A Friday evening patrol
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Our Chief Constable shares an insight into a shift with our 24/7 policing team.
“Are you that Simon Cole that I speak to when I call the police?” asks a woman on the Narborough Road, nudging me to wind down the window of our patrol car. I say yes, and we have a bit of a laugh that she recognises this silver-haired cop from distance – and with a mask on. It must be the glasses. Then a 999 call comes in and off we go.
She was right though. When you call us, our service may well start with my voice. We have answered 140,000 emergency 999 calls in the last year; 96% within 10 seconds. This latest emergency call was about someone trying to jump out of a window. We put on the blues and twos. As the first unit to arrive, we give help and support until the ambulance crew could get there. We did all we could, providing police first aid (for both physical and mental health), compassion and empathy – all at less than two metres distance, of course, and through masks. Our body-worn video was on to protect the person, you and us.
That was the first job of the evening.
It was excellent to spend Friday evening on patrol with our duty inspector, Wayne Nimblette. Wayne, a member of our Black Police Association, had suggested it when we did some filming together earlier in the week to commemorate Stephen Lawrence Day. And what better way to spend Friday night?
We started at HQ with a briefing on current issues and our patrol plans across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. These plans are put together in line with community concerns (often sent to us from local people signed up to Neighbourhood Link), through our intelligence work on crime and anti-social behaviour, and planned events worked up with local councils and businesses. We know people value visible patrols, so we put a real focus on it. Prevention is, as they say, better than cure.
Part of our patrol plan this weekend was a visible presence in and around licensed premises as they opened outside drinking areas and prepare to open fully. The city was really busy with people having a nice time, which was good to see after all that we have been through together. It was great to hear from people how happy they were to be out and, by chance, to bump into some people that I know. No time to stop though…
Wayne and I spoke with council colleagues, security staff, taxi marshals, and licensees. They were all thankful and glad to see the lighter evenings and folk returning. The city felt good as we worked our way round on foot patrol. It was clear that lots of effort had gone into being COVID-safe for customers. Keeping people safe as a priority.
A quick check of the mobile. No, not my Twitter account.
Every officer has mobile data access when they are on patrol. This means officers can spend more time in communities and can complete necessary clerical work whilst out and about. It keeps us visible, it saves time and resource, but crucially it gives officers more information than a simple radio call might. So, to those who sometimes ask “why are you checking your phone on duty?” Well, the answer is - we’re working on the next job!
In this instance, Wayne used his mobile data terminal to coordinate the search for a missing young person. Through some great work between officers, staff in the control room and CCTV, we were able to locate them and make them safe. We then went to liaise with a sergeant and her team about another missing person. This required more complicated work with health partners. Officers had led a number of enquiries. When I ceased duty later on, the person had still not been found. On a typical day we find 13 missing people reported to us.
As the evening turned into night, the domestic incident calls started to come in. Domestic abuse causes significant harm. It is a key priority for Leicestershire Police. I could hear officers attending across the force area to try and help. As former Met officer John Sutherland says: “Domestic violence is terrorism on an epic scale, a disease of pandemic proportions and the single greatest cause of harm in society.” It concerns me deeply, and I encourage anybody affected by it to reach out, don’t be a bystander, and report it to us or seek help at United Against Violence and Abuse.
Wayne and I moved to the next stage of the patrol plan. In our marked police car, we worked around the edges of the city and into the county of Leicestershire as people returned home from beer gardens. We will be ready anew with new patrol plans when the next set of changes to Covid rules comes in.
Each patrol tells us something and prepares us. I was glad to see first-hand once more what Leicestershire Police are doing and how we are doing it. I always get good suggestions (and a bit of banter, ahem, sir!) from the frontline about things we can improve. That helps us serve the communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland even better.
It was powerful to see how my colleagues dealt with complex issues with calm, empathetic professionalism and a desire to serve the public – many were relatively new in service, and far too many born after I began my own service!
Importantly, it was good to see the city lively again and our market towns begin to bustle once more.
I was reminded that the job is still all about people. Our duty hasn’t changed that way since I stepped out on the beat in the ‘80s.
We may carry new mobile technology or wear different equipment. We may face more complex and challenging situations. But a police patrol, day or night, is always about conversation, lots of conversations - listening, responding and acting to prevent harm. Or, perhaps, just winding down the window and saying hello on the Narborough Road.
Chief Constable Simon Cole QPM