I am hoping these regular newspaper columns will give me an opportunity to communicate directly with you, the public of Swindon and Wiltshire, and update you on the work our Force is doing to keep you safe.
I’m sure you have been following the media coverage of the tragic death of PC Andrew Harper, from Thames Valley Police, who was killed in the line of duty.
Everyone here at Wiltshire Police offers our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends at this incredibly sad time, as well as thinking of all his colleagues who will inevitably be feeling a huge sense of loss and shock.
PC Harper’s death followed two other serious incidents recently involving serving police officers. Firstly a Metropolitan Police officer in London was critically injured during a routine traffic stop, and secondly a West Midlands Police officer was left needing surgery after being hit by a car while trying to stop a stolen vehicle.
Whenever I hear these types of cases on the news it really hits home about the dangers our frontline officers and staff potentially face when out and about policing our communities. They respond to 999 calls, springing into action when someone needs help, with little or no regard for their own safety.
Recently, officers were deployed to a report of a man threatening people with a knife at Melksham Railway Station and had to potentially put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public. When others are following their natural instinct to get away from danger, it is our duty to directly confront it face-on.
Thankfully we have not had any officers or staff seriously assaulted in recent years, but we do have daily reports of continuous low-level physical and verbal abuse, as well as facing a staggering and disappointing lack of respect from a vocal minority of the public.
This is not about those who legitimately question and challenge the police, holding us to account and rightfully expecting us to be open and transparent. Those opinions are valid and can be constructive.
This is not only the responsibility of me and the wider leadership here at Wiltshire Police. Although, policies such as improving our Occupational Health Unit, providing more officers with protective equipment such as spit guards, and increasing the number of police officers who carry Tasers, can all play their part.
It is an issue for wider society. We need parents to raise children to show respect and trust in the police, we need the support of the Government and the legal system to ensure offenders are brought to justice, and we need communities to rally around the police to unite in supporting our emergency services.