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Performance Accountability Meeting – CoVID-19 Edition

Tuesday 5 May, 2020

1. CoVID-19 Restrictions

Question: There has been a lot of national media coverage of some police officers being overzealous on occasions in enforcing the restrictions on public movement under the Health Protection Regulations. What approach has Warwickshire Police taken and have our communities been supportive? What message would you have for the public to encourage them to comply?

Chief Constable’s answer: Warwickshire Police pride ourselves on strong community engagement with our Safer Neighbourhoods Team being at the centre of our Policing model.  To date, our communities continue to demonstrate significant social responsibility and are largely compliant with the government restrictions put in place in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

The Force has adopted the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) four-step escalation principles under Operation Stay at Home (Engage, Explain, Encourage and as a last resort, Enforce).  The initial police response is to engage with members of the public, explain the restrictions and why they should seek to comply and encourage voluntary compliance.

Our findings to date are that through the above 4 E’s approach the vast majority of our communities and businesses are complying and practising effective social distancing measures.  This is supported by the recent public satisfaction survey being conducted which shows support for police activity and overall feelings that we have got it about right.

Our message to our communities is: ‘Thank you for all that you are and have been doing to date.  It is vital that you continue to support our NHS and protect each other by continuing to adhere to the government restrictions and reduce the spread of this awful virus’.

2. Crime

Question: There seems to be a lot of recent social media activity on police arresting criminals during the lockdown. Has crime increased during this period and have crime patterns changed? How is Warwickshire Police managing to investigate crime due to the restrictions on social distancing? How are arrested people being dealt with safely when they’re in custody? Is the force experiencing delays locally in the Criminal Justice system and what steps are the police taking to support and reassure victims when their cases are delayed?

Chief Constable’s answer: Since the introduction of the government restrictions we have seen a reduction in crime rates across the county albeit they are starting to show signs of stabilising.

NPCC have produced a significant amount of guidance covering a wide variety of specific areas which are all available on our dedicated CoVID-19 intranet site for our officers and staff.

This includes areas such as guidance produced in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) around extended use of telephone statements and a three-tiered approach for the necessity of interviews within certain types of investigations.

There are inevitably some delays within the criminal justice system whilst the Courts continue to review practices and support necessary social distancing measures.  In custody, trials and remand hearings are being prioritised by the HMP Courts Service and are being supported via video hearings.

We continue to work closely with our Local Criminal Justice Board partners in order to provide the necessary support and reassurance to victims at this difficult time.

3. Domestic Abuse and Victim Services

Question: Domestic abuse is likely to have increased during lockdown due to strained relationships as families have to spend more time together in isolation, with possible financial concerns and the increased use of drink and drugs. What has the situation been like in Warwickshire? What measures are the force taking to safeguard victims of domestic abuse during this period and what support services are there for victims of crime, in particular domestic abuse victims, during this period?

Chief Constable’s answer: Domestic abuse incidents have continued to remain at the levels we saw prior to the restrictions being put in place, albeit we are fully aware that those who suffer at the hands of others may feel isolated with reduced opportunity to report.

We continue to work in partnership with Warwickshire County Council, Refuge and other key partners to ensure that the messages get out to those who need us most, encourage reporting and not to suffer in silence and report their concerns.

Specific newsletters and leaflets have been prepared and delivered to all households within the county, including those on the ‘shielded’ list, with a variety of messages contained including domestic abuse advice, ensuring that we reach the most vulnerable within our communities.  This is being supplemented by on-line advice and guidance and a significant social media campaign.

The partnership Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) processes and securing of Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) continue and we are investigating all incidents and crimes that come to our attention including securing DVPN/Orders through the courts.

The vital message is that individuals who are concerned about being subjected to any form of abuse or coercion feel supported and are aware of the opportunities to seek help and advice.

4. Road Safety

Question: Since the CoVID19 19 restrictions, there have been a lot more people taking daily exercise outside and an increased number of cyclists on the road. However, some drivers seem to have taken the opportunity to use the less busy roads as an opportunity to speed. What has Warwickshire Police done to stop this dangerous driver behaviour and make the roads safer?

Chief Constable’s answer:  The majority of calls that we are receiving relate to minor breaches of the government restrictions, and not speeding.  We have seen a significant reduction in the reporting of road traffic collisions which is in line with the reduction in use of the highways.  As a direct result, our roads policing officers are able to proactivity target those routes whereby concerns have been raised by the public.

