HE took on a big task. A service deemed by the inspectorate as being in need of improvement across all areas of business, sliding victim satisfaction results, a workforce feeling the pressure of cost cutting programmes, shrinking numbers and fast changing demand; but, a year on and there are green shoots of change and success for Chief Constable Mark Collins, as he wraps up his first twelve months at the helm of Dyfed-Powys Police, having just succeeded in delivering the force’s first ‘Good’ rating in HMICFRS annual inspection process.
Having started his career as a Special Constable (volunteer) with the force 30 years ago, he has deep rooted connections to the force which prides itself as being one of its communities and for its communities. Upon being appointed to the role of Chief Constable, Mr Collins clearly set out his plan to return Dyfed-Powys Police to a service focused on doing the basics brilliant, of supporting those who are most vulnerable and delivering a quality service to those who are victims of crime.
Reflecting on the last 12 months, Chief Constable Collins said: “I was so proud to return to Dyfed-Powys Police last year. I was very clear that to begin the turn-around the inspectorate had identified was needed and, most importantly our workforce was telling us they wanted to see, I needed to get out amongst our officers and staff. I needed to hear, see and feel what had changed. The communities we serve are the safest nationally and, the likelihood of offenders being brought to justice here is amongst the highest nationally. What else was going on? What had changed?
“What I saw and heard about were dedicated teams of people trying to do the best they could, but in very challenging circumstances. Two cost saving and restructure programmes had seen many resources stripped back, with officers and staff working to deliver an equivalent service, with growing demands.”
Reflecting on his learning during the first month, Chief Constable Collins put a plan in place to address his three priority areas, quickly adopted by staff as his mantra… The basics. The vulnerable. The victims. And, underlying all of this, an appreciation of and commitment to developing a culture of positive leadership across the force.
Early changes included an emphasis on improving the service our victims receive from us; ensuring we were updating victims with the work being done on their case; we were doing the work, but we identified that we weren’t always telling them. Working with PCC Dafydd Llywelyn, improvements were also made to the service in place to support victims and witnesses of crime, with the introduction of the co-located victim and witness care service, Goleudy. Improvements in victim satisfaction were seen early on and last month, no crimes were flagged by Goleudy where there had been a delay in providing an update to a victim of crime.
Demands on officers time was also identified as being an area where we could make quick improvements as a service. Officers were traditionally deployed to every call received, whether the person reporting wanted to see an officer or not – with the HMICFRS identifying we were one of only a couple of forces still doing this. The approach put pressure on officers’ workloads, wasn’t always what our communities wanted of us and wasn’t necessarily the best use of our time. In response to this, a new telephone investigation team was put in place within the Force Contact Centre. Dealing with a large proportion of crime reported to Dyfed-Powys Police – meaning the victim gets a much quicker service, while officers time is prioritised for calls where they are needed most.
Talking about the communities served by Wales and England’s largest geographic force, Chief Constable Collins said: “We are very, very fortunate living where we live and serving the communities we serve, but that’s not to say crime doesn’t happen. It does and it’s changing in its nature. We have to be innovative in how we deliver our service.
“Recent investment by the PCC and me into the Digital and Cyber Crime Unit means we have an award winning investigative capability looking at online crime and, is the envy of many nationally. At the other end of that spectrum though, we have very isolated communities and very different demand. A recent survey of those across our farming communities tells us there’s work to be done in how we engage with them. Last month I launched our new rural crime strategy, in direct response to the feedback our communities gave us. I will be hosting our first rural forum early in the new year and on the 8th January we’ll be going live with our new RuralWatch Facebook group – a simple step, but one that’s easily done and most importantly, is in direct response to a community’s request.”
The rural crime strategy is underpinned by a commitment to allocate dedicated resources to our most rural communities. Over the last 12 months, dedicated teams have also been set up to deliver on other priority areas for Dyfed-Powys Police, including county-level proactive policing teams – acting on street-level intelligence to tackle issues relating to the supply and distribution of drugs; the POLIT (Police Online Investigation Team), which has undertaken a significant amount of proactive work to investigate child sexual exploitation online; and, the reinvestment in the Community Safety Support Team – a team focussed on co-ordinating prevention and early intervention to divert people away from crime and anti-social behaviour.
Chief Constable Collins is national lead for mental health and policing and, is very conscious that none of the change and results delivered this year and, the continuation of work required to push on with the improvements he wants for Dyfed-Powys Police can be achieved without a strong and well workforce.
He said: “What has stood out for me during my first year is the dedication and commitment our officers, staff and volunteers have for the communities they serve. Policing is a challenging profession and to see report after report saying the force requires improvement, along with an ever-changing shift in demand and a change in leadership at the top, hasn’t been easy for them.
”At the root of everything we have achieved together this year has been conversation, openness and honesty. We’ve ended this year not only with our first ‘Good’ rating in the HMICFRS PEEL Legitimacy report, but with big gains in the leadership journey we are on. According to our most recent staff survey, people are feeling more confident, more able to challenge, more empowered and are listened to. The embedding of our new leadership & wellbeing strategy will take this further and will continue to strengthen the foundation from which I hope Dyfed-Powys Police will build and build over the coming years.”
Speaking of Chief Constable Collins’ first year and the achievements of the force in 2017, Police & Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said: “A lot has been achieved in Mark’s first year, and we are committed to working together to achieve further improvements in the service and for our communities in 2018.”