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FOCUS: “Catch criminals, protect the vulnerable, and get there quickly"

FOCUS: “Catch criminals, protect the vulnerable, and get there quickly

Wednesday 30 December 2020

FOCUS: “Catch criminals, protect the vulnerable, and get there quickly"

While corona virus has occupied a lot of the local police force’s time this year, it hasn’t prevented the recruitment and training of new officers, the return of neighbourhood policing and a drug squad or changes to the way tasers are used.

Express spoke to the new Police Chief Robin Smith as he approached his first anniversary as the head of the local force to discuss policing, the challenges the pandemic posed and everything in between.

 In the second part of the interview, he focused on policing plans and how they were affected by corona virus. 


Pictured: "It's never sensible to start changing structure or whatever, even if it needs to be done in the middle of a crisis."

Has the pandemic put any policing plans on the back-burner? 

Well, yes and no. First of all, it's never sensible to start changing structure or whatever, even if it needs to be done in the middle of a crisis, that's not the right time to do that sort of thing.

However, there were a number of things we have done during the crisis because we thought that was important, so for example, this year we've recruited 30 new police officers. A decision I made pretty early, probably around March time. 

When I arrived we had around about 190 cops. I think the last time I looked the number was at 213, so something I am really proud of is that we've increased those numbers. We've had phenomenal support from the Minister and the Police Authority. We've had the funding for it. 

And of course, I made that decision knowing that our new recruits are trained in England. They go to Norfolk, this has been in place since before I arrived.

As an aside, I saw an email from a Chief Inspector in Norfolk constabulary who emailed us to say, 'Can you advise us on how you get such good quality recruits?', which is a great thing to read. But also, I think the last two training cohorts, we bring them on, they train with other people, I believe it is the last two, they get something called a baton of honour which is seen as a lead. A lead recruit has both times been a Jersey officer. 

Pictured: This year, 30 new officers have been recruited.

So, that was quite an interesting decision to have to make. I can't train them, I can't send them, and then if I bring them in, how do I train them? Because whilst it's great to get a cohort in, you've then got to have resources to do stuff with them. 

Anyway, we had the first cohort of 10 in, we brought them in early, we provided them with some training here, and I figured it was better to have them in uniform, yes, inexperienced, but they can begin to gather experience as long as they were properly helped and tutored and supervised, so we did that. 

And we did that then for the next two cohorts of ten, and over the last year I'm really pleased that they've all now been to training in Norfolk. The next cohort comes back next week, they've been without their families because they've not been able to travel, but they'll be back for Christmas. We'll get them back so that they can properly self-isolate, and then they can be with their families for Christmas.

So, in terms of achievements, I'm delighted that we've managed to increase the numbers despite all the frustrations of covid, particularly around isolation, so we've done that. 

I was lead of the National Police Chief's Council on neighbourhood policing. I am a very passionate supporter of neighbourhood policing and if neighbourhood policing can work anywhere, it should work in our beautiful island. 

Thanks to our ability to recruit new staff, in the new year, we will have sixteen members of the community policing team. There will be a community policing team, with officers dedicated to all of our parishes

I've reconstituted a drug squad, and I'm calling it a drug squad which is part of what I'm describing as getting back to basics in policing, Reconstituted Criminal Investigation Department. 

The simple bit is, simplify what we do with three key messages, catch criminals, protect the vulnerable, and get there quickly when you need us. That's the mantra. 

What about tasers, was that already in train before you arrived, or has this been something near the top of your priority list, to increase the number of officers who are eligible to carry them? 

Tasers have been authorised and deployed since 2008 in the island, you may already know that. You may have also seen in some of the information that was provided that we've actually used tasers about 340 times - deployed is probably the better word, 340 times since 2008.  Frankly a remarkably small number, particularly when deployment includes providing someone with authorisation to use it. That doesn't mean unholstering it. 

Up until when we took the latest version to the States Assembly, we'd actually fired it at someone eight times, a remarkably small number, and because it's got a red dot function, we'd red- dotted a number of more times than that.  But I'm satisfied that when I came here that we were using it carefully, proportionately, and actually very sparingly. 

Taser is often seen, quite rightly as I understand it, to people if you like, who are being offensive, in other words somebody who might be attacking someone else, or somebody who might be attacking a police officer. Those deployments, the actual usage of it, is very often used for someone in some form of mental health crisis. It saves lives.


Pictured: The States voted to allow more Police Officers to use tasers in November.

I'm absolutely convinced of it, and I've got a body-worn video that proves it, where somebody has got a knife to themselves who are clearly determined to hurt themselves. The use of taser, to save a life, is a phenomenal piece of kit that I wish I'd had when I first joined. 

In terms of the States Assembly debate, the other thing to reinforce is I genuinely do welcome scrutiny. It is exactly what we should have, and I should be asked all of the questions, the difficult ones and the easy ones, about the use of taser. 

The one with the technical change where, unlike anywhere else in England, Wales and Scotland, there would have to be an authority to use taser. That only existed here, and there was no need for that authority. Police officers are properly and thoroughly trained and we showed a number of States Members the training that we provide, and we should trust them with their training and us with the careful selection to use that equipment.

Because of course, it's for them to justify the usage, and to have body-worn video to support the justification of that usage, so there is transparency and legitimacy in everything that we do. 

To read the first of Mr Smith's interview, click here.

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