Neil Rhodes

Neil Rhodes

lincspol

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.


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 service 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.

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.

On Sunday, reading through the overnight incidents, I saw that officers from Lincoln and Boston had been required to take casualties to A&E departments because ambulances weren’t available within a practical timeframe.

I tweeted at that time:

I hadn’t realised at that time just how much interest my tweet would attract. A day later it’s been retweeted 118 times and liked 134 times, which is quite an unusual amount of attention for me.

I had clearly hit a raw nerve with many members of the public, judging from some of the responses that I got. Equally, one or two members of the ambulance service responded and felt that I was being personally critical of ambulance crews. I need to say, far from it — I am a real supporter of EMAS.

On that evening, Saturday evening, I had been at a function in Lincoln where a person had been taken ill and collapsed. Within around 30 minutes an ambulance arrived and the care and compassion displayed by that ambulance crew was absolutely exemplary.

I have also, in the past, been in the back of Lincoln A&E and seen four or five ambulance crews queueing, sometimes for a matter of hours, to hand over their patients and get back on the streets. I have some understanding of the demands they face.

However, it just can’t be right that police officers are regularly being needed to take people from the scenes of accidents or road traffic collisions to hospital because the ambulance service just does not have the resources available to cope.

One of the incidents I discussed on Saturday was where a person had been assaulted in the early hours and suffered significant head injuries. I both support and applaud the decision of the officers in that matter to take the man to A&E, rather than wait a considerable period of time for an ambulance to attend.

I also ask myself what would happen if someone died in a police car whilst being taken to hospital. The public deserve a better service and my officers cannot be asked to fill the gap that exists at times.

We are, on many occasions, the service of last resort and when there is no-one else available to help — I always want it to be that a police officer is prepared to step into the breach. But, when what should be an exceptional occurrence is becoming a regular occurrence, then it’s up to me to say and do something about it.

Earlier on Monday I discussed this issue with Richard Henderson, the Chief Executive of the East Midlands Ambulance Service. I know Richard well, I meet and talk with him frequently. I know him as a caring and compassionate individual, with strong operational credibility and I listen carefully to his views.

A picture readily emerges of a service that is under-resourced, in comparison with the demands placed upon it across the East Midlands — a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that ambulance crews can spend an inordinate amount of time queueing in busy hospitals waiting to hand over their patients.

It will help all of us to understand exactly what the position is. Over the next few weeks I intend to track closely all occasions when police officers find little alternative other than to take people directly to hospital because of the issues with ambulance cover, and I will be sharing that information with our colleagues in the East Midlands Ambulance Service.

I really need to finish this column, as I started, by saying we really are committed to working in partnership with EMAS and I have an enormous amount of time for the crews that operate alongside police officers on the roads of Lincolnshire, and would much prefer that my comments are seen as supportive rather than critical.

A version of column was first published on the Chief Constable’s Blog. See full article here.

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.

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.

Follow all the columns from the Reflections 2013 series

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.

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