Wednesday 1st April was a significant day for policing in the Forest of Dean – and I am being quite serious as April Fool’s Day jokes are no longer valid after mid-day, or at least they weren’t when I was a child!
It was important because that was the day I signed off on a deal that will see officers in the Forest equipped with what I believe is the best available mobile communications equipment which is so essential for the modern day police officer to do an even better job.
This is an exciting development for a number of reasons. Officers on patrol will be able to send reports and receive information instantly without returning to their base. Being able to link into social networks will offer an instant hotline to the public whenever the need should arise, for example in the event of an emergency or road closure. And it will ensure a more visible policing presence as without the need to return to their base, officers will be able to remain on patrol for longer periods. They will also be able to connect to local and national data systems whilst on the road or at an incident.
This is all possible because the technology we have chosen guarantees a vastly improved coverage of the Forest and other rural areas. Connectivity issues in previously notorious dead spots like Cinderford and Newent for example are virtually eradicated. Where much of the Forest has been a virtual no-go area for some devices, improved 3G, 4G and wi-fi technology will give the Police massively improved coverage. This is a huge step forward.
Officers are being trained on their new equipment which will become operational in the summer.
I know many of you have been saddened by the closure of most of the old village police stations. Those decisions were taken before I took office but I understand people’s fondness for them. Equally, as Police and Crime Commissioner, I have to recognise that their time had passed – along with so many of our village schools and post offices – and it was time to plan for a different future.
The Chief Constable and I have worked closely together on this and are agreed that improved mobile communications coupled with an operational base in Coleford and other strategically placed police points will provide the Forest with a police service it wants and deserves.