Martyn At Work In Dorset
Martyn Underhill is the first directly elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Dorset. He was elected in November 2012 as an Independent PCC.
As PCC, Martyn introduced the Dorset Victims Bureau into Dorset Police in 2013 which at that time, was only the second such bureau in England and Wales. The Bureau is just moving into new premises to enable it to grow with other agencies. As well as full time staff, the Bureau is manned by a small dedicated team of volunteers.
Martyn introduced Victim Surgeries so that he could hear first-hand victim’s stories, and has commissioned various schemes to provide support to victims of domestic and sexual offences, including therapy for child victims of abuse.
During his term, 3 of the victims Martyn has met, have been brave enough to meet the Chief Constable to relay their stories, letting the Chief Constable hear first-hand examples of poor police service delivery, and/or of other agencies poor service delivery. As a result of these meetings, the procedures in Dorset for investigating sexual offences and harassment have changed for the better.
Martyn is passionate that people with mental health issues should get the right care, at the right time and in the right place, and leads for PCCs in this area nationally.
Crisis Care Concordat
He signed the Care Crisis Concordat on behalf of PCC’s in 2013.This Concordat is signed by 22 national agencies, and commits to using the right agency to treat people in mental health crisis. It aims to reduce (and ultimately take to zero) the number of people in mental health crisis taken into police custody suites instead of healthcare settings.
Martyn was also the main funder for a Mental Health Street Triage Pilot for Dorset that launched in May 2014. The triage links mental health professionals with officers, to assist the policing of people suffering from mental health issues. The number of people detained in crisis inside police custody suites in Dorset has reduced hugely since the scheme was introduced. Since October 2015, only two people have been taken to custody suites. No child under 18 years old in crisis has been detained in Dorset Police custody suites since April 2015.
This work has been recognised nationally, see the Home Secretary talk about it here
Dorset will soon be the first place nationally to have a “bluelight” street triage, with Fire and Rescue and the Ambulance services coming on board.
Liaison and Diversion Scheme
Dorset also has a Liaison and Diversion scheme, aimed at diverting some offenders with mental health issues into appropriate mental health treatment.
Watch this video , where you can see how we raised awareness for mental health, where Norman Lamb (ex-Care Minister 2010 -2015) praises Dorset, and Martyn, for its approach to mental health issues and policing.
Challenging the Police
Martyn is here to be the interface between the police and the public. Most of Martyn’s challenges come from the public approaching him, or from issues raised in governance meetings which go against the view the public have expressed.
Here are some examples:
You said – What became apparent is that Police Forces across the country record their use of taser in different ways, and that Dorset is no better or worse in this area. People are being tasered in police cells across the country. This issue is not being scrutinised in a joined up, collegiate way.
Shortly after this, the Home Secretary announced a review of the “Use of Force” and I sat on this review, representing PCC’s.
Three things came out of this review:
- Police will now record the use of force in England and Wales in the same way
- From April 1st 2016, Eleven “pathfinder” Forces (including Dorset) are now recording the use of all force on that national database, which will be rolled out across the country by the 1st of April 2017.
- When police taser a person inside a custody suite, that discharge must be self-referred to the Force complaints team for investigation.
Police Station Closures
You said – The public told me they wanted to keep their front offices at police stations. The Force announced plans to shut 12 across the County, in a bid to save money, remember Dorset Police lost 20% of it’s funding in my term.
I did – I undertook a pan Dorset consultation, seeking the views of the community. As a result of this consultation, I kept 6 open, and closed 6. Arguably, 6 too many, but the cuts were severe, the Force had to save £18m and 77% of the public said they were happy to use 101 or the internet. The public voice kept 6 counters open.
Read Martyn’s blog on 101 here
Read about issues of inappropriate calls to the 101 service here
As a result of numerous Action Fraud complaints, I have met with three different Ministers to highlight my concerns. Despite the “blip” when the call handling company went into liquidation, the service has got better, especially in relation to updating victims.
I now sit on a Consumer Action Group inside Action Fraud, representing PCC’s, and the people of Dorset.
Martyn is a staunch supporter of volunteers and he has doubled the amount of police volunteers in Dorset Police since he arrived. He described it as “tapping into the Olympic surge” when he got elected. The PCC and the Chief Constable have doubled the roles that volunteers
Martyn oversees the strategy and performance of Dorset Police by attending various meetings and Boards, such as:
- Joint Chair of Joint Executive Board
- Joint Chair of Standards & Ethics Board
- Joint Chair of Strategic Performance Board
- Joint Chair of Strategic Change Board
- Member of Dorset Criminal Justice Board
Martyn has interacted with 250,000 people in his term and met with 35,000 constituents face to face. He is constantly travelling around the County meeting his constituents.
Martyn and his team have won awards for transparency, community engagement and for the PCC website.