Having completed my first six months as ACC in WMP, I want to share some observations with you. I hope you enjoy reading my first blog.
I joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in July 1986 and was involved in the transition to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in 2001. My service has predominantly been operational and I have also been fortunate enough to do some international work. You can read my biography here.
After careful consideration, and lots of discussion with my husband and three kids aged 19, 16 and 13, I decided to leave PSNI for an opportunity with WMP. It was difficult to leave colleagues and friends in Northern Ireland (NI) for pastures new. It was an exciting and daunting time – learning a new job, new force, new people – while my family continues to live in NI and I continue to accumulate the air miles!
On the 1st June, I arrived at the office to a warm welcome from my Command team colleagues. My support staff had filled the diary and I was kept well and truly busy which helped to take my mind away from the first day nerves at work. I was immensely proud to be sworn in as a police officer in WMP.
Policing in NI has similarities to policing elsewhere, however the context in which it is delivered is very different. I have a deep passion for understanding the communities we serve, rooted in witnessing the pain from policing divided society – too many deaths and too many colleagues losing their lives. Sadly the terrorist threat, more familiar to us in NI from domestic terrorism, has been elevated in the UK, reflective of international terrorist attacks.
While this will see some uplift, particularly around firearms functions, it is a time when I believe, more than ever, we need to prioritise community engagement and understanding.
We need to reach out to the diversity within communities and build confidence and trust in the policing service we deliver, encouraging dialogue. This is a key strand to combat radicalisation and minimise the terrorist threat.
In light of that, I was delighted to be appointed ACC responsible for Local Policing, Force Contact and Criminal Justice. During my visits to frontline staff and officers, I have witnessed a real sense of pride in the service being delivered, a great desire to do the very best for the public we serve and a real openness to change, seeking support from technology and a growing evidence base of “what works”.
At local stations, contact centres and various departments I have been so impressed with the commitment, drive, enthusiasm and leadership.
Within investigations, intelligence, specialisms, support functions and in particular the firearms teams, the flexibility and resilience demonstrated over what has been an extremely demanding operational period, especially around gang related attacks, has been truly impressive.
This is at a time of significant demand from WMP2020. I am the Executive Lead for Next Generation Local Policing, Offender Management, Active Citizens and Citizen Self Service portal. These areas are heavily influenced by the Intervention and Prevention approach. The focus of local neighbourhood policing will be about early intervention to prevent harm, while also reducing demand through preventative problem solving.
Much of our efforts will require partnership delivery and clear focus on commissioning opportunities to divert individuals away from the criminal justice system. There are already some tremendous examples of effective practice such as street triage for mental health and evidence from the Turning Point pilot supporting out of court disposals, which we will build upon going forward.
This is a strategy on a page which was a challenge in itself! Hopefully it will indicate to the key areas being prioritised within early intervention and how this will be supported by consistent, effective offender management.
In 2016, I will be seeking opportunities to engage with you further and this will also inform our thinking in respect of the combined authority work.
Some of the challenges as we move forward towards 2020 will be around digitalisation and mobilising our communities. Much work is being progressed to ensure we are fit for purpose and to create opportunities for individuals and our communities to engage with us differently in a digital age.
I have initiated a stocktake of what volunteering looks like across WMP to ensure we are maximising opportunities to empower local people and I welcome the support of the Federation and Unions. I pay particular tribute to the contribution the Special Constabulary make to WMP and look forward in the New Year to developing this relationship further.
Involved in significant change in NI, I am acutely aware of the uncertainty change creates and the personal apprehension that can manifest, often fuelled by rumour and speculation. We in the Command Team seek to keep you informed of WMP2020 decisions in a timely way in order to alleviate concerns.
There have been many highlights in my first six months including the celebration of 100 years of Women in Policing – a tremendous event profiled on ITV Central and I look forward to the awards night in January 2016; the laying of the wreath at Birmingham remembering all our fallen colleagues and the welcome I have received into WMP, which I have truly appreciated. Both officers and staff make a real difference daily across WMP.
You have much to be proud of and I know the Diamond Awards in March will seek to acknowledge your achievements.
There has also been much humour from missing my flight despite being in the airport, to finding my way around the West Midlands via SatNav which doesn’t always take me where I want to go!
Finally as a busy mum of three, with my family still living in NI, I suspect like many of you I’ve been juggling the Santa lists with the 24/7 nature of policing.
I look forward to spending time with family over Christmas – I trust you get the opportunity also to value their support. I wish you and your families a very happy Christmas and I look forward optimistically to 2016, working together, delivering a great policing service while tackling the challenges that lie ahead.
+ You can follow ACC Larmour on Twitter @ACCLarmour.