A THAMES Valley Police (TVP) boss has stressed the force must get ‘the culture right’ to restore public confidence following damning national stories.

TVP Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Matthew Barber, told Royal Borough councillors the force must not be ‘blind and complacent’ to people’s genuine concerns and ‘ensure the culture and vetting is correct’.

Trust in the police from women and girls has hit an “all-time low”, according to media reports, following the tragic murder of Sarah Everard.

Speaking at a communities overview and scrutiny meeting, Mr Barber said: “I’ve got two young children. I want my girls to be able to go to a police officer. I don’t want them to be scared because of some of the stories that we’ve seen of late.

“So, we can never be complacent about that. We need to make sure our officers are held to the highest standards, but the importance of preserving that public confidence I don’t think can be overstated.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Barber

Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Barber

He pledged the vetting and reviewing process when accepting new recruits will be reassessed and kept under constant review.

The PCC added: “I think there are some good signs around the culture in Thames Valley. But again, with four and half thousand officers with around the same number of staff, it would be a fool who said that they were confident that there were no pockets of poor behaviour.”

According to Mr Barber, TVP has more officers than “ever before”, standing at over 4,500 – with 269 recruited as of June 2021.

However, despite the increase, he warned there needs to be more recruitment as the population grows within the region.

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Council leader Andrew Johnson said his and the Royal Borough’s confidence, faith, and respect in TVP “remains incredibly high”, and the increase in funding for recruiting local police officers was “music to his ears”.

Councillors on the scrutiny panel, who convened on Thursday, October 7, were presented Mr Barber’s initiatives and plans to tackle various crimes within the Thames Valley region.

Some of the focuses the PCC is set to home in on is recruiting more officers, increase confidence for domestic abuse victims to report it, fighting organised and serious crime, improving the criminal justice system, tackling illegal encampments, and fighting cybercrime and fraud.

A major concern was county line gangs and how they “exploit” and “harm” young people, citing some of the smaller crimes are linked to these organised criminals.

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Mr Barber said: “We’ve had a number of bicycle thefts which have been linked and that might be young children effectively stealing those bikes for no more than £20 to £30 worth of drugs, but the gang is then selling those bicycles for parts or in whole on the internet and making vast profits.

“So, those young children are being exploited, hooked on drugs, and used to commit the offences that serve others.”

Other initiatives include providing further support to community speed watch groups and launching a pilot in West Oxfordshire for a local authorities’ contractors to clear fly-tipping on private land.