What the public expect from the police and the service that is given to them has always been a topic of conversation and in the next few years, there is a need to strike a good balance.
The police have always `policed by consent` which means that they respond to what issues are important to the public that they serve.
The police have sought many ways to engage with their local communities to find out what local matters they would like them to concentrate on and with the advent of social media and public facing systems, such as Crime Reports, which will show crime statistics and where crime is occurring, it has become much easier in many ways to communicate with people and listen to what concerns them most.
The police will try to respond to the local issues identified, but quite often, what the public see as important may differ to that of the police, who may concentrate resources towards some issues which the public don`t see. This may, of course, appear that the police are not listening to their communities and are not therefore, policing by consent.
The difficulty arises from several factors, but the main ones will be national media, where the public will read about certain crimes and think that these are general problems throughout the UK, when in fact, many of the headlines we read only affect a small number of areas.
Another factor is what the police `know` is occurring in a community and the risk that some people present to the public, which the public will not have seen themselves, or know about, because there are many issues that are not all that visible. It is these issues that the police may direct their resources towards, leaving the public to question why they have not seen a police presence in areas that they have identified as important to them.
During public consultations with their communities, the police will need to let people know that there will be matters that they know about which will demand their attention, but the local issues raised will also form part of the police strategy, therefore creating an understanding of what the police need to do and managing the public expectation of what the police can realistically do for them.
We are still in times of austerity and will be for the next few years, so what the police are able to deliver will probably still fall short of what many people believe we can do, but at least the corner is being turned and there will be better times ahead.
You will all probably be aware of the increase in police officer numbers, where the government has promised to fund an additional 20,000 officers, which will bring the numbers back to pre-austerity levels.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, recently spoke to Chief Police Officers and made it clear that she expects a much improved service with the massive funding given and that those who lead the police forces in England and wales need to use this funding to drive down crime.
In particular, the Home Secretary mentioned knife crime, county line drug networks and domestic violence as key areas that she expects the police to focus on and her expectation that there should be a good, measurable difference in three years on these key areas of crime.
This, in some ways is another factor to bring into the equation, because not all communities have knife crime or county lines drug networks. Most will have domestic violence, which will vary from area to area.
In Hampshire, there are certainly areas that are more affected by drugs and knife crime. These are mainly in the cities and larger towns, with smaller pockets elsewhere. However, there are areas that do not have these crimes at all.
The funding cuts suffered by the police have caused violent crime and drug related crime to rise and some of the areas affected do have a problem and taking back the high ground is now quite difficult, where before austerity, the police had better control on these issues.
Tackling these areas of crime that the Government has identified is right, but to make a impact will take time and it will need a concentrated effort to achieve this, which will draw local officers away from their regular patrols to assist in operations.
In addition, new recruits have a longer training phase now, where they study towards a degree in policing, which will take three years. They will need to embed their learning on the ground throughout this period and then patrol independently, where they will learn their trade and begin to make a difference.
These factors will from time to time pull police resources away from what the public expect from us locally, however, extra numbers will result in a greater uniform presence on our streets, creating a safer feel for the public and a visible deterrent to criminals.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Office.