Pat on the back for pastors
At the end of January, I spent a Friday evening out on patrol with Bury St Edmunds Town Pastors. I wanted to develop my understanding of what the pastors do to help keep the town safe during the small hours of every Friday and Saturday night throughout the year.
My connections with the Town Pastors across Suffolk go back to when I was first elected as PCC over seven years ago. I’d met some pastors on the campaign trail and had no idea their network covered so many of our towns.
I soon realised how their work was so appreciated and admired by the constabulary, local authorities and the general public.
Keeping people safe and free from harm is a fundamental policing priority and the pastors make a huge contribution to this priority. Over the years our working relationship has really developed and we are the Town Pastors’ largest financial supporters and have been for some time.
So how did the evening go? As it was post-Christmas it was a quiet night out but it gave me ample opportunity to meet and talk with many people involved in running the night-time economy from taxi drivers to security guards and the local police.
The evening started with a briefing from the local policing team on what might be expected and how busy the town was and what might be the most popular locations. The pastors are committed Christians so there was a short prayer session before we set out having stocked up with tea and some (delicious) cake.
Despite having lived in Suffolk all my life I was astonished how many bars and clubs exist in the town centre – I can only imagine how hectic the nights are during peak times.
The pastors walk in teams of two and at least one must be male. The teams are particularly well equipped with basic first aid kits, space blankets, radio handsets, mobile phones as well as ample supplies of water and chocolate snacks.
We met a group of rough sleepers who clearly have a good relationship with the pastors and I saw first hand their genuine warmth and compassion and how it gave those individuals a real lift that evening.
It’s also quite remarkable the very friendly relationship and respect that exists between all the security and door staff with the pastors. Regular contact takes place and if some clients have become the worse for wear the pastors can be asked for their help at a moment’s notice. Water and chocolate bars are provided and, in some cases, their training and intervention helps resolve arguments, aggressive behaviour and potential conflict.
Outside the Corn Exchange we stopped for a chat with a small group of men and one person was clearly the worse for wear since he could barely stand up! That said he was persuaded to have a bottle of water and settled down so he didn’t fall over and injure himself. While we were talking to this chap, one pastor removed a glass bottle from he pavement and disposed of it in a bin – the explanation being that items like that could be used as a missile and hurt someone. Clearly harm prevention is important and I must admit I hadn’t even thought about this small but important part of their work.
Overall, it seemed to me the reputation of all our towns where Town Pastors are present is improved. It’s almost as if a special partnership has developed between all elements of the night-time economy spurred on by those wonderful Town Pastors whose care and compassion shines like a beacon during the night. Perhaps the pastors have acted as a kind of catalyst for bringing people together for the greater good.
Lastly, I’d like to say a simple thank you to the Town Pastors and look forward to working with you for many years to come – our county would not be the same without you.
Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk
From Bury Free Press ‘Opinion’ on Friday 28th February 2020. Article reproduced, as yet without permission, from Bury Free Press.