When Gloucester beat Saracens at Kingsholm did many fans complain that the Cherry and Whites failed to compete at the lineout? Or that they couldn’t defend a driving maul?
When Barcelona performed probably the greatest comeback in the history of the Champions’ League to beat Paris St Germain 6-5, did anyone criticise them for conceding an away goal that made their job more difficult? Of course not, because both had achieved their ultimate goal and the other details, though relevant, were not the main story.
You will probably have seen or heard the headlines around a recent inspection of Gloucestershire Constabulary by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabularies (HMIC).
The HMIC noted that crime rates are down year on year in Gloucestershire, compared with an increase of 7.8% across all forces in England and Wales over the same period; that Gloucestershire is below the national rate for sexual offences, assault with injury and burglary in a dwelling and - perhaps even more importantly – that there has been a vast improvement in public satisfaction.
In a nutshell, Gloucestershire Constabulary has transformed itself through hard work from one of the worst performing forces in the country to one of the best. Quite a comeback itself you might think and certainly one deserving of praise. And yet, HMIC inspectors not only gave the Constabulary a ‘needs to improve’ grading, it also censured its approach to anti-social behaviour even though Gloucestershire recorded a small drop in incidents at a time when figures for a number of other forces actually went up. On top of that, I have already addressed HMIC observations around neighbourhood policing in my police and crime plan.
There is always room for improvement in any organisation and the Police cannot be exempt from criticism. Indeed, holding the chief constable to account is one of my main responsibilities. However, in failing to give sufficient weight to the good work that is going on in Gloucestershire, HMIC inspectors risk damaging thepublic’s confidence and demoralising a public service which is already under considerable strain from many other quarters. There is also the danger the force will end up concentrating on areas determined by HMIC rather than issues you tell me are most important.
I accept the HMIC has a job to do, and I have no doubt the chief constable will use its findings to make further improvements that will continue to improve the Constabulary’s core requirement to protect the public. But continually carping on about the minutiae at the expense of the good work is a bit like Craig-Revel Horwood on Strictly Come Dancing down marking a spectacular salsa because the celebrity’s little finger was pointing in the wrong direction!