Simon Phillips, Community Engagement Officer for West Yorkshire Police answered questions on his contribution to the Unity project.
1.What is your role within the force
My role is Community Engagement Officer in the Local Policing Team at Corporate Services. I have responsibility for helping to oversee the Community Engagement Strategy, with a particular focus on strategic engagement with seldom-heard, hard-to-reach and vulnerable communities – of course, some would say that for various reasons it is the police who may be hard-to-reach. I focus on disabled communities (physical, learning and sensory), Gypsy Roma Traveller, Faith Communities, Migrants and Refugees and People Seeking Asylum. I help to produce guidance and training relating to engagement with communities, and also aim to ensure that we produce accessible information.
2. How have you contributed towards the Unity project?
As the Force lead for Deaf engagement, I have led on the Deaf Scenario which formed part of the UK arm of the Unity project. This included helping to devise the fictional scenario, analysing the structures and processes relating to Deaf community engagement, and promoting Unity to our local Deaf communities through face-to-face meetings and the production of a British Sign Language video. I helped to test the Unity app as an LEA and also delivered a presentation to the Unity event in Leeds at the end of November 2017.
3.How could Unity assist UK Community Policing?
The advantage of Unity is it’s virtual and online presence. There are current debates within the policing profession as to the importance of moving away from ‘traditional’ forms of community engagement (PACT meetings, Contact Points etc) to more digital methods of engagement, particularly social media. Unity ensures that community policing is harnessing technology and modern forms of communication to better engage with the needs and preferences of many of our communities. West Yorkshire Police are in the midst of developing our Digital Mobile Policing strategy. Unity contributes to this by allowing officers and staff to communicate with people on the go through mobile devices. For the Deaf community, this is particularly advantageous due to written English being their second language after BSL. The chatty and informal nature of Unity app communication and functionality negates any concerns about written literacy. The video feature also enables them to upload videos in BSL for the police and other organisations to see – the challenge for West Yorkshire Police is to train more officers to understand BSL and to then respond accordingly.