As we have borne witness to events in Paris over recent days, grief and outrage have galvanised into a sense of solidarity against those who seek to spread terror.
For police officers here and around the world, the killings of officers Ahmed Mirabet and Franck Brinsolaro in the assault on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, and the murder of Clarissa Jean-Philippe in the Montrouge area of the French capital, once more demonstrated the risks we face on behalf of the public. It is hard to imagine the limits to which our French colleagues were tested last week. I am confident that should we face those same challenges here – and the current threat assessment is that an attack is highly likely – we would do so with equal courage, commitment and professionalism.
We have done so before. This summer will mark the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings, which will have seen some of you deployed to support colleagues in London. Throughout the history of policing, the terrorist threat has been ever-present. As a young PC in Birmingham, I patrolled a city on high alert against the threat of bombing by the IRA.
The Paris attacks reinforce the importance of supporting and protecting local communities. Some of our communities may feel particularly vulnerable at this time and it is important that we do all we can to listen to their concerns and provide reassurance.
We also need the help of communities themselves to combat the threat of terrorism by telling us about any concerns they have about the activities of individuals or groups. Our Community Engagement Team has done a great deal of work to take forward the Prevent strategy, which focuses on stopping young or vulnerable people from being radicalised. All officers and staff have a role to play in supporting this work. The Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321 is a confidential service for the public to report any suspicion, even if they think “it’s probably nothing”. While there might be an innocent explanation for the concern, we would rather know about it and investigate than miss an opportunity to prevent terrorism.
Thank you to all who have provided support to our colleagues from West Midlands Police over the last week. Our officers conducted searches and guarded scenes around the city, often in some very difficult weather conditions, during a complex investigation into the disappearance of Sameena Imam from Cardiff. Two men, including one from Leicester, have been charged with Sameena’s murder. I know that my old force has been hugely impressed and appreciative of the support Leicestershire Police have provided throughout.
During the course of last week I and some of the other Chief Officers had an opportunity to take the role of offenders participating in a demonstration of the Victim Awareness Course. The course, designed by Victim Support, gives those responsible for relatively minor offences an insight into the effects of their behaviour and can provide an effective alternative to prosecution for some offenders as part of a conditional caution. We are looking at the scheme as part of our work to streamline out of court disposals and to cut re-offending through education and awareness.
Leicestershire has been a trailblazer force in national work to improve services to mental health patients who come into contact with police. It was heartening to see that work, done in partnership with colleagues in mental health services, recognised in a national article published by NHS England last week.
The article provides an in-depth look at our innovative approach to Liaison & Diversion for people detained under the Mental Health Act, those we see through criminal justice or others with whom we have regular contact. Click here to read the full bulletin.
Last week I attended the College of Policing Professional Committee to look at the ongoing work being done by the College to manage demand. This will be key for the Service to maintain services in the future. Meanwhile the demand for the force in 2014 is illustrated by the “infographic” below, which makes interesting reading and captures some of our achievements last year.