Police chief: 'People's trust in the service has been damaged'

Suffolk's Chief Constable Steve Jupp.
Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary Steve Jupp is troubled by damage done to people's trust in police byby Wayne Couzens - Credit: Rachel Edge

You will have all seen and heard the media coverage and conversations around the sentencing of Wayne Couzens in late September.

Sarah Everard’s murder was a despicable misuse of Couzens’ position to commit such a horrendous act. Every single one of us was appalled by what he did and the lifelong impact it will have on Sarah’s family.

Policing across the country is now facing questions around the level of trust and confidence our communities have in our service and the relationship we have with them.

Whilst I know every officer must not and should not be viewed in the same manner, we must accept this conversation is likely to be happening for a long time to come. It is our responsibility within policing to ensure we do everything we can to maintain your belief in our role.

I have served the public as a police officer for 36 years and cannot begin to tell you how distressed I feel about the damage done to people’s trust in the service. I know this has also had a significant impact on the officers in Suffolk Constabulary who serve with me and come to work each day to try to do the best they can for their communities across the county.

It has been heartening though, to hear of people approaching them to say thank you for what they do and for their hard work, as they did at the Women’s Tour of Britain cycling event which passed through parts of Suffolk on October 2.

This really means a lot, as do the letters of appreciation I regularly receive for officers and staff who have helped people as part of their day-to-day work.

We must never take the trust and confidence of the public for granted. I was particularly pleased to see two of my west Suffolk police constables - Jordan Tuck and Pete French - nominated for the national Police Federation Bravery Awards following an incident in which they disarmed a man with a shotgun during a domestic incident where children were present.

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I attended the Awards Ceremony in London last week with them and it was fantastic to hear all the great and brave work of other colleagues across the country. That is the kind of policing in Suffolk that I am proud of.

However, we must also take action ourselves where standards are not met. We must call into question any behaviour we see taking place which is unacceptable whether it is within the constabulary or when we are keeping our communities safe.

I accept and completely understand what happened to Sarah Everard has directly called into question the public’s confidence around the legitimacy of a plain-clothes officers when they approach someone. I can reassure you my officers have been told they must:

• Carry ID cards at all times

• Carry personal radios at all times when out in the community

• Ensure our systems are regularly updated with details of their vehicle/location/activity

• Wear and use Body Worn Video where appropriate

To further assist, Suffolk, like many other forces, will look to our officers to offer further reassurance to anyone who may be concerned about whether or not they are being spoken to by a police officer working alone and carrying out a legitimate enquiry.

From this month on-duty officers, working on their own proactively should offer to carry out a verification check for anyone they come across who appears, as a result of their interaction, to be concerned for their safety.

A member of the public can also request a verification check be done. The responsibility must be on policing and us all to provide the reassurance and prove the legitimate policing aim of the encounter. Verification checks can be carried out by calling for uniformed colleagues to attend, arranging to meet at a nearby station or by using our police radio.

This involves the officer’s personal radio being put on loudspeaker so our control room can confirm the officer is who they say they are, and they are on duty. If somebody still feels unsafe, despite all this, a control room operator will send another police officer to the scene.

We have also recently endorsed the use of the Street Safe link of the national police website www.police.uk/streetsafe.

This online tool enables anyone to anonymously flag public places and mark on a map the areas where they feel unsafe. The results from this tool will help us to target hotspot areas, for example with extra patrols, and work together with partners to improve wellbeing for communities.

On another subject, I am really pleased Suffolk Constabulary is supporting Black History Month. We live and work in one of the most special places in the country.

It is absolutely right and proper we recognise the increasingly diverse communities that make up our county and to which we all belong.

Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate our diversity in Suffolk, but it is also a time for us to reflect and take a moment to learn more about our shared history, much of which has faded in time or previously not been recognised.

This is also a time when we can take a moment to pause and celebrate the diversity which makes up our Suffolk Constabulary family. Officers and staff from all ethnicities are very much part of our family and October gives us a special opportunity for diversity to be recognised.

Last, but certainly not least, I’m delighted we have launched the Hope Awards with our partners, including the EADT and Ipswich Star, for a second year.

The initial event was launched to coincide with National Hate Crime Awareness Week (NHCA) in October last year. Hate Crime, whether it be against race, gender, sexuality, has no place in our society and we were proud to support this year’s Hate Crime Awareness week which has just finished.

The aim of the Hope Awards is to recognise and celebrate the positive contributions that young people make within the county. This is a wonderful initiative that shows the best of the best among our young people in Suffolk.

Just to finish, the Police and Crime Commissioner and I are hosting an online discussion next month to answer any question you have about policing in the county. The two-hour long chat will be hosted on Suffolk Constabulary’s website on Monday 8 November between 5.30pm and 7.30pm. You’ll will be able to quiz both myself and Tim Passmore at the click of a mouse about any crime issues or questions you may have.

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