HMICFRS report finds Constabulary good or adequate in five areas of its work and inadequate in five areas
Chief Constable taking firm action to ensure Constabulary gives the public the service it deserves but says the report is a “partial view of our work and does not represent the full contribution we make to keeping people safe from harm”
Constabulary one of first forces to be assessed using new methodology and inspected at height of its response to Covid
Progress in key areas was affected by the pandemic, which saw a quarter of the workforce having to isolate at different points up to June 2021, training halted and staff change roles to tackle the crisis
New crime management unit, technology and widescale training programme part of comprehensive action plan to address shortfalls
Improvements including a new multi-million pound crime management unit, comprehensive training programme and better IT to tackle bureaucracy are already underway following the latest inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to assess Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL).
The Constabulary was rated ‘good’ at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, treating the public with fairness and respect, disrupting serious and organised crime and supporting the workforce and ‘adequate’ at managing dangerous offenders while it received positive comments in the two unrated areas of protecting the public from armed threats and meeting the strategic policing requirements.
However it was rated ‘inadequate’ in five areas including providing a service to members of the public, investigating crime, responding to the public and protecting vulnerable people.
Amongst causes of concern identified were that the Constabulary “does not understand” or “manage its demand”, “is failing to respond appropriately to some vulnerable people” and “missing some opportunities to safeguard victims”. Inspectors also found that some investigations were not consistently supervised to a good standard and sometimes victims weren’t updated.
The Constabulary, which was rated ‘good’ overall during the HMICFRS’s last PEEL inspection in 2019, was amongst the first forces to be assessed using new methodology earlier this year. The inspection was largely carried out remotely during January to April as the Constabulary continued to respond to the Covid pandemic.
Chief Constable Rod Hansen said: “There are lots of examples of very good and innovative practice identified in this report but I do recognise there is much work still to be done to address the concerns the Inspectorate has.
“What I would say is that I think this only represents a partial picture of the work we do to keep people safe from harm and that we were inspected during the biggest emergency this country has seen since the Second World War. We had already made progress in areas like crime recording accuracy but this was hampered by the pandemic; at times our workforce was severely reduced in capacity, most training had to be cancelled and many staff members had to change roles and often do things very differently. The landscape of policing changed dramatically and so our plans had to adapt as well.
“We had to take steps like train and equip a Covid incident response team, set up video interview facilities to make sure court cases could continue and establish and manage a temporary mortuary and while none of this is recognised in the report I hope it does provide people with some context.
“Another major factor has been legacy IT systems that need massive investment, and we’re now approaching a point where we can replace a crime recording system that relied on staff inputting information numerous times.
“Additionally, recruitment is happening on a scale that simply wasn’t possible during many years of austerity - meaning we are already addressing the issues the HMICFRS has identified, including an increase to 62 posts in our crime management unit – but it takes time.
“To those concerned by the findings around safeguarding vulnerable people and quality of investigations, I do recognise our service to victims needs to improve – the pandemic did affect us here too but with extra resources on their way including eight DCs to our Rape and Serious Sexual Offences team, changes to how we monitor and train staff and improvements in technology, we are confident we will improve in this area.
“We do have officers who are already exemplars when it comes to safeguarding - for example one of our PCs who worked over 20 additional hours, keeping the support of the victim, to ensure a domestic abuse suspect was remanded at court– but with many officers new to the service and some supervisors who lack the experience we have had in the past then we must do more to ensure consistency.
“It is pleasing that the HMICFRS recognise we have been improving in relation to crime recording but we can give some reassurance here that where a crime record was not generated it does not mean safeguarding action did not take place. This is because we use a separate vulnerability form to assess risk and prompt safeguarding measures.
“And there has been some remarkable work that has helped keep vulnerable people safe in the last 18 months, such as the use of a dedicated domestic abuse response vehicle during lockdown that was cited in a national HMICFRS report on the policing response to Covid.
“We’re also the first force to introduce technology that allows us to capture phone evidence at the earliest opportunity after a crime has taken place without taking the device away from the victim, which is particularly beneficial in sexual assault cases and helps us maintain the support of victims.
“And last year one of our officers received a Judge’s commendation for an investigation into a dangerous paedophile that resulted in one of the longest sentences ever given at Gloucester Crown Court.
“Notably our satisfaction survey results are very strong and show that a clear majority of the public are content with the service they receive.
“Please be assured that I’m not complacent though, and that I’m working with my colleagues across the Constabulary, and the Police and Crime Commissioner and his team to ensure we maintain that trust and confidence as we strive to keep of our local communities safe from harm.”
Amongst the findings, the HMICFRS identified the following innovative practice:
The Treasure Seekers Police Cadets – this highly successful scheme was shortlisted for last year’s World Class Policing Awards. It demonstrates the Constabulary’s desire to be as inclusive as possible and stay closely connected to particularly vulnerable members of society.
The development of a capability, with a forensic provider, to take, analyse and store the DNA of dogs. The Constabulary became the first law enforcement agency in the world to create what is known as a ‘Doggy DNA’ database. It has attracted international attention and wide media interest. It was designed as a preventative measure to deter those contemplating pet theft, and to reassure owners that they have alternative options when it comes to protecting their dogs. It also acts as a counter measure to criminals who have adapted to existing technologies (microchips) by cutting them out of the dogs in a cruel and unpalatable way.