Three key priorities are the very essence of how Jo Shiner believes her police force should always operate and strives to ensure Sussex Police achieves. Protecting our communities, catching criminals and delivering an outstanding service to victims of crime, witnesses and the wider public, are the elements she feels are fundamental to policing.
They have been her driving force since she joined the police 28 years ago. Jo has always been keen to lead from the front and ensures her officers and staff share this vital philosophy that underpins everything Sussex Police will do.
Although a post as senior as that of Chief Constable inevitably entails a considerable level of office-based meetings, Jo makes sure she is not deskbound.
“I still go out on patrol regularly myself,” she explains. “I feel it is imperative to experience at first hand the situations my officers and staff face, the difficult decisions they have to make and how these play out. I want them to know that I am listening to the front line.” Jo’s desire to become a police officer stems from her family background – her father was in the RAF and her mother a teacher, so embarking on a career in some form of public service was a natural choice for Jo. However, the decision to be part of the police force was triggered by a family tragedy. “I was only a teenager when my father was killed in a road accident. That experience highlighted to me the important work the police undertake when dealing with families and victims,” she says.
“That has very much been my motivation as a police officer, to treat victims and families properly. As a police officer, it is such a privilege to have an insight into people’s lives during difficult times, and that gives you a huge sense of responsibility to help them get through it in the best possible way.” Jo’s career in the police spans 28 years and began in Norfolk. “I trained at Shotley in Suffolk along with officers from several nearby forces. It was very different training back then in 1993 from what it is nowadays,” she says. “There were not as many women training then as there are now. “I enjoyed it. I’m very sporty, and there was a lot of physical training and marching, alongside hard work in class. “It involved a lot of discipline, and I still believe that is important when you look at the job we are asked to do, going into situations where we rightly put ourselves in situations of danger to protect the public. You need to have a disciplined approach to save lives.”
Jo went on to serve in a wide variety of roles in the police. These have predominantly been operational, both in uniform and within the Child and Adult Protection Unit, CID and as a firearms, public order and critical incident commander. Dedication and commitment to her work led to ongoing promotion. She served up to the rank of Chief Superintendent in Norfolk before transferring to Kent as Assistant Chief Constable in 2014. Jo joined Sussex Police as Deputy Chief Constable at the end of 2018 and built up a wealth of knowledge about the county before becoming Chief Constable in July this year. “I’m originally from Norfolk, and then I worked in Kent for four-and-a-half years before coming to Sussex, but I have family in the county and have got to know the area very well. I do a lot of cycling and running, and I enjoy every second of being here.”
On her appointment, she said: “I am incredibly proud and privileged to have been given the opportunity to lead Sussex Police over the next five years. During my time as Deputy Chief Constable, I have experienced all frontline colleagues’ hard work and dedication and those supporting them. They police with pride and professionalism to keep the public safe. “They are achieving phenomenal results every single day, preventing crime, making arrests and often putting themselves in danger as they go the extra mile to protect our communities. These positive outcomes are only achieved by an extensive policing family which includes our police staff, special constables and our volunteers.” “It is all about listening to our communities, then making sure our staff are properly skilled and motivated to support their needs. Working closely with our partners and listening to our communities enables us to keep people safe.”
Jo relishes that Sussex is home to a great deal of diversity regarding the different communities within its borders. “Within East Sussex, West Sussex, Brighton and Hove, we are fortunate to have so many areas with their unique sense of identity. For me, our policing style must reflect those different needs.” “I think some of our challenges come from the rural nature of the county. Geographically it is quite large, and making sure the police can show a visible presence can sometimes be challenging. “There have been several changes in the way we operate, such as our approach to flexible working, better protective equipment, body-worn video cameras and greater use of technology.
Also, we have created new and effective teams to tackle criminality and improve outcomes for victims. These include the Tactical Enforcement Units, the Rural Policing team, more officers policing the roads and an enhanced capacity in our Neighbourhood Policing teams. We are also increasing the support for investigators so they can focus on solving crimes. “One of my key aims is taking policing in Sussex back to basics.”
This includes increasing visible policing so that communities can engage on face to face basis with officers and Police Community Support Officers more readily. But alongside that, criminals mustn’t always know where we are, so in parallel we also deploy less visible resources to tackle the more serious crime. I am very excited about our Specialist Enforcement Unit, which will be entirely focused on serious and organised criminality such as county lines.
Jo began her tenure as Chief during the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jo said “My heart goes out to everybody who has been badly affected by the pandemic. Some have lost loved ones, lost their job; their world has changed completely. “As the Chief it is vital to me that we support our communities through these difficult times, as well as protecting them. We will continue to engage with people, explaining what the regulations mean to them and why we might be taking particular action. We hope that most people recognise that abiding by the restrictions is the right thing to do, and that they will use their common sense to adhere to the rules and protect everybody. However, where it is clear that we need to enforce the law, we will do so. “The last few months have been a test for everybody, and this has highlighted the importance of the relationship between the police, partners and public. We want people to take responsibility for their actions but will enforce regulations when it becomes necessary.”
Jo is a firm believer in working with young people within the community. “It is vital to me that we don’t unnecessarily criminalise young people when they have their whole future ahead of them. We need to help educate young people to make the right choices for themselves. However, there will be times when we have no alternative but to prosecute. “
In January this year, she took over the NPCC (National Police Chief Council) Lead for the Policing of Children and Young People. “To me, prevention is vital. I would much sooner prevent somebody from becoming a victim of a crime than investigate it once it has happened. “ Having an operational background, I have always worked within a multi-agency environment and I very much value partnership. There are very few incidents, or crimes where policing is the single answer.
Jo encourages all of those within Sussex Police to achieve their full potential. “When I joined the police, it was much more male-dominated than it is now, and it is heartening for me to see a more diverse workforce developing. The culture is changing, but we must remain committed to enabling individuals to be themselves. “I will support anyone in my force, particularly those people who are very good but don’t have the confidence to believe in themselves. “We are all individuals, and it is different for everyone. In my experience, women are less likely to seek career progression. However, I also have male colleagues who have as many confidence challenges as women.
Did Jo always aspire to a high rank in the police?
“Not at all,” she says. “I thoroughly enjoyed being a Police Constable. The reason I went for promotion is that I wanted to have a greater level of influence. “My late father always used to say “Success is preparation and hard work meeting opportunity. I truly believe that there is no substitute for hard work and commitment. That has been my motto throughout my career in the police, along with the determination to deliver the best possible service to our communities. “I’ve been fortunate throughout my career, to do a wide variety of roles. This has included being a critical incident, public order and firearms commander. “When the telephone rings at 2-am, you know you are going to have to make some critical, sometimes life-saving decisions. It tests you out, but I very much enjoy it.”
Now that Jo is the county’s most senior police officer, we asked if it was a very challenging role? “It’s incredibly demanding, but I feel privileged every single day,” she says. “I take great pleasure in serving the public to the best of my ability, supported by an excellent team in Sussex Police.
“Whilst it is essential to have the right work/life balance, it is sometimes difficult to achieve. I could not do this role without my husband’s fantastic support, and the unconditional love of my rescue dog Rocky! I am also fortunate to have an incredible team supporting me, and some very loyal friends. “I believe that mental and physical fitness go hand in hand, and every year I undertake sporting challenges to raise funds for charities. I regularly raise money for various charities including the Beachy Head Chaplains whose work saves hundreds of lives every year. They are just one example of incredible volunteers within Sussex.
“Every day I feel humbled and privileged to be the Chief Constable of Sussex, and I remain committed to protecting our communities, catching criminals and delivering an outstanding service to you”