When I was growing up I never believed I would end up being a Chief Constable. I was first attracted to policing when I met a police officer who visited my school and inspired me with his kindness, enthusiasm and professionalism. The way he described his job persuaded me to apply to the police cadets and unbelievably to me I was accepted.
I left school at 16 with modest educational attainment, relatively shy but with youthful exuberance to try to be the best I could. This mind set was instilled into me from a young age, when my mother would sit with me religiously ensuring I developed a culture for learning as much as possible.
Being from a single parent family at that time made me so much more thankful for her perseverance and patience. To any young person who is in any doubt – hard work and listening to those wise heads around you, as well as being the best you can be, will hopefully enable you to reach your goals.
Over the years, particularly when I joined the service in 1984 I began to appreciate the public service, responsibility, personal commitment and selflessness you need to become part of this wonderful organisation. I am very proud to say this Chief Constable has spent more than half his career working as a frontline officer and, whilst this is not unique, it is not always the case.
When you join the service, you accept the many sacrifices you make for the good of the public. The restriction on your private life, the terms and conditions, the dangers you face, the emotional trauma you experience and the constant scrutiny you are under is relentless. But the rewards you receive providing that protection, kindness and service to the people is incredible. That is why I am sure it takes a special kind of person to be a police officer. Indeed I would extend that to the many other public services who help keep us safe, healthy and well.
So, when I returned from my two-week summer holiday – yes holiday! – my heart sank as I was yet again dismayed and disappointed at more negative press coverage of policing and the inference about fat cat chiefs.
Since I have been Chief Constable I have been passionate about implementing a culture of honesty, openness and transparency here at Wiltshire Police. I do this job because I love policing and I want to help my staff and officers provide the very best service for the people living and working in this county. I believe I work hard and I acknowledge that I am incredibly lucky to be paid well for this job. However, I never take advantage of the “system”. Since being a Chief Officer I have never taken my full holiday entitlement, I do not take the health care entitlement, my claiming of expenses is low, and I don’t canvass accolades or appreciation for spending far too much time away from home doing the job I love. Why? Simple! That is who I am and that is what I am.
As you would expect I am acutely aware of the financial challenges facing our police force and understand fully the importance of making savings where possible so we can protect frontline services. My conscience would not allow me to be frivolous with public money when I can see all too clearly the financial pressures that we are all under.
Sometimes I think the police service is too slow to defend itself from unfair criticism. Yes, I know we are far from perfect and historically we have occasionally been in denial of failures, but I believe we are getting better at holding our hands up when we have made mistakes.
So, I want to put on record my thanks to our officers and staff in Wiltshire Police. The policing landscape is more challenging than ever before. And despite overwhelming support at a local level, there continues to be a relentless undertone of criticism and cynicism about the police service which will eventually and inevitably have a detrimental effect of the morale of our courageous and resilient officers and staff. There is an awful lot of good work going on out in our communities and the vast majority of us are in the job the right reasons – the same reasons I joined all those years ago – to serve the public.
Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police Mike Veale has released the following statement on the subject of police use of Tasers in light of recent press around this issue:
“As the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police I am acutely aware of the dangers my officers and staff face on a daily basis. I have witnessed first-hand colleagues dealing with some of the most dangerous people in our society.
“I am constantly impressed by the vast majority of my officers and staff who go about their duties with professionalism, diligence and proportionality at times when the circumstances are terrifying or provocative. They do their best, but still too many people are put at risk because of the extreme violence perpetrated by these offenders.
“I, and my senior colleagues in Wiltshire, try to speak to every officer or member of staff who has been injured on duty and unfortunately the numbers are still too high. The conversations I have are a vivid reminder of the dangers my frontline officers and staff face, therefore I believe it is only right that I provide them with the personal protective equipment which can support them in their duties to protect our communities and keep them safe.
“I am of the opinion that in light of the increasing threat my officers and staff are facing it is once again time to review the deployment of Tasers. I have therefore asked for more work to be done to understand what we can do to achieve greater protection for our officers and staff.
“I also believe that in the vast majority of cases there is not actually a need for a Taser to be fired, but that they can act as a useful and powerful deterrent to those who would want to cause harm to the public, or police officers and staff. Not only does allowing officers to carry Tasers give them greater confidence in their ability to protect themselves and others, but it helps resolve potentially aggressive situations without the need for force.”
Currently only specially-trained officers within Wiltshire Police are authorised to carry Tasers. These officers undertake rigorous training in line with national standards and best practice. This includes effective decision-making for its use based on circumstances faced in each individual case.
According to the force, 146 Wiltshire Police officers are trained to use Tasers. There would also be additional resources available through Tri Force which includes officers from Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire and Devon. Wiltshire Police continuously monitors and reviews incidents involving Tasers to ensure the use is appropriate and proportionate. Any decision around which officers carry Tasers is the responsibility of the Chief Constable based on operational requirements.
So far in 2016 (figures from January to July) Wiltshire Police officers have deployed Tasers 114 times. Tasers were actually fired just 21 times.
This compares to 182 incidents of deployment (19 firing) in 2015 and 139 incidents of deployment (19 firing) in 2014.