What do we want from police stations?
Some people say we don’t need them any more. Officers are mobile. They have smartphones. We want them on the beat and now they can work from the beat.
Others talk fondly of an age when every village had a bobby and police house. They worry that when a station goes, the police go. They want a recognisable public spot where they can find their police.
The answer, as ever, lies somewhere in the middle. We certainly do want officers to be mobile and on the beat. But we also want the public to know where to find them. It might be possible to have both.
We now have officers holding regular surgeries in cafes, schools, and council buildings across Dyfed Powys. We have new mobile police stations. And we have our police buildings, which are now open whenever officers are present.
Many of the buildings we have, though, need significant work. They should reflect the pride and standing of Dyfed Powys officers in their communities. At the moment they do not.
We are about to begin refurbishing these buildings. I want them to suit a modern police service. Buildings reflect an organisation’s culture and values but they also shape them.
To quote Winston Churchill, “we shape our buildings, then our buildings shape us.” Nowhere is that more so than in a public building.
Over the summer, I asked the public for their thoughts. They recognised the financial challenge we face but they also recognised the importance of police presence in their communities.
Survey results suggest the public prefer attractive, open buildings, with a smart simple entrance and traditional colours. They liked a welcoming, calm interior with minimal barriers but protection for staff.
Police buildings – or parts of buildings where we share them – should be recognisable, reassuring, rooted in place and reflect tradition. They should possess a calm authority: reassurance rather than strength; confidence rather than defensiveness. They should be simple, clean and classic rather than fussy, complicated and contemporary.
I want simple principles we can apply to the great variety of places the police serve: villages and towns, countryside and shopping malls, streets and homes, pubs and farms.
Our principles should be flexible enough to accommodate different forms of ownership. Some will be wholly owned. Others will be rented. Some may be franchised stations owned by community councils or local business.
We should end up with more shop fronts the public can use and fewer buildings the police can’t. Then we can have modern, flexible buildings reflecting a modern, flexible police service.
We are shaping our buildings so that they, in turn, can shape us.