Law and Order Grimsby
January 2011; Councillor Steve Beasant of Humberside Police Authority and Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Donald on the News Crime Commissioners and Policing in time of Austerity.
Previous Items: Paul Genney on Law and Statistics, two visits to Grimsby Police Station in 2008 and 2006 and a discussion on the police authority by our former chairman Murdo MacInnes which led us to invite Councillor Beasant.
January 2011 - The New Crime Commissioners and Policing in Time of Austerity
We all learnt a lot from the presentation on Law and Order by Councillor Steve Beasant and Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Donald.
Many of us did not know what Humberside Police Authority does. Councillor Beasant, Portfolio Holder for Crime told us; its main job is to hold the Chief Constable of Humberside Police to account. We learnt that representation is top heavy on the North Bank of the Humber because there is a greater population, and therefore more elected representatives. Those representatives are councillors like Steve Beasant who are elected in the normal course of local politics and delegated to the Police Authority. There are 8 independent members who bring a great deal of specialised skills and knowledge.
We learnt that the coalition government has plans to replace the police authority with a directly elected Police Crime Commissioner. The reason for bringing in the new Crime Commissioners is said to be that the Police Authorities are not visible enough.
The first year of elections will be paid for by central Government, and it is estimated that the cost of the elections will be £100 million nationally. After this, the cost of elections will have to be built into the precept of each police force. It is not yet known how much of a staff the new crime Commissioner will need to carry on the work of the Police Authority, or how much this will cost.
Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Donald made it clear that he was speaking for Humberside Police as a whole, not just for the local area. Later in the evening he observed that the van patrolling Grimsby Town Centre in the evenings was still referred to as the "Borough Van", and that there was still a strong sense of local identity within the Grimsby force. However, Humberside Police is a force which covers a wide boundary. And he made it clear that, with funding likely to be severely reduced in future, Humberside Police would be looking toward sharing administrative functions with other forces.
Humberside Police has foreseen the cuts, and had already been looking at ways in which they could save money by reorganisation. Not by cutting staff, but by removing needless duplication of functions. There was a recognition that in some areas they would have to spend to save - one example given was in replacing the cassette recorders used in interview rooms with digital equipment (copies have to be made and stored of each interview, so just look at your own shelves to see how much space you can save by moving from cassette to disc).
Looking at crime statistics, the figures appeared to show a fall in reported crime at the same time that police staff rose. This rise was not just in police officers: apart from the very visible PCSO's, the force employed civilian staff as detention officers, investigation officers (who take statements) and administrative officers. There was a move to bring civilians into the control rooms - all with the intent of moving more uniformed officers back onto the streets.
A lively question and answer session followed; some of the main points were that - if a major incident such as terrorism or a serial killer occurred, there are national contingencies to call on staff from other forces, so the force budget will not be immediately blown. However, this works both ways, and staff from Humberside Police will be working on the policing of the 2012 Olympics.
March 2008 - Crime and Statistics
At our meeting on 24th March 2008, Chairman and Barrister Paul Genney spoke on the causes of crime and the system that tries to deal with it.
Paul took as his starting point the argument that you really can't rely on statistics quoted in the news that crime is going up or down.
The number of crimes reported or solved depends on what you chose to call a crime. As an example, driving off from a service station without paying for the petrol used to be called a civil debt, but has recently been classified as a crime. A youth walking down the street smashing car windows could be classified as one crime or several. If the youth is caught, charging him with several crimes provides evidence that crime is being solved. If the youth escapes, recording the incident as one crime shows that overall, criminality is falling.
Paul moved on to consider social factors such as education, alcohol and drugs, which have contributed to an undeniable increase in anti-social and criminal behaviour. He then outlined the compromises within the court system which creates its own pressures and conflicts.
Visits to Grimsby Police Station
Some weeks later, the theme continued when Inspector Ed Cook showed members around Grimsby Police Station. Walking past the unrevealing façade in Victoria Street, it's hard to imagine the scale of activity going on inside.
Members were shown the control room, where satellite mapping, electoral rolls and CCTV are used to direct patrol cars to the scene of an incident within seconds of receiving a call. They were then taken out back to the reception area where prisoners are taken to the cells, andintroduced to two of the police dogs - a cuddly sniffer which can detect drugs, cash or even firearms - and a less cuddly pursuit dog.
Inspector Cook admitted it was ironic that, although they finance the service, most tax payers feel they get poor service when they come into contact with it - perhaps because their "crime report" does not receive a visit, or they can only get through to a recorded message.
As an explanation, "A Division" (covering the Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Immingham area ) has 320 police officers and 80 PCSO's.
Of those, a quarter are either off on courses, at court, on secondment or off sick at any one time. That leaves 240 staff to split between 5 shifts - or 48 per shift. These are allocated to emergency response, investigation and neighbourhood duties.
