Concerns raised over Devon and Cornwall Police’s performance

Devon and Cornwall Police must make urgent improvements after it was found to be inadequate in several areas, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has said.

Feb 2, 2023
By Paul Jacques

The inspectorate said inadequate areas included recording data about crime, responding to the public and managing offenders.

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said she has “concerns” about the force’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime.

HMICFRS graded Devon and Cornwall Police’s performance across nine areas of policing and found the force was ‘inadequate’ in three areas, ‘requires improvement’ in two areas, ‘adequate’ in two areas and ‘good’ in two areas.

In October 2022, HMICFRS placed Devon and Cornwall Police into its enhanced monitoring stage, Engage.

This followed concerns that the force’s crime recording had deteriorated since its previous inspection, it did not answer, or respond to, emergency or non-emergency calls within adequate timeframes, and was unable to adequately manage registered sexual and violent offenders.

Ms Williams said: “I have concerns about Devon and Cornwall Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime – particularly about the accuracy of its crime recording, its response to the public, and its management of sexual and violent offenders.

“The force doesn’t always record crimes against vulnerable victims, particularly violent or behavioural crimes, and anti-social behaviour. Failure to record a crime often results in victims not being properly safeguarded and no investigation taking place.

“Our inspection also found that the force is not adequately assessing or managing the risks posed by registered sexual and violent offenders.

“However, we did find good examples of the force working well with other organisations to prioritise the prevention and deterrence of crime. We also found that members of the workforce are well supported to do their jobs.

“Last year, in view of these findings, we moved Devon and Cornwall Police into our enhanced monitoring process, which provides additional scrutiny and support. I have also been in regular contact with the chief constable to monitor the force’s progress against these important and necessary changes.”

Devon and Cornwall Police said since the inspection a range of improvements have already been made in the areas of concern, including boosting resources, reviewing policies and procedures, as well as working with other forces to identify best practice in the areas identified by HMICFRS.

Chief Constable Will Kerr said he is confident this ongoing work has already had a significant positive impact on the service the force offers.

He said: “I am under no illusion that the areas highlighted by the Inspectorate will be concerning to our communities, but I am confident that we have made significant improvements to the areas identified and progress continues to be made at pace.

“For crime recording, a new governance structure is now in place to scrutinise our compliance with national standards, and we have invested in resources for our auditing capability. We have also introduced a new system, which will improve our crime data integrity and we have already seen an overall uplift in compliance.

“For answering emergency and non-emergency calls, we have recently introduced a triage service, which means that the caller speaks to a person who first identifies what assistance the caller requires. This has allowed us to focus on improving our response to 999 calls, with 90 per cent being answered within ten seconds in January 2023. This is a five per cent increase since the inspection was carried out. Working with our police and crime commissioner, we have also re-opened six front desks to improve public access to our service. We anticipate further improvements in how the public can contact us with the introduction of the Single Online Home website. We know how important this service is to the public and are committed to doing better.

“The other area identified by the Inspectorate was the management of sexual or violent offenders. We have already increased the number of supervisors in the unit to ensure workloads are managed in line with national guidance and our neighbourhood policing teams are also now attending visits.”

Mr Kerr added: “We continue to work in an extremely challenging environment with many significant demands placed on us, but we are determined to do all we can to ensure that Devon and Cornwall remains one of the safest places in the country to live and visit. I am reassured also that public confidence in us remains high at 80 per cent and compares very favourably in comparison to other force’s survey results. We do not take that public confidence for granted and are working very hard to address the three specified areas of concern.

“We have made some very positive steps and continue to make significant progress. I am confident that my officers, staff and volunteers will deliver the service improvements required across our communities.”

Alison Hernandez, PCC for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, commented: “Inspectorate reports assist me in my duty of holding the chief constable to account for the delivery of an efficient and effective police force.

“I have recruited a new chief constable, Will Kerr, to oversee necessary improvements and have every confidence that he will swiftly deliver the changes required to satisfy inspectors and the public we serve.”

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