GMP chief apologies for 'fundamental and systemic problems' within force

The chief constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has apologised for failing to meet the needs of victims of crime due to “long-term, fundamental and systemic problems” within the force.

Sep 30, 2021
By Tony Thompson
Chief Constable Stephen Watson.

Stephen Watson was responding to the latest inspection report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), which expressed concerns about public safety in Greater Manchester.

HMICFRS found that GMP was still failing to respond effectively to vulnerable victims of crime, four years after concerns were first raised. It said GMP does not respond to emergency or priority incidents within the timescales it has set itself and there are significant delays in attending incidents where vulnerable people are at risk.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said: “Greater Manchester Police has a critical duty to keep the public safe, and vulnerable people deserve the very best service. Whilst accepting the very recent positive approach to improving the performance of the force, I am deeply concerned that GMP has consistently failed to make significant improvements in how it responds to vulnerable victims of crime.

“We told GMP to make these improvements in 2017, yet it has still not made sufficient progress. It has now reached the point where we are concerned about public safety in Greater Manchester.

“The people of Greater Manchester will rightly expect their local police force to do all it can to protect them from harm. We will therefore be closely monitoring the force’s performance to make sure that public safety comes first.”

A statement issued by HMICFRS said: “After failing to make sufficient improvements, GMP has been issued with a cause of concern. This process can be accelerated, meaning the cause of concern is published in advance of the full inspection report. This happens when a police force’s failures raise concerns about public safety – as is the case with GMP.”

HMICFRS has made several recommendations, including that GMP should immediately improve its capability and capacity to deploy resources to incidents that require either an immediate (15 minutes) or prompt (one hour) police response.

Responding to the findings of the latest inspection, Mr Watson, who took over as chief constable in May, revealed that he has sought peer support from some of the highest performing police forces in the country in an effort to identify new actions that can be taken to improve the way GMP operates.

He said: “We recognise and accept HMICFRS findings about our continued weaknesses, which follows a routine inspection. These describe a quality of service which is not yet where we want it to be and which I know is far from what the people of Greater Manchester deserve. For this simple fact I humbly apologise. I am truly sorry for every time we have not met the needs of victims of crime. I can assure you that our top priority is to keep people safe.

“The findings of this report are deep-rooted. Whilst we are making progress in key areas, I fully accept that we need to move quickly to address the long-term, fundamental and systemic problems driving these failings.

“In the short time I’ve been in post, I have seen our officers and staff working incredibly hard to improve our service. I have overseen the most drastic and wide-ranging senior officer recruitment process ever undertaken in GMP and we have a new leadership team in place that will accelerate change.

“We have recruited a new deputy chief constable, a local policing assistant chief constable and a new chief superintendent from outside the force to help address the issues raised and to bring improvements to our call handling and response functions.

“Indeed, by Monday, every district in Greater Manchester will be led by a chief superintendent who is locally accountable to the communities they serve. I am already heartened by their readiness to make positive change and implement the initiatives needed to get this force into shape.

“We were fully aware of the issues raised by HMICFRS which has already informed the basis of the comprehensive and well-received forward plan I published recently. Work to translate the strategic plan into a practical series of improvement activities across the operating model has already begun which will address these problems expeditiously.

“Immediate actions I have taken include bolstering the leadership on the ground, driving an increase in staffing in call handling, and conducting a wholesale reform of the force’s local policing model. Many of these initiatives, while complex in their nature, are already under-way but will take time to yield results.”

Soon after taking office, Mr Watson pledged to resign if he was unable to turn around the fortunes of GMP within a set period of time. He said: “I am going to pull it off because I am surrounded by thousands of really good people who really want to make a difference. If within two years this force is not in a demonstrably better place, I’ll have gone.”

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