Millbank Primary School

Growing Together To Be Our Best

* Chief Constable

We interview the Chief Constable South Wales Police Dr Barbara Wilding, CBE, QPM, CCMI, Hon. D FRSA  At Bridgend Police HQ on Thursday, 30th April 2009 at 10.15 a.m


1.)What were you like at school? A girly swot or rebel?

I was not a swot or a rebel; I was well behaved and eventually I became a prefect. However I was willing to challenge things that were unjust.


2.) When did you decide you wanted to be a policewomen and why?

I was simply walking past the police Head quarters when I was 16 and saw a job advertisement and thought I would try. My father said that I would either like it or not and I should give it a go. It was not a lifetime dream or burning ambition but I do believe in fate.


3.) What qualities do you think makes a good Chief Constable?

Listening -I need to listen to the 6,000 people who work in the South Wales Police as well as the 1.5 million people that we all serve.

Being interested in people – and understanding them
Wide view of ideas- being able to see the bigger picture and taking it down to human level to see how it will affect individuals


4.) The Children’s Commissioner Keith Towler told us about Article 12 (of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.) “Children have the right to say what they think should happen, when adults are making decisions that affect them, and to have their opinions taken into account.” How do the Police involve young people in their work?

We are increasingly listening to Young People and see them as part of the solution. We have a group called the ‘Youth Connection Team’ which include people aged 14-25, and we use them as a sounding board for our policies. 

If we see a group of young people in the street we often approach them and discuss issues and problems with them, also there are the PACT meetings that young people can attend.
After this meeting I am going to a Princes Trust meeting, we are the only Police Force in the UK that helps support young people by putting them through a 12 week programme to try and get them to improve their skills.


5.) Some young people see ASBO’s as badges of honour, what can be done to change the attitudes towards crime & ‘punishments’?

We issue the lowest number of Anti Social Behavioural Orders in the Uk, and we are more interested in tackling the problems that cause the need for ASBO’s. If we have complaints about youths hanging around street corners making noise, we try and find them somewhere where they can hang around without upsetting other people. We feel the right approach is to identify problems early and try and move people out of the criminal justice process


6.) What's your favourite TV cop drama?

“Life on Mars” whilst it’s obviously a drama, in some ways it was extremely accurate in some of the attitudes, and was like that when I first joined.


7.) According to the latest British Crime Survey “South Wales Police have the second lowest public confidence rating across the UK” just 38.7% of the public believe that South Wales Police are dealing effectively with crime and anti-social behaviour in the area." Do you think that is an accurate assessment, and how are you tackling that?

We survey 18,000 people every quarter, and whilst our own figures suggest that we are preforming above the British Crime Survey figure, it is a problem.

Detailed figures show that we get very good marks for ‘first contact’ and ‘first action’ but we let ourselves down by not telling people what we have done to tackle the problems they have.

I tell my officers that they still must maintain a professional approach, but should give the public a cwtch and go back to them to tell them what has happened to their enquiry


8.) Do you agree with the (independent think-tank) 'Reform’s' report in February that “current forces operate as inefficient and expensive fiefdoms run by chief constables who are only accountable to weak police authorities”

No I do not! I did a radio program saying just that shortly after the report was launched. Operationally I have freedom but we are measured and very accountable for the work we do. The Police Authority is not weak for example despite my protests they stuck very firmly to their principles over the recent budget settlements, and they would not give me the money I wanted.

Often when there is a national police survey or studies we always seem to get chosen as we are the biggest force in Wales so we feel that we get inspected to death!


9.)What is your proudest achievement?

Being able to combine career and family – I have got lovely children- and still have a husband after all these years.


10.) Do you think that Police in the UK are accountable to the communities they serve or know the services they can expect?

We monitor our communities daily. The 'Policing Pledge' has just been launched, and we are being inspected on that in November, but of course we are monitoring it all the time.

We are the only Police Force working with the survey to find out what is it that causes the fear of crime. It was Young people; Litter; Speeding; Irresponsible car parking and Burglary. Of course it is only the latter that is exclusively a police problem.


11.) Do you think that “Knife crime epidemic” headlines encourage young people to believe that carrying knives is the norm in South Wales?

Gang Culture is not the norm here in S Wales. Most knife crime here tends to be domestic when someone grabs a kitchen knife when there is a fight at home rather than carrying aknife in the street.

We are one of 10 forces that have just been given money to launch an anti knife campaign (called “It Doesn't Have to Happen”). Seven of the forces had a big problem and we were one of the 3 that did not.


12.) What would you most like to change about the Police force? funding, powers

I would like more money to be able to do more. But I want people to understand how we use the money. I had already made £21 million efficiency savings previously and we have made £3.7 million this year to reinvest in delivering a better service.


13.) Do you like the uniform? Would you change the uniform?

No, I would not change it; I am not too keen on the black shirts some forces have started using. I prefer the professionalism symbolised by the white shirt


14.) Has the police force changed?

Yes it has lots!  When I started women were paid less and worked in different rooms from the men. It was common to hear colleagues saying that “women should be at home rather than working.”

Today we have a lot more equality with equipment being suited to the individual too, but its only just been in your lifetime since 1995 that we have had the first women reaching the rank of Chief Constable.


15.) Do you have a gun? Have you ever had to use it?

No I do not have a gun. I have been trained to use one, but have never used a gun in my work


16.) What advice would you give to young people wanting to be a Police Officer?

You need to study hard and do well at school you will need at least 3 GCSE A levels at B grade or above to get in.

You also need to go out and experience the world, understand different cultures and people. Also show how you can deal with some very angry people.


17.) What is the most important question you never get asked?

Mmm I would like to turn that around and say that the question I want most answered is ‘Am I doing a good job?’ some people tell me I am because they think that is what I want to hear.


18.) What are you going to do next after leaving this post?

I am going to catalogue the careers of my husband and myself, all the bits in newspapers and photos for my grandchildren when we have some, otherwise I will be too old to do it by the time they start asking about us.

I have been nominated to be high sheriff for Mid Glam for 2012, and I am really looking forward to that.