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Four forces must improve public contacts, HMI warns

Five forces have received mixed PEEL assessments. Leicestershire delivered despite tough challenges but four others must improve - including call handling.

Call handling and other direct contacts with the public must improve, forces have been told by HM inspectorate.

The latest PEEL reports into five forces revealed mixed performance ranging from outstanding to requires improvement.

The five: Cumbria, Kent, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Thames Valley were all praised for specific improvements and pockets of best practice.

But there were also warnings that performance had to improve.

Three forces – Kent, Cumbria and Nottinghamshire – were told they must urgently improve call handling and Thames Valley was warned it must improve its response to the public.

HMI inspectors said each force had dealt with challenging issues. Thames Valley has seen a significant increase in violent crime and Kent has had to lead Operation Stack in response to Brexit.  Leicestershire’s officers, too, have been working in a challenging environment.

But former Chief Constable Simon Cole, who tragically died last month just days after retiring, left Leicestershire in excellent order.

HM Inspector, Roy Wilsher, said simply: “This report is a fitting tribute to his leadership.”

The force was ‘outstanding’ in three areas, ‘good’ in four areas and ‘adequate’ in two.

HMI said the outstanding areas included how the force records crime and protects vulnerable people. The leadership culture prioritises identifying and safeguarding the vulnerable – and it leading the way in supporting children who have witnessed domestic violence.

It is particularly good at recording crimes of rape. However, the force needs to improve its sex offender management processes.

Nottinghamshire’s performance across nine areas of policing was graded ‘good’ in two areas, ‘adequate’ in six areas and ‘requires improvement’ in one area.

HMI said while Nottinghamshire is good at investigating crime, more needs to be done to ensure it is recording it effectively.

The force is effective at recruiting a diverse workforce. In the year ending 31 March 2021, the force recruited the highest percentage (19.5 percent) of new police officers who were Black, Asian or from a minority ethnic group. It has also made significant progress in supporting the wellbeing of its workforce.

But it needs to improve crime reporting and partnership working by neighbourhood teams.

Mr Wilsher, said: “I am pleased with some aspects of Nottinghamshire Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime, but there are areas where it needs to improve.

“We found call handlers do not always give callers advice on preventing crime or preserving evidence before officers arrive at a scene.

Thames Valley has improved its performance over a demanding 18 months that included a serious terrorist incident, multiple public protests, and increased levels of homicide.

But it’s a force under pressure.

Changes to the way cases are prepared means officers are busier than ever and at the same time, the force is bringing through new, inexperienced staff, who require more training and supervision.

Mr Wilsher said: “Lack of resource is affecting the timeliness of its response to the public, the investigation of crimes, and the assessment of risk to vulnerable people.”

It’s also impacting on gains made to officer wellbeing.

Cumbria, also, has work to do.

The force was ‘outstanding’ in one area (management of high harm offenders), ‘good’ in three areas and ‘adequate’ in four areas.

The constabulary employs more female officers (40%) than any other Police Force in England and Wales.

Staff said that they felt proud to work for Cumbria Constabulary and it is digitally innovative. But it needs to improve neighbourhood policing.

Chief Constable, Michelle Skeer said the force is already working on the areas that need to improve.

She said: “We are incredibly proud to have received recognition for the hard work and dedication of our staff and officers in numerous policing areas, which was achieved despite having to quickly adapt to the evolving challenges that policing COVID has presented.

“However, we are never complacent, we want to provide an outstanding service across the board.”

Of the five, Kent got the toughest assessment. Although rated ‘good’ in four areas, it was ‘adequate’ in one area and ‘requires improvement’ in three areas.

HMI said the areas requiring improvement include how the force responds to the public, how it investigates crime and how it manages offenders and suspects.

One major red flag was in how it deals with repeat domestic abuse offenders.

But the force also promotes an ethical and inclusive culture and is also good at achieving savings while improving productivity.

Deputy Chief Constable Tim Smith said: “There are areas identified in this report where improvements could be made - and are being made.

“In common with police forces nationally, we recognise that we have an ongoing challenge to maintain our detective capacity and have developed a clear plan to increase detective numbers moving forward. 

‘Our officers have a relentless focus on ensuring vulnerable people are safeguarded and supported at every opportunity. We have put in place significant measures to further improve how we protect victims and vulnerable people and focus our efforts on the most dangerous offenders and this work is ongoing.

He added: “Where this report identifies areas for improvement, we are confident that we will achieve this.”

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