To receive questions or statements on the business of the committee from town and parish councils and members of the public.
The Chairman re-confirmed the rules regarding public participation.
There were no statements or questions submitted from Town and Parish Councils.
The following public statements and questions were submitted to the Panel:
Questions raised by David Sidwick:
1) Could it be explained why from HMICFRS data - Dorset Police has the lowest percentage of front-line officers of any force yet other forces have actually had greater percentage reductions in workforce overall? Does the PCC have his priorities right?
I am somewhat disappointed by this question, as, although a PCC can influence, this matter is clearly an operational one for a Chief Constable. However, in this instance, I am content to provide an answer.
90.8% of FTE police officers in Dorset Police are employed in frontline roles, as at 31 March 2019, which are the latest available data. This compares to an average of 92.1% in England and Wales. While Dorset Police is in the lower quartile of forces, it by no means has the lowest proportion of all forces.
The HMICFRS methodology does not yet account for force collaborations – making the data somewhat inaccurate. For example, in Dorset we pay 30% of the costs of staff in Alliance roles – however for legal reasons a department cannot be jointly ‘hosted’, and so one force must take the lead. As Dorset Police hosts alliance functions such as finance and learning and development, this makes it look like we have a higher investment in support functions, although the true expenditure is quite different.
It is also worth stressing that Dorset has long been a very lean force. The Force has recognised appropriate workforce modernisation and utilised police staff for roles that will provide the best service to the public where warranted powers are not required – for example Police Staff Investigators.
As part of that modernisation and to reduce demand on the frontline, an evidence based investment has been made into roles to reduce demand and provide better service to the public. One example of this is the 25 officers into the desktop investigation team. This would show as ‘non visible frontline’ however those 25 officers have been shown over a two month period to deal with 42% of crime which would otherwise have gone to the frontline – an excellent return on the investment.
I, like the PCCs of many other smaller forces, have been waiting for Government to deliver on the much delayed police funding formula review to help address this imbalance, but as most of us here today will know, this continues to be pushed into the long grass.
In terms of my role, I am content that my scrutiny of the Chief Constable allows me to say that I do not believe that the force’s priorities are wrong. In fact, I am assured, not only that the force actively takes steps to optimise and keep under continual review the level of frontline policing resources, but also that HMICFRS have not raised this as a concern, which is evidenced by Dorset Police’s suite of ‘good’ ratings.
2) I understand that currently only 20% of Dorset Police Officers carry tasers. As the threat to their safety has increased and the Government has provided a fund for forces to use to equip more officers, how is the PCC holding the Chief Constable to account to ensure that this funding is properly accessed and what impact would he expect to see in terms of officers carrying tasers by the end of 2020?”
I am afraid that this question also borders on the operational, and again I do not recognise the statistic quoted.
Before I answer, I will refer members back to the Panel held on 24 September, when I was asked to provide a view on all officers carrying Tasers. I mentioned that as the national lead for use of force, and a former police officer who was assaulted multiple times, you would not be surprised to hear that I am passionate about improving officer safety. However, as the national lead I must ensure that we balance officer safety with the proud tradition of policing by consent and that we consider the full range of options that are available.
I said I had discussed the matter of a Taser uplift with the Chief, as this is an operational decision, but we would both like to increase the number of Taser trained officers. However, that does not mean all officers should carry a Taser, as we know from research that roughly 80% of officers want to carry, assuming they pass the training, which of course many don’t.
To answer the question at hand.
Dorset Police currently has around 250 officers that carry Taser – this is a little under 45% of the officers who the Chief Constable deems suitable to do so. These officers include those in patrol, neighbourhoods, operational and public disorder units. Whilst the Government announced in late September that it was providing £10m to forces to increase the numbers of officers carrying Tasers, this is a competitive process, and the bid criteria were only made available on 13 January, ahead of a deadline of 4 February.
The Chief Constable and I are quite disappointed about the manner in which this grant is being administered. One might reasonably expect that the Government funding should cover all aspects of providing for the increase in the number of Taser officers - however, it does not.
Whilst the HO has confirmed the bid can cover the cost of the Taser device itself – this does not include any consumables such as the battery and the cartridge needed to make it operational. Nor will the bid cover the safety clips, holsters, mounts or pouches needed to safely carry the devices and spare cartridges. Nor will it cover the safes, loading boxes or any other secure equipment needed to ensure the safe storage of the devices when not in use. Nor will it cover the associated software licensing costs, training costs or administrative costs of providing the training, and it will certainly not cover the costs of paying overtime to allow officers to be abstracted from the frontline for training.
Put simply our initial estimate was that for every £1 that we might receive from this grant, it would cost Dorset Police around £6 in direct costs. Through a line-by-line examination of this budget, and both the Chief Constable and I agreeing to carry some risk in respect of future budgets, we have managed to reduce this to £3 for every £1 of grant.
Despite the significant costs to Dorset Police, both the Chief Constable and I are determined to maximise the funds available to Dorset though this grant.
Whilst the final funding is of course a matter for Government, I can confirm that our bid – if fully funded – would allow every operational frontline officer who wanted to carry a Taser, and who passed the training, to do so.