The first meeting of the Bridgwater Town Council Police Liaison Forum was held on Wed 2nd Sept 2020 with Councillors on Zoom and the Police and Town Clerk in physical attendance at the Town Hall. Questions relating to perceived priorities were submitted by members of the public and presented by Leader of the Council Brian Smedley (Westover) to the Police who responded and then Councillors asked further questions. The subject of Town Centre anti-social behaviour dominated the meeting with ‘drink and drugs’ seen as the key factor and ‘boy racers’ coming a close second. And as if on cue a speeding car, engines revving, temporarily deafened the meeting as it sped past the Town Hall. Then, perfectly demonstrating the perceived lawlessness in the town, the meeting was brought to an abrupt halt after almost 1 and a half hours as the 3 officers were all urgently called away to attend an emergency incident and so the meeting ended.
Community Speaks Out
Cllr Smedley said “I put as many of the points from the community to the Police as possible. They were able to respond and we were then able to cross examine and offer solutions. We didn’t agree on a lot of what was said but this is the start of a new collaborative approach and will be ongoing. We need to get the Police to appreciate the priorities of the community and not just to work to some algorithm from within their system that doesn’t match peoples version of whats actually happening on the streets where they live and work. It’s no point telling people that they’re not reporting things enough when some members come to us with tales of constantly reporting things but seeing no change. However, what is important is that we are now finding out about the things happening behind the scenes. The vital and time consuming labour-intensive operations needed to work with victims and perpetrators alike in order to put measures in place which often the public aren’t aware of. That takes officers off the street and whilst the Government has promised an increase in personnel the process of training to deployment is taking a long time and people want action now. ”
Response and Confidence
Members of the public had written in saying the town was ‘the worst they’ve seen it in years’, ‘the Police don’t show up’, ‘there’s no point in even calling them’ and ‘what were they doing about such and such’, however, Cllr Smedley continued “The purpose of the meeting was to identify what the Police saw as priorities for the community and to see if they matched the communities priorities. We needed to seek information about actions to tackle these issues and to urge solutions and suggest further dedication of resources. We have started to do that and we had a frank exchange of views. From the Town Councils point of view the answer is more visible policing, improved response times, firmly dealing with anti-social behaviour so that people feel safe in their own communities, workplaces and even in their own homes. But it also means putting in the community support measures that are not the responsibility of the Police but of other authorities such as Sedgemoor-the licensing authority. So,one outcome is that ward councillors will now step up a gear and push for licensing reviews where premises can be identified as contributing to the disorder and we will of course continue to use our youth and community grants to help fill gaps in provision and urge Sedgemoor and other authorities to do the same right up to Government level, because there’s a bigger picture here and it’s not just our town suffering, it’s a National problem and Westminster is not blameless in creating this situation. Crucially this is the start of an ongoing dialogue between the Police and the Community through their town council and we need it to continue until trust is restored.”
The full record of the meeting can be found here.
The Public is urged to continue the discussion and to report priorities to the Town Council to put on the agenda at further meetings by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.