Mr Evan Morris, referring to an article in the on line magazine Police Insight, asked the Commissioner if Cheshire Constabulary had a policy on the use of body-worn video.
The Commissioner responded by saying that he had been very supportive of the introduction of body-worn video in Cheshire. Its introduction appeared to have led to a reduction in the number of complaints received and afforded significant protection to Police Officers and PCSOs. The equipment had now been provided to all relevant Officers across the Constabulary. He saw guidelines for its use as being important and informed the Panel that the implementation of the policy was currently being reviewed. The Commissioner committed to sharing the outcome of that exercise with Panel members, when available. Mr Morris asked if the Cheshire policy had been published, noting that the policy developed by the Metropolitan Police had been published and was available online. The Commissioner promised to take this issue up with the Chief Constable.
Mrs Sally Hardwick referred to a newsletter that she had received from the Commissioner’s Office in relation the precept for 2020/21; this had made reference to Police recruitment. Mrs Hardwick sought clarity over the additional number of Police Officers that would be recruited and the timescales associated with the process.
The Commissioner indicated that the issue was complex. Due to the General Election no announcement had yet been made on the levels of national funding for 2020/21. He was currently consulting over plans for his precept for 2020/21. The Commissioner indicated that he had authority to recruit up to 30 Officers by April 2020 and a further 60 by April 2011. However; funding had not yet been provided by central Government, its receipt was dependent on Officer numbers being maintained at current levels. The Commissioner indicated that should the funding settlement not include an element for inflation, cost pressures of £6m would be placed on the Constabulary budget. The Chairman offered the Commissioner the Panel’s support in lobbying for fair funding for the Cheshire Constabulary.
Councillor Denis Murphy noted that in his area (Congleton) a number of PCSOs had been promoted to positions of Police Officers. He asked what plans were in place to ensure PCSO numbers were maintained. The Commissioner responded by saying that there were plans were in place to replace those that had moved on to new roles.
Mr Bob Fousert asked the Commissioner how information about his proposed budget had been circulated. He replied that information had been circulated in a number of ways and was available online. He noted that nine public consultation events were being held. The Chairman encouraged Panel members to attend these events.
Councillor Andrew Dawson made reference to a complaint which he had forwarded to the Commissioner, recognising that this would be dealt with through the appropriate channels, but asked what the Commissioner’s expectations were of the Chief Constable and Constabulary in relation to race and racial profiling.
The Commissioner indicated that he expected the Police to act impartially at all times, noting that he and his office monitored complaints very carefully. He reminded Panel members that it was likely that changes would shortly be made to the Police Complaints procedure which could see his responsibilities increase.
Councillor Norman Plumpton Walsh raised the issue of knife crime, commenting on the excellent work in combatting the problem that was being undertaken in the Halton Policing Unit. On behalf of the Panel he extended the Panel’s sympathies to the family of Alex Rodda who had been murdered in December 2019. The Commissioner added his sympathies to those of the Panel. Mr Evan Morris sought re-assurance from the Commissioner that the good practice of the “Drop the Knife, not your life” campaign co-designed with young people in Halton was being rolled out across Cheshire. The Commissioner confirmed that it was, with the work being led by an Acting Superintendent. He indicated that Cheshire had not been successful in receiving Government funding for work in this area, but was learning from those police forces that had received additional funding.
Mr Bob Fousert, making reference to a recently published HMRC national report, asked the Commissioner about crime suffered by older people and the related issue of adult safeguarding. He was concerned that no performance data was published in relation to crimes against the elderly. The Commissioner responded, saying that crimes were categorised by crime type, not by the age of the victim. Mr Evan Morris noted that 23 percent of the Cheshire population were over 65 years of age. Councillor Jan Davidson commented that much work had been done by other agencies to compile information on vulnerable people. The Commissioner informed the Panel that work was being undertaken within the Constabulary on the issue of vulnerability.
Councillor Paul Findlow asked the Commissioner how he held the Chief Constable to account in relation to prosecuting differing categories of crime. He commented that some types of crime appeared to be prioritised in different ways. The Commissioner responded by saying that it would not be appropriate for him to comment on operational Policing issues, but indicated that he did hold the Chief Constable to account in delivering his Policing plan. He noted that the level of resourcing available to the Police was an important factor and that the decrease in the number of Police Officers over the last ten years had influenced the Constabulary’s capacity to prosecute offenders.