Hertfordshire's response to new national VWAG Framework
Police leaders in Hertfordshire have pledged to stay relentlessly focused on public trust and confidence in policing today (Wednesday 15 December), with Chief Constable Charlie Hall saying, “No woman in Hertfordshire should fear approaching a police officer for help”.

The pledge follows the publication this morning of a new national policing framework to radically reduce violence against women and girls.

Hertfordshire Constabulary is supporting the new framework from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, seizing the opportunity to build on the work the force has already done to protect vulnerable people and to understand and respond to public concerns about male violence against women.

The framework sets out a road map for a consistent service from forces across the country, as well as a renewed focus on challenging perpetrators of violence both in public places and within the home, and more work to challenge misogyny and misconduct within police ranks. Hertfordshire Constabulary will be taking forward actions from the national framework and incorporating them into a force strategy due to be published early 2022.

David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, said: “Police legitimacy with the public is one of the foremost issues facing policing today, and we need to take steps both in Hertfordshire and nationally to address it.

“One of my roles is to ensure, on behalf of the public, that the constabulary properly undertake vetting of officers and that disciplinary procedures are vigorously followed, so that any issue is picked up at an early stage. The Chief Constable and I regularly discuss what needs to be done to ensure that confidence in the police is improved and maintained, and it will remain a high priority.

“My office has secured additional Home Office funding for Hertfordshire and has already begun working on projects to improve safety for women and girls across the county. In addition, I have ensured that Hertfordshire now has one of the most extensive and robust complaint systems in England and Wales to enable the public to raise concerns over officer conduct.”

Chief Constable Hall said: “The murder of Sarah Everard earlier this year by a then-serving police officer and other recent events have shocked everyone, and also damaged confidence in policing in some communities. These events in no way reflect on policing generally, however we also recognise that there is work to do to rebuild public trust and confidence in policing, especially amongst women and girls.

“We want every woman and girl in Hertfordshire to know that approaching a police officer for help is always a safe thing do to. A report of violence or abuse will always be taken seriously. We will work with you to get you the right support and seek to bring to justice those who are responsible for abuse. Our officers also understand that they may need to go to greater lengths at times to verify their identity and reassure you their actions are bona fide.

“We recognise that we need to challenge and address inappropriate behaviour among police officers and staff, including misogyny and sexism where that is found. We work to educate officers and staff about attitudes through training and our internal Code of Ethics. Where necessary our Professional Standards Department will investigate wrongdoing by police officers too – we have shown we will not tolerate any such behaviour within policing in Hertfordshire.

“This new national framework as well as our own local strategy will enhance this work. We remain completely committed to tackling male violence towards women and girls and this is a significant priority for the constabulary that we wish to work with you on.”

The police service nationally has recognised that confidence and trust has been damaged by the murder of Sarah Everard in London earlier this year by a then-serving Metropolitan Police officer. These concerns are recognised by Hertfordshire Constabulary too, and work has begun to respond to them. These actions include:

* New governance structures have been set up following a joint strategic needs assessment completed for the force and partner agencies earlier this year. A further multi-agency violence against women and girls strategy will be created and overseen by the Hertfordshire Executive Domestic Abuse Board.

* A Personal Safety Survey conducted by the joint County Community Safety Unit attracted more than 13,000 public responses in Hertfordshire. This work has helped public agencies better understand public concerns and is helping shape strategy.

* A new force strategy (as referenced above) is being created to be published early next year. This strategy will cover subject areas including safety in public spaces, focusing on perpetrators, improving support and confidence in reporting for victims, officer training around recognising vulnerability and referral pathways, building public confidence through communications and community engagement, as well as an internal focus on vetting and recruitment processes, supporting whistle blowers, and many more areas.

* How the force manages and investigates reports of spiking offences has been reviewed to ensure consistency.

* Last month, the constabulary launched its sexual assault prevention campaign, Operation Advisory, raising awareness of issues such as consent, spiking and online dating, during the festive party season. It also marked White Ribbon Day and 16 days of action against domestic abuse, raising awareness of violence and abuse within the home.

* The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire recently secured more than £500,000 from Home Office funding for safety measures including improving lighting in underpasses in Hatfield.

* The constabulary also continues to work with partners to prioritise the protection of the most vulnerable in society and works closely with the county council for example to protect women and children from domestic and other kinds of abuse. The constabulary has specialist units dedicated to investigating domestic abuse and sexual assaults and providing support to victims.

* The national pilot StreetSafe scheme also provides a means by which the public can report locations in their neighbourhoods where they feel unsafe. In Hertfordshire, these reports are reviewed by local police alongside relevant partners to consider what preventative action can be taken to make the areas safer. Reports can be made anonymously at police.uk/streetsafe. Because of its success the pilot has been extended to the end of March 2022.

* The force has also worked to improve the gender balance among police officers in the force. As of 31 October 2021, more than a third (35.1%) of police officers in Hertfordshire Constabulary are female – above the national average for police forces (32.3%). Almost half of the force’s Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) are female too (47.4%) which again is above the national average (46.2%). The force also has female officers in senior leadership positions including Assistant Chief Constable, Chief Superintendent, Superintendent and Chief Inspector.