All targeted road enforcement activity is intelligence led and evidenced based which has continued and we will continue to prosecute those that take unnecessary high risks on our roads and cause a danger to themselves and others.

5. Partnership Working

Question: How has Warwickshire Police managed to work with other emergency services and partner agencies during this public health emergency? How do you think these arrangements and relationships could be improved to make them more effective?

Warwickshire Police answer: Partnership working within Warwickshire is, and continues to be very strong.  We benefit from excellent working relationships and support which is only increasing at this challenging time.  We are part of a wider Warwickshire and West Midlands conurbation Strategic Coordinating Group (SCG) with a governance structure supporting it, as part of our response stage where all agencies are working together to mitigate and manage the risks presented through CoVID-19.

On a local level we continue to work closely with all parties in order to allow greater consistency across Warwickshire which will become increasingly important as we move towards recovery.   Trading Standards have taken the lead on premise breaches and we are receiving daily feeds from Districts and Boroughs, allowing us to identify hot spot locations, premises in breach and targeted activity.

6. Finance

Question: Has dealing with consequences of CoVID19 19 cost Warwickshire Police money? If so, how will the budget be managed – will the costs be recovered from central government, through local taxation or through other means?

Chief Constable’s answer: To date, our initial costs supporting our COVID19 response is within the region of £300,000.  We are predicting this will rise to approximately £500,000 up to the end of July.  This has been in order to purchase additional equipment such as vital PPE equipment etc. in order to ensure that our officers and staff remain safe whilst carrying out their duties.

We are tracking all expenditure which will enable us to seek to recover any costs in the future.

7. Health Safety and Welfare

Question: What are the forces sicknesses levels and what is being done to protect the health and wellbeing of the workforce?  Are there sufficient quantities of the correct PPE for front line officers to protect both the officers and the public that they interact with?  How have you personally shown your appreciation for their efforts during this extraordinary and challenging time? 

Chief Constable’s answer:  On the implementation of the government restriction on the 23rd March, in line with the majority of the Forces in the country, Warwickshire saw a higher than average abstraction rate for both officers and staff.   Since this time absence levels have continually reduced and stabilised over the last couple of weeks.   Through our initial response we identified 6 core areas of operational activity (Response, Public contact, Custody, Investigations, Firearms and Roads Policing).  We are pleased to say that all departments across the force are showing healthy absence levels with little or no impact on service delivery.

In order to ensure that we continue to protect our officers and staff we are operating to the government guidelines in respect of social distancing and PPE which has been introduced across the workforce, acknowledging that there are some unique policing circumstances where this is not possible.  Those officers and staff that are able to work from home have been encouraged to do so, however, as you would expect this is not possible for a large percentage of our officers we have introduced a home working solutions, sanitising stations within buildings, enforced 2 meter distancing across the estate, personal issue PPE equipment including sanitisers, gloves, masks and all cars and custody units equipped with additional more specialist equipment.

We have continued to benefit from good local suppliers who are able to facilitate sufficient supplies to maintain our current stock levels.

Our workforce continue to amaze me in providing such outstanding levels of personal and professional commitment and support during such a difficult time for us all.  We have committed to daily communication with our entire workforce which I know is being very much appreciated due to the numbers who are reading it.  We have a dedicated CoVID-19 intranet site including a message forum and regular webinars supporting two-way communication.

I have personally conducted Vlogs thanking the workforce, including our Specials and volunteers who continue to do an outstanding job and have recently written to all officers and staff’s families thanking them for their unwaning support.

In addition, our workforce has been afforded the opportunity of key worker testing in the event that they or a family member show symptoms, which has been greatly appreciated and is beneficial to maintaining our service.

8. PCC support

Question: It has recently been reported that nationally there have been tensions between some elected PCC’s and their respective Chief Constables.  What has this relationship been like in Warwickshire and what help and support has the PCC provided to both yourself and the Force during this extremely demanding period?

Chief Constable’s:  The force benefits from an extremely positive relationship with the PCC.  The OPCC has provided 2 staff members who have assisted us with the coordination of our response within the early phase of CoVID-19.

OPCC sit on the force governance structure set up for Operation Readout, the internal name for the force response and provide valuable feedback, which is also assisting in ensuring the continuance of vital commissioned services, particularly those around victim and witness support.