PCC Office's Glowing Praise for Public Engagement
The aim of the 'Police Public Engagement' audit was to review the standard and the quality of engagement and consultation with the public and to see specifically how Commissioners and Police Forces engage with their local communities to help ascertain and deliver policing priorities.
The main positive findings for the Gwent Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) were that:
- There had been a significant increase in public contact since the appointment of the Commissioner
- The OPCC Police and Crime Plan includes community engagement as one of the strategic outcomes
- That the principles for joint engagement working are well established
- And that the office has a constructive and receptive approach to learning and engagement.
The office was also commended for the range of effective methods it uses to engage with the public such as:
- Extensive use of social media and the reviewing of its impact
- Public meetings, media and the development of public surgeries
- The development of the website to make it more user friendly
- And the planning of engagement activities 12 months ahead to identify demographic and community gaps and evaluating the benefit of where the Commissioner has engaged.
Another area of good practice highlighted was developing the ways communities want to be involved in local policing meetings, including redesigning the PACT meetings (Partners and Communities Together) concept which the Commissioner called for shortly after taking up his post based on community feedback he had received.
Highlighting the key areas mentioned in the audit, Andy Bruce, the Performance Audit Lead for Police for the Wales Audit Office, said: "We understand the importance of engagement and consultation in both the Commissioners role and that of the Police on a day to day business and that's why we wanted to undertake this audit.
A big positive is that engagement is one of the strategic outcomes for the Commissioner's office and they have, together with their partners, developed principles for joint engagement. The OPCC and the Force have been very receptive to this work, have been open to learning and displayed a very professional approach to improving engagement. The Gwent OPCC is one of the few offices to identify the link between the PCCs engagement and the commissioning (awarding of funding) role.
They have realised the PACT model developed years ago may not be fit for purpose now and are looking at ways to redesign the model. But they are also being flexible to tailor it to individual communities. I can see this initiative tries to avoid holding meetings with limited attendance and poor feedback from participants.
It was encouraging to hear that engagement with communities is taking a higher profile than just concentrating on crime figures. As we have seen that you can have low crime, but communities can still feel disengaged."
In conclusion, he added: "Appropriate arrangements are developing for engagement and consultation to enable citizens help shape the police service it receives."
Welcoming the findings of the audit, the Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner, Ian Johnston, said: "I'm accountable to the public for the direction of Policing in Gwent and I want to be visible and accessible to the people so I can listen to what matters to them locally. This audit clarifies that we are definitely heading in the right direction where engaging with the public is concerned.
I have visited many communities throughout Gwent in my first year as Commissioner and as a team we have participated in over 400 external meetings and engagement opportunities to date. We recently launched the first PCC app in the UK which provides residents with the latest OPCC news and an interactive look at the Gwent-wide activities which both my staff and I attend. The app is part of my commitment to engage as widely as possible with residents and ensure that those who wish to access information and contact me on their mobile devices are able to do so. A host of public surgeries where members of the community can raise issues or concerns with me have also been organised for next year."
He added: "My top priority is to ensure that the people of Gwent are satisfied that the Police provide a service which meets their requirements by improving the way the services are delivered. This remains at the heart of everything we do and that's why engagement with the public is and always will remain paramount."