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Agenda item

Update on Local Policing Arrangements

To receive an update from the Police on local arrangements. 

Minutes:

11.1          The Chief Executive explained that the Committee had historically been interested in local policing arrangements and community safety and he was pleased to report that the vacancy for the local police commander for the Tewkesbury policing area had now been filled.  Given the importance of this role, the new Chief Inspector was in attendance at today’s meeting, together with the Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area, to give a brief update on the appointment and local policing; however, it was to be borne in mind that the new Chief Inspector had only been in post for three weeks so it may be beneficial for the Committee to invite him back to a future meeting when he was in a position to provide a more detailed update.

11.2          The Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area advised that she had a 26 year background in the Police and had spent the majority of her career in Gloucester as a Neighbourhood Inspector and working in community harm and reduction.  She was also the Constabulary Liaison Officer in the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.  In terms of the policing structure within Cheltenham and Tewkesbury, there was one Superintendent for the whole area and the teams were split into neighbourhood policing and local policing i.e. the response function.  The local policing team worked 24/7 shift patterns and the Duty Inspector covered all areas.  There were three Sergeants for Cheltenham and Tewkesbury and 15 Police Constables per response shift.  The new Chief Inspector for Tewkesbury would be supported by two Sergeants on the local neighbourhood policing team and five Police Constables and Police Community Support Officers per shift pattern.  Due to its rural location and the fact there was no nightclub, staff on the Tewkesbury team worked until 0200 hours whereas those in Cheltenham worked until 0500 hours.  Each Police Community Support Officer had a detailed area for which they were responsible and those were listed on the Gloucestershire Constabulary website.  The Police Community Support Officers were supported by a Beat Officer who helped with enforcement, arrests and investigations.  In addition, following a bid for resources, the Operation Vanguard Team was also supporting the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Local Policing Team – that Team focused on serious crimes, such as drug dealing and residential burglaries, and comprised an Inspector, Detective Sergeant, Uniform Sergeant and 10 other Police Officers with a varied skill set including method of entry training and surveillance etc.  In terms of the way the Tewkesbury team operated, the response team was mainly led by radio and covered the whole of the borough which was a wide policing area.  Police Officers were currently single-crewed during the day and double crewed for night shifts and they would more than likely be the first point of contact for any incidents which came in.  The response team worked a six day on, four day off pattern including two early shifts, two late shifts and two night shifts so someone was on duty every day at all hours of the day and night.

11.3          The new Chief Inspector for Tewkesbury explained that the neighbourhood team was split into east and west and generally worked early and late shifts except for Friday and Saturday nights when they worked until 0200 hours.  Each Police Community Support Officer had responsibility for a geographical area and was supported by a dedicated Police Constable who worked together to understand the community and build relationships with residents in order to get ahead of issues before they accelerated.  The Tewkesbury team had a close relationship with the Operation Vanguard Team which had recently helped to take down a cannabis factory within the area.  In terms of the key issues he had encountered so far, he advised that Operation Ardent had been set up following the tragic death of Matthew Boorman and focused on community work around that.  He indicated that antisocial behaviour was a major issue – and one which was included in the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan – and this tended to increase over the summer months so it was something which he hoped to get ahead of as much as possible but this could only be achieved by working in partnership with other agencies so it was important to forge close relationships and take joint responsibility. Operation Solace was in place in Gloucestershire to address retail crime and this initiative involved shops being able to talk to one another over walkie-talkies.  With regard to engagement, Officers attended Community Safety Partnership and Parish and Town Council meetings – the Police Constables and Police Community Support Officers had a range of contacts who they spoke to regularly and this was a huge benefit of co-location within the Public Service Centre.

11.4          A Member asked whether the Aston Project was being reinvigorated and the Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area advised that it was still active in Tewkesbury, although it had been difficult to engage due to COVID, and the Police Community Support Officer responsible was within the Tewkesbury team.  With regard to Operation Solace, the Member indicated that it was his understanding that shops had been using walkie-talkies to communicate for many years.  In response, the Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area felt it was great that shops were already speaking to one another in that way but she explained that Operation Solace was a more structured operation which allowed banning notices to be imposed.  Another Member asked what had happened to the rural crime group and the Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area confirmed that it had been part of Operation Flex but was back up and running as of 28 May 2022. 

11.5          A Member indicated that a Police Community Support Officer had previously always been in attendance at Parish Council meetings within his Ward and he asked whether it would be possible for them to start going along again, even if this was not to every meeting.  The Chief Inspector for Tewkesbury advised that the Police Community Support Officers were trying to attend Parish meetings where possible and, if they could not, they should provide an update; unfortunately, during COVID this had fallen out of practice but it was something he was keen to try and push going forward.  Another Member indicated that there was a growing drugs problem within their Ward and residents had commented that they had not seen a Police Officer in the area for several years so he would welcome attendance at Parish Council meetings.

