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Let’s praise our unsung police heroes during the coronavirus crisis

PUBLISHED: 06:01 16 August 2020

The control room at Suffolk police's Martlesham headquarters. Picture: LAUREN DE BOISE

The control room at Suffolk police's Martlesham headquarters. Picture: LAUREN DE BOISE

Archant

This month, I thought it was important to highlight the work police staff colleagues have undertaken during the pandemic.

Forensics officers play an important role in police operations. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYForensics officers play an important role in police operations. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

It is easy for us to focus on the visible side (uniform) of policing but, as a family force, our greatest strength is the way we operate as a seamless team.

We would not have been able to police the county in the fashion that we have during the pandemic if it wasn’t for the fantastic work undertaken by those behind the scenes.

To give you some examples of what I am talking about, I liaised with colleagues in the Contact and Control Room, Criminal Justice Unit, and Forensics Department.

Contact and Control Room (CCR)

Suffolk Constabulary chief constable Steve Jupp   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSuffolk Constabulary chief constable Steve Jupp Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

This function operates from Martlesham police headquarters and is staffed by a mixture of police officers and police staff.

It deals with 999 emergency calls, non-emergency enquiries via telephone, email, text and social media, alongside contact with officers and staff on the ground.

The CCR is responsible for every police deployment in the county and is the first point of operational command for all major incidents in Suffolk.

As such, clearly there is no scope for any staff to work from home, so meticulous planning had to be put in place to ensure their own safety during the pandemic.

During the main lockdown period, I was immensely impressed with staff who remained dedicated and professional despite their own concerns/personal circumstances.

We had a really low absence rate considering the quarantine rules, and it was very much business as usual in terms of working practices with staff taking personal responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

Lots of additional planning went on with supervisors and the Occupational Health Department with regard to extra cleaning and sanitisation.

CCR staff said their colleagues were especially respectful of social distancing. It was also great to hear feedback from the frontline response officers who commended the way staff had adapted to ensure their roles were supported.

Criminal Justice Unit

This is another department which goes largely unseen.

Its responsibilities are really wide-ranging, from staff in our custody suites dealing with those who have been arrested, through to the majority who process the evidential files and work with the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts.

Working inside the custody suite is always a challenging environment, but the planning we put in place came to its fore during the pandemic.

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Aside from all the additional safety measures put in place like the uplift in cleaning and sanitisation, we have used technology to ensure that we could support colleagues from the court service by using a video link from the Police Investigation Centre direct into the courts to avoid the transportation of people from our custody into the respective court.

Technology has also been used effectively amongst the staff themselves, ensuring those in the investigation units have been able to communicate and work with colleagues in the Criminal Justice department as they prepare files for courts or answer questions from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Again, this has meant that we have been able to operate effectively throughout the whole of the pandemic.

Staff have worked tirelessly as a team to ensure all of our Police Investigation Centres have remained open and operating at 24/7 capability without disruption or closure.

I can assure you that this has been no mean feat. It was great to talk to colleagues working in Criminal Justice who are so positive around the changes that have been made, and we are pushing forward their ideas and opportunities so we work differently and more imaginatively in the future with no loss of productivity and actually greater efficiency.

Forensics

Some members of police staff who you may see or have come into contact with are those who working in the Forensics Department.

It provides professional crime scene investigation and interpretation coupled with an expert identification, imaging and forensic support service.

Staff received new working guidelines, with safety procedures put in place to protect them and the public,.

They were issued with extra PPE, hand sanitiser and cleaning equipment.

Even the recovery and packaging of exhibits had to be modified, and staff had to be extra vigilant and aware, thinking of what they were handling, how they were examining a scene and then cleaning all items/equipment that they had handled.

This was magnified if they attended a scene where it was known there was a positive coronavirus issue, for example a sudden death.

Working with the new guidelines was a huge learning curve for all concerned. Some staff had to change their working days to accommodate with childcare issues and colleagues’ personal circumstances.

This all highlighted their resilience in a crisis, with staff maintaining a good service to victims of crime.

Changes to working patterns meant more lone-working, which was sometimes difficult in terms of not being able to talk to colleagues about jobs they had attended and things they had seen.

Staff in the department pride themselves on providing the best possible service to the public, but the situation with Covid-19 has made them think even more about the victim, especially if they are vulnerable.

Going to jobs and communicating with people can be difficult with a mask on, but I know my staff always try to smile and hopefully the victim can tell this from their eyes.

So, all staff are getting used to the ‘new normal’ and all of our shielding people are back to work, with social distancing in place.

I know that my staff have dealt with the whole situation with the upmost professionalism whilst providing the highest level of service to the public.


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