Improvement needed by South Wales Police in its response to the public, says HMICFRS

South Wales Police needs to improve its response to the public according to the latest inspection by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

May 24, 2024
By Paul Jacques

While most victims were “supported and consulted appropriately”, the inspectorate was concerned that the force “doesn’t consistently or effectively identify crimes or vulnerable people connected with anti-social behaviour”, and has not made enough progress in promptly answering emergency calls.

Despite the areas identified in the PEEL report (2023-25) as needing improvement, overall, inspectors were “satisfied” with most other aspects of the force’s performance.

HM Inspector Wendy Williams, who oversaw the inspection until March 31 this year, when her tenure ended, said: “We are pleased with some aspects of the performance of South Wales Police in deterring crime and anti-social behaviour.

“The force is good at promoting a safe and welcoming workplace. We are satisfied with most other aspects of the force’s performance, but there are areas in which it needs to improve.”

In 2023, South Wales Police faced the challenge of policing large-scale disorder in Ely, Cardiff and then rebuilding community trust and confidence.

“The force’s leadership and command and control arrangements helped it to coordinate its initial response well,” said Ms Williams. “The force, in this example and others, used its own and partnership data to understand the concerns of the communities it most needed to get involved.”

She added: “South Wales Police prioritises how it protects the safety of women and girls in public spaces.

“The force has tackled anti-social behaviour using a multi-agency problem-solving approach. To do so, it has used money from the Home Office Safer Streets Fund, which allows forces and local authorities to invest in crime prevention initiatives.”

Ms Williams found South Wales Police was regarded as “a welcoming employer by its workforce” and has a notably lower rate of voluntary resignations by police officers compared with the England and Wales average.

“But the force needs to make sure that all its officers and staff feel valued and involved in its decision-making,” she said.

The force has a transformation programme to make sure its contact management function can meet current and future demand.

Inspectors found this has already resulted in “clear benefits” in terms of leadership and helping the public to contact it online.

“In our inspection, we found that South Wales Police effectively risk assesses and prioritises incidents,” said Ms Williams. “However, the force hasn’t made enough progress in promptly answering emergency calls.

“It also needs to attend domestic abuse incidents quickly enough so that victims can be confident they will be protected.

“The force doesn’t consistently or effectively identify crimes or vulnerable people connected with anti-social behaviour. This is concerning and means that the force isn’t taking every opportunity to keep vulnerable victims safe.”

Ms Williams said it was “reassuring that most criminal investigations audited were carried out and supervised well”.

“Most victims were supported and consulted appropriately,” she said.

In South Wales, a relatively high number of domestic abuse offenders are brought to justice.

The force is working to make sure that it has enough skilled personnel in the right places to investigate crime to the expected standard.

“But, in some cases, this work hasn’t yet translated into results. Overall, too few offenders are brought to justice,” said Ms Williams.

“Often, inexperienced or unskilled officers investigate serious and complex crime.

“Since our last inspection, South Wales Police has improved its response when children are reported missing. The force now has dedicated teams to protect children from being criminally exploited. It provides timely Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme information to potential victims more often.

“But some of these improvements are recent and not yet consistent across all areas of the force.

“The force allocates enough resources for the effective lifetime management of the most dangerous offenders.

“However, we are concerned that the force doesn’t always promptly notify partner agencies when it suspects that children may be at risk of harm from online offenders.

“South Wales Police has strong collaborative arrangements with other forces and partner agencies to provide local, regional and national services to the public.”

The force is funded at a higher-than-average rate when compared with other forces across England and Wales.

“We found its financial understanding and planning to be sound,” Ms Williams said. “However, the force must make sure that its learning and development capacity can meet its training plans and that it has enough IT staff to support other improvement programmes.”

At the time of publication of the PEEL report, Michelle Skeer now holds responsibility for South Wales Police.

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