I hear a lot about low morale in the police. The issue has been well documented in the media in recent weeks and it also cropped-up in a question and answer session at the weekend.
As Deputy Chief Constable Jon Stratford commented, police officers have a long-standing tradition of complaining about their lot. Why, those famous Victorian comic-opera writers Gilbert and Sullivan even penned a song about it. And while I am sure that policing is not the only job where its exponents lament that “it’s not like it used to be”, there is no doubt that an ever-expanding workload borne by a diminishing workforce has taken its toll and it is something both the Chief Constable and I take very seriously.
So, what better tonic for anyone feeling dispirited and unappreciated could there have been than the public’s magnificent show of support on Saturday when we calculated that well over eight thousand came through the gates of Police Headquarters during the Constabulary’s joint open day with my office.
This was by far the biggest crowd the event has attracted and was double the number that came when it was first introduced three years ago.
Making the police more open and transparent was one of the driving forces behind the legislation that created Police and Crime Commissioners. Making our Constabulary more accessible and accountable is one of my personal priorities and the Open Day is an example of that.
Blessed with beautiful weather, those who came were able to see and experience some of the wide range of services provided by the police, our blue light colleagues in fire and rescue and my office. Visitors were able to press the flesh with uniformed officers without inhibition; they could look inside the custody block without the fear of being locked-up; there were tours of the control room; lectures on forensics, talks from other specialist crime fighters and exhibitions from some of the hundreds of community projects supported through the Commissioner’s Fund.
As well as that, there were displays by our amazing mounted and dog sections, which included a presentation to PD Ace - a framed picture of himself with handler Rich Hunt and a special cake made from liver and cream cheese - who was retiring after seven years of dedicated service.
On a personal note, I would like to thank not only those members of staff from my office and the Constabulary who made it all happen but also the 8,600 who turned out and made the day what it was.
Police officers put their lives on the line on a daily basis, as recent events continue to show. They frequently work long hours alone and deal with very unpleasant incidents often in hostile circumstances.
I have always believed the Police in Gloucestershire enjoy the support of the vast majority and Saturday’s event reinforces that. On their behalf, thank you to all who attended.