Over the last few weeks there has been much attention on police forces now under what the media has termed ‘Special Measures.’
Coverage of the decision to put Wiltshire Police and the Metropolitan Police Service into an advanced stage of monitoring, officially the Inspectorate’s ‘engage process’, highlighted other forces in a similar position. In our case, this followed a highly critical report for its performance in 2020, well before I was elected.
The main problems then were to do with poor recording of reported crime, insufficient investigations and slow answering of 999 and 101 calls. A lack of investment in personnel and IT, plus inadequate supervision and grip were all factors leading to this poor report by HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police and Fire Services).
On receipt of the report, the Chief Constable declared a ‘critical incident’ and refocussed the entire force on addressing these causes of concern. Working closely with the Chief, I found the resources to recruit more police staff, to aid the search for solutions. Over the last year, this has helped the Constabulary make huge progress in recording significantly more crimes that had previously ‘slipped under their radar,’ as officers concentrated on higher priority incidents.
Call handlers hampered by a lack of staff and inadequate IT
With the vast majority of reported crimes now being formally recorded, the Force is better at looking after victims, spotting repeat victims and identifying vulnerable victims. The speed at which all these extra crimes are recorded is getting faster but there is still more to do to make sure they are all logged within the first 24 hours – important if subsequent investigations are to have the best chance of success.
Improving call response times within the Force Control Room is sadly proving much harder to deliver and there are a number of reasons for this. The after effects of Covid, rising demand, pressures within our partner emergency services, workloads within our over stretched ICT department, the difficulty of training additional specialist staff, and turnover of call handlers (who do a brilliant job, even though they are hampered by a lack of staff and inadequate IT) are all contributory factors.
Over the next six to 12 months, I will continue to be fully focussed on supporting the Chief so that these problems are all addressed. Strong leadership is needed to deliver the first-class service the public pays for and deserves.