Now that the festive period is upon us it is time to pause, draw breath and reflect on our journey over the last year.
This year the force has faced many challenges – a triple shooting, a double murder conviction, 59 fatalities on our roads. It’s clear there have been plenty of examples of policing at its finest, and toughest.
The quality, dedication and sometimes sheer bravery of our people - police officers, PCSOs, special constabulary officers, police staff and volunteers, and of the people we come into contact with just takes your breath away. So very often great work can go unnoticed and unremarked.
That was not the case at our annual recognition awards ceremony held last month. We presented Royal Humane Society awards to two members of the public who courageously rescued an unconscious man from a fiercely burning car. We heard about tremendous work done in our community by one PCSO with really good results. We recognised a long serving officer for professionalism and exceptional personal tenacity that landed a protracted drugs case. We were moved by the story of a young Police Support Volunteer, who overcame personal challenges to put a massive amount of time into assisting her local CID. And, we acknowledged the work of a Special Constabulary manager for pulling together a series of operations in partnership with one of our Neighbourhood Policing Teams.
We have always been a force that performs under pressure and the HMIC report on efficiency found just that. We have done all we can do to bridge the funding gap, especially in collaboration. Our East Midlands’ shared services are an example of best practice for the country, placing us in a key position to take up the gauntlet with blue light integration. By next year, Lincolnshire will see fire, ambulance and police sharing buildings in what I believe will be a model for the future.
I have seen these changes as Chief Constable knowing that they were only possible because of the hardworking team of people willing to make that change for the better. It all comes down to providing the very best response we can to the person facing a crisis at that point in time. It is vital for that person, but also important for my officers, who then get the recognition they deserve rather than the criticism they face for failing to meet expectations because of the restrictions the budget places on us.
The festive period is a wonderful time for most of us, but it is also a time when the complexities and challenges of life and humanity are often magnified. Our police officers and staff who are on duty are often the people who deal with that and we need to spare a thought for them.
This will be my last Christmas as Chief Constable. In February Bill Skelly will travel from Exeter in Devon to make his home in this county and lead this proud force. If he gets a fraction of the satisfaction and joy that I have had from being part of the family that is Lincolnshire Police since I first joined as a constable, almost 31 years ago back in 1986, he will be a very lucky man.
It seems fitting that one of my final projects will be the completion of our memorial garden which pays tribute to those who have died in service and reminds us of the principles of policing set out by Robert Peel. His idea that the Police should gain the approval of the public was once novel, but is now fully integrated in everything we do. This was funded by a donation from a member of the public. Val Hills’ approval was such that she left her life savings to Lincolnshire Police. I hope she approves now of what we have been able to achieve with her money. Remembering and celebrating the service; good people doing good work.
So, finally, I will close by saying I hope that for all of us - especially those on duty over the festive period - Christmas and New Year are both safe and peaceful.