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Cleveland PCC on why he’s not opening more front desks

PCC Steve Turner is the APCC joint lead on local policing.

Unlike other force areas across England and Wales, Cleveland will not be seeing the re-opening of stations and front desks any time soon. 

The Constabulary currently has four stations across the urban and comparatively small force area with the 568,000 population it polices.

During the past year, various PCCs have been announcing the re-opening of front-desks – it follows widespread station closures up until 2021 caused predominantly by budgetary pressures.  

Among the reasons for the policy u-turn, “public assurance” features heavily.

Just last week, Hampshire PCC Donna Jones announced a new station, saying “The public have told me they want more police stations, more police officers and more visibility of the police.”

Meanwhile, Devon and Cornwall PCC Alison Hernandez, who has already re-opened six and has plans for six more, said 70% of respondents to her policing priorities survey supported investment in the project.  

Cleveland PCC Steve Turner told Police Oracle: “Re-opening a front desk is always going to be an operational decision, as opposed to a PCC decision.

“We're all tasked with delivering efficient and effective police forces and some areas, some Chiefs may find that investment in a front desk is the best use of their funding. 

“It’s not a case of we can’t have front desks because we can’t afford them or if we have front-desks we can’t have something else. 

“It's a case where the best use of our money and our resources is, and in Cleveland with the areas we serve and where our challenges are both myself and the Chief Constable probably don't see a great need for any more front desks than we’ve already got.” 

He added that the way the public interact with the police is very different now from where it was 10 years ago – that people now expect a “more instantaneous ability” to contact their local force rather than walking to a station. 

Meanwhile, with an increased focus on digital contact – Cleveland have recently launched their COPA app – reasons for going to a station in the first place have also changed. 

“Whenever I go in - the people that come in to those front desks are those who have arranged to come in for an interview/give a statement or on occasion you might get someone who comes in because they’re passing and they didn’t want to wait on the phone to pass on whatever information they want to pass on,” he said. 

“It’s very rare that I see someone in a police station who, if that police station wasn’t there, wouldn’t have contacted the police in another way.” 

Stations are not just for the public, however, and PCC Turner highlighted the benefit of having a station particularly in rural communities as bases for neighbourhood teams.

He also hasn’t ruled out opening more stations in Cleveland in the future and would like to explore options for co-location with local partners. 

As the joint APCC lead for local policing, Police Oracle asked him about public reassurance.

“There is nothing more reassuring for a member of the public than seeing a police officer,” he said. 

“I go to dozens of community meetings where people who live in very low crime areas who don't see a police officer but who maybe don’t see a police officer because there's not a lot of [reasons] to see a police officer would still feel reassured by the sight of one.

“It’s the same with police stations and front desks - having something you know you can use if you need it is very reassuring. The actual practicalities of whether you use it or not is another matter. 

“I think we see that outside of policing. You see it with banking right now - everybody wants a bank in their own town or village. But actually, when they've had one, the people that use it are few and far between.” 

In Cleveland, the force leadership structure has recently been reconfigured to a district model. Superintendents are now in charge of each of the four major boroughs in a bid to boost local policing. 

The PCC reports success from the COPA app, first launched six months ago. The app has been particularly useful, he said, in diverting people to the right body on certain concerns (fly-tipping, abandoned vehicles). 

“A lot of people ask about people that don't have a mobile phone or can't use an app. 

“We have still got all of those opportunities for other people to contact the police through 101 or 999 - we haven't taken anything away. But the reality is, the vast majority of the public have access to a mobile phone and the vast majority of those know how an app works.”

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