MPs across the country were invited to #GiveADayToPolicing this summer and, amidst all the current chaos and confusion of the political scene, it was salutary to take a day out with the neighbourhood team in West Berkshire. The aim of the initiative was for MPs to see how day-to-day business is managed and how frontline officers respond to daily calls and challenges and, reporting to Newbury Police Station that morning, I was allocated to join PC Greg Jones and PC Shaun Bull for the day.
Over my years as MP I have been fortunate to go out several times with the police and, once again, I was really impressed me with the professionalism shown by these two officers. Calls that day took us out to a traveller incursion, a domestic dispute, and a minor traffic incident in Hungerford High Street. I was impressed by how intelligently the officers handled some very sensitive issues.
The role of the local copper has changed out of all recognition. Our police are expected to take on community engagement and safety as well as law and order and public protection. In West Berkshire, for example, it is our local Superintendent Lindsey Finch who chairs the group working with our most vulnerable rough sleepers. The police are also part of the Homelessness Strategy Group and pop in regularly to Two Saints hostel, the Newbury Soup Kitchen and Loose Ends, as well as visiting schools and liaising with Parish Councils and other community bodies.
The Government has pledged funding for 20,000 more police officers over the next three years and of the first tranche of these in 2020-2021, 183 new officers will be allocated to the Thames Valley force. This comes on top of the additional 209 officers and support staff funded by the increase in the Council Tax precept agreed in January.
Whereas the timing of the next general election is subject to much speculation but at the time of writing is as yet unknown, an election will definitely take place on 7 May 2020 for the next Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley. Anthony Stansfeld, the current PCC for this area, is standing down and candidates to take his place are due to be confirmed. There has been a lot of talk about the role of PCCs who now head up policing in around 40 areas across England and Wales. But, replacing the old police authorities, they are, if you like, our voice, acting as the link between the police and the public, and between the police and the Government, and have real power – deciding the precept and hiring and firing the Chief Constable.
I have wholeheartedly recommended #GiveADayToPolicing to all my colleagues.