Tributes paid to PC Andrew Harper
The shocking death of PC Andrew Harper in such tragic circumstances late on Thursday night have rocked Thames Valley Police Force and the community it services.
At the time of writing 10 people remain in custody and the murder inquiry continues. The priority for the whole Force is to ensure that those responsible for Andrew's tragic death are brought to justice.
The last few days have been hugely distressing for everyone in the police family, but especially those who knew PC Harper personally and have served with him. Appropriate support is of course in place for them, but I am sure the outpouring of support from the wider community has been of great comfort to many police officers.
Whilst at the scene over the weekend, I witnessed a number of members of the public bringing their own floral tributes and handing them to the officers who were guarding the scene. Over the last couple of days those tributes have grown further.
It is telling that while most of the outrage understandably been from people who had not met Andrew, but were simply appalled by the a police officer losing their life on duty, there have been a huge number of tributes paid to him by those who did know him and recognise his exemplary service. Many members of the public who had dealings with him in the past have come forward put on record their thanks for his work over many years. His colleagues tell a similar story of a dedicated police officer who always performed his duty with courage and commitment. This should serve to remind us that whilst this is a deeply disturbing time for the Force and an event that has shocked the nation, it remains first and foremost a devastating personal tragedy.
The Thames Valley Police Federation have set up a crowdfunding page which to date has already raised nearly £150,000. Andrew's family will decide what to do with the money raised in due course. Members of the public have given generously and anyone can add their support on the page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/pc-andrew-harper.
Our thoughts and prayers should remain with Andrew's widow and his wider family. Every effort will be made to ensure those responsible are held to account and just as importantly we must ensure that Andrew's memory lives on, and that his year's of dedication and service to the people of Thames Valley is never forgotten.
Make your voice heard to help shape the future!
The role of the Police & Crime Commissioner includes holding to Chief Constable to account, setting the council tax precept for policing, commissioning services for victims of crime, funding community safety partnerships and setting the policing priorities for the Thames Valley.
I want to know your views about policing where you live. Please spare a few moments to complete my short survey and tell me what you think is going well and what can be done better. Click the button below or visit www.matthewbarber.co.uk/haveyoursay.
Please do spread the word and share the survey with friends and family!
Thames Valley Police launch new recruitment website as Boris pledges 20,000 officers
Thames Valley Police have already been increasing recruitment of police officers, with 428 joining in the last year alone. Additional intakes have been created to maximise the number of new recruits and now a new website has been launched to put all of the opportunities to join Thames Valley Police in one place! You can visit www.tvpcareers.co.uk to find out more about becoming a police officer, PCSO or a member of police staff, as well as opportunities to volunteer, including becoming a Special Constable.
The recruitment drive is set to increase further with the Government's pledge of 20,000 more police officers nationally. The Police & Crime Commissioner has lobbied the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary to call for a fairer funding formula to be introduced at the same time as increasing the funding for officers.
Abingdon DAMASCUS Youth Project
Last week I was lucky enough to visit the DAMASCUS youth project, based in Abingdon, which serves the town and surrounding villages. I was joined by Thames Valley Police's local area commander and we spent the afternoon with young people talking about their experiences of the youth services and local policing. This is just one of the many youth projects across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire supported by both Thames Valley Police and the Police & Crime Commissioner. The excellent work they do, supported by volunteers, makes a real difference to young people's lives and has a positive impact on reducing crime in our communities.
Special Constables really are special
In June, many of us celebrated Armed Forces day. A few days earlier, and with a little less ceremony, was Reserve Forces Day. The contribution made to Britain’s defence by our reservists is pretty widely recognised. A long way from the days of Dad’s Army, the men and women who serve in the Army, Navy, and RAF reserves are highly trained, highly valued, and often serve alongside their regular comrades in the service of their country. It is right that they are properly appreciated for their service.
Improving the 101 non-emergency service
Most people have no contact with the police - and that is the way they like it! Yet it is important to know that the police are there when you need them.
Last year Thames Valley, along with Forces across the country, saw a signficant rise in calls to the 101 non-emergency number, causing an unacceptable increase in the time it takes to answer calls.
The Police & Crime Commissioner has made improving this service a priority. Significant investment has been made to improve performance in several areas and this is starting to pay dividends. The increase in council tax earlier this year (of £2 a month for the average household) has meant an additional 212 officers and staff, including an increase in the number of call handlers. This alongside investment in new technology means that around 95% of calls are now answered within 5 minutes.
Thames Valley Police's website is being improved to allow more and more reports to be made online, but it is important the public have confidence to contact the police using 101. In an emergency always call 999, these calls are prioritised and normally answered in less than 10 seconds!
Why the law on illegal encampments needs to change
Dealing with illegal (or unauthorised) encampments is not about stigmatising a nomadic way of life or criminalising a section of the population. It is about dealing with a serious problem of anti-social behaviour and criminality that in some quarters is overlooked or downplayed for fear of being accused of discrimination.
Nevertheless, if you are a teacher organising a sports day on the school field, or the volunteer helping with the village fete, the arrival (illegally) of several vehicles in the area allocated for the coconut shy is a real problem that people expect the police to deal with.