Greater Manchester Police removed from ‘special measures’

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has been removed from ‘special measures’ by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Oct 28, 2022
By Paul Jacques
Chief Constable Stephen Watson

Chief Constable Stephen Watson credited the “steadfast commitment” of officers and staff for GMP coming out of special measures in less than two years, making it one of the most improved forces in the country.

GMP was moved into the enhanced monitoring ‘Engage’ phase in December 2020 after HMICFRS raised concerns over its failure to record more than 80,000 crimes in the space of a year.

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said he decided to remove GMP from Engage after a number of improvements were made.

These included:

  • Responding appropriately to the public and vulnerable people, including answering calls more quickly;
  • Better understanding its performance and the capability and capacity of its workforce, and providing better support for officers and staff;
  • Halving the number of open investigations, giving officers more time to focus on bringing offenders to justice; and
  • More accurately recording crime.

Mr Cooke said: “I am pleased with the progress that GMP has made so far. Whilst there is still more to do, I have decided to remove the force from our enhanced level of monitoring, known as Engage, and return it to routine monitoring.

“I am reassured by the plans GMP has in place to continue making improvements.

“The force will be inspected again during 2023, when we will assess its progress to make sure the people of Manchester are getting the service they deserve from their police force.”

As recently as June this year, GMP reported advancement in all areas highlighted as causes for concern by HMICFRS, and in particular the areas in which the public “would more immediately see and feel progress”.

In June 2021, 999 answer times were averaging one minute 22 seconds, and non-emergency answer time was six minutes 44 seconds.

Mr Watson said better use of technology and continued investment in call handling teams the average speed to answer 999  calls has dropped to just seven seconds.

In terms of national performance, he said GMP was now in the top ten of force performance for 999 answer times, and 8th nationally in terms of percentage of calls answered in under ten seconds – the best of any large metropolitan force.

Non-emergency call average answer times are now one minute four seconds.

Response times have also improved, with 999 incidents (grade 1 calls) at an average of ten minutes 19 seconds, which is well within the 15 minute target and down from a peak of 13 minutes 35 seconds.

Mr Watson said sustained improvement has also been made to Grade 2 attendance, which back in August 2021 saw response times at 28 hours 45 minutes. The average time to attend a Grade 2 is now down to two hours 13 minutes.

HMICFRS also adjudged GMP to be compliant with national crime recording standards and has also rescinded this element of its cause for concern.

As a result of a renewed focus on compliance and crime recording practices, GMP is recording around 30,500 crimes a month on average.

The chief constable also committed to doubling the number of arrests and the numbers show they are the highest they have been in two years at 4,872 arrests as of September 2022, a significant increase of 60 per cent from September 2021, with the force on track to record the highest number of arrests since 2015/16.

During the 12 months to the end of September 2022, 23,483 investigations resulted in a charge or summons, an increase of 42 per cent.

Stop and search is also being better utilised, with 2,528 people being stop searched in September 2022, a 275 per cent increase on the year before, with 2,093 resulting in an arrest. This is a 101 per cent increase on the previous year and complaints have reduced by 29 per cent, “demonstrating an ethical and measured approach to this tactic”, said Mr Watson.

The chief constable said further reassurance can be seen through the positive outcomes as a result of this action.

He recently reiterated his commitment to residents of Greater Manchester that their police force “would respond to each and every report of burglary GMP receives”.

Under Operation Castle the force is making rapid improvements across the board having invested in additional training for officers and staff to improve their investigative skills, established dedicated burglary teams in districts and an improved response model.

Mr Watson said GMP has dramatically improved the speed of response and has increased the number of burglars arrested across Greater Manchester by around 70 per cent. Not only has GMP increased the number of burglars arrested, but the force has also solved 1,475 burglaries in the past 12 months, an increase of 88 per cent on the previous year.

Other areas of concern from HMICFRS are also being addressed, including the standard of investigations and the risks posed to victims, including vulnerable victims of crime.

