‘Utter disgrace’ to see police officers punched, kicked and spat repeatedly, says Suffolk’s top officer

Chief constable Gareth Wilson Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Chief constable Gareth Wilson Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

Suffolk Constabulary chief constable Gareth Wilson writes about assaults on officers, how the force is improving its handling of non-emergency calls and the bravery of police dogs.

Over the past two weeks, the police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore and I have travelled to seven of the county’s high streets to meet those whom we serve day in, day out.

This complements other events we attend throughout the year to ensure we better understand how Suffolk Constabulary is performing and the issues communities are facing.

I had some really positive feedback about my staff, with the prize for the most positive feedback going to Sgt Simon Bourne, from Sudbury, whose track record is impressive.

Non-emergency calls

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Most frequent concerns revolved around anti-social behaviour, drugs, speeding and contacting us using the 101 system.

Contact with the police has been a consistent concern from our communities since I joined the police and the 101 system has been performing below par for a number of years.

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After some very detailed work with suppliers and investment from the police and crime commissioner, Suffolk has a system that other forces are looking at in awe.

If you’d called 101 in our Contact and Control Room just six months ago with an urgent call, you could wait significant periods of time because the system ‘stacked’ you in a queue that did not allow prioritisation – you just had to wait your turn.

Now, the switchboard operator can filter you into one of nine queues that enables us to answer the most important calls first whilst allowing other options of contact for the less urgent calls.

It will help provide a more focused response to the calls we receive and make sure we provide the most appropriate response for each contact and allow call handlers to better understand and support calls around specific needs.

For example, over the past four weeks we’ve answered 101 calls that should have been made on 999 on average in six seconds, domestic abuse calls on average in under two minutes and ‘advice’ calls in an average of around 15 minutes. A good investment for Suffolk that ensures we get to the right calls faster.

Abuse of police officers

It was sobering to see how abusive some people are towards my staff with one officer facing a torrent of abuse in Newmarket - why? Because he was trying to enforce another of the issues people talk about with us frequently, parking.

Readers will have seen the article recently showing that my officers are assaulted at a rate of almost one a day which is an utter disgrace. I deplore any type of assault on police officers or members of staff.

We do give them top quality protective equipment as well as tactical communications training, but it saddens me when decent folk go out to keep communities safe and are spat at, punched and kicked.

Part of the role of my officers is to support, work with and protect the public and we will take action against those people who attack officers and staff.

I will do everything I can to ensure the courts understand the impact of such attacks upon my staff and the wider community.

Bravery of police dogs

It’s probably timely to recognise the bravery of our police dogs following the recent death in retirement of our of our heroes, Police Dog Aman, they truly are a pleasure to watch working - well, unless you are a criminal running away from a crime scene, then it must be pretty frightening!

We often talk about the ‘police family’ and we naturally think about police officers, PSCOs, Specials and volunteers - but we also mustn’t forget our police dogs who play a key operational role and with their handlers provide a really important service to the force.

Finally, you will have seen in the paper recently many convictions at crown court for some truly horrific crimes including murder and rape.

My major investigations team pick up these incredibly complex and challenging investigations and I am very proud of the quality of work that enables the jury to get the fullest available information to help them in their deliberations.

However, we must not forget that with every such crime we have a grieving family or a victim whose experience will alter their lives for ever.

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