News Call for police improvement to keep the vulnerable safe
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.”