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Interview: Dorset's chief on the service's core mission

CC Scott Chilton says that the police service's core role is to prevent and detect crime and it shouldn't get distracted by other issues.

CC Scott Chilton

CC Scott Chilton

Date - 4th April 2022
By - Cachella Smith
3 Comments 3 Comments}

Dorset's PCC David Sidwick has set out six priorities in his Police and Crime plan which includes cutting violent crime, making policing more visible, and cutting ASB. 

How does this dovetail with the thinking of CC Scott Chilton who was appointed to lead the force in August last year? 

On the subject of officer visibility the Uplift and the new cadre of PEQF probationers is a positive according to CC Chilton. 

“I’m actually really, really proud of Dorset student officers," he says.

"And the calibre of officers coming into the service is the best that I've ever seen in years.

“I think the transition from IPLDP, given time will prove to be the right thing to do.

“The attrition rate from PEQF is significantly lower than it was on the previous scheme.”

Dorset’s attrition rate for leavers in probation was 9.8 per cent, slightly higher than the national force average of 9.1 per cent, but far lower than Northamptonshire who reported a rate as high as 19.3 per cent. 

Dorset is on track to meet their Uplift target and CC Chilton is having conversations with PCC Sidwick on how they can continue to progress recruitment beyond Uplift. 

CC Chilton said he was aware of pressures surrounding new students and that Dorset are working to support them. 

He said, however, that he was increasingly concerned about officer welfare in general, not only due to their exposure to trauma on the job, but also wider social changes such as the cost of living. 

“We have communicated to them all the things that we're trying to do to support officers in terms of access to welfare funds, access to support services and access to loans from the welfare if that's appropriate," he told Police Oracle.

Speaking of mental health more generally, he said: “Fortunately, we haven't had a suicide in Dorset in recent years, but there have been several cases where officers have suffered quite significant mental health difficulties and we've absolutely done our very best to try and wrap around them.” 

Dorset has not been subject to the same amount as scrutiny as forces such as the Met have been recently over misconduct and behaviour issues. But CC Chilton acknowledges that when widespread accusations about officer behaviour occur the whole service suffers.

“As a service, we absolutely take [accusations and misconduct] seriously and do our very best to try and understand them and see how we as a service can improve. I also feel it often has an unfair and disproportionate impact on the brilliant officers and staff. 

“[Our officers] are only human, they do their very best but they’re bound to be affected by it.

“I’m a police officer as well and I equally feel bruised, upset, angry about some of the suggestions around where the service is at this particular point in time which I think is in many cases unfair.”

One element adding to officer pressures and workloads is their increased involvement in non-policing matters.

A few weeks ago, outgoing Chief HMIC Sir Tom Winsor published his ten-year review of policing, in which he referred to the “chronically insufficient” treatment for mental ill health and the “increased demand on policing created by inadequacies in the provision of mental health services.” 

CC Chilton said: “The reality is that often mental health, lack of availability for drug rehabilitation services, wider challenges in the criminal justice system, of course, the COVID impact [...] has presented itself in an unreasonable demand on policing.

“We are dealing with far too many incidents that have been called into police that you quite rightfully should question whether [they come under] the role of the police to deal with.” 

Dorset receives around 1,000 calls a day with around 600-700 incidents recorded, meaning 30-40 per cent of those involve officers signposting people towards other services. They record around 120-150 missing people a week. 

For CC Chilton, there are two routes to resolve this, the first is to fully understand the data across the service, and the second is to work nationally to ensure that other organisations are taking responsibility. 

“The core function [of policing] is about keeping people safe, but being tough on crime.

“We're not here to provide every element of social care and support for people as difficult as that is and often manifests itself in mental health behaviour, which causes risk to people.

“Fundamentally, the police service is about preventing and detecting crime.” 

Dorset’s Police and Crime plan is big on engagement, connectivity and partnerships. PCC Sidwick has committed to ensuring “ever-closer working arrangements” with various partner agencies. 

Last month, it was announced that the procurement and oversight of national forensic systems would be transferred to BlueLight Commercial and the Police Digital Service. The Forensic Capability Network (FCN), however, will continue to be hosted by Dorset and CC Chilton explained the force would see little change in their role, they will continue to have a national co-ordination function in running the FCN. 

Multi-force operations are also on the agenda, particularly when it comes to county lines. 

CC Chilton explained that there is emerging evidence of strong county lines links between Dorset and Bristol, London and Merseyside. 

The recent Operation Scorpions, co-ordinated by five forces including Dorset along with the South West ROCU, British Transport Police and others, resulted in a seizure of more than £500,000 worth of cash, weapons and drugs along with 176 arrests. 

This type of multi-force partnership, he said, has not been a problem in the South West and was particularly aided by a shared intelligence team. The force plans to continue with multi-force responses and combine that with local policing. 

“We’ve made a strategic decision to do both locally-based disruption efforts, such as direct action through warrants, but also continued to do the covert work that’s required to make sure we tackle it from both ends.” 

Dorset’s Operation Viper is due to be launched in late April which will see a dedicated county lines team established to tackle the problem. 

“The nature of drug supply and the prevalence of drugs in our society, means that it's always going to be a continuous battle,” CC Chilton said. 

“You can’t tackle county lines by just doing an operation and then do another one in a month or so, it’s everyday business and it has to be.” 

The latest ONS figures, published in January, showed that Dorset has seen a drop in crime for seven consecutive quarters and currently has the eighth lowest crime rate in England and Wales.

PCC Sidwick’s Police and Crime plan and CC Chilton’s vision are looking to continue that downward trajectory. 

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Annoymous. - Thu, 07 April 2022

The key is the right people in the right places. Years of nepotism, promoting in one’s own image has led to poor police leadership from NPCC rank down. Reform leadership demote NPCC, Supt and Inspecting ranks.

Poor leadership incorporating many who do not understand policing has decimated the best police service in the world.