County police under fire in first PEEL report, following tough inspections

MBTC-10-07-13- Chief Constable Colette Paul . Bedfordshire Police HQ Kempston.'b13-673 ENGPNL00120131007131541
MBTC-10-07-13- Chief Constable Colette Paul . Bedfordshire Police HQ Kempston.'b13-673 ENGPNL00120131007131541

Bedfordshire Police has been told it needs improving in the first PEEL assessment of the force, following a series of tough inspections.

The first PEEL assessment of Bedfordshire Police published today, Thursday,

Olly Martins

Olly Martins

November 27, said the force “requires improvement” in a number of areas but acknowledges that it is “encouraged that the force leadership has a good grasp and understanding of the issues and areas that need to improve” stating that “the force is moving in the right direction and the pace of change is now increasing.

“The Chief Constable is taking steps to increase officer numbers and to reorganise the force so that it is better placed to meet the policing challenges in Bedfordshire”.

The county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins said he was “disappointed” and also “despaired” at HMIC’s attitude towards the force.

The PEEL assessment introduced by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to monitor Police Efficiency, Effectiveness and Legitimacy across all forces in England and Wales takes into account findings from all HMIC inspections carried out during the past 12 months.

The relentless inspection regime is very distracting for officers and staff - the force has been subject to 20 inspections during the past 14 months alone; 14 of which were carried out by HMIC.

Chief Constable Colette Paul commented: “The assessment is not unreasonable given that we are in the early stages of delivering against our 2014-2019 Five Year Plan. That said; I am rather disappointed to see that the report does not acknowledge sufficiently the progress and improvements to-date during the past 12 months.

“Bedfordshire Police is currently one year into a five year journey to achieve my vision of becoming ‘a well-respected, high-performing, efficiently run police service working together with others to protect people and keep Bedfordshire safe’ and my leadership team and I are putting in place plans to support the delivery of this vision. It will take time to realise all of our ambitions, but we are committed to delivering this during the next five years and we are already making significant progress.

“With fewer resources than forces with a similar crime profile, it is vitally important that we gain a real presence within our communities so we have invested significantly in Body Worn Video, and mobile data devices, equipping 50 patrol vehicles with WiFi paired to personal issue mobile tablets, which are currently being rolled-out to frontline officers and staff. By reducing the need for officers to return to stations to carry out administrative tasks, we expect to see an additional two hours per shift of community policing – a figure being realised by other forces already using this technology.

“A lot of developments, but I accept that we still have lots of work to do.

“Although the assessment of 20 crimes out of 39,000 crimes a year is a small sample size, I am keen to improve our crime and investigation performance and I have invested in training for both uniform staff and specialist investigators over the last 12 months.

“One of my priorities is to increase the number of ‘under-reported’ crimes and we have already seen successes in this area with a 46% year-on-year increase in the reporting of Hate Crimes, Domestic Abuse Crimes, Rape and Other Sexual offences during the period 1 April to 24 November.

“Putting victims at the heart of everything we do is an absolute commitment of mine and we have invested heavily in new processes and technology to assist in the identification of vulnerable and repeat victims in order to ensure an appropriate response, so it was disappointing to see the report questioning our ability to identify vulnerable victims. It certainly didn’t reflect the finding of the recent HMIC Crime Data Integrity report which noted that ‘frontline staff, including call-takers understood the importance of meeting the needs of the victim when considering crime-recording and investigation’.

“Our work has been witnessed by over 2m viewers of ‘24 hours in Police Custody’ every week which has brought a deluge of praise for the professionalism and humanity of my police officers and staff.”

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins said: “Clearly Bedfordshire Police faces serious challenges because it doesn’t receive a level of resources appropriate to its needs, and in fact we face still further government police funding cuts. Despite this we have been able to alter the decisions to cut policing numbers inherited from the previous Police Authority and the force is now one of the few that is recruiting to improve its service to the public. So far this year we have seen 107 new officers join us, something HMIC barely acknowledges.

“I therefore despair of HMIC’s attitude towards Bedfordshire Police. They have a real ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ approach that is particularly unhelpful. Indeed their negative and injudicious use of language about the force could impact on staff morale and public confidence, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Fortunately, Bedfordshire residents have been able to tune into Channel Four’s fly on the wall documentary series ‘24 hours in police custody’ to see for themselves what Bedfordshire Police does on their behalf and to make their own assessment. Indeed the overwhelming feedback I get from the public is that they understand the challenges the force faces but appreciate it does a difficult job well.

“I find it incredibly disappointing that, rather than being a critical friend in challenging times, HMIC prefers to hit police forces with a tsunami of inspections and recommendations in a costly and time consuming process that has started to usurp the role of locally accountable Police and Crime Commissioners.”