Editor : David Kernek (kernekdavid@gmail.com)

Police volunteers thanked

AVON & SOMERSET’S Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has marked National Volunteer’s Week by saying thank you to the volunteers who work alongside the police and the PCC’s office, from Special Constables to people who sit on scrutiny panels to help the PCC in his role in holding the police to account.

PCC Mark Shelford said: ‘Our volunteers are compassionate and courageous individuals who continue to support the work of the police and the Police and Crime Commissioner’ office. These volunteers – who freely give up their time – have had to adapt in the last 16 months and, yet, have still made a real impact on local communities. I do not underestimate their dedication and commitment.’

Independent Custody Visiting (ICV), the Independent Residents Panel (IRP), the Out of Courts Disposal (OOCD) and Scrutiny of Police Powers Panel (SOPP) are made up of local people who give up their time to help the OPCC ensure the police service is open and accountable.

The ICV scheme gives people an insight into the conditions in custody as well as the reassurance that someone independent of the police is checking on the welfare of people arrested. Despite the pandemic, volunteers have continued to visit custody every week and, in the coming months, will be particularly focusing on the theme of checking children in custody and reducing overnight stays, as well as remote legal advice no longer being available to children detained in custody.

The IRP volunteers meet quarterly to dip sample complaints, assessing them for efficiency and fairness, as well as highlighting good practice. Next month, the panel will be reviewing complaint cases within the theme of Body Worn Video used as part of the complaint handling process.

The SOPP is made up of local people from diverse backgrounds who help monitor the use of force such as the use of Taser and Stop and Search. At their next quarterly meeting, the volunteers will scrutinize incidents within the theme of disproportionately, linking in and using the local Lammy Group’s recommendations*. The panel will be reviewing Body Worn Video of Stop and Searches where black people are compliant but have still been handcuffed in the Somerset West or Bristol East area.

The OOCD panel scrutinises the use of Out of Courts Disposal to ensure it has been used appropriately, to highlight examples of good practice and to make recommendations for improvement. An Out Of Court Disposal is a method of resolving an investigation for offenders of low-level crime and anti-social behaviour such as graffiti and low-level criminal damage, when the offender is known and admits the offence. An OOCD can be used only in limited circumstances.

*The Lammy Review was a 2017 study of discrimination within the policing and criminal justice systems in the UK, led by Labour MP David Lammy and commissioned by David Cameron and Theresa May (then Prime Minister and Home Secretary respectively). The review found significant racial bias in the UK justice system.

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