19. My Commitments as PCC (To support volunteering)
I consider it important to provide people with opportunities to get involved in activities which support community policing and to learn about responsible citizenship.
The Cadet scheme is open to young people aged 13 to 17, who live in Kent irrespective of background or financial circumstances, including those vulnerable to crime or social exclusion. As at 31 March 2023, there were 408 cadets located at 12 units across the county. In 2022/23, the cadets completed over 15,000 hours of volunteering.
The Mini Cadet scheme is a nine-week programme for children aged 8-11 delivered in schools. It is designed to teach about good citizenship and concentrates on building self-esteem as well as breaking down barriers with the police. They are taught about online safety, take part in drills and produce a Social Action Project. Funded by the OPCC, the scheme launched in April 2021 and since then, over 50 schools have enrolled and more than 500 children taken part.
I am very supportive and appreciative of the work of Special Constables; unpaid volunteers who wear a uniform, have the same powers as regular officers and put themselves in harm’s way like their paid colleagues - but all because they just want to give something back to their communities. As at 31 March 2023, there were 204 Special Constables who provided over 95,000 hours of policing in 2022/23.
Introduced in 2018/19 Community Police Volunteers (CPVs) continued to be a popular strand of volunteering. As at 31 March 2023, there were 78 trained CPVs providing support to specialist policing teams; in 2022/23, they volunteered over 3,000 hours.
As at 31 March 2023, Kent Police had 187 Police Support Volunteers in roles conducive to their skills. Examples include within the FCR, Recruitment and Local Policing Teams.
I have also continued to provide grant funding to charities and organisations who rely on volunteers within local communities to deliver their services.
I would like to thank the Special Constabulary, Community Police Volunteers, Volunteer Police Cadets and all other volunteers who do not wear a police logo, such as South East 4x4 Response and Kent Search and Rescue, for their time and for all their hard work in helping keep the county safe.
Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs)
I am responsible for the ICV Scheme which sees volunteers making unannounced visits to police custody suites to check on the welfare of detained persons (DPs), ensuring they have received their rights and are held in satisfactory conditions.
In 2022/23, ICVs conducted 224 visits to custody suites and engaged with 737 DPs.
Areas of good practice identified by ICVS included:
a) Distraction items – reading books, word searches, sudoku puzzles and colouring books being available to DPs based on a risk assessment. Also footballs and tennis balls for use in the exercise yard and ‘fidget popper’ toys to help calm neurodivergent DPs.
b) Care of females – female DPs being assigned a female member of staff as a ‘carer’, helping them to feel more comfortable discussing sensitive matters. Also, feminine hygiene packs being offered to female DPs as standard practice.
c) Arrows to Mecca – only some cells had arrows pointing to Mecca, aiding Muslim detainees in prayer. Under the annual maintenance programme, all cells apart from those at North Kent and Medway had a dot painted in them to indicate East for Mecca. North Kent has a green line at the custody desk and most prayer mats now also have a compass built in.
Areas requiring improvement identified included:
Inspector Reviews – reviews not taking place on time and custody records stating ‘no review officer readily available’. Custody management worked hard during the year to address the issue and improve the quality of reviews; as a result, ICVs noted a decrease in frequency.
Stock of food – food orders being received with missing or substituted items and food being near, or past its use by date upon delivery. The most popular item, the All-Day Breakfast, was often low on stock. Over the course of the year, food stocks improved.
General infrastructure - various issues with the condition of suites, including peeling paint, electrical faults, water leaks and broken locks. Custody staff were generally aware of the faults and had already logged them, with some rectified in a timely manner and others being addressed as part of the annual maintenance cycle.
Overall, ICVs found the care to be excellent, with staff focused on the dignity and wellbeing of DPs. Most concerns related to the facilities themselves and this will continue to be monitored with any serious issues escalated as appropriate. It is evident that custody management take on board ICVs’ concerns and make every effort to rectify issues.
ICVs frequently reported how helpful and supportive the custody staff were on their visits and would like to thank them for being so accommodating and transparent.
The Dogs Trust asked all OPCCs to join the Animal Welfare Scheme, to ensure police forces are treating their police dogs well and in line with the Animal Welfare Act. Having asked ICVs to take part and provide independent oversight, during the year I am pleased that significant progress was made towards formally launching the Kent scheme in 2023.
I would like to extend my thanks to the ICVs for their support and the excellent work they carry out. Further information on ICVs can be found on the OPCC website.