It is now a year since I started writing a regular weekly column for this paper, so I would like to thank the editor for allowing me space and opportunity to publish my thoughts. Not every police inspector is given this generosity.
The good working relationship we have does not prevent the paper from holding their local police to account but it does provide me with an opportunity to give a different perspective.
On several occasions I have been challenged by members of the public for wasting police time by writing these weekly articles.
Actually, I write these in my own time. I would never have time while on duty. However, these comments do give me cause to consider: why do I write them?
Some may find this hard to believe, but I don’t write as some sort of self-promotion. I started writing because you do not have to look very far in the national media to find people having a regular knock at the police.
‘Plebgate’, Hillsborough, the Stephen Lawrence enquiry and other national stories are bound to have an impact on people’s confidence in the police, even though these were not local events and some were a long time ago.
However, in South Holland, top of the list of issues that is frequently repeated is the lack of visibility of police officers.
Regular readers will know that I have featured many aspects of policing. I do this to show some of the challenges faced by South Holland’s officers every day.
I also hint at some of the emotional and physical impact on officers. When I can’t think of what else to write about, I delve in to my own personal recollections. In doing so, I don’t long for the so-called ‘good old days’. Quite the opposite, the new recruits today are better trained and better equipped than I ever was. The demands and expectations placed on them are not something I could have coped so well with.
It’s customary at this time of year to reflect on the year gone by and to look towards the future. Rather than reflect on the whole year, I will bring to mind one week in October.
The crash of the fighter jet at Weston Hills was an exceptional event for the Weston Hills community and for Lincolnshire Police. We have generic contingency plans and carry out joint training with other agencies in order to refine our response to major events.
However, when it comes down to it, when there is a spontaneous event such as the aircraft crash the priority is to deploy as many officers as possible in order to work with other emergency services to protect life and property.
At 3.28pm on Wednesday, October 8 the force control room received the first call about the crash. This was followed by numerous other calls, some identifying the crash site, some contradictory and some giving the location of the pilot or the second ejector seat. This meant there were initially several locations to deploy officers to. The first police officers arrived in Weston Hills at 3.37pm.
Given the scale of the emergency, officers were deployed from other parts of the county to support my officers in South Holland.
Inevitably, this takes time as the officers had to break off from what they were already dealing with. The South Holland Community Policing team had just finished a training day and were due to go off duty. Instead the officers went home to get their uniforms and reported back for duty, many remaining on duty until midnight.
The priority was to ensure the safety of the community. Officers at the scene were advised by the fire service on the distance required for a safety cordon. This was extremely challenging as many hundreds of spectators started arriving in the area, hampering our efforts to maintain a safe zone around the crash site.
On the morning following the crash the local PCSO visited all the houses in the area. Of course, not everyone was at home when she visited.
I will always remember the joint visit with RAF and USAF personnel to Weston Hills Primary School, to provide reassurance to the school community. This included a special visit by ‘Bobby Bear’ and a presentation of ‘bravery awards’ to every pupil.
A similar visit was made to Honey Pots pre-school nursery the following week. Our initial emergency response and our longer-term community response to this event defined everything that I am proud of in Lincolnshire Police.
You will already know that the long-term future for Lincolnshire Police is looking decidedly bleak at present. None of us knows how the funding shortfall will truly affect us locally.
However, for the near future, things are looking good. During the past year Ryan, Charlie and Lewis became police constables. They were previously PCSOs and Special Constables.
We were also joined by Paul, a transferee from Cleveland. Our latest recruit, Stuart, started out on patrol in December.
Three further recruits, Ben, Jackie and Marc, start their training in January and will be joining us in South Holland in a few months. Ben was a PCSO for The Suttons, Jackie a PCSO from Boston and Marc was a Special Sergeant, so all three have local policing experience.
When I see the quality and enthusiasm of our new constables I know that the future is in safe hands.