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Response officers are the GPs of policing and need support

Response officers are the GPs of policing and forces need to enhance their support and reputation, says their national lead.
Published - 15/03/2021 By - Chris Smith

A week-long campaign to support officers dealing with the majority of 999 incidents has begun with a call for forces to change their perception of the people doing the job.

Deputy Chief Constable for Merseyside, Serena Kennedy, said response officers need to be re-evaluated by colleagues and seen as multi-specialists in the same way as the medical profession sees GPs.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for response policing warned that training and development for 999 officers has not kept up with demands on the role.

That’s despite their constant need to adapt and deal with call-outs such as mental health situations that should be responded to by the NHS or social services teams.

They routinely deal with non-routine situations and must problem-solve or negotiate in order to resolve them.

“We’re trying to change the language around the role. It is a specialism and people do stay in response policing for their whole careers,” DCC Kennedy told Police Oracle.

“If you’re a member of a firearms unit or a police driving group you get regular CPD. It’s not the same for response officers who absolutely are the GPs of policing.”

Her comments came at the start of a week-long wellbeing campaign by all 43 forces to make colleagues aware of how complex the role is and the impact it has on officer health.

The NPCC has worked with Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS), the College of Policing and the Police Federation, to deliver a range of wellbeing and resilience initiatives, co-ordinated specifically for response officers’ needs.

This includes developing ways to cope with fatigue and build resilience. Events include web training and a #WECOPS response policing conversation with NPCC Wellbeing Lead CC Andy Rhodes.

In Hertfordshire, its force’s wellbeing team will be joined by senior police officers as they visit stations across the county in Oscar Kilo’s wellbeing van, where front line colleagues will have the opportunity to get advice and chat about a range of topics.

Chief Inspector Frankie Westoby, Hertfordshire’s lead for Response Policing, said: “The past year has been hugely challenging for the police service, and Hertfordshire is no exception.

"When coronavirus hit and the country locked down, our frontline colleagues continued to respond to incidents and keep the public of Hertfordshire safe. It is only right that we ensure they feel supported, and that we publicly thank them for their unwavering dedication.”

ACC Kennedy is working to ensure forces and the College of Policing develop more resources for the role.

Chief Inspector Frankie Westoby also wants to see long-term improvements: “It is important to recognise that this week of action is not a one-time initiative.

"The mental health of our officers and staff is hugely important and earlier this year, we appointed a new Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator for the force to help us deliver our internal wellbeing strategy."

He added: “Response officers in particular work in hugely demanding roles and often deal with the most challenging and dangerous situations, so it is vital that we do all we can to support them.”

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