SOME police forces are putting the public at an unacceptable risk by rationing their response as they struggle with cutbacks, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary warns.
The inspectors say there are now too few detectives and in some areas an erosion of neighbourhood policing.
Their report found that most of the 43 forces in England and Wales were providing a good service.
But it warned others were not doing the basics, leaving victims let down.
In its annual report on forces, the inspectors said officers were arresting fewer people and too many crimes were being shelved without proper investigation.
It found that 67,000 people suspected of crimes were not entered onto the police national computer – so that all forces were made aware of them.
The report highlighted measures some forces had deployed to manage demand – although in each case it was not entirely clear whether they were directly caused by cuts or local management decisions.
Essex Police has responded to the ‘Good’ grading awarded by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in its national ‘effectiveness’ inspection of police forces in England and Wales.
The report says that Essex Police:
· Has ‘greatly improved’ its response to people who are vulnerable since 2015;
· Is ‘good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe’;
· Understands the communities it serves and the threats they face and regularly seeks the views and acts on feedback from the public to prioritise activities;
· Works well with partners such as local councils;
· Is ‘good at investigating crime and reducing re-offending’;
· Works effectively in combating street gangs and ‘the public can have confidence in the force’s ability not just to pursue and disrupt organised criminals but to prevent [it] from taking root in communities’;
· Has good plans to mobilise to the threats set out in the national Strategic Policing Requirement, including preparedness for a terrorist firearms attack such as that witnessed by Paris in 2015
Responding to the report, Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “This report is good news for the people of Essex. From tackling anti-social behaviour to taking down organised crime right through to being prepared for the possibility of a terrorist attack, Essex Police is judged to be doing a good job at keeping people safe.”
“The report shows Essex to be one of the most improved forces in the country. It focuses on the most important roles a police force has and I am pleased it reflects the dedication, bravery and energy of all our officers and staff. In particular Her Majesty’s Inspectors are clear that we have greatly improved how we protect vulnerable people.”
“We have had to find nearly £70m of savings to government in the last five years and there are fewer officers and PCSOs in our force but our use of technology, our ambition and a commitment to our communities will ensure we do everything possible to keep Essex safe.”
“We will never be complacent about the safety of Essex communities and will focus on maintaining that improvement in future.”
Three forces – Hertfordshire, Humberside and Nottinghamshire – had not been “responding appropriately” to emergency calls during inspections.
If a force reclassified or downgraded a call because of a shortage of officers, it could then justify a slower response time, said the inspectors.
Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire and Sussex had assessed domestic abuse victims over the phone rather than face-to-face.
Other forces appeared to be avoiding classifying violent gangs as organised crime because doing so would stretch resources.
“We are leading to a very serious conclusion regarding the potentially perilous state of British policing,” said Zoe Billingham, the lead inspector.
“Over the last few years, HMIC has said consistently that police forces were managing well in increasingly difficult circumstances.
“Nonetheless, today, I’m raising a red flag to warn forces of the consequences of what is, to all intents and purposes, an unconscious form of rationing.”