As part of my programme of visits within the Force, I try to block out a week periodically whereby I can spend most of the time meeting teams of Officers and Staff from across the organisation.
There is so much to Policing that the public does not always see, and a substantial number of Police Staff who do so much both in terms of operational Policing and other functions that help bind Kent Police together.
This past week, I started with a visit to see how Crime Scene Investigators are trained. At Kent Police College, there are some good facilities that allow Staff to train on real life scenarios including the mock pub, post office and houses. The course this week were being put through their paces on a mock crime scene and would be spending several hours out practicing what they would be doing when on a real call. During that first day, I also went to meet the vetting and disclosure teams, who assess applications for new recruits and members of the public as they come in.
As shown in the above tweet, I spent the start of day two with the driver training team. There were a number of Officers from local teams and the Roads Policing Unit doing some refresher training on how to safely deploy a stinger device before I joined the “subject” car for live training as to how to stop a vehicle that is being pursued by the Police.
I will post separately about this in the next few days, but I have been first hand how well trained pursuit drivers are and it is absolutely ludicrous that the law is not always on their side. I’m pleased that legislation is being brought forward to change this.
After a visit to the recruitment team, I headed to the College to see the team responsible for training our future Police Officers. I was chatting to the Inspector in charge and she was telling me how the new intakes were getting on and what subjects they were learning during this week. She offered to take me down to meet some of them who were undertaking stop and search role plays.
I’ve always been one for getting involved in different scenarios to experience the training first hand; so I offered to be one of the subjects for the student Constables to test out what they had learned so far. No pressure!
Stop and search remains an issue that is much debated. With reductions in its use in recent years following political pressure, moves to make it even more intelligence-led and the new wave of support for the power to tackle serious violence, even if I wasn’t volunteering to be part of the training it was still worth seeing what they’re being taught.
And for students in week three of their 19 week initial training, I have to say that I was impressed. They explained to me precisely what was going on and why, what my rights were and what would happen next. I was treated fairly, with dignity and respect in the role play. And yes – they found where the dummy item was.
I do accept that there have been issues in the past with support for the power, and some have been disproportionately affected. But I feel that seeing it first hand, I can be sure that Officers are being equipped with the skills and training that they need to do the same out on the street.
On Wednesday, I started early with the Swanley section briefing before heading out on patrol with a couple of very good Officers. We headed to a road traffic collision on the A21 which had occurred following poor weather. Luckily no one was injured, but I watched as they professionally managed the traffic until the highways team could attend and mop up the oil on the road.
We were there for a significant amount of time unfortunately as it was necessary to close the carriageway altogether as a lorry caught fire too. I then went down to Tunbridge Wells Youth Hub and met both a brilliant team of staff and young people who are working hard to engage with local children and support them with a variety of programmes.
My final stop on that day was to BBC Radio Kent for the first edition of Call The Commissioner, which you can listen to here.
Thursday started with a trip down to Margate to visit the teams of Detectives and other Officers posted within some of the teams based in the town. I learned about the progress being made following the implementation of the Chief Constable’s new policing model, chatting first to the Vulnerability Investigation Team, followed by CID. I then caught up with the Missing and Child Exploitation Team, who are doing brilliant work that I have funded with St Giles Trust to prevent young people getting caught up in county lines and exploitation.
It was then back to HQ where I saw the health and safety team, followed by the occupational health teams to talk about the recruitment of new Officers and the steps they have to go through medically, and how they look after the welfare of Kent Police employees.
The week ended with a visit to the Officer Safety Training team, where I witnessed them teaching the appropriate use of force and de-escalation and met with some officers being trained in the use of the new taser.
These visits are incredibly valuable and important for me. They give me the chance to talk to Officers and Staff across the county, listen to their views about the challenges that Policing faces and say thank you for all the work that they do to keep Kent safe. This is recognised by independently – they are deemed to be good or outstanding at everything they do by HMICFRS – but I have also heard feedback about how the College of Policing and other Police Forces are looking to Kent as exemplars in their field and in some situations, almost a centre of excellence.
The demands being placed on Officer and Staff time are significant. There is no doubt that they are working tremendously hard, under difficult circumstances. And whilst I can often say that I’m doing something about it, through the recruitment of extra Officers, there is some way still to go in being able to address all of the challenges that Kent faces through changes in demand and crime.
To those Officers and Staff I met this week – I hear you – and thank you for your time.