Thames Valley Police – SIAG Readout (April 2019)

The Thames Valley Strategic Independent Advisory Group met on 24 April.

We were briefed on the force’s response to dealing with the increase in violent crime, including knife crime. While violent crime had increased in the TVP area, it was not at the same extent as the upsurge seen in London and other major metropolitan police areas. Within the TVP areas, the major increases were in the main urban areas such as Reading, Slough, and Milton Keynes. Violent crime was perpetrated overwhelmingly by young males to young males. There were strong links to gang violence and drugs. We were reassured that the package of measures TVP were delivering would help tackle the issue up-stream, with a multi-agency approach.

Before a young person ever picks up a knife, they have been the victim of a string of lost opportunities and missed chances. Nobody’s future should be pre-determined by where they are born, or how they are brought up.

I requested information on three areas in advance of the meeting:

Live Facial Recognition Technology – the Metropolitan Police is using live facial recognition (via CCTV mounted on police vans) as part of a “trial” and is now considering the permanent roll-out of this technology. While I appreciate the legitimate interest in trialling new technologies, the use of facial recognition technology is akin to the mass collection of fingerprints, which without proper scrutiny is dangerous and undemocratic. TVP stated they had no plans for the introduction of such technology, but would not rule it out. My concern was shared by other members of the SIAG.

Hate “incidents” – I asked for information on the amount of time spent by officers and police staff recording hate incidents (where no crime has taken place), time taken investigating such incidents (including contacting the alleged perpetrator and issuing any warnings), and the approximate cost of this over the last financial year? I also asked them to confirm the proportion of online vs offline hate incidents reported to TVP. They were unable to answer this as time spent on particular crimes or incidents is not recorded.

Officer retention and recruitment – I asked, whether TVP had taken any action to increase training capacity or collaborate with other forces to meet the gap between leavers and joiners since we last discussed the issue. They replied that their Medium Term Workforce Plan will see TVP return to full establishment by September 2019. Behind this plan is a training plan which schedules the recruit intakes across the months/years to train the joiners ready to move to the Local Policing Areas (LPAs). They cannot increase the speed of recruiting because the LPAs cannot support a higher number of recruits.

The number of officers leaving varies from month to month and is averaging around 27 a month. This is higher than it was previously (approx 21/month).  30 years ago was a time of high recruitment so retirements are high at the moment. Officers are also transferring to other forces – forces all over the country. This year the Met have attracted a lot of transferees but people are going all over the country. It varies from month to month, year to year. Some officers are leaving policing completely.

Again the proportion of retirements/transferees/resignations varies from month to month. The number of officers transferring in to TVP (some coming back having transferred out) has increased but TVP is still a net loser.

The next meeting is not until July.