Shropshire Star

I will listen to the public, pledges new West Mercia Police chief

We meet the first female chief constable of West Mercia Police.

New chief constable Pippa Mills takes up her role

When Pippa Mills left university, she was unsure what she wanted to do for a living.

"My dad was a copper, and he said he laughed every day at work," she recalls.

"So I thought I would join the police for a while, until I knew what I wanted to do."

That was in 1996, and now a quarter of a century on Ms Mills has just been appointed as the first female chief constable of West Mercia Police.

"I looked at my dad's career, and the variety appealed to me, being able to help people when times are difficult," she says.

"Now my job is a little different, it is now more about enabling people to do that rather helping them directly, but the principle is still the same."

And while her new role will now inevitably involve more time behind a desk, the new chief is adamant she will go out on the beat as often as possible, saying that dealing with the public is important to any officer.

New chief constable Pippa Mills meets her new colleagues

"I love it," she says. "I've probably been out and about more over the past week than I will be able to do normally, but as a chief officer you make these big decisions, and it's about going out there and testing the impact of them.

"I will keep going out there and listening to people."

The new chief constable identified drug-related crime, and county lines gangs in particular, as one of the greatest causes of misery.

"Drugs cause so much suffering, and they are the cause of so much acquisitive crime.

"A lot of vulnerable young people are also exploited in these county lines gangs.

"We will never stop fighting, I'm determined to get rid of the harm that drugs do."

Ms Mills says a lot of this work will be a continuation of what is already happening.

"A lot of it is working cross border with other force areas on how to stop these county lines gangs when they come into our area. It's an issue that affects every force in the country."

New chief constable Pippa Mills meeting the new recruits

But tackling the gangs is only part of the problem, she says, and the real challenge was preventing people from turning to drugs in the first place.

"You can take out a county lines gang, but when you do that it leaves a void, and the danger is that somebody else will come along to fill it," she says.

"We also have to look at how we can stop people from taking drugs in the first place, because if you take away the customer base there is no money to be made in it.

"We have to work with schools in education, it's about telling people what happens to these people who become involved in county lines.

"It's about drug prevention, and tackling the underlying causes of people taking drugs, that includes social deprivation. We can't arrest our way out of it."

Ms Mills suggests that new technology, including the use of drones, could be employed in the fight against rural crimes such as hare-coursing.

"You often find that is linked to lost of other criminality," she says.

But she also says that policing is not just about dealing with crime, and that for many people issues such as road safety and low-level anti-social behaviour were of far more concern.

"Safer people, safer places, safer roads, these are all very important," she said.

Ms Mills adds that it is important the force communicates to the general public what officers are doing, and how people can contact them.

She says that while many police stations had closed in recent years, this did not mean that officers were not active and present in their communities.

"We always used to say that is is not police stations that deal with criminals, it is police officers," she says.