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HM Inspectorate to review COVID-19 response by forces

With PEEL assessments suspended until 2021 the inspectorate will review police preparedness for the pandemic, leadership and partnership working.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary will review officer wellbeing and welfare during the pandemic as part of a revised programme of assessments.

The move to home working for some officers involved in processing documents and other back office functions was swift. HM Inspectorate will be looking to see if support for mental health and provisions for data protection were adequate.

The watchdog confirmed to Police Oracle that a detailed set of priorities will be presented to MPs when the new parliamentary session gets under way next month.

But its established programme of PEEL assessments has been delayed until at least 2021.

Instead the inspectorate will review police preparedness for the pandemic, leadership and partnership working.

At the height of the first wave of the virus, concerns were raised by charities and local authorities over the protection of vulnerable people. HM Inspectorate will take evidence from the other agencies involved to assess whether safeguarding responsibilities were met.

Safety precautions in custody suites has already been identified as one area of weakness by groups including solicitors and the inspectors will be looking at how lessons can be learnt.

Forces such as Sussex and Kent increased their reliance on video justice to process cases and the inspectorate will be looking to see if the changes will work as standard practice after the crisis is over.

The Inspectorate will also give a rating to the “policing practices in the enforcement of regulations during the pandemic”.

Their teams will also complete their inspections of regional organised crime units (ROCU) and will be under pressure to complete its contribution to the government-ordered review of rape prosecutions which involves other agencies.

But a complete return to pre-COVID-19 levels of activity has been ruled out. With a new round of social distancing restrictions in place, further changes are also being considered.

An HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson told Police Oracle: “In March 2020 we suspended all inspection work requiring appreciable contributions from police forces and fire and rescue services, to enable them to focus on the COVID-19 response. We resumed inspections in September, based on a revised programme which we consulted on in July. This programme will shortly be laid before parliament.

“We have prioritised new inspections of how forces are responding to COVID-19, to assist policing as it continues to face challenges during this difficult period. This has meant that some inspections planned for this year have been delayed until 2021. We will be mindful of any changing circumstances presented by COVID-19, should our plans need to be further amended.”

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