POLICE and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger has praised his Office for their efforts to maintain a service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has continued to operate in a ‘business as usual’ manner during the crisis, by adapting quickly to home working and making use of technology to increase transparency and public engagement.
Working remotely has not had an impact on the productivity of the team, who worked 3,860 hours during April - the peak of the virus. This is 456 hours more than the same month last year, marking a 13.4% increase.
The Commissioner’s Office worked quickly to establish contact with all victim support agencies to ensure they could continue to deliver a high-quality service during lockdown and engage regularly with partners in the criminal justice system to discuss the impact on police, court, prison and probation processes. In partnership with the Ministry of Justice, the OPCC secured an additional £400,000 investment to assist services supporting victims of sexual or domestic abuse who have been financially impacted by the virus.
Members of the Commissioner’s team sat on the Tactical Command Group, who were responsible for developing the multi-agency response to the virus and regular updates were provided by the Local Resilience Forum.
In response to the additional powers granted to police forces to enforce lockdown rules, the OPCC deepened scrutiny processes to involve daily, weekly and monthly engagement between the PCC and Chief Constable Richard Lewis. Regular video chats were published to increase transparency.
Two public consultations were launched during the crisis - a survey to capture the concerns of the rural communities of Cleveland and a unique research project with Teesside University to monitor public perceptions of policing during the pandemic. The OPCC also received regular briefings from the force about ongoing community tensions or any incidents of hate crime.
An additional benefit of home working has been the impact on the environment. During April, OPCC staff saved approximately 2,924 commuter miles a week – the equivalent of travelling between Middlesbrough to London more than five times.
The Office is now examining the benefits of working from home in more detail to see how new working arrangements can deliver value now and in the future.
PCC Barry Coppinger said: “My small but dedicated team adapted to home working measures almost immediately and have continued to provide a business as usual service during the crisis, whilst many of them also juggle childcare, caring for vulnerable relatives or volunteering within their communities.
“Through their dedication, we have been able to continue to protect our victim support services, deepen our scrutiny of Cleveland Police, use technology to engage with communities and monitor the wider impact of the virus on the criminal justice system and our communities.
“While we are a long way from returning to the reality of working life before COVID-19, the pandemic may have shown us new ways of working. We’re also interested in learning from our Teesside University partnership about how residents prefer to be engaged with when face-to-face meetings are not an option.
“These findings, along with our own innovations, can be adopted and adapted to fit around staff’s working and home lives – while still meeting the needs of the communities we serve.”
Since his election in 2012, Mr Coppinger has remained committed to ensuring his office provides cost-effective and innovative public services to make Cleveland a safer place to be.
The politically-neutral team are responsible for delivering the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan, which has the following objectives:
- Investing in Our Police
- A Better Deal for victims and witnesses
- Tackling offending and re-offending
- Working Together to make Cleveland safer
- Secure the future of our communities
During the crisis they have also drafted a 12-month Strategic Programme to sit alongside the Plan, setting out his objectives for his additional year in office. It is due to published this month.
Posted on Wednesday 8th July 2020