Somewhere round about the middle of December I wrote about the loneliness of the Rural Police Officer in Dyfed Powys Police. You can find it here if you haven’t already read it.
Then I found this article here about how the Dyfed Powys PCC has secured £44,000 in funding to set up a Centre of Excellence for Rural Policing,
First off, I am in no way opposed to Excellence in Rural Policing, or Urban Policing, or indeed Inner City Policing. What I am opposed to is people scoring cheap political points using smoke and mirrors.
So, Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon (who is a Conservative PCC) has secured almost £44,000 from the College of Policing to launch a Centre for Rural Policing and Justice. Dyfed-Powys Police will collaborate with the Cardiff-based Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) and others to start a high-level network to develop new expertise in keeping rural communities safe from crime. Mr Salmon said: “The work we do with UPSI and others will lead to people in some of our most isolated areas feeling safer. No mention of his officers feeling safer though. “This collaboration will initially build new working relationships between academic establishments, Dyfed-Powys Police and my office”
The key collaborative approach is one of a partnership between the Commissioner’s office, Dyfed-Powys Police and UPSI.
The wider collaborative approach will involve a network between academic institutions across Wales, such as Aberystwyth University and University of Wales Trinity Saint David, using a mixture of skills and expertise. It will also incorporate organisations from the voluntary and private sectors.
Mr Salmon has committed £5,000 to the centre’s launch costs of around £49,000. Even £49,000 doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but if Mr Salmon can obtain real benefits at such a low cost all power to his elbow, as we say this side of Offa’s Dyke.
Still no mention of anything practical. And how much Excellence can you get for £49k anyway? Not very much I suspect.
My issue is simply this; is the Dyfed Powys PCC already demonstrating his commitment to Excellence in his own, rural Force? 4,000+ square miles that contain 514,938 people. Now I make that ONE Police Officer per 463 people, or 2.2 Police Officers per 1,000 population. Just over 2 Police Officers TOTAL per 1,000 head of population, take away Shifts, Abstractions, Leave and Sickness and you could easily be down to 1 Police Officer per 3-4,000 head of population. Is that Excellence I ask? One of the main concerns of a large, rural Force HAS to be the safety of its Community AND its officers. Do these figures demonstrate a commitment to the safety of Community and Officers? I have to say I don’t know the answer, so I ask the question.
I have no 1st hand experience of Rural Policing, but I know a man who has, and what I hear does not make for comfortable listening. Bronwyn in the Dyfed Powys HQ Canteen is forever telling me how her boyfriend Dai is frequently the only officer on duty in a patch covering hundreds of Square Miles. She worries for his safety, quite naturally. Can Dai keep the residents of Dyfed Powys safe when he’s the only officer on duty for miles around. I know we can’t open another box of Policemen every time we run out, but we can do small things to improve the situation.
For a start the PCC could commission a professional, INDEPENDENT, study of the merits of single-crewing versus double crewing, particularly in isolated areas and on Nights etc.. PCC, Chief Constable and Fed should all sign up to be bound by its findings, the PCC and Chief Constable do have a Duty of Care to their employees after all, and this should not be forgotten or under-estimated.
I’m obviously getting too old for all of this, it all sounds like so much Psychobabble to me. If you, my reader, spots a nugget of real, practical, tangible benefit in this please let me know. If you, Mr Salmon, want to convince me that I’m old and cynical, and I’ve got this all wrong, I will quite happily remove this blog and replace it with one promoting this scheme, and I will circulate it to anyone who wants to read it, but I suspect that I will never hear from you. I do think however, that any Centre of Excellence for Rural Policing has to produce benefits for your officers and staff, as well as the greater public.
Just one last thing before I go. Who is it that sets, or recommends, the ratio of Police OFFICERS (don’t include civilian support staff please) to 1,000 head of population? What should it be for Dyfed Powys? Or do we just wing it and hope we’ve got it right?