14 March 2016

On 14th March, the Rotary Club of Lincoln were treated to a reassuring ad-dress by the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, Neil Rhodes. The large audience was boosted by fellow Rotarians and some important local dignitaries.

Mr Rhodes began by informing us that the principles of policing have not changed since Robert Peel outlined his ideals in 1829, the public should be treated with integrity and reassurance and a test of Police integrity in the community is the absence of crime, not the activity of police dealing with it.

Moving to the present day Mr Rhodes said that there are two major issues which they are dealing with, one is the challenge of the computer age where criminals exploit the anonymity of the internet creating new crimes and giving new direction to established criminal activity. The other challenge is the continuing financial problem for the force.

He pointed out that Lincolnshire, being a rural county of 3200 square miles, is difficult to police. In a large city, police can attend an incident in minutes but there are many places in Lincolnshire where it could take 30 minutes to have an officer on site. Any reduction in manpower due to financial cuts would have a devastating effect on rural communities. The challenge they faced in 2011 was a £20million cut in a £120million budget.
Consequently they addressed the financial crisis by "outsourcing" some of their services and employing the private sector for certain back office functions but ensuring that whenever the public are present, a police officer is always in attend-ance.

They have worked with neighbouring forces to deal with events where large numbers of the public are involved. One such case was a week end in May last year when 7000 Harley Davidson Motorcyclists rallied at the Lincolnshire showground. Assisted by units from other counties the police adopted a no-nonsense approach with a high security entrance to the showground, confiscating any items which might be used as weapons . They maintained a friendly but firm presence over the week end and little or no trouble ensued.

By coincidence, the following day there was an illegal rave at a farm in Lincolnshire and with the help of their colleagues, 75 arrests were made and some vicious attacks were neutralised.

Four years on from the start of the financial crisis, as a consequence of the savings they made, they have 39 constables on the beat who would otherwise have been lost and have still balanced the books. This has put them in a better position to face the changing nature of crime.

Policing the cyber-computer crime gangs requires officers with special skills. There has been an explosion in drug marketing with the advent of computers and following some "celebrity" exposures an increase in reporting sexual exploitation.

One subject of concern is the development of modern slavery. They have recently arrested a gang who were ex-ploiting vulnerable people, The case will be heard in court in the near future.
The exploitation of vulnerable people even extends to removing organs to be sold for transfer.

The police are having discussions with companies who employ large numbers of workers who are living in high occupancy dwellings to establish if there is a problem of exploitation.

For the future, there is an election on 5th May which will select the next Police Commissioner. The Lincolnshire force are working with the Home Office to help design a new Police Funding Formula.

One development under consideration is collaboration between "Blue Light Services", the combination of Fire Ambulance and Police services sharing sites and resources . The Chief Constable also voiced his opinion that in due course there will be a debate as to whether the South bank of the Humber should be returned to the Lincolnshire force.

Responding to questions from the audience, Mr Rhodes said he was happy with his Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), it is 10 years since the first PCSOs were appointed and they have become an integral part of the police family. They are also a good source of recruits to be trained as regular police officers.

One senior Rotarian said that Rotary are keen to help with the problem of Child slavery both at home and abroad and it would be good if we could help in some way.

With regard to the TV programme "Police Interceptors" the Chief Constable thought this could be a double edged sword, but it goes a long way towards showing the public what challenges the Police face. He has noted an increase in support from the public since the Interceptors were first filmed.

On the subject of "Legal Highs" the police had worked with the local authority before the ban was enforced. There is currently a bill going through parliament which will further reduce the threat of these dangerous substances.

Rotarian Neil Curtis gave a sincere vote of thanks voicing our collective opinion that we had received an informative report from a man dedicated to his work, Policing with Pride.



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