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‘Empowered citizens’ must take on community policing role as cuts bite, PCC warns

‘Empowered citizens’ must take on community policing role as cuts bite, PCC warns

🕔20.Mar 2015

Groups of “empowered and self-reliant citizens” must take responsibility for keeping their communities safe because the number of police officers on the streets will continue to fall, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has warned.

David Jamieson said he wanted to deal honestly with public expectations about the capabilities of a smaller police force and admitted: “The capacity and capability of policing is under threat.”

Writing in the annual Police and Crime Plan, Mr Jamieson said:

It is certain that, after the current recruitment, officer numbers will continue to fall. There is a need to support empowered and self-reliant citizens as part of the response to community safety challenges.

With officer numbers declining, there will be a need for increasing realism about the extent to which police have the capability and capacity to respond to every local issue.

This is not a retreat from policing responsibilities but an honest assessment of what the police can reasonably be expected to achieve. Empowered, inclusive communities will become increasingly important partners for the police and other agencies, working together to build social capital and resolve local issues.

We want to see increases in public participation in both the identification of policing priorities and in support of community safety activity, leading to reduced public demand for police services.

The notion of “empowered citizens” follows hard on the heels of the West Midlands Police blueprint for the future, setting out changes planned up to 2020. The plan envisages a “smaller, faster and smarter” service with the loss of a further 2,500 officer and civilian jobs.

The Government’s austerity programme will cut the West Midlands police budget by £130 million over the next four years on top of £125 million already made over the past four years. Paradoxically, since 2010, crime across the region has fallen by 18 per cent despite the cutbacks.

In the Police and Crime Plan, Mr Jamieson notes:

Despite continued austerity, West Midlands Police has kept crime down, responded to operational challenges such as the NATO summit, Conservative Party conferences and EDL rallies, and is adapting to new priorities such as cybercrime and hidden crimes, by which I mean domestic abuse, child abuse, vulnerable adult abuse, child sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, honour based violence, modern slavery, human trafficking, hate crimes and gender selective abortion.

He pays tribute to the Force’s tie-up with private sector partner Accenture to deliver the WMP2020 change programme – a relationship initially regarded with suspicion by trade unions and some police officers. Mr Jamieson says:

WMP2020 is a programme of radical transformation to improve how West Midlands Police works via new business processes, better technology and more effective partnership working.

We are using the capacity of an external company to help us identify need, plan how to meet that need, and then turn those plans into operational outcomes that help the police do their job of serving the public more effectively.

The partnership is not about privatisation or outsourcing; it is about creating a new era of policing in a world of changed expectations, changing community priorities and reduced budgets. Ensuring that WMP2020 is cost effective and leads to improved services will be a key objective.

With resources diminishing, we cannot simply continue to repeat the budget reviews and continuous improvement approach. While these have served us well we must invest in new ways of working.

The annual plan commits police to promote economic development in the West Midlands by using an annual £50 million procurement budget to give work to local firms.

The Plan also continues with the ambition to build “Pride in our Police” and deliver increased public confidence in the police by dealing effectively with issues such as ‘stop and search’.

There are six themes: Pride in our police;  Stronger, safer, more prosperous communities;  Protecting people from harm; Making better use of our people and resources; Creating a new era in policing; Playing our part in responding to national threats.

Mr Jamieson said the most notable features of the plan were to:

  • Reduce crime and tackle gang-related behaviour.
  • Lead the way on stop and search, making sure that it is a proportionately and effectively used.
  • Be an accountable force as the most accurate recorders of crime in the country.
  • Improve victims’ services by the introduction of the country’s first Victims Commission.
  • Continue to use the Commissioner’s Mental Health Champion to improve links with the health service and local authorities to improve the policing of people with mental health related issues.
  • Focus on improving the safety of the region’s transport keeping traffic moving safely.
  • Support economic development by tackling the crimes that put off inward investment.
  • Reduce re-offending rates by working with employers to get people into work rather than committing crimes and creating more victims.
  • Continue to respond to local and national threats, including terrorism and cyber-crime.

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