MORE needs to be done by Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner Michael Lane to engage with partners, officers and communities, a scrutiny panel has urged.
Mr Lane was told the impact of positive changes were not being communicated well enough, and his lack of visibility may have partly caused officers to declare they had no confidence in him and some organisations to feel he was not listening to their views.
The Hampshire Police and Crime Panel said a review of his work found Mr Lane had “championed and delivered positive change” in a number of areas – including domestic abuse, restorative justice, youth engagement and supporting female officers.
But the impact that work was having was not being “communicated” well enough by the PCC.
Although his team used regular marketing channels and shared items on social media, some partners “felt strongly” he had “not been effective in communicating and engaging” with them.
The report added many partners felt their “views were not listened to and/or understood by the PCC” while others felt less engaged by online and social media messages.
They were keen to have greater opportunities to meet face-to-face or have direct communication with the PCC and had suggested Mr Lane increase his visibility at local meetings.
The report continued: “Universally those [partners] dissatisfied expressed a keenness for engagement with the PCC to improve, and doing so presents an opportunity for the PCC in demonstrating how he is supporting effective operational policing and sharing key messages with a wider audience.”
It also noted a 2018 survey in which 98% of officers who responded said they had “no confidence” in Mr Lane – suggesting that result was “in part” because officers felt the PCC was not visible enough. They also noted he had regular meetings with the federation but not with Unison.
“Whilst respecting the different roles of the PCC and chief constable it was felt key to the role of PCC to demonstrate an understanding of the challenges being faced by the force and be seen to be supporting them,” the report went on.
It was felt serving police officers and staff “needed to have a greater understanding of the rationale behind strategic decisions” made by the PCC, with communications delivered at an operational level “in an easy to digest regular format”, the report continued.
Cllr Dave Stewart, who chaired the panel, said: “We are recommending that greater opportunities are found for engaging directly with key stakeholders, including police officers, ensuring they are kept well informed about the work of the commissioner, as well as having sufficient opportunity to collaborate on key policing challenges, such as tackling knife crime.
“Our findings show a positive impact on reducing demand on frontline policing and delivering services which prevent crime and support victims.
“While it’s acknowledged that significant work is being undertaken, much more needs to be done to consistently communicate the impact of this work to local communities.”
The panel revealed it conducted the review because there had been concerns from the Hampshire Police Federation on the ability of Mr Lane to “positively impact” frontline policing.
In producing the report it spoke with more than a dozen of the force’s partners, including Neighbourhood Watch and Community Safety Partnerships, the county council, a community rehabilitation company and the Youth Commission.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Lane welcomed the panel’s scrutiny and highlighted how it had “recognised the real change I have made” in areas beyond policing and those that focus on crime prevention and have reduced demand on frontline officers.
“I am pleased that my commitment to champion the welfare and development of Hampshire Constabulary staff and officers, and the investments I have made to support the frontline in many areas – including the provision of Tasers – were commended by the panel,” the PCC said.
Of the criticisms, he added: “Engaging with my stakeholders and the public to ensure that I can be their voice and represent their views continues to be important.
“My priority now is to ensure that I set a policing budget for the next financial year which will continue to keep Hampshire safer, and to keep on with the longer-term strategic planning that will create a sustainable platform for my successor to build from,” he said.
At the same meeting the panel also pressed Hampshire’s chief constable, Olivia Pinkney, on the increase in council tax, the recruitment of police officers and plans for future staffing.
She admitted the force was “very stretched”, but said recorded crime was lower than last year despite 2019 featuring big operations, including the D-Day celebrations.
“The funding uplift that we received through the increase in council tax is already having an impact on our work, enabling us to stabilise and grow,” she said.
“I am also using this opportunity to reassess and look at our processes around recruitment, vetting, training and tutoring, as well as bolstering our staff wellbeing programme to ensure our officers are well supported and able to perform at their best.”
A recent announcement by the government to invest in 20,000 more police officers and 6,000 staff nationally could be a “real game changer”, she said.
Ms Pinkney continued: “It will take us three years to recover fully from 10 years of austerity but, crucially, it gives us the opportunity to turn the tap on recruitment ensuring greater visibility and impact within communities across the county.”