Mike Rees, the only independent candidate standing for election as the next police and crime commissioner in Wiltshire has come out in support of the Wiltshire Police Federation which has called on all candidates to address their concerns around policing in the county.
Mark Andrews, chairman of Wiltshire Police Federation, said he is "looking forward to working with whoever is elected" on 6 May - and he is pushing for several issues to be top of their 'in-tray'.
Mike said: "My commitment is to work with the Police Federation to address its concerns. Our thinking is aligned and I’ve got no issue with working with it if I'm elected to the role of WPCC."
Among the priorities from the Police Federation is investment in the welfare and wellbeing of police officers and staff.
He said: "Officers' welfare should continue to be paramount to the PCC's office. Investment in this area, including a strong occupational health unit, will demonstrate the value placed on the officer and lift morale. We are seeing officers leaving the job after a short time or looking to transfer. We need to plug this leak."
Mike, who served as a police officer himself in Wiltshire for 30 years and has run his own business for the last seven years, agrees.
"I first raised the importance of looking after the mental wellbeing of police officers and staff back in 2020. I’ve continued to post and speak out about this important issue regularly.
"Earlier this year I met Sam Smith the founder of Green Ribbon Policing who is campaigning for better mental health awareness in policing, with the aim of establishing a mandatory national standard in mental health awareness and care and support for all police officers and staff. I was really taken by Sam's enthusiasm and drive and if elected would encourage chief officers to promote his campaign within Wiltshire Police.
“Mental health remains a major issue with one in five officers suffering with PTSD. The right kind of support is vital and even more so with the ever-growing challenges, officers and staff are facing. Indeed I’ve had experience of this myself. The two incidents that affected me badly during my service were dealing with the aftermath of the 7 July bombings in 2005 and also dealing with a sudden infant death."
A further concern for the federation is the need for investment in Wiltshire's headquarters, police stations (estate) and training facilities.
Mark Andrews said: "Wiltshire Police has seen its real estate footprint reduce significantly over the past 15 years. We no longer have custody in the south of the county, and we share premises with partners in Salisbury and Chippenham, which presents significant challenges. There is need for investment in our headquarters and training facilities in order to support our existing staff and new recruits and upgrades of our remaining smaller stations to ensure they can be fit for purpose. We cannot sell any more of our family jewels; we need to invest to better serve the public."
Mike's own agenda, if elected, includes a review of the current estates' strategy and investment:
"I’ve always believed in investment in people, we must ensure officers and staff receive the best training and support to equip them to do the job well. The issue of the selling of police stations including our only city NOT having its own police station, is something I raised months ago. My biggest concern now is that when a new PCC is elected, it may be too late to save any of those 10 stations currently being sold off."
Wiltshire Police Federation is also asking for:
- The next PCC to secure more money for Wiltshire Police from the government.
- The next PCC to look into the time taken to deal with allegations of misconduct by police officers and complaints from the public.
Mike Rees said: "I’m not afraid to challenge and if elected I'll lobby central government to increase funding, to enable us to better invest in our police force and keep everyone safe. There's been substantial under-investment in policing for decades, and the government now has to accept that this cannot continue.
"As for complaints against the police, I will certainly review the existing procedures for this and ensure that it’s fit for purpose. If it’s not, then it will be changed."
* Mike Rees is the only independent candidate for Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner, the other candidates are: Jonathan Seed - Conservative, Junab Ali - Labour, Liz Webster - Liberal Democrats, Julian Malins - Reform UK and Brig Oubridge - Green Party
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