Grab a cuppa with a copper

PCSO Nigel Wass, County Council Chairman Bill Aron, Deputy Chief Constable Keith Smy, Superintendent Steve Taylor and PCSO Za Za Warren EMN-140822-125724001
PCSO Nigel Wass, County Council Chairman Bill Aron, Deputy Chief Constable Keith Smy, Superintendent Steve Taylor and PCSO Za Za Warren EMN-140822-125724001

It’s often said the only time you will see a police officer, he’ll be pointing a speed gun at your car.

That might be a misconception, but it highlights the on-going challenge police forces face winning public support.

Lincolnshire Police are certainly doing everything they can to convert the sceptics.

One of their latest initiatives is inviting people to ‘come and have a cuppa with a copper.’

Don’t worry. That doesn’t mean you’ll have to sit opposite a burly officer in an austere interview room.

Instead, officers will be out and about in locations across the county. Last week, it was Horncastle. Next week, it could be Louth, Spalding, Boston or Skegness.

It’s not just about presenting a friendly face or giving kids the chance to have a look around a patrol car.

It’s all part of a campaign to discover exactly what the real concerns and issues are in individual communities.

And, if you do turn up for a cuppa, don’t be surprised to bump into high-ranking officers like Superintendent Steve Taylor.

He’s just taken over as deputy divisional commander (Eastern Division).

His territory covers a huge area - from Louth in the north to Skegness, Boston, Spalding and Holbeach in the south.

He’s been in the post for two weeks and is relishing the challenge.

He said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity and it’s really good to try a new role.

“It’s a vast area and of course, there are different priorities in different areas - be it crime in Boston or crime in more rural areas, like Horncastle.

“The focus is a reduction in crime as well as making sure we are there when we are needed by the public.”

Budget cuts are never far from the headlines. Lincolnshire has been harder hit than most and Supt Taylor doesn’t need any reminding.

He explains: “The biggest challenge is the geographical area that we have to cover with the resources we have.

“It is always going to be a challenge but that’s why we are experienced at it.

“We’ve been doing it for a long time and year on year, we are achieving those reductions in crime.

“I live in Lincolnshire. I love it here. My kids are growing up here and they love it. It really is one of the safest counties.

”It’s also a great place to be a police officer in. It genuinely is.”

Home Office statistics show crime is falling, but no-one is going to rest on their laurels - least of all Supt Taylor.

He added: “The hard work goes on and what we need to do is despite what changes there might be - whether it’s flooding like we’ve had in Louth, or a budget challenge because of a change in Government - policing maintains its service to the public.

“What we’ve got is real dedicated commitment from officers. I mean that by all staff - support staff, community safety officers, 
it really is a team effort 
and particularly in East Lindsey.

“We’d all like to see more officers on the beat. You won’t find a police officer against that.

“What we do is to make sure we are in the right places at the right times.

“We try and get that right as much as we can but we are human. There are large distances to cover and there are big expectations from the public.

“We’re not going to always meet those expectations but we’ll be honest, we’ll be realistic and we’ll try and be in the places when we’re needed.”

The interview is taking place just yards away from where children are feeding ducks and swans. A family is enjoying a picnic on the grass. It’s a far cry from the situation in Skegness at ‘turning out time’ on a Saturday night.

Supt Taylor adds: “Of course, policing Skegness or Boston is different to policing Horncastle or Louth, but we’ve got the experience to meet those challenges.

“Officers don’t stay in one location. We have got that flexibility and experience in terms of dealing with particular incidents in particular locations.”

Supt Taylor used to serve in the RAF. He was based at Coningsby and Cranwell so he knows the area well.

And, the ‘come and have a cuppa’ message?

He explains: “What we are trying to do is make ourselves visible to the public.

“It would be very easy for officers of my rank to be hidden away inside an office.

“It’s about meeting the public. They can ask us questions. They can see there is a human element to us all. We are human behind the uniform.

“My objective is to listen to the concerns. We need to takes those concerns on board.

“We need to bear in mind why we are all here. You can lose sight of that. It’s gives us a reality check of being able to say - ‘yeah, I get that.’”

So, the police want your views - good or bad.

Supt Taylor was delighted with the feedback so far.

“It’s been really positive,” he said. “I’ve asked some really blunt questions like what do you think of your local police officers?

“I’ve been absolutely chuffed to bits from the response.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s cycling proficiency with a local PSCO. It’s all part of the job.

“We’re rolling visits like this out across the county to make sure we can get a feel of what the community’s concerns and needs are.

“So far, I haven’t had a negative comment which is very reassuring.”