The last few weeks have seen you manage some tragic and heart-breaking incidents. The murder and tragic deaths at Merry Hill in Wolverhampton and last week the terrible murders and stabbing in Stourbridge.
While I cannot comment directly on the facts of the incident at Merry Hill I can say I am hugely proud of our response. It graphically highlights a number of issues. Firstly, the critical role of our call takers and dispatchers. Secondly a wide range of capability from Tasers, dogs and firearms.
In Stourbridge, again the force stepped up. Again a horrific scene and the actions of quick thinking and brave officers who ensured the man who ran from the scene was in custody within minutes. Another inspiring response from call takers, response officers, force support and neighbourhood. Let us not forget those whose painstaking and difficult work continues when everyone else stands down: forensics; intelligence; homicide investigation; family liaison officers – these officers and staff continue to live and breathe these tragic jobs on a daily basis for weeks to come.
Both families have had their lives shattered and their communities remain shocked and upset. I thank you in advance for the work I know you will do to help them to come to terms what was has happened.
Both incidents show the real dangers officers face. How we use force in response to this danger is a regular discussion on the 11th floor.
So what are we looking at: Firstly, the government is introducing new data collection arrangements for the use of force from April. The National Police Chiefs’ Council has put in place a new recording procedure. Be assured I am asking for less form filling than for any officer in the country. You will be expected to record use of force where PAVA spray or a baton is used plus any case where injury is caused to the subject. I have discussed this with the PCC and he supports my stance.
While I have a reluctance to create any bureaucracy for officers, I do feel monitoring of use of force is vital and we intend, with the PCC, to significantly increase community involvement in scrutiny of use of force in a similar way to stop and search. Body worn cameras offer real opportunity for this and time and time again we show that making this information available to the public reinforces your professionalism. There is nothing to hide and much courage to share. In our values we are clear “I let the public see how we work because I welcome openness”. We will do that and aim for the most transparent scrutiny taking advantage of new technology, but bureaucratic paper recording is not the right way.
I know many of you want to understand what my approach is to spit guards. I have been clear that the case has not been made to the public for them. I am now preparing to make that case and to do this in a professional way. I am aware some officers want them quickly. This tweet from the Federation shows the challenges you face
Protecting your safety is important but I’m sorry to say that officers being spat at has gone on since 1829 and it’s not new. Spit guards do not prevent the initial attack so this is a case of doing it right not quickly. I am aware some chiefs have issued these quickly after an assertive campaign by the federation and of course they are in the national manual. I will implement when I have listened and consulted with the public and used that voice to develop an approach, policy and training that ensures they are used correctly and only when necessary.
To help me make this case we return to body cameras. I want to use real examples of the violence you face as we engage with IAGs and the public. Please let CI Kerry Blakeman know if you have camera footage of spitting or biting cases. The federation have also done an informative interview with two officers showing their experiences which we will also use.
Finally, you probably know that the Home Office has approved a new Taser for policing that offers a twin fire mechanism. Events continue to show this is a useful addition and we will now start looking at what the procurement and deployment looks like. There has been public discussion around this but monitoring remains vital.
I will keep you informed as these pieces of work progress.