Cambridgeshire Constabulary uses police powers effectively but must improve its response to the public

Cambridgeshire Constabulary is “outstanding” in how it uses its police powers but must improve how it manages offenders and responds to the public, the police inspectorate has said.

Mar 12, 2024
By Paul Jacques
Picture: Cambridgeshire Constabulary

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services’ (HMICFRS) latest inspection graded Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s performance across eight areas of policing and found it was outstanding in one area, good in two areas, adequate in two areas, requires improvement in one area and inadequate in two areas.

HMICFRS said the constabulary was “outstanding in how it uses its police powers and engages with the public”.

Inspectors said that it uses new digital platforms to hear directly from the public, including young people, to make sure it is treating its communities fairly.

The constabulary is also effective at identifying serious acquisitive crime and reducing reoffending.

However, the inspectorate said the constabulary needs to improve its management of registered sex offenders and how it shares information with partners to help ensure children are safeguarded.

It also said that Cambridgeshire Constabulary must improve how quickly it answers emergency and non-emergency calls.

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Roy Wilsher said: “I am pleased with some aspects of the performance of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, including how it uses its police powers and works with partners to prevent crime.

“However, in some areas we inspected, the constabulary needs to improve. It should answer 999 and 101 calls faster and respond to those incidents more quickly too. It must also improve its management of risks posed by registered sex offenders in the community.

“While I congratulate the police officers and police staff of Cambridgeshire Constabulary for their efforts to keep the public safe, I will monitor progress in the areas where I feel the constabulary needs to improve.”

Chief Constable Nick Dean said: “We welcome today’s report from HMICFRS as it’s an opportunity for us to reflect on the service we provide, celebrate what we are doing well, and look at what we need to improve to provide an even better service for the people of Cambridgeshire.

“I highlight once again that the backdrop to the constabulary’s work and this inspection is that we remain one of the poorest funded forces in the country which is a factor that cannot be lost on anyone.

“So to be the only force in the country to receive an ‘outstanding’ grade for how we use police powers, especially given how much scrutiny this area of our business has quite rightly come under from the government and the public, is testament to the innovative work we have put in place to ensure fairness and transparency at every opportunity.”

The force also received ‘good’ gradings for preventing and deterring crime, antisocial behaviour and vulnerability, and building, supporting and protecting the workforce, and adequate for investigating crime and protecting vulnerable people. We have made considerable progress in improving policing across the county which the constabulary is proud of.

HMICFRS highlighted several areas of good practice in a variety of areas of the force’s business, including:

  • The use of technology to market and recruit people who have been subject to a stop search by officers, to join the community scrutiny panel. The use of a QR code on a card that explains why they have been stopped and searched allows people to sign up to the panel, encouraging young people and a more diverse group of people to scrutinise and challenge our activity, that could help to improve policy and practice, as well as strengthen community relationships.
  • Operation Farmington, a multi-agency initiative focusing on reducing repeat callers, flagging to the local neighbourhood team and local authority ward manager when there are three calls in 30 days from the same address into the demand hub, which triggers the relevant agencies to work together to find a resolution to the cause of the problem and reduce unnecessary demand.
  • The ‘Court Project’, an early intervention activity with partners to divert people at risk of committing further crime or anti-social behaviour (ASB). Working with Crown Prosecution Service, court staff and other criminal justice professionals, the ‘Court Project’ is an early intervention activity with partners to divert and deter people at risk of committing further crime or ASB. Offenders are invited to join scenario-based events held at a decommissioned magistrate’s court building and expert role players guide offenders through real-life outcomes such as court and custody to illustrate the implications of criminal behaviour.
  • Victims and witnesses are supported through the criminal justice process by a specialist team who provide a bespoke service to all victims and witnesses going to court. The victim and witness hub manages victims and witnesses on a wide range of crimes and not only offer support on the criminal justice process, but also signposting and practical support, such as food bank vouchers.  The impact of providing tailored and intensive support to victims and witnesses is a reduction in criminal justice attrition rates as less victims and witnesses drop out or retract from the court process.

Since the previous inspection in 2021/22, HMICFRS concluded that while the force is performing well in some areas, it still needed to improve performance across a few areas and that further improvement is required, in particular in call handling and emergency response times, managing suspects and offenders and in certain areas of leadership and management.

Mr Dean added: “We are aware there are areas in which we need to improve and since the inspection last year we have implemented changes in processes and increased our resources in those areas and we are already seeing significant improvements.

“For example, in our demand hub we have, at peak times, deployed police officers to support call handlers in order to increase call answering capacity, until we are able to get new police staff through the recruitment and training process.

“This means that despite the number of calls into our 999 lines having increased by 27 per cent compared to pre-Covid figures, in February (2024), we were answering 91.8 per cent of calls in ten seconds, meaning we now sit 13th in the country for call pick-up times. This is an improvement from when we were inspected in November last year. The report praised call taking staff for their politeness and knowledge, despite the challenging job that they do.

“The report also recognises the constabulary has implemented a number innovative leadership programmes supporting specialist areas, as well as the investment in frontline supervision, including under-represented groups.

“We have also increased resources, welfare support and leadership into our online child abuse team and the team that manages registered sex offenders. These are both areas of business that have grown significantly in the past few years, and two areas that carry significant risk, so it was imperative that we acted before today’s report came out. The risk within these areas has now significantly reduced.

“This action has already demonstrated positive results including clearing a backlog of checks that needed to be made and visits that needed to be carried out. We now need to ensure these changes are maintained, to ensure the trust, confidence and safety of our community.”

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