To allow the Panel to ask questions of the Chief Constable in relation to the operational policing establishment, to support the Panel in its preparation for the scrutiny of the proposed budget and precept for 2020/21.
The Chairman welcomed Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney to the meeting, explaining that the answers from the Chief Constable (CC) to the questions of the Panel would support the Panel in preparations for its statutory responsibility to scrutinise the Commissioner’s proposed precept in January.
The CC expressed appreciation for the invitation from the Chairman to attend the meeting and provided an overview of Hampshire Constabulary’s current position.
Members heard that there was significant pressure on Constabulary resources against the backdrop of an extraordinary year which included the largest ever event co-ordinated by Hampshire Constabulary for the DDay 75 commemorations, requiring the involvement of all bar one force nationally. There had also been demand for police support at local events, including the recent football match between Portsmouth and Southampton Football Clubs. Members heard that, outside of London, Hampshire had the largest number of large annual events. Many of these focussed on the summer months, along with the increased draw to the counties seaside and coastal areas at this time. Members heard that Constabulary staff had stepped up to meet the challenge but the CC was consciously aware that staff were feeling tired and emotionally fatigued. Another impact seen during this time was a fall in the expected service standards for the 101 service during the early summer months, which was recovered during August with wrap around support.
The CC recounted four cases of Hampshire police officers being seriously injured on duty in the past year, which had not only had a serious impact on them but on the wider police personnel. The CC also remembered PC Andrew Harper, who was a Thames Valley Officer based in the Joint Operations Unit, who was murdered whilst on duty.
It was noted that overall rates of recorded crime within the Hampshire policing area were approximately 1000 lower than the previous year. The CC further highlighted that the Constabulary had successfully solved every homicide which had occurred during the previous year. The CC shared concerns about charging and conviction rates for serious sexual offences both locally and nationally, and explained that within Hampshire Constabulary there were 100 officers dedicated purely to addressing serious sexual assault.
Members heard that Hampshire Constabulary was performing most highly within its group of similar forces in terms of productivity and was one of the highest performing forces in the country in this respect, with nominations for several national awards . The CC was clear that this success was made through operating in a strong partnership environment.
The CC felt that without the uplift of additional offers funded by the precept the force would not be able to deliver the performance it had in the last year. The CC welcomed the recent funding announcement from central government for 200,000 additional officers and 6,000 police staff nationally. Members heard the force were current recruiting in readiness, with over 200 applications recently received for the role of detective and a further round of applications to shortly commence for uniformed staff. The CC further added that, nationally, the additional officers and police staff would provide much needed support in meeting the levels of demand on policing in tackling serious criminality, including county lines; the impact of which was felt at a local level.
Whilst recognising the funding for additional officers was significant, the CC estimated that it would take three years for this to realise its full impact and in the short term would draw on current capacity to support the tutoring and supervision of new police colleagues. The wider concern over a fairer national police funding formula was still pertinent, with the CC stating that should Hampshire Constabulary be as well funded as the best funded force they would have 1,600 additional police staff and officers. The CC also acknowledged that success for the force was not just about growing in numbers but also in becoming more representative of the communities it serves and enabling digital upskilling.
In response to Members questions it was heard:
· The CC had absolute confidence that the recruitment of the circa 210 police officers funded by the precept increase would be delivered this year. It was heard that attrition rates were constantly monitored to ensure the overall strength of the establishment was maintained.
· At the time of the meeting the Constabulary had not yet been informed how many officers would be funded for Hampshire from the 20,000 increase. Assistant Chief Constable Dibdin had been appointed to lead on this for the Constabulary and was currently modelling the potential demand on resources including training, estates etc. It was expected that funding from central government for these officers would include monies for not just the salary uplift but also funding to support and provide for their wider needs.
· The force operated on a threat, risk and harm model. Data was analysed from various sources and officer and staff resource is then targeted accordingly. Whilst acknowledging that the greatest threat of harm was present within the large urban conurbations, such as Southampton and Portsmouth, the CC also recognised the importance of deploying resource in rural areas, where the threat from crime was lower but the perception and fear of crime was higher. The CC explained that she had been operating this model of policing for the past four and a half years and, whilst happy with the current performance, would be reviewing this model again shortly to ensure that resources were appropriately deployed.
· The CC was aware that in Southampton police officers and staff had experienced an influx of very serious and difficult situations to attend and manage. Wider partnership arrangements within the city were well established and Members heard that all agencies were standing together to meet these demands.
