The trial supported by Cornwall Council, which started in August 2022, was funded by the Department of Transport in an effort to interact with the community and cut carbon emissions.
PC Matthew Cummins, a neighbourhood police officer (an officer who works within Falmouth community), said that Falmouth used the bikes more than most stations. PC Paul Stevenson said they managed to keep them after the trial had finished and they have become a permanent feature now.
“They’re quite accessible,” says PC Cummins, “when you’re in a car you are shut off, on a bike people can actually stop to talk to you, you’re closer to the general public.”
The neighbourhood department does not typically deal with response, but if response is short, officers may well decide not to take bikes and go in a car. “As a mini experiment, I have responded to a job in a car, Paul has been on his bike, and Paul’s actually got there before me because you can filter through the traffic.”
Some officers in Falmouth have also started taking coffee stops around the town as a way to get to know the community. Falmouth University Woodlane Campus is one of the officer’s regular coffee stops. PC Cummins says that this is how he likes to engage with people.
“I’ve been a coppa for twenty two years, and I’ve run this through my head a lot. We’re entitled to an hour break at lunch, so there’s an argument to go back to the station and get left alone, sit and have food, and be completely shut off from the community, or you can come to somewhere like this for 10 minutes, have coffee, and you’re open to engage.”
The officers receive a predominantly positive reaction, but some people come up to them saying they shouldn’t be doing this in work time, PC Cummins replies: “We do need to eat!”
“I like independents and supporting local business”, the officers also regularly stop to have coffee in Espressini, Number 45, and Beacon.
Owner of Espressini, Rupert Ellis, says that the local police officers have been going to his coffee shop for years and it has created a great community relationship, “I love them coming in as I do everyone; we’re very inclusive and a safe space for many. Having police as regular customers who come back because they love what we do feels very positive. Visibility and points of contact with positive familiar faces is what Falmouth is all about. They are just contributing to the community as we all do.”
PC Cummins: “I tell you what, it brings you to a place you would never normally come. I’ve got no reason to be in Woodlane University Campus, but this brings us here for a legitimate reason and it just makes people see us in uniform in non-confrontational situations.”
Falmouth University student Freya says that it is good the officers are taking time to look after their wellbeing in a highly stressful job, “if they do it so it’s not seen as intimidating, especially in their uniform, public spaces are open to everyone, so we have to respect all individuals.”
Opinions are divided, an employee of a Falmouth Community Interest Company thinks that it is another form of surveillance, and overall, less money should be put into policing, “I think that certain groups of people like people of colour and marginalised groups in society like homeless people feel threatened by police presence. More money should be put into the root cause of problems in society…It’s not so much individual police people, I think it’s the police as an institution, it’s quite outdated.”