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POLICE SAFETY - BETTER CO-ORDINATION AND TRAINING NEEDED

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Police forces need to develop a co-ordinated strategy to improve the way they train and equip their police and civi...
Police forces need to develop a co-ordinated strategy to improve the way they train and equip their police and civilian staff to protect both themselves and the public, says a new report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

Based on a study of ten forces, the report reveals a range of good practice and positive action but HMIC make a number of recommendations for every force, including:

-- a chief officer to co-ordinate, lead and develop officer safety

-- a clear, unequivocal and published officer safety training policy

-- a full consultation process about the purchase of equipment and training

The report found that investment in officer safety leads to:

-- improved operational capability

-- higher confidence and morale

-- reductions in sickness levels

-- fewer assaults on staff, leading in turn to fewer complaints from employees and the public

Welcoming the report's recommendations, home office minister Alun Michael said:

'It is vital that officers and staff who provide a world class service for the public are given the best training and equipment available.

'The police need to deal with violence in a way that is safe for the officer and safe for the public. Proper training, including in first aid, is essential.

'There is good work going on around the country but, as the report recommends, it needs to be brought together in a proper strategy.

'I am sure that forces will take the recommendations on board.'

Summary of Findings

The report found that there was a variety of good practice being implemented locally, including:

-- Safety 'recess' by forces to venues where protests or demonstrations were due to take place

-- training in giving evidence in cases where force has been used

-- structured training courses for communications centre staff, including attachments to operational units

-- specially designed forms to ensure records are kept of the use of force and of injuries on duty to inform operational decisions.

However, the report also revealed that:

-- there were weaknesses in the level of first aid training amongst many officers

-- there were inconsistencies in the way officers in different forces were trained in the use of protective techniques and equipment; protective equipment was often acquired piecemeal rather than as a result of an informed risk assessment

-- there was a degree of frustration from front line officers about the lack of consultation and explanation about the type of equipment purchased

-- in some cases there was a lack of emphasis on the geographical and operational training for 999-call dispatchers and communication staff

-- there was a lack of clarity about the issuing of protective equipment, with some officers left in the dark about whether they were obliged to carry it and what sort of protection the equipment offered (eg bullet or knife resistant vests).

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