Essex Police bosses respond to highly critical report

THE DEPUTY Chief Constable of Essex Police, Matthew Horne and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston have responded to the critical report by the government watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate.

Statement from Deputy Chief Constable Matthew Horne on HMIC PEEL report on effectiveness of Essex Police:

"Today’s report is the latest in a series based on inspections of Essex Police that took place last year. The reports outlined our strengths and set out our weaknesses. We accept both with a commitment to seek improvement and keep people in the county safe.

The report demonstrates how safe Essex is, with 30,000 fewer crimes committed last year compared to a decade ago. We have less victim-based crime and assault, fewer anti-social behavior incidents and fewer sexual offences than most other forces in England and Wales. Eight out of ten victims of crime are satisfied with how we have supported them, which we are not complacent about but gives us a good foundation to build on.

At a time when serious and organised crime in the county – much of it with roots in London – has increased, I’m pleased that we have been rated as "good” in this crucial area of work. Inspectors found that we work well in preventing re-offending among some of the county’s most serious and prolific criminals. We will continue to prioritise tackling the gang-related drug dealing and violent crime which causes fear and damage to our communities.

We accept the report’s criticisms of the force’s work protecting vulnerable people including children and victims of domestic abuse. This is our highest priority and inspections last year which led to this report and one yet to be published on child protection have already been met with significant improvements in how we work to protect vulnerable people at risk of some of the most evil crimes in society.

The report also finds that we need to work harder to translate our commitment and strong planning on crime reduction and prevention into consistent action across the county. Our new local policing teams, in place from later this spring, will focus on working hand-in-hand with local authorities through community safety hubs. These partnerships will focus on tackling anti-social behavior and crime and make our communities better places.

Her Majesty’s Inspectors have found over the past year that Essex Police is an efficient, fair force with strong leadership in place within the organisation and a commitment to working in close partnership outside it. We are a big, diverse county with some incredibly difficult challenges but every day I witness the commitment, drive and outstanding examples of individual and team bravery and decision-making that gives me confidence in our ability to keep Essex safe now and in the future.

Statement from Mr Alston

"Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has published a report into Essex Police’s effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. I place great value in the existence of an independent Inspectorate of policing.

"Whilst the HMIC report rates Essex Police as good at tackling serious and organised crime, some of the findings are hard hitting and disappointing.

"It is also the case that some of the information in the report was not known to me as PCC. Specifically I did not know that during the summer of 2015, neighbourhood policing was suspended in the North of the county for six weeks. I am surprised and disappointed that I was not informed of this by Chief Officers, and I have discussed this with the Deputy Chief Constable. This does however emphasise the value of an independent Inspectorate.

"On local policing, my position is clear. With the resources available to Essex Police, it is not possible to operate a model of ‘bobbies on the beat’. But local, neighbourhood, community policing – use whichever name you like – is an absolutely core function of a police service.

"Essex Police needs to re-imagine how it connects with communities and keeps people safe. We have a real opportunity in the coming months with the creation of Community Policing Teams and Community Safety Hubs in districts across our county. I will be keeping a close eye, continuing to scrutinise the work of Essex Police as these new teams are created and ensuring that they communicate professionally and proactively with the communities they serve. In particular, working with partners such as local authorities, Essex Police must ensure it has clear mechanisms for identifying and supporting vulnerable or repeat victims of Anti-Social Behaviour.

"Local policing is crucial. But HMIC has also found Essex Police to be inadequate in protecting some of our most vulnerable victims. I fully support Chief Constable Kavanagh’s decision to shift more resources into areas of high and hidden harm such as domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse. It is important that these police officers and staff are trained in this difficult work.

"For several decades, police forces across the country have not focused sufficiently on protecting the most vulnerable. We must get better at supporting victims, safeguarding them from harm and bringing perpetrators to justice. Every day, the rape of a child is reported to Essex Police. Every eight weeks, a person is murdered by their partner or ex-partner or someone with whom they were in a relationship in this county. Essex Police must prioritise protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

"In short, I could not support any decision to retreat from local policing, and I do not believe there was any intent on the part of Chief Constable Kavanagh to do so. It is also the case that if in the future additional resources become available to Essex Police, I believe these must primarily be invested in local policing.”

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