· The CC welcomed the new Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF), being introduced in summer 2020, as it would enable improvements in the training for officers and staff. The CC was conscious of misconception that the introduction of this framework would required individuals to be a graduate in order to join the police force. The PEQF will allow two routes of entry. The first was a three-year graduate apprenticeship programme, at the end of which the recruit would gain a degree. Members heard newly appointed officers complete a similar programme of training in current arrangements but do not get awarded a degree. The second route allows those with a degree qualification, which does not have to be specific to policing, to join the force with a two-year training programme. The CC felt the widest pool of recruits enabled Hampshire Constabulary to deliver the best policing and shared the forces ongoing approach to welcome applications from former military staff.
· Hampshire Constabulary was currently working with Surrey and Sussex police forces to develop a curriculum with Portsmouth University which would also allow existing staff to engage in the programme and draw on its resources when needed. Members heard the new framework would allow 35 recruits per intake, verses the current 16, and would allow more staff to join the force more quickly with adverts placed later this year for uniformed colleagues under that new route.
· The CC was the current lead for the force on equality and inclusion and regularly reviewed equality in recruitment, retention and advancement of police staff and officers. Members heard that between 10 and 12% of new recruits to the force came from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, with hopes from the CC that this level would be maintained or improved upon in the future, with a desire for the force being considered an employer of choice within BAME communities. In terms of gender it was heard that Hampshire Constabulary held strong gender equality across all ranks, with the exception of Inspector which was an area being closely monitored. Further the CC explained that the force had a number of active staff support groups which had focussed on the brilliance of difference and sought to open up positive conversations amongst staff about diversity.
· The current district policing model was felt to allow district commanders to know their local communities and local neighbourhood teams were encouraged to work with community groups of all sizes. The CC was clear that; should the force not engage with and be representative of the communities it serves confidence and trust in the force could be damaged.
· With the uplift in Police Officers the CC had reviewed the neighbourhood policing model for the force and determined that the role of PSCO had changed and that neighbourhood policing teams (NPT) needed an increase in the balance of warranted officer roles in order to meet all the needs of their local communities. Members heard that the overall establishment of PSCO’s had been decreased marginally from the previous year to 236, with 5 of those posts vacant and being recruited for at the time of the meeting. The CC expressed her view that PSCO's were at the heart of NPTs. Recent enhancements to the NPTs had seen increasing cross patch working, to enhance problem solving abilities and recent trials of digital beats and increased presence in digital communication spaces which had been showing promising results.
· The Contact Management Platform (CMP) had been a significant investment for the force, in partnership with Thames Valley Police. When live the system would be modern, future proof and significantly enhance service to the public, deliver cost benefits and enable those responding to reports of crime to have significantly increased access to relevant information. It was also heard that the system would integrate data from the single online home for crime reporting and that ensuring quality of data and information available to officers and staff had been a significant part of the purpose of CMP. The crime recording functionality was already live and it was expected that the full system would be rolled out by the end of the year. Members heard that staff involved in trialling the system had responded very positively and found the system to be quicker and provide significantly more intelligence when responding to reports of crime.
· One of the six pillars of the force’s operational strategy was to look after the wellbeing of officers and staff. Being a risk based business, the wellbeing of staff and officers, who regularly faced traumatic and dangerous situations, was paramount and allowed the force to deliver the best service to local communities. In addition to the introduction of the wellbeing programme, which had received funding from the Commissioner, occupational support waiting times had significantly improved.
· Emergency service workers suffer disproportionality with their mental health and the drip effect of living with regular trauma in work was well recognised. The force was therefore applying focus upon enhancing staff resilience ahead of them encountering a traumatic issue.
· In the monthly force oversight meeting the level of unclaimed annual leave, flexitime and time off in lieu is scrutinised, along with reviewing current overtime usage to ensure that neither is excessive or causing staff and officers to become fatigued. Detention officers were noted to still be carrying too many rest days, however in all other areas this was being driven down. The CC stated that she would report progress against this back to the Commissioner.
The Chairman thanked the CC for her time in addressing the questions of the Panel and it was agreed the CC would be invited to attend the Panel meeting again in a years time to provide an update in advance of the 2021 precept setting.
The Chair paused the meeting for a 10 minute comfort break, suspending the
meeting from 11:20 to 11:30.