Avon and Somerset Police update
Together with our communities, we breathed a collective sigh of relief this week as lockdown restrictions continued to ease. It's been a difficult year for so many people but with non-essential shops, hair salons, and pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating opening their doors again, we're finally getting back to some kind of normality.
As people increasingly get back to the way of living that they experienced 13 months ago, we expect to see our demand return to more familiar levels. The nationwide drop in recorded crime at the start of the pandemic is well documented and, while we've seen rates steadily increase, we know that as the weather becomes warmer and summer rolls in, we'll be busier than we have been for some time.
We are pleased to inform you then, in light of this expected increase in demand, that we have recruited an additional 241 police officers since the Police Uplift Programme began in 2020. The national target set for Avon & Somerset was to have 2,972 officers by 31st March 2021 and we currently have 3,076 – which is 104 above our target. What's more, by March next year, we're forecasting a growth of another 136 officers. The majority of these new officers will be deployed straight to the frontline, improving our ability to respond more quickly to call-outs and increasing our visibility to the public. This uplift and the pace at which it has been achieved is very positive news, but it is important to recognise that new officers will take three years to fully train. Their arrival, and development as professionals, will also help us in the coming years to increase our capability across other directorates, such as investigations, offender management and operational planning, ultimately improving the level of service we can provide our communities.
The easing of lockdown restrictions will see the return of a particular type of demand we haven't seen for some time – the night time economy. Nightclubs may not yet be open but with pubs and restaurants serving alcohol once more, we know that our towns and cities will be buzzing and this may lead to calls for service. We continue to work closely with our local authority partners who lead on licensing matters but we'd like to reassure you that we will be increasing patrols during peak times to ensure that the public enjoy their new freedoms safely.
We also continue to call on our communities to act responsibly while reminding them that restrictions are still in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. As we have done throughout the health crisis, we will follow our 4 Es approach of Engaging, Explaining, Encouraging and Enforcing the regulations, although with the number of reported breaches continuing to drop, officers are increasingly having fewer breach-related interactions. That said, we are fully aware of the risk that the easing of restrictions could present to falling virus rates and so we will continue to focus on preventing large gatherings which remain a breach of the regulations, such as house parties and unlicensed music events. We've increased the number of officers working on our dedicated COVID-19 response team this weekend and they will be ready to deal with any significant breaches brought to our attention.
Like many of the past weekends, we are expecting a number of protests to take place across our force area again this weekend, including another in Bristol on Saturday. We are working hard to identify organisers for these events so that we can help facilitate peaceful demonstrations and limit the disruption caused to the rest of our communities. We are committed to being open and transparent about how we police public order events, including protests, and we've recently invited local media
into Police Headquarters so that they can see how decisions are made. We also invited the chair of the local branch of the National Union of Journalists to take part in briefing officers prior to a number of the recent demonstrations that took place. And, looking at the bigger picture, we've been speaking with the National Police Chiefs' Council and the College of Policing to discuss ways that they can help to improve the public's understanding about some of the tactics used. We want to be as transparent as possible about the way in which we police protests to help build trust, confidence and cooperation with the community going forward.
Media interest in the recent protests has been constant, particularly in the subsequent violent disorder which took place in Bristol on Sunday 21st March. More than 100 officers and staff continue to work on the investigation and, following a number of public appeals, so far we've arrested 40 people suspected of being involved. Next week, we are planning to provide a comprehensive update on the investigation which will include new images of people we want to speak to, an update on arrests, as well as previously unreleased helicopter footage from the night, and details of some of the costs incurred as result of the disorder. The financial cost to the public purse will be significant and we appreciate your support in sharing our appeals to bring those responsible to justice.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to wish all those marking Ramadan a blessed, month. As always, we will be supporting our officers and staff observing this holy occasion and discussing any individual needs that they may have. We also want to ensure that everyone within our organisation has access to information which will enable better understanding of Ramadan, and as part of this our Outreach Team will be hosting a series of virtual discussion sessions to build knowledge among colleagues. Ramadan will, of course again, be a very different experience for many due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Muslim Council of Britain has lots of resources & advice available to help make the most of Ramadan while staying safe, and we have shared links to this on our social media.
Sue Mountstevens Andy Marsh QPM
Police & Crime Commissioner Chief Constable
Local Policing Area Commander
East Somerset (South Somerset & Mendip)
Yeovil Police Station, The Council Offices, Brympton Way, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 2HT
19th April 2021