Today (Friday 27 September) Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has published its inspection report of Warwickshire Police as part of its annual PEEL (Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy) programme of assessment. It follows visits to the force by the inspectors in March.
In response to the report, Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said: “First and foremost I welcome the view of HMICFRS that Warwickshire Police is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour, understanding community issues and working with other agencies to resolve local problems. This is something that our residents are rightly very concerned about, so I am pleased that the work the force and my office have been undertaking to improve these areas of work have been recognised independently.
“Equally, the force has a mission statement of protecting people from harm and aims to be great at protecting the most vulnerable in society. This inspection report recognises the improvements that have been made in this area and praises the way it works closely with partners to safeguard victims.
“However, the report also makes clear the very difficult circumstances the force has been placed into over the past 11 months. The unilateral decision by the Chief Constable and PCC for West Mercia Police to end the strategic alliance, which had delivered shared services to the two forces over the past seven years, has been extremely challenging. It was not something Warwickshire Police had expected, so it has taken months of detailed planning work to ensure that the force moves forward in the best possible way.
“The report is based on the visit that the inspectors made back in March and so their concerns reflect their assessment of the force’s position at that time. In the six months since then, there has been significant progress in the force’s planning and in the discussions with West Mercia and I therefore believe that the picture is now very different.
“The force has developed its Evolve programme to deliver a new and exciting operating model, which will see many of the currently shared services returning to being based within Warwickshire, while a establishing some new collaborative working arrangements to reap the benefits of shared service delivery. Warwickshire has always been one of the smallest forces in the country and has always worked with partners to provide the services needed to keep people safe and this will continue to be the case.
“We are now in the advanced stages of negotiations with West Mercia Police to finalise the transition arrangements out of the strategic alliance. I am confident that the due diligence that has gone into redesigning Warwickshire Police after the conclusion of the strategic alliance will ensure the public of Warwickshire continue to receive an excellent police service going forwards and that this will be recognised in future inspection reports.”
The report also highlighted concerns with the way in which the force investigates crime, with capacity and capability issues meaning that some crimes take too long to bring to an outcome.
Mr Seccombe said: “The rising levels of demand have placed a strain on the force’s capacity to investigate some types of crime, alongside a shortage of experienced detectives, something that all forces nationally have faced. There are also issues within the wider criminal justice system which have a negative impact on the police’s ability to progress investigations to court speedily. My office has done considerable work to examine the underlying issues and I have raised my concerns with the Chief Constable and other criminal justice agencies that victims are waiting too long for an outcome. As a result, I know that there has been work to address these issues within the new policing model.
“In addition, I have financed the use of experienced police staff investigators to bolster the capacity of the force to investigate crime, while the investments I have made in new police officers over the past year, means that the force is now in a better position to release experienced officers into investigative roles. By the year end there will be around 170 more officers in Warwickshire, while will include transferees from other forces alongside newly trained detectives.
“I am confident that the force understands the areas that needs to improve and is putting in plans to address this. My office will continue to monitor closely the progress that is made, as it will be vital to ensuring an improved service to the public.”