Inside Hampshire Police
David Frost meets officers from Hampshire police to find out what goes on behind the scenes in the force’s licensing department
ith about 23,000 certificate holders, Hampshire is a middling size force as far as firearms licensing is concerned. As many readers will know from personal experience, its performance in recent years has left much to be desired. At one stage things were so poor that the force made an apology on Radio Solent. That’s the down side. The upside is that the force has been very open about its problems and has sustained a frank and transparent dialogue with the main shooting organisations through its sixmonthly stakeholder meetings.
It’s not often that forces will offer a wartsand-all invitation to visit their licensing department and see what goes on behind the scenes. When Hampshire made the invitation, Sporting Gun was quick to accept. I spent a morning talking to Tony Hill, the firearms licensing manager, and Chief Inspector Darren Miller, who has been helping the Department as change manager. Tony has delegated authority for revocations and refusals and reports direct to Chief Superintendent Dave Powell. In some forces there is a long management chain which tends to blur where real responsibility lies, but not so in Winchester.
I asked why things had gone wrong in the first place. Darren said it was a long gradual process, mainly resulting from most of the work being done on paper when everything else in the force was becoming digital. There were barely enough staff to carry out the daily work and certainly not enough to think through and implement improvements. The endless tinkering with firearms law and procedures, which has taken place in recent years, has created a steady increase in the workload. The paper system made it very difficult for management to know what was going on and to monitor the work and workload of the staff.
The problem was compounded by an inevitable element of “we’ve always done it this way”. Many processes were being applied uniformly to everyone. No attempt was being made to identify and manage the potential risk.
Applicants about whom there were no questions were getting the same time consuming treatment as the marginal cases. All forces have now adopted the
“I asked why things had gone wrong in the first place”