News Call for po­lice im­prove­ment to keep the vul­ner­a­ble safe

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

WEST Mid­lands Po­lice needs to im­prove at keep­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple safe and re­duc­ing crime, an of­fi­cial watch­dog has ruled.

The force saw its over­all rat­ing drop from ‘good’ to ‘re­quires im­prove­ment’ in its an­nual re­port from HM In­spec­torate of Con­stab­u­lary and Fire and Res­cue Ser­vices (HMICFRS).

Most wor­ry­ing is in­spec­tors giv­ing West Mid­lands Po­lice the low­est grade pos­si­ble in the key area of pro­tect­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

The watch­dog has raised “ma­jor con­cerns” over the stress po­lice forces across the coun­try are un­der - say­ing there are “cracks be­gin­ning to show” be­cause of bud­get cuts.

For 2017, West Mid­lands Po­lice re­ceived a ‘good’ grade for pre­vent­ing crime and tack­ling an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour, for in­ves­ti­gat­ing crime and re­duc­ing re­of­fend­ing, and for tack­ling se­ri­ous and or­gan­ised crime.

But it was rated ‘in­ad­e­quate’ when it comes to pro­tect­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple - the low­est rat­ing pos­si­ble.

That meant the force re­ceived an over­all grade of ‘re­quires im­prove­ment’ this year.

Al­though West Mid­lands Po­lice was seen to have made progress in some ar­eas since 2016, in­spec­tors found se­ri­ous fail­ings in its abil­ity to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple from harm.

At the time of the in­spec­tion, HMICFRS found there were of­ten not enough of­fi­cers avail­able to re­spond to in­ci­dents quickly when re­quired.

This means that vic­tims – in­clud­ing some who are vul­ner­a­ble – do not al­ways re­ceive the re­sponse they need, and may be put in dan­ger as a re­sult.

It also means that in some cases the force is miss­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to se­cure ev­i­dence, which can un­der­mine the qual­ity of sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Po­lice chiefs in­sist im­prove­ments have al­ready been made, say­ing they took steps to ad­dress the con­cerns raised by HMICFRS im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the in­spec­tion.

Deputy Chief Con­sta­ble Louisa Rolfe, of West Mid­lands Po­lice, said the force faced sev­eral chal­lenges work­ing in Coven­try.

She said high lev­els of de­pri­va­tion com­bined with the youngest pop­u­la­tion in the coun­try meant of­fi­cers here had more vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple to deal with over­all.

“Whilst I am dis­ap­pointed with the fi­nal grade, the in­spec­tion ac­knowl­edges good and im­prov­ing work in our re­sponse to se­ri­ous and or­gan­ised crime and vul­ner­a­bil­ity,” DCC Rolfe said.

“The one in­ad­e­quate grade re­lates to con­cerns HMICFRS raised about a high vol­ume of de­mand the force ex­pe­ri­enced last sum­mer. This was heav­ily re­ported in the me­dia and is no se­cret.

“In­spec­tors iden­ti­fied a rel­a­tively high num­ber of open in­ci­dent logs. They ex­am­ined only a small num­ber of the old­est open logs, all of which had re­ceived an ini­tial po­lice re­sponse but re­mained open to mon­i­tor fol­lowup.

“In many other forces th­ese in­ci­dents would have been closed af­ter ini­tial at­ten­dance.

“We po­lice the youngest pop­u­la­tion in the UK, the most de­prived and the se­cond most di­verse. Th­ese fac­tors cre­ate a much higher level of vul­ner­a­bil­ity for the force to po­lice.”

DCC Rolfe also said of­fi­cers were hav­ing to “work harder and smarter” than oth­ers else­where in the coun­try be­cause the force was not be­ing fairly funded.

She added: “West Mid­lands Po­lice re­ceives a fund­ing per head of pop­u­la­tion below the na­tional av­er­age and con­sid­er­ably be­hind very sim­i­lar forces.

“That bud­get has fallen more heav­ily than other forces and, even with an im­proved set­tle­ment, the force will see the low­est rise per head of pop­u­la­tion in the next two years. A rise well below in­fla­tion.”

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