August 2023: News from A&SPCC Mark Shelford

LAST month, Chief Constable Sarah Crew made an announcement regarding institutional racism in Avon and Somerset Police.

This is about vital work to change the culture of policing, following the results of many reviews and reports, including those conducted by Macpherson and Casey, which also looks at wider issues of misogyny, homophobia and general police conduct and standards.

Culture change is not something that happens overnight: it takes a minimum of five to ten years and involves looking at many areas within the service.

This includes improving our vetting and selection processes, retention, and progression of staff, how police complaints are handled and, crucially, the training given to the workforce within the wider police family.

I have let the chief constable know I support her and have full confidence in her leadership.

This is a challenging issue to face. However, through initiating and continuing these uncomfortable and difficult conversations, the chief constable is demonstrating openness, courage and willingness to be held accountable by the communities that she and our police officers and staff serve.

It’s important to note that institutional racism is not just about policing alone.

Policing is one element of the criminal justice process and, as the chair of the Local Criminal Justice Board, this is about our joint work with the wider criminal justice system (CJS) agencies like the Crown Prosecution Service, courts, prisons and probation to tackle racial disproportionality within our respective organisations.

Such work is already underway, with the recommendations in the Identifying Disproportionality in the Avon and Somerset Criminal Justice System report.

I will continue to update you on this area of work and, as your PCC, support the scrutiny and accountability of the chief constable on these issues, as Avon and Somerset Police continues towards its vision to deliver outstanding policing for all of our communities.

Moving on, Avon and Somerset Police has joined all five police forces and PCCs in the South West and the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU) as part of the region’s ongoing work to target and disrupt organised crime groups harming our communities through drug supply.

Avon and Somerset Police is the top out of all forces for the number of operations focused on drug supply disruptions; all five police services in our region are in the top 10, and have been for the past two years.

In Avon and Somerset, officers have seized over £3 million worth of cannabis and arrested 20 people in relation to crimes linked to the illegal cultivation of the plant.

This operation continues to go from strength to strength. We collectively continue to make our communities safer by targeting the criminals bringing drugs and violence to our region, as well as protecting the vulnerable they seek to exploit, as workers or as users of the drugs they supply.

Taking a regional approach really does make a difference, so much so that the number of county lines in our region is decreasing, as criminals are having to change the way they operate.

The message is clear: the South West is no place for drugs or drug dealers.