Come and have a ‘cuppa with a copper’

PCSO Nigel Wass, County Council Chairman Bill Aron, Deputy Chief Constable Keith Smy, Superintendent Steve Taylor and PCSO Za Za Warren EMN-140822-125724001
PCSO Nigel Wass, County Council Chairman Bill Aron, Deputy Chief Constable Keith Smy, Superintendent Steve Taylor and PCSO Za Za Warren EMN-140822-125724001

It’s often said that these days we don’t see enough police officers out on the beat.

The force says that is a misconception but it highlights the public relations battle police forces the length and breadth of the country are involved in.

Lincolnshire Police, though, wants to tackle this and is inviting members of the public to ‘come and have a cuppa with a copper.’

That doesn’t mean you’ll have to sit opposite an officer in an interview room either.

Over the coming weeks, they will be out and about in many locations in the county.

Last week, it was Horncastle.

Next week, it could be Louth, Spalding, Boston or Skegness.

It’s all part of the police’s drive to discover what the real concerns and issues are in communities.

If you do turn up for a cuppa, don’t be surprised to bump into Superintendent Steve Taylor.

He’s just taken over as deputy division commander (eastern division).

His territory covers a huge area - from Louth in the north to Skegness, Boston, Spalding and Holbeach in the south. He’s been in the post for two weeks and is relishing the challenge.

He says: “It’s a fantastic opportunity and it’s really good to try a new role.

“I am mainly based at Boston although I try and make sure I get across to all the stations in the division.

“It’s a vast area and, of course, there are different priorities in different areas - be it Boston or crime in more rural areas, like Horncastle.

“The focus is a reduction in crime as well as making sure we are there when we are needed by the public.”

Budget reductions for the police are never far from the headlines. Lincolnshire has been harder hit than most and Supt Taylor does not need reminding of that.

He explains: “The biggest challenge is the geographical area that we have to cover with the resources we have.

“It is always going to be a challenge but that’s why we are experienced at it.

“We’ve been doing it for a long time and year on year, we are achieving those reductions in crime.

“I live in Lincolnshire. I love it here. My kids are growing up and they love it as well.

“It really is one of the safest counties.

“It’s also a great place to be a police officer in. It genuinely is.”

Home Office statistics show crime is falling but no-one is going to rest on their laurels – least of all Supt Taylor.

He adds: “The hard work goes on. We’ve been policing a long time. What we need to do is despite what changes there might be - whether it’s flooding like we’ve had in Louth and Boston, or a budget challenge because of a change in Government - policing maintains its service to the public.

“What we’ve got is real dedicated commitment from the officers. I mean that by all staff - support staff, community safety officers, it really is a team effort.”

He added: “We’d all like to see more officers on the beat. You won’t find a police officer against that.

“What we do is to make sure we are in the right places at the right times.

“We try to get that right as much as we can but we are human. There are large distances to cover and there are big expectations from the public.

“We’re not going to always meet those expectations but we’ll be honest, we’ll be realistic and we’ll try to be in the places when we’re needed.”

This interview is taking place in Horncastle, just yards away from where children are feeding ducks and swans.

A family is enjoying a picnic on the grass. It’s a far cry from the situation in, say, Boston at ‘turning out time’ on a Saturday night.

Supt Taylor adds: “Of course, policing Skegness or Boston is different to policing Horncastle but we’ve got the experience to meet those challenges.

“Officers don’t stay in one location. Some officers transfer from other forces. We have got that flexibility in terms of dealing with particular incidents in particular locations.”

Superintendent Taylor used to serve in the RAF. He was based at Coningsby and Cranwell so he knows the area well.

And, the ‘come and have a cuppa message’?

He explains: “What we are trying to do is make ourselves visible to the public.

“It would be very easy for officers of my rank to be hidden away inside an office.

“It’s about meeting various members of the public. They can ask us questions.

“They can see there is a human element to us all. We are human behind the uniform.

“My objective is to listen to the concerns of the public. We need to takes those concerns on board.

“We need to bear in mind why we are all here.

“You can lose sight of that. It’s gives us a reality check of being able to say - ‘yeah, I get that’.”

So, the police want your views - good or bad.

Supt Taylor was delighted with the feedback in Horncastle.

“It’s been really positive,” he says. “I’ve asked some really blunt questions like what do you think of your local police officers?

“I’ve been absolutely chuffed to bits from the response I’ve had.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s cycling proficiency with a local PSCO, it’s all part of the job.

“We’re rolling visits like this out across the county to make sure we can get a feel of what the community’s concerns and needs are.

“So far, I haven’t had a negative comment which is very reassuring.”