I remember back in 2012, when I was working in Blackburn being told by public health colleagues that the future of policing needs better policing activity around Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and public health approaches. How right they were, little did I know that 9 years later the Lancashire Violence Reduction Network (LVRN) and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) would be hosting a four-nations five-day webinar on the same approaches with an amazing @WeCops debate on the Wednesday night. Only a few months before we had been asked by the Home Office to be the lead Violence Reduction Unit on trauma informed and public health approaches and combining our expertise with the webinar seemed to make a lot of sense.
The energy, enthusiasm and dedication to public health approaches has been astounding. I have been overwhelmed by the contributions from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and what we originally planned as a two day webinar quickly became a five day event with 65 speakers, 1700 participants and excellent content from front line leaders and practitioners including national and international policy makers or influencers.
On Wednesday the 10th February 2021, CC Andy Rhodes and I hosted the “WeCops” debate on Public Health approaches in policing. We were really keen to get as many different views and thoughts from across the four nations and beyond. We weren’t disappointed - some of the questions that were posed are often echoed in other forums and meetings- What do you mean by a public health approach to policing? Is it relevant to law enforcement? Are we just doing the job of other agencies? In 2018, the National Police Chiefs Council, College of Policing and Public Health England tried to answer that particular “exam question” when they published “What is a Public Health approach in policing?”
In that document the public health approach is broken down into five key areas Data, Prevention, Partnership, Population and dealing with the “Causes of the Causes”. In many ways this has a lot of synergy with the original Peelian principles of policing namely that the goal is preventing crime and thus earning public support not solely catching criminals. All of us in our careers have experienced the need to deal with vulnerable members of our community and for some at 2am in the morning the police are a telephone call of choice. This was supported by the College of Policing in 2015 when they highlighted that the majority of our police demand and deployment isn’t crime related - a picture that is probably recognisable to all colleagues from Cornwall to Newcastle. Thus, if we are having to deploy to non-crime matters maybe, adopting a public health approach isn’t a “nice to have” but more of an operational necessity?