and ensure we deliver them," he said.
"Our policing mission has become so broad. It's important for us to go back to ensuring we're on top of investigations, and catching criminals.
"I avoid using the word demand because it puts people off. Crime is our demand, and we should be dealing with it. It should be in our DNA, not what gets in my staff's way.
"If we ask them to be jacks of all trades, we risk setting them up to be masters of none."
Watching recent mini-series Unbelievable reminded Mr Jupp of why he returned to policing following his retirement in April. It told the true story of a young woman accused of lying about a rape, and the detectives who helped prove her case.
"Why I joined the Met [in 1986] is why I'm sitting in this chair," he said.
"I still feel angry when we don't do right the right thing by a victim - and I still feel proud when we get a conviction. As chief constable, that's why I'm here. I can't give it up.
"I'm still a constable with strong values around keeping society safe."
Suffolk Constabulary is currently recruiting. If you would like to apply, click here