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‘It is our job to earn back trust and confidence’

23 January 2023

The Police Federation’s Welsh lead is backing calls to get local bobbies back on the beat in a bid to rebuild public trust after a series of setbacks.

Nicky Ryan said she fully supported national Federation chair Steve Hartshorn’s comments about a return to community policing as a way of improving the service’s image.

She said: “I think we have to accept that trust and confidence in policing has been damaged by recent scandals and it is now our job to try to earn it back.

“It is important that we try to reconnect with the public by returning to the heart of the communities we serve.

“That will take strong leadership, effective funding and perhaps a review of where our priorities lie but it is vital that we take those steps to repair broken bridges.”

Nicky was speaking after Steve appeared before a Commons Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on policing priorities last week.

As part of his evidence, he was questioned about how trust in the police service could be restored through a return to “common-sense policing” by Marco Longhi, Tory MP for Dudley North.

Steve told the committee: “I don’t think it will be a quick pathway to getting back confidence in policing. I think some of the steps of a practical nature are let’s get back to community-based policing, neighbourhood policing, putting police officers out there walking the beat.

“There was a tried and tested method and it perhaps harks back to the ‘good old days’ of Dixon of Dock Green and that was the best option.”

Steve acknowledged demands on policing had changed significantly but said there was still room for community policing.

He said: “The only time you see a police officer is when you need their help and you’ve dialled 999 or there has been a major incident. That needs to change. We need to be seen as part of the community.

“We need more numbers. With a population increase of four million people over the last 10 years, are 145,000 police enough to deal with it? I suggest it isn’t by the fact that we are failing the public.

“We can’t give the service we want to because we are constantly responding rather than being proactive.”

There was also a brief discussion on the future of policing in Wales and whether having four forces was the most efficient use of resources.

Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP for Swansea East, asked if the existing 43-force model across England and Wales was fit for the future.

Steve acknowledged the previous Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor had branded the 43-force model unfit for purpose and has urged reform.

He told the committee: “I think it has failed over the years but I don’t know what the right level or number of forces would be.

“If you look at Wales, Dr Richard Lewis (the Dyfed Powys Chief Constable) has said ideally he wants a one-force model there. That has not been properly explored but what does that look like against devolution in Wales? What does it look like for the United Kingdom?”