A Happy New Year!
For those of you celebrating Christmas, and also Hanukkah, and those of you not, I hope you had some time with family over the last few weeks.
The drumbeat of policing never stops and we had a busy seasonal period. I would like to pay particular tribute to some excellent police work in response to the shootings we had across the Christmas period and the response. There was some brave and exceptional work. I think the planning of the Christmas Market in Birmingham was shown to be sensible, particularly after the terrible events in Berlin. The Boxing Day appeal we made on the twenty year anniversary of the disappearance of David Spencer and Patrick Warren from Chelmsley Wood as well of that of Surjit Takhar shows we never give up if we have a chance of finding the answers. Most of all I want to thank those of you who worked hard over the period.
Before I pack 2016 away I also ought to mention the collective response of the force to the disorder at HMP Birmingham. One of the things that fills me with great pride is the ability of UK policing, and specifically this force, to respond to huge challenges thrown our way. I think the mobilisation and plan put in place, the coordination of operations with the prison service and our assistance on the night is a huge credit, not just in the fact it happened but in the calm way it was delivered.
The seasonal period slows down the run of other demands on my time and lets me out a little more! I was pleased to get some time out with Force Response in Birmingham and Solihull as well as several visits to Contact and Mission Support. New Yearâ€™s Eve gave me a chance to meet Force Support Staff and hit various parts of the force. Clearly lots of the chat has been on TS1. A few observations on this now and into 2017.
Firstly, I do recognise making the change in November before this period was tough. I did listen to the Federation and thought hard about this. I canâ€™t pretend there were not some frustrations over the Christmas duties which was a disappointment as we worked hard to plan these. I am sorry if you were inconvenienced. Overall I am pleased we got going on the change as some of the actions over the period were actually easier to manage with the new operating model.
So what now? Between January and April there are a few priorities:
Is the biggest challenge. Whilst we can stabilise the force we are facing challenges in actually recruiting officers above the retirement rate / normal leavers fast enough. At present there is a priority in ensuring Contact, Response policing and PPU numbers are improved and that the placement of student officers, the recruitment process underway plus transferees, delivers us as many new staff as it can. One area where you will see some changes will be in areas we now know we can replace police officers with police staff with the right skills. This will help to move officers into roles that can only be done by warrant holders. We always anticipated work in this area as we have budgeted for around 200 specialist police staff roles but the changes show opportunities. More to follow but PPU, Investigations and some Force Support duties look opportune.
Building on what is in place
Those of you with mobility like it and are starting to use it well! We need everyone to start getting the most out of this to ease pressure on areas like the service desk. The team continue to work on new apps and are always open to new ideas. Send your suggestions to: [email protected]. We will also be rolling the tech out to new teams as well as making decisions on body worn video.
Some of the changes that have been made to investigations are showing promising signs in speeding up work and focusing on priorities. We will bring the whole force into the model underway at Birmingham ASAP.
Maximising the full power of the force
I may have got too carried away after â€œRogue Oneâ€ with this title but we have built a very powerful engine for the force at Mission Support! We need to quickly start using the potential. This means the increase in available time for neighbourhoods needs to be deployed into prevention and reducing demand, so too the IOM teams. We will start looking at replicating the work on Op Wraithbane (where we raided 40 properties with regard to nuisance bikers) and start carrying out more ambitious interventions on our challenges. I am hugely excited by the potential we now have to go after those who pose real risk to the public at a new scale.
Smoothing out the rough edges
There is work on going on some of the snagging issues from the change but our biggest one is to ensure we avoid the â€œnot our remitâ€ or â€œwe were not built to do thisâ€ or â€œsomeone else does thisâ€ behaviour that can always slip in after big changes! â€œPlaceâ€ in the form of LPU is now not the glue that binds teams as it once did. The force is much more functional and specialist in how it is set out now but there will always be gaps and boundaries. Vulnerability is a great example of this. Protecting the vulnerable is not just one teamâ€™s role it is in everyoneâ€™s because all teams have a capability they can bring to help.
What binds us are strong values. Our force motto is â€œForward in Unityâ€ our values are to show â€œfriendship by helping the public partners and colleaguesâ€ and â€œdelivering a service my family would be proud ofâ€.
In the last few weeks I have seen much evidence of this, particularly in the way Force Response work across the old LPU boundaries and the actions of Force Support, Firearms teams and the helping hand by neighbourhoods at times of peak demand. As I like to say everyoneâ€™s coat says police on the front and whatever the main job we should be proud of mucking in together when colleagues and the public need us.
2017 has much promise!