Christmas time for me is a chance to pause, take a breath and reflect back on the events of the year past. So what’s our year been like?
Looking back across the year that the force has enjoyed, there’s always a temptation to talk about staff changes, percentage improvements in numbers, or the way the organisation has developed.
Crime reduction and detection has been strong and, important as that is, I would actually prefer to reflect for a moment on something more precious to us, on the concept of service and indeed the vocation of public service.
For some that might be an old fashioned concept, but it’s not for me – and I suspect it’s not for many of you. Our force motto is “Serving with PRIDE” — Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dedication and Empathy — because we know, however complex the law is, however difficult the decisions we have to make, if we keep these qualities at the forefront of our minds we won’t go far wrong.
If ever there was going to be a test for us not only of our PRIDE but also of our resilience, it came quite recently. Police officers, and staff, together with many of our partner agencies, were called upon to cope with the mayhem of the recent tidal surge, the biggest to hit the East Coast in the last 60 years. At the same time as the Christmas Market and power cuts.
It was a good test of our joint-agency working for such emergencies, and although a lot of damage was done and there is a lot of clearing up still to be done, no lives were lost. We can take pride in the hard work and dedication of our people and the way Lincolnshire as a whole, as a county, pulled together, particularly around Boston.
Our people made that happen and the strength of an organisation is its people. When I consider the effort and dedication shown by officers and staff during this last year I am reminded of their level of talent and professionalism, I am reminded of the physical and moral courage I see possessed and displayed in this force and that makes me optimistic for the future.
Over the past year I have awarded nine police officers or PCSOs with commendations, Royal Humane Society Certificates and Testimonials and Society for the Protection of Life from Fire Certificates for their bravery.
In October, I travelled to London with three Police Officers who we put forward for the National Police Bravery Awards. They had already received Chief Constables’ Certificates of Commendation.
The officers attended an incident where a car had left the road, flipped onto its roof and gone into a ditch. The engine had burst into flames, and the car quickly became engulfed in flames with the driver still insider the vehicle.
An officer smashed the driver’s window and crawled into the car to begin pulling the driver out. Another officer used a fire extinguisher from the police car to try and put out the flames from the engine bay which were lapping into the passenger compartment. They then helped to drag the driver up the slope of the ditch to safety.
All three risked their lives to rescue the driver, working in close proximity to a burning vehicle, paying no regard to the possibility of the vehicle exploding during the rescue. That is just one example. I could have given many others.
And it’s not only officers that we present with bravery awards. This year I’ve been really pleased to be able to present Royal Humane Society Certificates to five members of the public, all of whom helped to save the life of a man trapped in a refuse lorry truck following a head on collision with a car. The cab of the lorry became engulfed in flames and had it not been for their selfless act of bravery there is a high chance that the driver would have burnt to death in the cab of the lorry.
Policing itself can be dangerous, and on occasions we actually need the help of the public.
In June, in Boston town centre, a Lithuanian man, who now lives in the UK, saw a police officer attempting to stop and search a man he suspected of being in possession of illegal drugs. The man became violent, overpowering the PC, before attempting to stab the PC in the chest with a handful of hypodermic syringes. The Lithuanian rescuer successfully dragged the assailant off the police officer, putting himself at considerable risk. He displayed courage, commitment and a strong sense of public spirit by intervening and assisting the local police. It was my privilege to meet him and his family this week and thank him personally.
Christmas is a busy time for us all – but we will continue to work hard to keep people safe and prevent crime and disorder throughout the county. I hope that for all of us, especially those on duty over the festive period, Christmas and New Year are both safe and peaceful 2014 is a year when Lincolnshire Police will continue to serve the public with PRIDE.
Neil Rhodes is the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police. The role marks the culmination of his police career which began when he joined Lincolnshire in 1986. During 15 years with Lincolnshire Police he progressed from Constable to Superintendent, working across the county as a patrol officer, a detective and in roads policing before joining Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary at superintendent rank.