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Mixed reviews for police forces

There were mixed reviews for Staffordshire and Cheshire in the latest report by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary effectiveness report.

Cheshire were rated good overall while Staffordshire were told they require improvement.

The HMIC effectiveness report validates Cheshire Constabulary’s quality of investigations by stating that; ‘Overall the public can have confidence that Cheshire Constabulary investigates crimes to a high standard’.

HMIC conducted a review of 60 Cheshire police case files, randomly selected from crimes recorded between 1 January and 31 March 2016 and assessed them against several criteria. They found that almost all cases were being investigated by an officer with the appropriate level of investigation skills, and that overall, Cheshire Constabulary’s gathering of evidence, initial investigation and allocation for subsequent investigation is good.

Deputy Chief Constable Janette McCormick said: “It is crucial for the public of Cheshire to have confidence that the Constabulary investigates crime effectively. I hope that HMIC’s findings instil confidence in residents that should they suffer the misfortune of becoming a victim we take their concerns seriously, investigate allegations robustly and bring those intent on causing misery in our communities to justice.”

“Investigations into all crimes are carried out by officers meticulously. It is imperative to the Constabulary that investigations are fundamentally victim focused, ensuring victims are at the centre of all Cheshire investigations from the outset, and special measures are applied to provide further support throughout the court process.

“HMIC’s review established that officers are compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, and found good evidence that victim impact statements are regularly taken, meaning that victims can explain how a crime has affected them, strengthening their voice in the criminal justice system.

“We remain committed to providing a high level of police service to all victims of crime and I am delighted that the HMIC effectiveness report highlights and supports this commitment.”

Crackdown on serious and organised crime
The report also assessed Cheshire Constabulary as being good at tackling serious and organised crime, a leap forward from last year’s judgement of requiring improvement.

DCC McCormick said: “I am delighted that the review has recognised the hard work we’ve undertaken in tackling organised criminality.

“Drug activity is the most predominant crime type of the Organised Crime Groups managed by the Constabulary. Drug supply is unacceptable and our officers work tirelessly to gather local intelligence and successfully crackdown on drug related offences.

“It is vital in the fight against serious and organised crime, to disrupt and prevent organised criminality at a local level. We do this by having dedicated school liaison officers visit schools and provide advice and guidance about the risks associated with being drawn into organised crime.

“We also communicate regularly with the public about serious and organised crime. Operations targeting organised crime groups have media plans to ensure that a strong message is delivered to the public – serious and organised crime will not tolerated in Cheshire. The aim of this is to deter those on the periphery of organised crime, and offer reassurance to the wider community.”

Tackling anti-social behaviour
Since the HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness inspection, Cheshire Constabulary has continued to improve its understanding of the risks faced by its communities and make effective use of a range of techniques to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

The HMIC review found that Cheshire Constabulary maximises the use of legislation in order to reduce anti-social behaviour, using powers such as Criminal Behaviour Orders, Civil Injunctions and Dispersal Powers to reduce the number of incidents. The Constabulary is one of the highest users of preventative orders (over the 12 months to 30 June 2016) which have seen a 5% reduction in antisocial behaviour.

DCC McCormick added: “I am pleased that HMIC recognised our focus on keeping vulnerable people safe and how we utilise our own intelligence capability to identify threat or risk of harm within our communities.

“It is also pleasing to see HMIC praise the effective use of preventative orders to reduce antisocial behaviour across Cheshire.

“The report has however highlighted that there is an inconsistent approach across the Constabulary in the use of neighbourhood profiles and problem solving methods. We have recognised this issue and have taken steps to improve these areas by developing additional training for our neighbourhood officers and ensuring we look at best practice across the country to ensure we do what we can to prevent crime and keep people safe.”

Protecting vulnerable people
Last year HMIC had concerns about how well many forces were protecting those who were vulnerable.

The Constabulary in 2015 was graded ‘good’ in this area and this year’s HMIC review has highlighted that the Constabulary has continued to build on its support and provision of services to vulnerable people.

HMIC praised Cheshire Constabulary for its continued development into understanding hidden crimes such as child sexual exploitation and domestic abuse, and working towards an improved understanding of modern-day slavery, so-called honour-based violence, and female genital mutilation.

The Constabulary was further praised for its prosecution rate for domestic abuse incidents - 60% of recorded domestic abuse crimes lead to an arrest which is above the rate for England and Wales, demonstrating a strong commitment to protecting victims and pursuing suspects.

DCC McCormick concluded: “Protecting the public, particularly those who are most vulnerable, is one of the most important responsibilities placed on Cheshire Constabulary. I am thrilled that the HMIC report recognises the commitment we give to protecting the people of Cheshire.

“Chief Constable Simon Byrne made domestic abuse a priority for the Constabulary and victims and vulnerability are fundamental to the Police & Crime Commissioner’s ‘Police and Crime Plan’, which we have implemented in the Constabulary’s performance framework.

“It is great to see that our partners have ‘overwhelming belief’ that Cheshire Constabulary is a driving force behind identifying and supporting vulnerable people at the first response, and were so positive about our commitment to supporting vulnerable residents.

“Overall the HMIC effectiveness report is very positive for the Constabulary and I am delighted that all our officers, staff and volunteers’ hard work is being recognised. This report demonstrates that we continue to provide an effective police service, and I hope the public of Cheshire are reassured that we remain dedicated to delivering our ‘We’re Here’ commitments to our communities.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire, Matthew Ellis said he did not challenge the overall rating of the latest report, but believed questions should be asked about HMIC’s overall consistency and approach.

‘The third and final element of the PEEL assessment for Staffordshire Police adds a ‘requires improvement’ to the ‘good’ and ‘good’ of each of the other two parts.

‘This is a mixed picture, both for police performance in Staffordshire and the consistency of HMIC’s approach to inspection on the ground.

‘The latter is of particular worry, as inspections by them play a critical part in assisting PCCs across the country in ensuring police services perform for local people.

‘Apart from 52 pages of factual inaccuracies acknowledged by HMIC inspectors, there appears to be inconsistency in approach between different inspection teams in different geographical areas and departures from stated national guidance in others.

‘I have raised concerns previously where HMIC said that Staffordshire Police were ‘outstanding’ in community engagement when the facts were clear, and supported by public feedback, that the force fell well below that assessment and needed to improve.

‘More recently after initially assessing the police here as compliant in only 1 of 5 criteria around Stop and Search procedure, after looking at the same evidence again changed it to 5 out of 5 compliant.

‘Last month HMIC changed the already published ‘requires improvement’ in crime recording to ‘good’ just short of ‘outstanding’.

‘There are significant improvements needed in some of the work Staffordshire Police do. I want to use assessments by HMIC to help focus efforts to ensure improvements happen. Inconsistencies in approach and having to revisit assessments after publication, is unhelpful in achieving that.

‘HMIC must be more consistent in approach both locally and force to force for their information to be truly useful in assisting PCCs. I’m writing to the Home Office accordingly.’

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