This means there are around 15 emergency response officers dealing with calls coming in at around 400 a day with a peak of 50 an hour. Even 7 calls in an hour will tie up the shift - after that, the Duty Inspector has to prioritise calls depending on their severity. An incident could take between 15 minutes to an hour to resolve, but if a more serious call comes up, officers may have to leave the first incident.
As Inspector Cook admitted, the police cannot answer every phone call they receive (staffing is fixed - they can't hire more call-takers to match demand). They can't investigate every crime - a case of criminal damage takes 40 hours to process - a serious road traffic accident takes 200 hours. For this reason they have to focus on the most serious cases.
It was very much an unrehearsed visit - a trip to the cell block had to be called off because officers were dealing with a "difficult" prisoner.
However, members left the station feeling that they had gained an insight into how policing is organised. Even if they are not happy with the service provided, they now have some insight into why the service they might wish for can't be provided. More importantly, by seeing it happen with their own eyes, they gained some reassurance that the police is responding to major incidents.
POLICING AND REPRESENTATION
Having arranged two Civic Society visits to our Grimsby Victoria Street Police Station (the last on 31st March 2009), Inspector Ed Cook gave us a memorable visit illustrating the importance of Police work in our area.
I was certainly left with the clear impression that as far as Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham were concerned, force numbers, including PCSO's, were insufficient to meet the needs of our community. The visit clearly indicated to me that members of the Civic Society should take a greater interest in our Police Force
Established in 1996, Humberside Police Authority is appointed by the four Councils and sets the budgets and local objectives for the force, while monitoring its performance against targets set in consultation with the Chief Constable. The Authority comprises Chair Person Alene Branton, nine Councillors, and six independent members (two are JPs and four are members of the public from the four areas).
N.E.Lincs is currently represented by only one member, Councillor Stephen Beasant, although I understand that this will increase to two from 2010, due to proportional representation. Councillors alternate between North & N.E Lincolnshire on an annual basis.
Observing the list of Councillors; Hull and the East Riding are represented by six against the three of North and N. E Lincolnshire. No independent members currently represent N.E. Lincolnshire. Hopefully this may change to our advantage by June 2010.
Humberside Police are well aware that the public demand more visible street patrols. Their recruitment team have asked the public to unlock their potential by assisting in a host of opportunities which will release more officers to get out onto the streets.
Where can we, the Civic Society assist? Would you consider it a helpful, positive move if we, as a society, were to invite our local N. E Lincolnshire representative Councllor Beasant to address a public meeting along with a senior Humberside police officer. This in order to explain to us their role in representing N.E. Lincolnshire and how the public can participate more fully within the Authority.
We would like N.E. Lincolnshire to be better represented on the Humberside Police Authority which is currently more heavily weighted towards the north of the river than the south.
So what do you think? email@example.com
Grimsby Police Station Visit 2006
Former Society President Murdo MacInnes gives his impressions of a members' visit to Grimsby Police Station in 2006.
Fourteen of our members gathered in the office of Inspector Ed Cook on the evening of Tuesday 12th 2006. He spent a considerable time detailing the various duties which the police have to deal with, particularly the very complicated logistics of focusing on potential trouble spots within his area of Cleethorpes, Grimsby and Immingham. This with a force of approximately 340 Police and Support Officers and limited vehicles which clearly is quite insufficient for the keeping of law and order on our streets.
He brought home very forcefully that a police officer faces death or injury each day of his working life on the streets and there is a need for a largely lethargic and disinterested public to realise that our Police force is the very thin blue line separating us from the total break down of law and order.
He outlined some of the issues that give the Police a problem such as members of the public wasting police time making unnecessary 999 calls. He illustrated on his computer calls which were quite stupid but nevertheless would require a squad car be sent to investigate. During that time, it was possible that another more serious call would be made and he would not have the manpower resources or vehicle to be made available.
Visiting the Operations Room was very interesting but I am not at all confident that a camera will ever take the place of the Bobby standing on the street corner. Our visit to the Charge Room and cells brought home to me that there is another world in our community which we are not acquainted with, particularly when Inspector Cook described that a drunken man can require up to five police officers to subdue him. The Charge Sergeant is responsible for the safety and health of the cell inmates. Even though the cell inmate can severely injure a police officer, woe betide the officer that harms the prisoner.
I cannot speak for the other members of our visiting group, but I am left with a feeling that the lack of order on our streets is created by a relatively small percentage of our community. This makes me feel that our Society should be giving support to the Police in their efforts to obtain greater resources, particularly manpower.
It gave me much pleasure to thank Inspector Cook for having given us 2 hours of his valuable time and giving us an insight into the working of his station.