GMP has taken several actions, which tackled this directly, including a re-launched Performance Management Framework, bespoke improvement plans led by dedicated senior detectives, and increased investment in detective resourcing, which improved capacity and capability. Effective scrutiny and governance are routinely exercised at the executive level and through a refreshed force Investigation and Crime Standards Improvement plan.

HMICFRS noted that this shift in investigation performance management has meant it is confident the standards of investigation are much improved, and GMP has the structure and culture in place to protect vulnerable people, and therefore this area as a cause for concern has been rescinded.

The other outstanding area identified by HMICFRS as an immediate priority was the force’s ability to respond appropriately to people who are vulnerable and at risk.

Mr Watson said GMP has invested heavily in the force contact centre and launched a dedicated summer plan to meet additional seasonal demand under ‘Operation Apollo’, flexing resources from across the organisation for additional support. This, combined with the new force incident Grading and Response policy and the introduction of dedicated child protection teams ensures that the right resource is routinely deployed to the right victim at right time, with a particular focus on particularly vulnerable members of the community, with this outstanding area also being rescinded as an area for concern.

Mr Watson said: “Our route into ‘special measures’ has been thoroughly analysed and much discussed.

“There are several reasons as to how we came to bear our recent travails, a failure of leadership principle amongst them.

“As I have stated repeatedly, however, the fundamental failing was simply that we stopped doing the basics well, we stopped being the police and we stopped doing many of the things that our public have every right to expect.

“I have however, from the very point of assuming command of the force last summer, been given ample evidence to assert that our recent difficulties do not bear a true reflection of the commitment, professionalism and courage that are so abundantly to be found among the officers and staff of GMP.

“These qualities have come very powerfully to the fore in working to deliver our plan with precision and vigour.

“The coherence of the plan, the establishment of capable leadership at all levels and the development of effective ways to ensure that the whole force pulls together, have all played a part.

“Fundamentally, however, our progress speaks to the determination, enthusiasm and hard work of our staff.”

He added: HMIC has, quite rightly, subjected the force to a tough process and have set the bar deliberately high. That our staff are succeeding so tangibly is something of which we can all be proud.

“The momentum being created reflects our status as the most improved force in the country and gives confidence as to sustainability.

“Nothing in these welcome developments implies any complacency on our part. We fully recognise that much remains to improve still further. It does however represent a tangible and substantial step on our journey toward that to which we all aspire to be the finest force in our country.

“The support from the public and our agency partners is very valuable and much appreciated. I thank our communities across Greater Manchester for keeping faith with GMP and I am confident that you too will recognise the fact that our recent difficulties are being put behind us with increasing pace and certainty.

“I look forward to sustaining GMP’s march forward and for us to continue to make our region a safer place to live, work and visit.”

Mike Peake, vice-chair of Greater Manchester Police Federation, said: “GMP Federation does not just welcome the news that HMICFRS have taken the decision to remove GMP from special measures but also that GMP is the most improved force in the country.

“Chief Constable Steve Watson is right to thank officers and staff for their continued professionalism, which has been present not just during the period of improvement, but an ever constant when facing the everyday pressures that modern day policing brings.

“The hard-working dedication that our members continually display has significantly contributed to the safety of the communities of Greater Manchester. I make specific mention to the reduction of the time now taken to answer 999 calls, just seven seconds, at a time when the public need us the most. There are now 30,500 crimes recorded each month, along with in an increase in burglary arrests by 68 per cent.

“It is also important to acknowledge the positive impact that Mr Watson and the new force senior leadership team have had since their arrival last year. To their credit they have listened to the concerns raised by our members, and GMP Federation have started to forge what is a good working relationship with them.

“However this is not a time to rest on our laurels, there are significant challenges ahead, and we look forward to working with the force to continue to make improvements.

“Improvements that will not only benefit the communities we serve, but will also provide the necessary support needed to enable officers to carry out the varied and difficult demands that are expected of them.

“We now have a foundation to build on, and with the uplift in officers and the forces recognition of the need for more investment in officers, staff, training, and investigative resilience we are confident the force are heading in the right direction.”

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