On behalf of myself and all the staff of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year.
For the whole world that message carries more hope on this occasion than it has for generations. In hoping for a better and brighter year ahead we should also pause and give thought to those who are not with us any longer to share that hope, and to those who will be mourning the loss of someone dear to them during the past year and who face the future uncertain in their new reality.
In reflecting on the year that has passed we have seen the best and worst of people, as is often the case in extreme and massively testing times. We have clapped the NHS workers and given thanks for all the key workers who have allowed some semblance of normal life to continue, the care workers, public health workers, Fire and Rescue staff, refuse collectors, lorry drivers, teachers, local authority workers, volunteers in so many sectors and of course, our police officers, staff, special constables and volunteers. We have also seen examples of selfishness and stupidity as some people have flagrantly ignored the laws and guidance that the vast majority have applied to the benefit of all. And, of course, criminals have continued to operate regardless of any public health threat.
The past year provided huge challenges to policing across the country and also locally. I think the performance of Humberside Police during this unprecedented time has been outstanding. They have worked hard to reflect the mood of our communities in the style of policing they have delivered, which has been a key aim of mine since I took office. Whilst this has always been based upon engaging, explaining and encouraging compliance, only to be followed by enforcement where there was little other choice, more recently this has seen a large number of fixed penalty notices being issued for breaches of lock down regulations, as the patience of everyone has worn thin with those who continue to act selfishly.
This does not mean that the force is capable of responding to every breach of compliance as their other work has continued. I know some have voiced a lack of satisfaction that the force has not been able to deal with all reports of breaches, but in policing it is always a question of balancing insufficient resources against a number of competing demands. What I hope you have seen is that during this period the force have really taken the initiative in confronting the criminality that infects our communities, not just dealing with covid breaches. The far-reaching tentacles of the ongoing Operation Galaxy continue to disrupt criminal activity on a scale this force hasn’t seen in many years, as hundreds of criminals are arrested and properly dealt with. So much so that The Home Secretary asked the Chief Constable what it was the force was doing to achieve the results it was showing.
Humberside Police has the best arrest rate per officer in the country and even discounting the reductions in crime due to covid (that all forces will record) the underlying crime rate is going down here and was showing decent reductions before covid hit. Fewer than half the forces in the country were able to show that.
So, at the close of 2020, Humberside Police had in excess of 2000 officers for the first time in many years; it was graded ‘good’ in every aspect of its operation by the Independent Police Inspectorate, for the first time in its history and is touching upon being recognised as outstanding; it has the highest force morale in the country (up from the lowest a couple of years ago); it has turned around an increasing crime rate to be one of a minority of forces showing a real reduction in crime; and it has the highest arrest rate per officer; it continues to move more officers out into towns and villages as additional recruits are trained; and it is reaching out into all communities asking the public what is important to them and how can the police work with partners to deliver what people want.
It has been a long and difficult journey to bring Humberside Police to this state when I think back to what I inherited in 2016, walking into my office and finding an Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner incapable of supporting me in a drive for real change and having to uncover the true scale of the problems and challenges in the force, hidden from public view; of confronting the worst performing force in the country with the lowest morale, and a senior leadership that did not believe it could improve significantly.
It is easy to forget sometimes, but in considering our current state it is useful to think about the journey travelled. Humberside Police enters 2021 as the most improved force in the country, built upon solid foundations and striving for excellence in many different areas. Recognised as beacon of good practice in policing nationally and sought out for its ideas, innovation and good leadership. Does it get everything right, or meet every demand? No. Does it strive to recognise when it fails to meet its own high standards and seek to put right its errors and omissions? – the answer, quite honestly, is that it is getting better, but there is still more to do. That is the nature of policing, there is always more to do. But they are on with it and rest assured, on your behalf, I am on to them to make sure they are on to it.
In rebuilding our local economy following the ravages of covid, but also all the legacy issues, policing has a contribution to make in a number of different respects. What is certain is that having a failing police force and an area that is a by-word for high crime and deprivation are not features that will attract inward investment. Having a police force that is recognised nationally as being at the forefront of pushing excellence in its operation while pushing down crime will assist. Having leaders that are respected for their experience and delivery, that are invited to national forums to share their insights and thoughts on the future direction of policing, all adds to the overall attractiveness of an area and to the long-haul requirement to change the perceptions of those who don’t understand what this great area can offer.
So, although there are many challenges ahead as we enter a new year be assured your police service, Humberside Police, is as well positioned as it could be to play its part to the full and that I will continue, on your behalf, to maintain an appropriate degree of pressure on the force and all the services that come together to provide safer communities, to maintain the momentum it has taken some years to build that has brought us to this point.