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STOKE/STAFFORDSHIRE: New Chief Constable’s zero tolerance to unacceptable officer behaviour

STOKE/STAFFORDSHIRE: New Chief Constable’s zero tolerance to unacceptable officer behaviour

Photo by Staffordshire LDR Kerry Ashdown.

Staffordshire’s new Chief Constable has been appointed – and he has vowed to take a zero tolerance approach to any unacceptable officer behaviour after a former Met Police officer was convicted of murdering Sarah Everard.

Wayne Couzens’ actions appalled the nation, as well as sparking concerns about the safety of women approached by lone officers, after he tricked the 33-year-old into getting into a car by pretending he was arresting her for a Covid-19 lockdown breach.

Police forces across the country have moved to reassure the public – and in Staffordshire verification checks have been introduced to enable residents to confirm they are speaking to a genuine officer on duty.

Staffordshire Police’s new Chief Constable Chris Noble was asked how he intended to restore public confidence when he was questioned by the county’s Police, Fire and Crime Panel on Tuesday (October 12).

Panel chairman Councillor Bernard Peters spoke of “the terrible headlines that we have seen recently about the community losing trust in the police in light of recent events associated with a police officer whose abhorrent behaviour shocked the country.”

Mr Noble responded: “The first thing policing can do is stop individuals like this getting in, which means vetting needs to be as robust as it possibly can be. The standards that are expected of police officers and staff need to be the highest possible – and that means not walking past things.

“I have no doubt, whether it be this individual or others, that there will have been warning flags that policing could have picked up on. It’s always easy to be wise after the event, but if this has brought anything for policing it’s an increased sensitivity to what is acceptable standards.

“Very often lots of things in the past have been written off as just police officers’ peculiar brand of humour – very often that can actually be an indicator people, if they’re not damaged themselves in some way, have a lack of regard for other people. My expectation is there is a zero tolerance approach in terms of behaviours like that and they’re picked up on. There can’t be a tolerance for things which policing in the past has tolerated.

“I think confidence starts with honesty. What communities value isn’t excuses, even though there may well be explanations. It isn’t a promise that it will never happen again, because whenever you deal with human beings I’m not sure you could ever make that promise.

“It’s an absolute honesty about what has happened and acceptance of it and then a really clear plan about how this will not happen again around recruitment, vetting, training of supervisors in terms of ensuring individuals who are not up to the job exit the organisation with dignity at the earliest appropriate stage.

“I think policing has to have a real honest look at itself and be very open about the challenges it faces. It should have the highest standards because of the amount of power it wields in the first place.”

The new Chief Constable, whose appointment was unanimously approved by the panel on Tuesday, was also asked what the main challenges were in 2021 for the chief constable and force.

He said: “The pandemic has created some additional challenges around vulnerabilities in communities, for businesses and for the workforce of the police itself. I’m very thoughtful about what has changed and what is different and what needs to be done around the fallout of the pandemic.

“My concern is that will translate itself into potentially more crime or different types of crime. We will see maybe increased unemployment and we see some additional challenges around mental health and a health service which is under pressure.

“I would be surprised if there weren’t some very significant financial challenges for policing and for other public sector bodies going forward. While the balance sheets might appear relatively healthy we do need to prepare for cuts at some point in time, for less money, and how we do our best not just to maintain services but improve them, whether it be through using technology, working better at partnerships or ensuring our people are held to account in an effective way.”

Speaking of his decision to apply for the top Staffordshire Police role Mr Noble said: “For me there were a number of things that not just attracted me but convinced me this was the place I wanted to apply for and then come to live in. First of all it was the approach and vision of the office of the Commissioner in terms of where they wanted to take policing.

“Secondly I was convinced by the people in Staffordshire Police – they know that the police service has challenges but they’re up for that and delivering a better service to the public. I think they are probably their own strongest critics and it’s healthy for a police service to have people who have a real passion and ambition to be better at what they do.

“There is a real desire to work together to deliver an even better set of services to communities in Staffordshire. Staffordshire is very clearly a family force, a creative force and one of the best-performing forces in the country. It is very much part of the fabric of the communities and local life as well.”

Words: Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter


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