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Two forces ordered by HMI to improve critical areas

Two forces have been ordered to make improvements by the policing inspectorate.

Two forces have been ordered to improve how they respond to the public.

Dorset and West Mercia have been warned by HM Inspectorate they must tackle concerns over performance.

PEEL assessments revealed challenges in major service areas – with West Mercia now under pressure to show that it has the capacity to turn itself around.

Although still providing an adequate service to the public, Dorset needs to improve how it responds to the public and how it investigates crime. However, it was rated as ‘good’ in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour as well as at building, supporting and protecting its workforce.

West Mercia also has to step up performance on how it responds to the public plus how it supervises and investigates crime.

The force, which settled the end of a shared back office deal with Warwickshire in 2020, must also upgrade its IT and the accuracy of its data.

Overall, it was rated ‘good’ in one area, ‘adequate’ in four areas and ‘requires improvement’ in three areas.

It has managed to get better at straightforward inspection areas such as community policing and the management of offenders and suspects.

But it must now tackle areas that are less easy to turn around: crime investigation and public protection. It will need to strengthen its partnerships, reboot its operating model and invest in staff at a time when the service is short of skilled investigators.

HM Inspector Wendy Williams said: “Despite the force’s efforts to improve, too many of its serious investigations are inadequately supervised and not sufficiently effective. This is resulting in a poor service to some victims of crime.

“Several departments reported understaffing, which can affect workplace wellbeing. The force’s information technology systems are unreliable, leading to poor service and inefficient working practices.”

The force’s Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, said the findings were not unexpected and corrective action was already under way including funding for investigations.

He also claimed an “ongoing commitment” to improve IT but he also made clear the force’s Chief Constable Pippa Mills was now under pressure.

Mr Campion said: “This report has highlighted a number of areas where the standard is below what our communities and I expect. The force must take action to improve and I am reassured to see that this is already happening.

“On behalf of our communities, I will continue to hold the Chief Constable to account to ensure that these improvements are made as swiftly as possible.”

Dorset is under less pressure as HMI acknowledged the force had endured a difficult year with big increases in service demand.

But Wendy Williams said victims – particularly child abuse survivors - deserved a better response.

 “There is a better understanding of the reasons for disparities when searching people and using force, but there needs to be a continued focus on this area,” she said. “Dorset Police has worked harder to engage with diverse groups, gaining a better understanding of the reasons why disparities endure – for black people in particular.”

“Reassurance is needed that sufficient long-term provision is in place so that investigations are timely, and children remain safe. I look forward to seeing improvements over the coming year.”

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