HC 1456 Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Cheshire Police Authority

In response to the invitation to submit written evidence to the above Inquiry into the recent wide scale disturbances, please find below a brief outline of Cheshire Police Authority’s experiences during the disturbances.

Whilst Cheshire was not directly affected by public disorder, work to prevent disturbances taking place and the provision of mutual aid to other Forces had a substantial impact upon police resources in Cheshire.

Cheshire was only able to mobilise the officers it did because of the numbers currently in place and even then, had the disturbances continued or spread more widely, the service would have been severely stretched and would rapidly have reached a critical state. Therefore, the Authority has grave concerns about continued reductions in police numbers to meet the current financial constraints. With this in mind, I have recently written to all Cheshire Members of Parliament and Lords asking them to reflect on the recent civil disturbances and urging them to reconsider the cuts to police budgets and the proposed implementation of costly and untested governance arrangements.

Police Approach

The Constabulary established a multi agency Gold Group at the outset and this met at least once each day during the disturbances, with the Chairman representing the Authority at these meetings. A silver control room was also set up at Constabulary Headquarters to co-ordinate the response and deal with requests for assistance from other Forces.

The Constabulary adopted a highly visible presence on the streets to prevent disorder and reassure the public, particularly in town centres and shopping centres where there was a great potential for disturbances. Cheshire public order trained officers and uniformed staff moved to 12-hour shifts to provide resilience.

The Constabulary had an increase in the number of calls from members of the public, with the majority of calls relating to postings on social networking sites or text messages circulating which caused local people concern. An intelligence cell was established to monitor social media trends and identify any emerging risks. Eight people were arrested on suspicion of inciting public disorder following postings on social networking sites. Two further arrests were made in connection with anti-social behaviour. A number of young people were spoken to with their parents, and advice given regarding entries on social networking sites, or comments passed via Twitter.

In terms of mutual aid, Cheshire provided assistance to both the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police.

Community Engagement Activity

As part of joint work with partner agencies, advice was available to local retailers and businesses by police, fire, and council staff. Officers worked closely with the retail sector and security staff to maintain order. Consequently, there were very few flashpoints and only a small number of people had to be arrested for public order offences.

Local employers released members of the Special Constabulary from their daily jobs, in order to volunteer their services alongside those of their regular police colleagues.

Press and Communications staff answered social media site enquiries, formulated and widely disseminated reassurance messages, and encouraged positive responses to the police effort. The public sentiment was overwhelmingly supportive of the Constabulary’s efforts and the Authority picked up a number of examples of positive feedback about the hard work of the police.

I hope this information will assist the Select Committee in conducting its inquiry.

September 2011

Prepared 22nd December 2011