West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims explains why protecting the public is often a behind-the-scenes business
In the first of a five-part series looking behind the scenes at some of the specialist units at West Midlands Police, Crime Correspondent Mark Cowan speaks to Chief Constable Chris Sims about the importance of protective services.
To the public, they are the unknown officers working in some of the most difficult policing jobs. To West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims, they are “unsung heroes”.
Behind every frontline bobby pounding the beat, there are officers ready to face violent crowds and gun-toting criminals, or working behind the scenes on tackling paedophiles and killers.
They are collectively known as ‘protective services’, a name which covers everything from murder police to firearms officers, internet investigators to forensics specialists. Mr Sims says they are crucial to keeping the streets safe.
He said: “People tend to look at police being the front-end uniform but local policing can only operate under the umbrella of protective services.
“The elements that make up protective services are incredibly important and it’s important that people understand there are dedicated highly professional, highly-skilled people working to provide this envelope for us to exist within.
“Without it, we would really face challenges tackling serious crime, terrorism, paedophiles. Some of these unsung heroes do a fantastic job but, because of the sensitivities of what they do, many of their investigations only surface on the steps of the court house.
“This is a good opportunity to celebrate what they do and for the public to understand the protection they are getting for the money they are giving.”
He added: “I hope people will be genuinely impressed and reassured by the quality of work that is out there and by the level of training, professionalism and expertise that exists.”
The importance of those ‘protective service’ departments will only increase with the shift in focus with the overhaul of the way the force is organised.
Under the far-reaching changes, 21 operational command units will be scrapped by April, replaced by ten local police units aligned to local authority areas or, in the case of Birmingham, following constituency lines.
While the thrust of neighbourhood policing will be on improving the service to the public, other officers will focus on specific issues. Citing an example of rape cases, where it has often been difficult to get victims to come forward and offenders brought to justice, Mr Sims said that instead of individual local CID units carrying out the inquiries, newly-created specialist roles would handle the inquiries and help to drive up standards.
“The ten local police units will be big in size but they will be narrow in specialism. Their focus will be more and more local policing and public engagement and service,” he said.
“The reach of the more specialist units will be further and more obvious.”