Martyn Underhill Blog - 10th February 2014

It’s incredible to think that it is almost February. It has been a busy start to the year.

2014 began with a visit to Bournemouth Islamic Centre & Central Mosque. I had a really interesting chat with the Imam about his congregation. I was impressed with their fantastic facilities and felt a real community spirit from the people I met. I also held meetings with the Gypsy Roma Traveller Community from Christchurch, which was a great insight into their community. 

I also spent an evening with the Boscombe angels, having spent a similar night before Christmas with the Weymouth street pastors. The weather on that occasion was less kind! I am full of admiration for the angels and pastors in helping to look after the vulnerable in our community, which is especially challenging on wet and cold winter nights. As PCC, my role is to ‘join up the dots’ and I am keen to support such groups and explore expanding the pastor initiative to areas which don’t currently have the scheme. 

My first PCC forum of the year took place in Wimborne. I was pleased to see such support at the forum for Neighbourhood Justice Panels. Those present also expressed interest in the late night levy debate and concern over the ease of access to alcohol.

I find the forums so interesting. Each area in Dorset has generic themes such as alcohol, mental health and anti-social behaviour but then each area also has its own agenda. Wimborne centred on shoplifting, whilst my later forum at Bridport dwelled on the possible badger cull and body-worn cameras. 

This month is a busy time for our Finance teams as they prepare our budgets. I look forward to the next Dorset Police and Crime Panel meeting on February 6th which will determine our funding streams for the next year. 

As the financial pinch continues, the Chief Constable and I both need to be assured that we are exploring all options of income generation within the Force. The Force is currently advertising for an Income Generation & Sponsorship Manager. It is important for us to further examine the concept of sponsorship and to identify local or national opportunities. The post, which is self funding, is another example of how we are working to meet the cuts.

This month, I have also met with the Policing Minister Damian Green to discuss Neighbourhood Justice Panels. This is a really exciting area of work and I am delighted to have the support of Dorset MPs, in particular Oliver Letwin who attended our meeting. I look forward to driving this project forward in Dorset and building on our current pilots. I look with envy at Hampshire, who already has two innovative enhanced schemes in place. I hope to recreate the same in Dorset.

On 16th January I delivered a key note speech at an important conference on the national Troubled Families programme. The event at Bovington Park was held jointly by Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset County Council and the Borough of Poole. I am working with our three top tier authorities in relation to Early Intervention and it is so crucial that Early Intervention works in synergy with the Troubled Family agenda.

The third week of the month was very much centred on national and regional work. I attended an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) conference to hear about changes in the way IPCC, with its new resources, will tackle police complaints. I have always made clear my view that police should not investigate the police, so I welcome a move towards that, but there is still a long way to go!

This month also saw the inaugural meeting of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Transition Board, in which the 3 representative PCC’s (Mathew Ellis, Jane Kennedy and myself) met with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), Chief Constables and the Home Office to start implementing the “Parker Review”. I am enormously proud to be part of the ACPO review, helping to re-shape the ACPO role in a fast moving and changing landscape. 

I then attended a gathering of all PCC’s, also in London. We discussed various issues with Damian Green the Policing Minister and Keith Bristow from the National Crime Agency. I then made a presentation to PCC’s on Mental Health issues, which I shall touch on later in the blog. 

I also met with the region’s PCCs in Swindon this month to discuss regional approaches to many aspects of policing, in a wish to improve services to the public and drive down costs.

My team and I are very active at the moment, devising a cyber crime awareness campaign that we will deliver to every household in Dorset. I will update you on this, but it is clear that cyber crime is at the forefront of the publics mind, as well as the Governments and mine. It is the new major threat, and I have a responsibility to ensure that all of our 750,000 residents are well versed in ways to stay safe online. The awareness campaign is also an excellent opportunity to help raise awareness to parents and our youth of cyber bullying, and sexting, which are both tormenting our next generation across the County. Cyber bullying and ‘trolling’ disgusts me and we must make sure that our young people (and their carers) are equipped with knowledge of how to deal with it.

I cannot dwell on cyber bullying without making a reference to mental health issues in Dorset. As your PCC, I have become very involved nationally, working with the Government, Home Office, senior police officers and NHS England to ensure consistency in primary and secondary mental health provision across England. I chair the PCC Mental Health Group, working to reduce the huge amount of time police officers spend dealing with issues that are the not in their remit. It is time that mental health trusts and agencies ‘stepped up to the plate’ and provided better 24 hour cover (and more beds) for those in crisis.

This equally applies in Dorset, where people in crisis are still being taken into police custody as a place of safety because of a shortage of mental health beds and professionals. I am working to change this and you may have heard that my office is working with the Mental Health Trust to pilot a street triage service for officers from April this year.

Next month, the Government will issue a new mental health Concordat between key agencies (including PCC’s) which aims to start addressing some of these issues. I shall blog separately about this, nearer the time. 

One of the key events of this month was last week’s victims forum in Dorchester. I find these really humbling, where victims are brave enough to tell me about their experiences and their journey so that we identify best practice, and learn from mistakes. Thank you to everyone who shared their issues.

So, after a talk at the Wallisdown, Winton and Ensbury Park Forum, our first month is drawing to a close with much achieved, but still more to be done!

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