The chief constable of West Midlands Police has warned the region will have to deal with the problems of returning Jihadist fighters for “many, many years to come”.
Chris Sims was speaking about the threat of returning West Midland men who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the ranks of Islamic State (IS) fighters. Last month, the force appealed for the public’s help to identify radicalised young people planning to travel to the region, usually via Turkey.
An estimated 500 Britons have travelled to fight, some of whom are from the West Midlands.
Speaking at a meeting of the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel this week chief constable Sims said: “It’s certainly the case there are several hundred from this country that are currently in Syria or Iraq. We are aware of the identity of some of those who are from the West Midlands.
“We have one prosecution of those returning and other cases are pending.
“As well as the prosecutions we have to address the causes as to why people think it’s a good idea to go in the first place. I think it’s an issue that’s going to be with us for many, many years to come especially as many return.”
Newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson spoke at the same meeting and said the people involved should not be connected to religious or cultural groups.
He added: “The people who are saying and doing these things should be treated as they are being treated, as terrorists and as violent thugs.
“That’s how they should be seen, not as belonging to any religion or cultural group. The issue of the returnees from these war zones is a major problem for us in the West Midlands and particularly here in Birmingham.
“One thing that I will say is that we must be very careful that we take all of the communities with us in solving the problem. I am aware that the vast and overwhelming majority of all our communities condemn what’s going on.”
Commissioner Jamieson, who was only elected at the end of last month following the death of Bob Jones, also outlined his thoughts to the panel on his new job.
He added: “The one area where I will be placing more emphasis on is road safety. People I speak to across the West Midlands raise this as a major concern around speeding and law breaking on the region’s roads.
“Perhaps another area where I may differ from Bob is that I will not have a big focus on engaging with individuals.
“I don’t think I can engage with 2.8 million people on an individual basis. To his enormous credit Bob did try to do that, but I think that’s an impossible task. I’m looking at ways that I can connect with legitimate groups in councils, health, community and voluntary organisations.”
Commissioner Jamieson also revealed he was considering reducing the number of assistant commissioners in the future and at tackling specific topics at the Police and Crime Board in a similar way to Parliamentary Select Committees.
On the issue of the ongoing recruitment of 450 new officers, he said: “I will be meeting the first of 21 officers very shortly. We are continuing with the recruitment of the 450 new officers but whether we will be able to sustain further recruitment depends on future funding.”
On the issue of funding for officers, chief constable Sims added: “On current predictions, this is a finite piece of recruitment and we will be re-entering that period of standstill again. That is likely to last another two or three years past this recruitment period.
“We have to accept we will be a very significantly smaller organisation than we were five or six years ago and the manpower planning in that is really important.”