11.6          A Member asked what the Overview and Scrutiny Committee could offer to support the Police and how it might be able to benefit from its links to various departments and activities within the authority such as environmental health and economic development.  With regard to the Chief Executive’s suggestion that a further update be provided once the new Chief Inspector had chance to settle into his role, a Member asked whether this should be provided for all Members, as opposed to just the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  The Chief Executive explained that, whilst it was possible to hold an all-Member briefing, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had been particularly interested in scrutinising the Police in the past and there was still potential work for the Committee in terms of exploring the relationship between the authority and community policing to identify where they could work better together.  He undertook to consider the point about the wider membership outside of the meeting and suggested that it may be more appropriate to send out a Member Update to notify them of the appointment of the new Chief Inspector for Tewkesbury.  A Member suggested it would be interesting to also look at the relationship between the Police and Parish Councils and the Chief Executive advised that Parish Councils were a separate entity in many respects and it was important not to raise expectations.  He reminded Members that there were 50 Parish Councils within the borough and the Police needed to establish how best to serve them.  The role of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee was to ensure that the Borough Council was doing all it could to work with the Police effectively.  A Member felt it would be helpful to know how the authority linked with the Police currently as not all links would be obvious and the Chief Executive agreed this could be provided through that process.  Another Member took on board the points raised in relation to Parish Councils but suggested that an email could be sent to each one advising of their designated Police Community Support Officer.

11.7          A Member queried what time was afforded to Police Community Support Officers to interact with their communities to gain a better understanding of the area for which they were responsible.  The Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area explained that the role of Police Community Support Officers had recently been reviewed – it had previously been a command and control function but the primary function was now around dedicating time to forge relationships with communities at a grassroots level and this was something they were expected to do daily on every shift.  In response to a query regarding the number of Police Community Support Officers in Tewkesbury, clarification was provided that there were currently 10 with another two having recently been recruited; whilst Police Community Support Officers were being encouraged to be visible within communities, whether members of the public saw them out and about was a matter of timing as, unfortunately, the Police did not have the resources they would like to ensure continuous visibility.  It was noted that the Police and Crime Commissioner had bid for volunteer Police Community Support Officers and Specials with the intention to have a volunteer in every parish in every district – this would be a big task but one he was keen to undertake.  The Chief Executive advised that the Police had been involved in the early stages of the integrated local health partnership and was working with the community on health aspects of community safety in terms of the interventions that might be possible.  There had been quite a lot of early discussion and he was hopeful that the new Chief Inspector for Tewkesbury could take this forward with health partners.  As this was a funded scheme, it was possible there would be an opportunity to introduce some new initiatives.  The Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area advised that something similar had been done in Gloucester where a Police Community Support Officer had been seconded into a community project focused on reducing vulnerability and isolation and there was evidence that had worked well.  The Member felt that getting community groups working with the Police would be an effective use of time – the Police continued to be under-staffed and he asked if this was due to a lack of funding or difficulties with recruitment.  The Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area indicated that there was a commitment to increasing the number of Police Officers but recruitment, vetting and training all took time and it was estimated it would take five years for policing numbers to get back to pre-austerity levels.  A Member asked if there was anything the Committee could do to assist and the Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area indicated that it would be helpful if they could push out information to Parish and Town Councils in relation to Police Community Support Officer recruitment, Community Speedwatch, Neighbourhood Watch etc.  The Chief Executive undertook to ensure that information was passed on to Members.  He indicated that the Borough Council’s Parish Matters Newsletter could also be used to communicate with Parish Councils if the Police had any relevant information to include.

11.8          A Member raised concern that it was not always possible to get through when calling 101 – she worked at a youth club and had previously had to dial 999 for that reason when an incident had arisen with two young men being robbed at knifepoint so she asked whether that was the appropriate thing to do.  The Chief Inspector for the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Policing Area confirmed that the advice in that situation would be to dial 999.  She provided assurance there was an awareness of the delays experienced when dialling 101 - this was also frustrating for Police Officers as they were not aware of incidents but it was hoped things would improve going forward with additional resources and new equipment.

11.9          The Chair thanked the representatives from Gloucestershire Constabulary for their attendance and it was

RESOLVED         1. That the update on local policing arrangements be NOTED.

2. That further scrutiny of the relationship between the Borough Council and community policing be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme.