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Monday, 15 August 2011

Policing in the States of Jersey

Over the last four days I have been working with the police in the States of Jersey (that is the island of the coast of France and not the State in USA) looking at how their communications and leadership skills can be enhanced.  Working with a leading edge company, Future Vision, I have been working with the police on the streets during one of their biggest events, the Battle of Flowers.

First it has to be said that the policing system of Jersey is not like any that I have witnessed before.  Having said that, the professionalism and dedication of those involved is unquestionable and impressive. 

The police in Jersey are supplemented by the Honorary Police that can best be described as a mix of the UK special constabulary/Police Community Suppport Officers and Crown Prosection Service.  Whereas the are about 240 regular officers and 90 civilian support staff, there are 300 Honorary Police Officers.  They are split amongst 12 parishes and they have their own hierarchy led by a Centinier supported by a Vintinier.  The Centinier has the CPS role of agreeing a charge in the event of an arrest.  In other words, when a regular or Honrary Police officer make an arrest they have to present the case to the Centinier who decides whether the offender should be charged.  Once charged the offender can appear before. parish court or a higher court if the offence warrants.  If the offender is not from the island they can be sent to the mainland and banned from returning for up to three years.

It is quite common for the Centinier, who was originally responsible for the welfare of 100 families, to be called directly to attend an incident or a sudden, death.  There is no coroner on the island and the Centiniers have a weekly 'on call' system.  Within each parish the Vintinier is able to decide what projects the Honorary Police will undertake.  He or she may decide to have a week running speed traps.  They have the requisite equipment including marked vehicles and they are able to hand out fixed penalty notices in the event they catch an offender.  In terms of uniform, they provide most of their own resulting in something of a hotch potch but there will be something that signifies that they are the police.  They have the same radios as the regular officers and are deployable to incidents if necessary.

The Honorary Police have a mutual aid system, so if there is a large event in one parish, the officers from the next will assist if required.  But it is at large events such as the Battle of Flowers that Honorary Police come into their own.  The event is attended by thousands of people, many who come to the island for the weekend and the regular police would not have enough staff to cope with policing road closures and managing the movement of the crowd.  Many of the regular officers that I spoke to stated that they could simply not manage without the assistance of the Honorary Police.

The calls for service for the regular police would match a small division in a rural police force. They receive an average of 5,000 emergency calls per year and major crime is a rarity.  They provide a 'golden' service in that they currently attend every call for service.  This is something that is under review.  There are virtually no complaints for incivility, something most mainland forces would envy, and levels of satisfaction are high.  The structure of the organisation is flatter that most forces with a Chief Constable, Deputy, two Superintendents and four Chief Inspectors forming the senior management team.  There is no neighbourhood policing.  Instead as each shift parades for duty, two officers are assigned to foot patrol, one officer assigned as the Traffic Officer, another to the control room and finally one officer will be assigned to the custody suite to assit with prisoner management, the remainder undertaking a reactive policing role.    Although this seems to be illogical by mainland standards, the officers are multi-skilled and able to perform any of the above duties as and when required.

The States of Jersey police has it's own detective capability including financial crime investigation, drugs squad, covert policing and firearms team.  Much of the above was put to good use recently resulting in the arrest and conviction of high profile offender Curtis Warren.

In short, the policing of Jersey can be considered as somewhat antiquated, but the systems and processes that they have work.  They are well aware that in terms of modern policing philosophies they have some areas to improve upon, but all in all it is an efficient police force that has the support of the community and through the relationship with the Honorary Police they are able to provide a safe environment fro people who live in or visit the island.  


On the afternoon that I flew home news was breaking of six people stabbed to death on the island.  Murder on this scale is unprecedented and will stretch the States of Jersey police in many ways.  Fortunately the force recently appointed a new Superintendent, Stewart Gull, who successfully led the investigation into the killing of six prostitutes in Ipswich UK a few years ago. So the investigation is in good hands.  I wish the staff of States of Jersey Police and the Honorary Police the best of luck.

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