Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner sets out plans after third re-election
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has vowed to improve the force’s performance after being re-elected for a third term.
The Conservative candidate took a decisive victory in the May elections, securing 47.3 per cent of the first votes before beating Labour’s Paul Richards in a second round run-off.
Setting out her priorities for the next three years, Mrs Bourne said driving up performance across the board was at the top of her agenda.
“I’m delighted, really thrilled to have been re-elected,” she said.
“I’m not taking anything for granted, the next three years is going to be not without its challenges as we come out of lockdown and try to get back to some sort of normality.
“I think people have seen what I’ve done and have put their faith in me to keep carrying on. Even for those that didn’t vote for me, I think my job now is to work even harder to make sure we keep delivering on what people want.”
Mrs Bourne said one of the ‘definite objectives’ she would be setting Chief Constable Jo Shiner over the coming months was improving performance in inspections.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS) conducts PEEL assessments, looking at police forces’ effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy.
The last inspection for Sussex Police in 2018/19 rated its effectiveness at reducing crime and the way in which it treats its workforce and the public as ‘good’.
Its efficiency and sustainability ‘required improvement’.
Mrs Bourne said the aim was to boost all three categories up to ‘outstanding’ with a more ‘forensic eye’ on performance.
Addressing concerns around the efficiency of the 101 non-emergency line has been a notable success story after the service was criticised consistently by the public.
A few years ago, 60 per cent of calls to 101 were abandoned because of the long waiting times.
The average waiting time has now fallen by around 70 per cent to two and a half minutes, said Mrs Bourne, making it significantly easier for the public to report crimes and for the police to develop a clearer picture of criminality in the county.
Improving performance underpins a need to improve public confidence and trust in policing in general, which has taken a battering over recent months.
While necessary in order to stop the spread of Covid-19, enforcing social restrictions has forced officers to tread a fine line between keeping people safe and infringing on public freedoms.
It has also been a year of protests, including the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, culminating in the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which would give the force greater powers to clamp down on protests.
The killing of Sarah Everard in March, allegedly by a Metropolitan Police officer, further eroded public confidence, heightened by some perceptions that the police response to vigils in her memory was heavy handed.
Mrs Bourne said she acknowledged work needed to be done to restore trust in the force.
“It’s been very difficult for police and I do have a lot of sympathy for officers on the front line,” she said.
“Officers really have gone above and beyond, getting out there to educate people and keep them safe. But they are almost a lightning rod for a lot of the fear and a lot of the upset.
“Sarah Everard and Black Lives Matter has brought policing to the fore, but for police officers to all be tarred with the same brush is horrible.”
The tragic killing of Sarah Everard, and the protests that followed, brought the issue of violence against women starkly into the public eye.
Cracking down on domestic violence, stalking and harassment has long been a priority for the PCC and takes on greater significance during her third term.
Sussex Police plans to recruit 117 new police officers this year as part of the Government’s Uplift programme, but forces are expected to justify this central investment through action on key priorities.
One focus is a reduction in homicides and, with a large proportion of murders the result of domestic incidents, Mrs Bourne said tackling that issue, and the ‘woeful’ prosecution statistics around stalking, domestic violence and rape, will be a major part of the force’s strategy.
“We know that a woman will get killed at the hands of a man every three days in this country, and that hasn’t changed for ten years,” she said.
The force has just secured £2.8million of Government funding for rape, sexual violence and domestic abuse services in Sussex, which will be used by 17 organisations to increase the services offered particularly to under-represented groups.
A new programme has also been launched alongside the probation service to educate stalkers to influence their behaviour and reduce repeat offending.
It joins a similar scheme aimed at domestic abusers.