Police chief: “I also want to see officers on the beat”

Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police Neil Rhodes
Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police Neil Rhodes

In this week’s final instalment with Chief Constable Neil Rhodes he talks about how policing has changed since he started out in 1986 and Leanne Fender asks him what is in store for the future.

A MAJOR staffing shake-up at Lincolnshire Police has seen civilian support workers transferred to the firm which was at the centre of an Olympic Games security blunder – but Chief Constable Neil Rhodes is not worried about the role of G4S in our county.

Last month, G4S admitted it would not be able to provide enough security guards for the Games and the military was called in to bridge the gap.

Chief Con Rhodes said: “G4S have had problems with providing security to the Olympics. That’s a massive distance away from that work they do with Lincolnshire Police.

“In the work they’ve done with us, they’ve made a very sound and competent start. They run our computer systems and personnel. They don’t run policing.”

The partnership, which came into force earlier this year, is estimated to save £3 million a year for the next 10 years. “It will keep more officers on the street, ” said Chief Con Rhodes.

But outsourcing has been met with a lot of criticism.

With this in mind, we asked Chief Con Rhodes if he would have predicted this happening when he started his career 26 years ago.

“It was a completely different world then,” he said.

But Chief Con Rhodes insisted there have been some ‘really tremendous’ changes. “There’s a lot of changes we’ve all seen that we never thought would happen.

“There have been phenomenal changes in technology and in the way we record interviews.

“DNA has enabled us to solve serious crimes years after they happened. in the past, police wouldn’t have gone back to them.”

Police and Crime Commissioner

The first election for a police and crime commissioner – Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempt to make forces more accountable – will be held on November 15, with the successful candidate taking up their new role on November 22.

Chief Con Rhodes said: “I look forward to working with that individual.” He said he could not comment any further as it was a political issue.

Partnership working

In recent years, Lincolnshire Police has worked with forces in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire to tackle serious and organised crime.

“Even in a county as safe as Lincolnshire, during the course of the year a few people will lose their lives at the hands of family members or other people,” said Chief Con Rhodes. “It’s an enormous drain on the police service.”

But the partnership working, known as the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, sees resources being shared to improve the service and save money.

Chief Con Rhodes said: “It works well, extremely well, in fact. It’s a great success story.”

‘Paper-pushing’

“One of the common things the public want to see is police officers out on the beat – rather than inside filling forms in – and so do I,” said Chief Con Rhodes.

“We work hard to minimise bureaucracy, but you have to do the job properly. When police officers put together crime files, the quality has to be right.

“When a police officer comes to your house to put together a crime report, it has to be filled out properly so the crime has the best chance of being solved.”

He said officers now carried BlackBerry phones, they could be contacted via e-mail and could now do a proportion of their work without returning to a police station.

“We need to make sure the changes are working for us so more officers can stay out on patrol while still completing all the necessary paperwork that we need.”

Supermarkets and the police

We asked Chief Con Rhodes what he thought about officers using supermarkets to hold surgeries.

He advised readers not to be surprised if they find police officers and Pcsos wanting to talk to them at the supermarket.

“We know we’ve got to come to the public rather than wait for them to come to us when we want their views.”

Respect

We put it to Chief Con Rhodes that some people these days did not have a lot of respect for police officers and asked him why this was.

He said: “Being a police officer in Lincolnshire is still very respected. That’s not our experience here.”

Crimewaves

“Because Lincolnshire is a rural community, last year we suffered particularly with a spate of austerity crimes. It hits rural communities particularly hard and metal thefts were a real issue,” said Chief Con Rhodes

Police started Operation Brompton to address metal thefts, and more than 80 people have been arrested and charged with offences in the past year.

“It’s delivered some particularly good results,” he said.

There have been 17 enforcement days held around Lincolnshire and since the operation started, Chief Con Rhodes said there has been a ‘significant reduction’ in metal theft.

And the overall picture of crime in Lincolnshire is ‘encouraging’, according to Chief Con Rhodes.

Over the past four months, the force has seen a reduction in crime of 13.9 per cent on the same period last year – that is 1,943 fewer victims.

“We’re currently detecting 27 per cent of crime – that’s spot on the national average, despite having a lower budget,” he said.

The future – Pcsos and specials?

Chief Con Rhodes said he is ‘absolutely committed’ to building strong links with communities and said this will not change.

“We want our officers to be seen in local communities, to be known by name and always be approachable to members of the public,” he said.

The force has 149 Pcsos, 49 of these are jointly-funded in partnership with Lincolnshire County Council.

Cheif Con Rhodes said: “The feedback from the public is that they’re massively appreciated. They spend almost all of their time in public areas, talking to communities.”

And over the past 18 months, the force has almost doubled the number of volunteer special constables – there are now more than 200.

There has also been a ‘significant increase’ in the number of hours they contribute, said Chief Con Rhodes.

“They’re a very important part of policing in Lincolnshire, especially in rural areas,” he said.

“Because of the rural nature of the county officers have to cover large areas – they really value the support of special constables.”