Every year we put in place a summer demand plan. This requires us to adjust our normal operating roles to recognise increased demand. We used to have autumn, spring, summer and winter in the West Midlands calendar. Our plan for increased demand has been ongoing for five months. Much as I am happy to skip autumn our summer demand plan is now our exceptional demand plan!
The world is a little unsettled as we return after the pandemic. Shortages of Co2 disrupting food suppliers, hospitals, fizzy lager or a can of pop. Disruption to supply chains due to HGV shortages. Not all public services are back at capacity. More things to protest about and night time economies settling down with new staff and new premises.
The extra calls and demand are not unique to West Midlands Police and our region. You may have seen a number of ambulance trusts seeking military support. All forces in the region and all Chief Constables are seeing these challenges. We are trying to do some analysis on this across the region as these calls are not often crime based.
I recognise this is placing pressure on some teams. We are still not out of the pandemic and not quite sure what is yet a new normal. The volume of work is huge, but our staff in Contact do an amazing job as do teams like initial investigation. Out of 890,747 calls, webchats and online reports received from April to date, the Contact Centres dealt with 71% themselves with only 262,975 (p1-8) incidents allocated to officers and staff for further resourcing.
You may have seen in the last two weeks I have dismissed three officers. I am very proud of the work we do as a force and the amazing work the 11,000 people do in WMP. When I sack an officer I always reflect upon how this officer went from being one of the bright enthusiastic cops I attest to someone who has failed to live up to that oath and let us all down.
Former PC Declan Jones is in prison now for two assaults. I have asked myself why did he have such confidence to act as he did?
Sometimes in policing we can reduce our work to us v the bad guys. There is no question our job is to confront evil and there are some bad dangerous people but there are many more sad, chaotic people we deal with. If we reduce policing to an us (good) v them (bad) there is a danger things that are unjustifiable are justified in our minds. We do not have a war on crime. We are here to be professional peacekeepers and prevent crime and protect people. When I was a young cop in inner city Manchester I recall this struggle on shifts where we did not always see things quite like this. It is a rocky road when this happens. You start to decide who is good and bad and how they should be treated. It is the moral challenge in policing that has existed since Peel’s police began.
We need to ensure, despite the very serious issues and threats we deal with, we stay on a higher level.
We all have a duty to ensure not just ourselves but colleagues display our values. When a colleague sees red mist after provocation we all have a duty to step in and defuse the situation. We are often at incidents of confrontation with more than one officer so use each other’s skills. We are diverse because we bring difference to incidents which can help to change the dynamics. Most of you are so professional you do this without thinking about it. It is a skill and should not be taken for granted.
However, leaders are also here to lead. You may have seen we are looking at the re-introduction of caps. There are a number of reasons for this but one is because I think uniform and appearance needs addressing. Do please look at the OSU who for me continue to present the highest standards of professionalism. They look the part and act it. I was a little surprised on the intranet discussion on caps when some teams said we didn’t need to pilot as they never wear them. If that is what we think then it needs to change.
It is also why we are doing supervisory reviews of use of force. This is not to catch you out but when we use force we want to be as professional and as effective as possible. Leaders need to see how their staff police and need to coach and develop people to be as good as we can be in the most difficult circumstances. This is a tough job and it’s right we review how effective we are after serious incidents, just like our firearms teams do.
When all this is missing standards slip. Behaviour is not checked. It creates a place for people like Declan Jones to exploit. We are all responsible for our actions but if standards slip it creates a space for poor behaviour.
We will be tightening up on uniform standards. We are going to continue reviewing use of force so we can be the best we can be in very tough circumstances. I ask you all after the Declan Jones case that we all strive to look and operate like the professionals we are.
I make these points not because we are doing a poor job. I think today’s frontline officers are considerably more professional in how they use force than my generation. I say this because the bar of public expectation is higher. You are more on display than ever. It a challenge that is good for policing and one we must rise to.