Residents asking not be discriminated against by their own police force

Date: Tuesday 9th October 2018

Sir, I was interested to read the report (Herald, 29th September) about the public accountability conference at which the review into the policing of Appleby horse fair was presented by temporary assistant chief constable Andy Slattery.

The review, which is now available on the police and crime commissioner’s website, contains various facts and figures about the policing of the fair followed by a “summary of proposed adjustments” for next year’s event which are mainly about staffing and supervision.

Very little is said about the policing strategy which this year appeared to be one of ignoring all but the most serious incidents due to a lack of resources and a reluctance to antagonise the gypsy/traveller community.

If the strategy is to “protect the Queen’s Peace” by ignoring antisocial behaviour and so-called minor infractions, then Cumbria Constabulary should come clean and inform residents, rather than blaming them for not reporting such incidents in the first place.

In your report Andy Slattery waxed lyrical about the difficulty of balancing the rights and needs of residents with those of the gypsy/traveller community.

Most residents in the Kirkby Stephen area would say that this is an objective which Cumbria Constabulary singularly failed to achieve in 2018, because the reality is that they felt largely ignored and abandoned.

Mr Slattery quite rightly states that “police officers have to be entirely fair and even-handed with all communities — we don’t show fear or favour to any group”. This is good news because that is all local residents are asking for — to be treated fairly and not discriminated against by their own police force.

Mr Slattery boldly asserted that “objective number one for us is to keep everybody safe” and again I would say amen to that and point out that this is why we cannot permit encampments along the A685 or allow the racing of sulkies on the main road through Kirkby Stephen.

Sooner or later, if nothing is done, someone is going to be killed and then all the questionable decisions that have been taken behind closed doors will be scrutinised and individuals held to account.

Safety was on everyone’s mind following the severe beating of a local businessman on the Soulby to Appleby road back in June.

This incident was not “politicised” in the way asserted by Bill Lloyd, but it served to remind people that what the police would describe as a perceived (imagined) threat was actually very real and many felt genuinely afraid. This has to change.

I do not doubt the determination of Cumbria Constabulary to learn lessons from phase one of this year’s fair and we will do all that we can to assist senior officers in that task.

In a democratic country such as ours all that stands between us and chaos is the rule of law and we expect it to be upheld — “without fear or favour”. Yours etc,

PHIL DEW

(County councillor for Kirkby Stephen)

By email