As lockdown began, three months ago, I began my term as High Sheriff by making a declaration to the Queen before a West Sussex magistrate via Zoom. I promised ‘to serve the Queen by truly and faithfully supporting the judiciary and all who maintain The Queen’s Peace, who administer justice, and who protect and support their fellow citizens’.
And during the past 12 weeks, I have had the privilege to meet, by phone or video, more than 80 of those who lead us and support us in West Sussex.
However, it was a great honour and privilege to be able to carry out my duties in person for the first time at the carefully-organised, socially-distanced attestation of 64 new police recruits. At this event, each new recruit was presented with their warrant card, which must be carried with them every day that they serve in their new office of police constable. With this card comes the right enshrined in law that allows them to take action for the purposes of preserving peace, preventing crime and arresting those who may be about to, or have actually, carried out an offence.
With the power to arrest comes great responsibility and before receiving their warrant card, every new constable must first make their own personal declaration of allegiance to the Crown. The promises they make are powerful and meaningful as they promise to ‘serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people’.
The attestation is made to the Queen because police constables have their authority under the Crown. This ensures they are able to act independently without fear or favour. They can make their decisions based on their knowledge, experience and discretion but they must always remain impartial, apolitical and just.
This is at the heart of what makes our police service so unique and dependable in turbulent times.
But the new constables were also reminded by Chief Constable elect Jo Shiner that each of them will be able to carry out their role only if they have the respect of the public, and the way in which they police will determine the nature of the relationship they develop with the people they serve.
CC Shiner instructed them to practise a modern and open style of policing - completely committed to fighting all crime but prepared to be compassionate to victims and acknowledge their own need for support.
As a member of the public, let alone High Sheriff, it is difficult to over-emphasise the importance and significance of this approach and the confidence it generates. During this exceptionally important time, where each of us needs to reflect and act to ensure our communities are places of tolerance and fairness for all, a police force such as ours can enable us to campaign without fear and debate in peace.
At the recent Black Lives Matter protest in Brighton, not a single protester was arrested - a remarkable achievement for both the protesters and also for Sussex Police.
Sussex Police has many and varied challenges ahead of them to protect us from the effects of crime but it is very good news that they have been joined by 64 new constables who have promised the Queen that they will do everything they can to keep us safe. On behalf of us all, I extend to them our thanks and wish each of them a successful and fulfilling career.
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