Chief Constable Mike Veale's monthly column: June

Posted in News

I had wanted the focus of this month’s column to be on hidden illness; however I must start by offering my thoughts to those affected by events last night at Finsbury Park, London. At the time of writing, one person has died and more are injured.

At this stage it is too early to say for certain what the motives were behind this attack. However, I can say that there is no specific threat to Wiltshire.

The thoughts of all at Wiltshire Police are with those affected, as they are with those who were caught up in the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower.

My deepest sympathies are with the people who lost their lives in the fire, their families and friends and with those who survived but have lost their homes, their possessions and those precious items all of us have that simply cannot be replaced.

I pay tribute to the emergency services, particularly the Fire Service, who worked tirelessly, selflessly and with the most incredible determination.

I am also conscious that our very young people may be frightened or apprehensive about the current news coverage of the terrorist atrocities, therefore we will soon be publishing a video blog so that we can offer some reassurance to this incredibly vulnerable and impressionable group of people who may not understand that our community is still a very safe place to be.

While we live in one of the most tolerant and fair societies in the world, one thing we can never tolerate is hate crime no matter what ugly way it is manifested. Wiltshire Police will be working within our communities and with our community leaders. I call upon everyone in our local area to think about their neighbours and think about their communities, learn a bit more about who you share this beautiful county with and build a better understanding of the wonderful people who live here.

Part of that understanding comes from getting to know each other, which is what I’ve been doing and is what I had originally wanted to share with you in this column.

In publishing my column today I’m marking the start the national Cystic Fibrosis (CF) week and I would like to share with you my experience of one of my colleagues here at Wiltshire Police. Having worked with this colleague for a number of years, I was recently incredibly interested if not amazed to learn she has CF.

I have to admit that I didn’t know much about CF; for me it conjures up images of little children being slapped on the back in order to help clear their lungs or someone who looks very seriously ill.

That was not the healthy, optimistic and bright looking person sat in front of me. She was very open about the fact that she has periods of time when she feels ‘normal’ and others when it is a struggle to walk, talk or even breathe properly – something that the majority of us take for granted.

I was not aware that the disease manifests in each person in a different way, characterised by a build-up of mucus in the organs. She spoke about the frequent chest infections, sinusitis and fatigue, and how it takes a large amount of medications, nebulisers and physiotherapy to stay well under the care of a team of experts at Southampton Hospital. Even with all this there are times when admission to hospital is the only option, something I know she struggles with.

I was really pleased to hear her talk so positively about the help and support she has had from the force. Awareness across her department is a big factor in keeping her well, the team know to keep their distance if they have colds and the real importance of hand hygiene to help combat germs, little things which actually benefit everyone.

Technology has made a real difference, we are now more mobile, agile and flexible with the introduction of laptops, smart phones and tablets deployed to the majority of our staff and this colleague in particular can have greater control of her health and wellbeing as well as continue her contribution to the force which is important to her.

Working with the medical team who look after her, Occupational Health, Human Resources and her line manager have put in place a system to closely monitor and support her if needed so she can get on with the day job, take care of herself and try to avoid crisis points.

I’m finding out more about other hidden illnesses over the next few months and how my staff members are affected. That old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ says it all really and is something we should all keep in mind.

Looking after ourselves and being innovative in the ways we work are key to a healthy and happy workforce, something I will be writing about in future columns.

Continuing in the theme of raising awareness, last week the Crime and Communications Centre at Police Headquarters ran a ‘live’ tweetathon highlighting the calls they deal with. The team is always incredibly busy, answering calls from the public, assessing need and risk and directing resources appropriately.

The tweetathon was a great insight into the breadth of work they deal with but also looked at how many 999 calls they receive from people with enquiries not remotely police related or emergency situations such as the caller who phoned to complain that their bin collection was late that morning. They should have contacted their local council instead.

It has not been lost on me that our call handling response can be a little frustrating at times and we are working incredibly hard to be able to respond to the increasing complexity and demands we are facing. Inappropriate and unacceptable calls to the police do not help.

The police should not be considered a one stop shop when people don’t know who to call. Of course if there is a real emergency situation where someone is in immediate danger or a crime is in progress always dial 999 but if that simple check doesn’t apply please call 101 for police matters only. If you aren’t sure where best to call please do some research online, many calls we receive should actually dealt with by your local authority for example. Follow the force on twitter @wiltshirepolice for updates and information.

Next month I will be raising awareness of a different kind, a team from Wiltshire will be taking part in the Police Unity Tour, a cycle ride raising money for Care of Police Survivors (COPS).

COPS is a dedicated charity which offers support and help to the families of police officers who have lost their lives whilst on duty. Helping them to cope and rebuild their lives after such a tragedy.

The 180 mile ride will take place between 28 – 30 July and will feature colleagues from across the county riding in the honour and memory of those who have died in the line of duty.

You can see how the Wiltshire Team are getting on with fundraising and show your support here:

Finally, tomorrow is Wiltshire’s first big event since the atrocities in Manchester and London, Summer Solstice. I would like to reassure visitors that there is no specific risk to the event and that safety is our absolute priority. We have been working closely with our partners at English Heritage in planning the event and measures are in place such as high visibility patrols and Armed Officers will be in attendance purely as that extra bit of reassurance for those attending.

Have a chat with officers at the event, show them your support and for all those celebrating Summer Solstice 2017 I wish you a peaceful event and fingers crossed for a cloud free sunrise!

Mike Veale
Chief Constable
Wiltshire Police

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