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New police chief outlines priorities

PUBLISHED: 08:50 23 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:10 30 June 2010

Norfolk's new chief constable last night spoke of the need to develop a style of policing tailored towards the demands of a rural county.

Speaking on day one in the job, chief constable Phil Gormley said he was acutely aware of the county's status as one of the safest places to live in the country.

Norfolk's new chief constable last night spoke of the need to develop a style of policing tailored towards the demands of a rural county.

Speaking on day one in the job, chief constable Phil Gormley said he was acutely aware of the county's status as one of the safest places to live in the country. But he added that the force should not be obsessed with crime statistics and should focus on delivering a high level of service to the public.

Mr Gormley's appointment comes at a time when policing in Norfolk has undergone a radical overhaul. Welcoming their fifth chief constable in a decade, members of the rank and file have called for stability at the top. He said: “This job is the pinnacle of my career - I will be quite happy if this is my last appointment in policing.”

In his first media interview, he added: “Our aim must be to provide the best possible levels of service and protection that we can.

“That ranges from the high end of the business which involves protecting people from threats that they do not necessarily know are there to how we interact with the public on a day-to-day basis.

“Public confidence must be central to everything we do. It is possible to conceive of a police force which is succeeding in reducing and detecting crime but does not enjoy public confidence. It is not possible to conceive of a police force which enjoys public confidence but is not performing well in terms of crime statistics.”

Mr Gormley has worked in both rural communities and large urban areas, including a spell at the Metropolitan police. He said it was vital to recognise Norfolk's specific needs.

He added: “There is no off-the-shelf prescription. My challenge is to understand Norfolk and understand what the public expect from their police force.

“But I know from experience that there are certain types of crime which can go virtually un-noticed in areas with a higher population density where perhaps a background noise of anti-social behaviour is seen as acceptable.

“In rural areas the same type of crime may cause disproportionate shock and have a wider impact. That is something we need to recognise and confront.”

Last year crime statistics showed Norfolk was the safest county in the country. Mr Gormley acknowledged this “fantastic record” of reducing and detecting crime. But he said the true measure of a successful police force should be public satisfaction levels.

“We should not draw artificial boundaries around types of behaviour,” he said. “When the public report an incident to us, they are not interested in whether it is a crime or anti-social behaviour or yobbery.

“What they care about is how we deal with them: do we answer their calls, do we treat people in accordance with their specific needs, can they influence the service they receive.

“A key part of that will be restorative justice as I believe that is often the best approach in terms of reassuring victims and witnesses and in terms of recidivism when it comes to suspects.”

Norfolk Police Authority is already planning £15m worth of savings over the next three years. Mr Gormley said this would present “challenges and opportunities”.

“Adversity drives innovation. We will have to look at how we work with partners and collaboration with other police forces,” he said.

Recent years have seen major changes as his predecessor Ian McPherson centralised command units, reduced back-office bureaucracy and over-hauled officers' shift patterns.

Answering Norfolk Police Federation's calls for stability following this upheaval, Mr Gormley said: “This organisation does not need a major structural overhaul - that's been done and we are starting to feel the benefits.”

He added: “When I started in policing I had no particular plan to become a chief constable - my ambition was to become a detective sergeant.

“This job is a fantastic opportunity and the pinnacle of my career. I have signed a five-year contract and I intend to see that out. I cannot completely rule out another appointment, but if I can achieve my goals here and finish my career in Norfolk then I will be able to look back on that as a success.”


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