Wiltshire PCC marks two years in post by reflecting on his time in office
Wiltshire Police is in a vastly different place to what it was but with one consistency: many dedicated, and professional, officers, staff and volunteers passionate about keeping Wiltshire safe, according to the county’s police and crime commissioner.
Wiltshire PCC Philip Wilkinson, a former Army officer who has spent most of the 23 years since leaving the army, reforming and professionalising other police and security forces abroad, is marking two years since election – after being asked to be a replacement candidate when the original PCC candidate was ineligible to take office - by reflecting on the transformation which is happening within policing in the county, and the work of his own office.
Mr Wilkinson said: “To be asked to bring my experience from abroad back to my home county was a massive privilege that I have grasped with both hands.
“Getting the job done is who I am. On occasion it has been frustrating but there have been moments of achievement too.
“I am often asked if I enjoy the job, enjoyment is the wrong word, what I want is to get the satisfaction of ensuring that everyone I work with in the police, and my office, maximises their potential and, at the end of the day, goes home and says: ‘tough one but got the job done.”
Some of the biggest challenges faced during Mr Wilkinson’s two years have been to make the Force more outwards facing, navigating the force being placed into Engage by HMICFRS and followed by a recruitment process for a new Chief Constable while its existing leaders was trying to implement rapid change.
He said: “The Inspectorate’s report was sobering reading and so disappointing – being a police force effectively in special measures meant victims of crime and vulnerable people weren’t getting the service they needed, and our communities deserved better.
“My scrutiny of Wiltshire Police, informed by residents’ feedback, and coupled with my office’s strategic assessments of performance delivery meant there was real urgency to my challenge and support of the Force: it needed to better focus and support the frontline and to re-orientate support staff to enable improved operational delivery.
“Throughout my two years in post, I have discovered there were, and still are, many highly-dedicated and professional officers, staff and Specials out there on the frontline trying to tackle crime and keep Wiltshire safe – and there is a real willingness to improve and deliver for which I am grateful.
“The appointment of Chief Constable Catherine Roper, an experienced chief officer, was a conscious decision on my part to bring in an outsider to drive those necessary improvements and, despite being in post for only six months, her vision for Wiltshire Police is coming to fruition.
"There has been a defined focus on quality of service, on driving performance, an increased focus on victims and quality of investigations to boost outcome rates.
“We have seen a determined effort by the Chief to encourage leaders within the Force to take control and drive up standards and for our communities to receive more visible, proactive policing.
"Of course, we are both aware the scale of work required cannot be resolved in a short amount of time. There isn't a quick fix to sustained performance improvements across all areas and time is needed. The Chief and I are also acutely aware there will be challenges ahead for some time yet but the important point is: the right steps are being taken.”
Next month, after approval from Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Panel, Mr Wilkinson will launch his annual report, which documents the progress and achievements of the last year.
He said: “Chief Constable Roper is driving performance hard and providing the necessary focused direction and support. As a result, we are seeing improvements across many areas of my Police and Crime Plan.
“But I will always want Wiltshire Police, and my office, to be able to do more and provide a better service to Wiltshire’s residents. Neither the Chief Constable, nor I, are people who will be completely satisfied no matter how much we improve. I am a strong believer that complacency is the enemy of professionalism and progress”.
“Not only do I want our county to be safer, I want people to actually feel safer too. I understand a feeling of safety is very hard to quantify but if we can start to see or hear that from public feedback, I will be satisfied.”
The next election for Police and Crime Commissioner is scheduled for next year. Mr Wilkinson has been confirmed as the Conservative candidate and has confirmed his intention to stand again.
“Ultimately, only our communities can be a judge of whether Wiltshire Police is delivering the service they want, and deserve,” he added.
“More than anything, I want those dedicated officers, staff and Specials in the Force to gain a real satisfaction from doing their job well, keeping people safe and locking up criminals - and being appreciated by our residents for doing so.
“Wiltshire’s residents will use their vote if they do not think I have delivered what I said I would. There is much more to do – and I will be unrelenting until we have achieved all we can.”