‘Significant improvements’ at GMP, but chief constable promises more

Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) chief constable is determined his force will be the “best in the country” just a year after coming out of ‘special measures’.

Dec 1, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Chief Constable Stephen Watson

Stephen Watson QPM was responding to the latest report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), which highlighted “significant improvements” since its last PEEL inspection.

Across eight areas of policing, the inspectorate rated GMP’s performance as ‘good’ in two, ‘adequate’ in five and ‘requires improvement’ in one.

The force says this is evidence of the “huge progress” made since the 2020 inspection, which resulted in the delivery of an ‘accelerated cause for concern’ in the December – putting GMP into ‘special measures’ for just under two years until October 2022. It is also a “vast improvement” on the 2021/22 inspection, which resulted in the force receiving one ‘good’, five ‘requires improvement’, and three ‘inadequate’ gradings 21 months ago.

The force added: “GMP’s significant and unparalleled improvements have been recognised for a second time by HMICFRS – securing the force’s position as the most improved in the country.”

However, Mr Watson said: “Whilst we are delighted by the progress, it also paves the way for our next steps – which we have already begun to take.

“We do not believe that ‘adequate’ or ‘good’ are enough. We want to be ‘outstanding’ – the best police force in the country.

“We want to consistently deliver excellent policing services to the people of Greater Manchester, enabling them to have trust and confidence in those who have the privilege of keeping them safe.”

He added: “Greater Manchester Police is no longer an underperforming force. It is a force to be reckoned with – one with good leadership and management, and one which is good at preventing and deterring crime; and disrupting serious and organised crime.”

HMICFRS said the force works well with partners on prevention initiatives to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour. The inspectorate also found that GMP carried out a review of its neighbourhood policing model, which included consultation with communities, to improve visibility of the force within the community.

The report also recognises that the times taken to answer 999 and 101 calls have reduced (by 95.1 per cent and 83.4 per cent respectively since July 2021) and that the force carries out effective and timely investigations – with arrests up by 82.9 per cent in the past 12 months, compared with the year to October 2021, and charges and summons up by 39.2 per cent in the same period.

However, HMICFRS said the force needs to review how it monitors its requirement to visit registered sex offenders to make sure it quickly manages risk. It also said that the force should ensure it consistently achieves acceptable outcomes for victims of crime.

“The full report rightly acknowledges that the Public Protection Department was already making progress at the time of the inspection in July – with the Sex Offender Management Unit having decreased overdue visits and overdue specialist risk assessments by 81 per cent and 83 per cent since the beginning of the year,” said GMP. “In the past three months, the figures have continued to decrease by 14 per cent and 62 per cent respectively.”

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Michelle Skeer said: “I am pleased with some aspects of GMP’s performance in keeping people safe, reducing crime and providing victims with an effective service. The force has made significant improvements since we last inspected in 2021, but it recognises that there is still work to do.

“Our last inspection identified GMP’s positive changes and long-term plans. I am pleased that those plans have continued to help the force improve the service it provides to the public. Its leadership, governance and performance processes have increased both the productivity and proactivity of its officers.

“While there are still areas in which GMP needs to do better, I am optimistic that the force’s leadership and management will continue to provide further improvements.”

Mr Watson said this report reiterates the success of his plan – to focus on the basics, strengthen leadership, and improve performance – “which propelled GMP out of special measures in the record time of just under two years in October 2022”.

He added: “It is evident that, in the 12 months since coming out of special measures, call handling and response policing, neighbourhood policing, and safeguarding have continued to evolve – with His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary recognising promising practice in each of these areas.

“However, it goes without saying that our journey to improvement is ongoing and involves sustaining the progress we have already made, whilst ensuring continuous development in the highlighted areas for improvement – not least the management of sex offenders and suspects, which I can confirm has advanced since the inspection.

“On behalf of myself and the chief officers, I have already thanked officers and staff for their hard work and our thanks extend to our communities and partners – who continuously support us on our journey. You have our commitment that our quest does not end here.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “I am hugely encouraged with today’s His Majesty’s Inspectorate report which shows just how much of a turnaround GMP has made since it went into special measures in 2020 and since the 2021 inspection.

“When I appointed Stephen Watson as chief constable two years ago, I was very clear that I wanted GMP to focus on the people’s priorities of neighbourhood crime and rebuilding their relationships with local communities. Thanks to local taxpayers who helped fund the improvements through the police precept, we now have embedded neighbourhood police teams, we’ve seen calls being handled in record time, arrests are up, while tackling organised crime through Operation Vulcan and Operation Avro have netted huge results.

“I am proud of the work the chief constable, his leadership team, frontline officers and all the staff at GMP for what they have achieved. I know there is more to be done and I have every confidence Greater Manchester will soon have the outstanding force they deserve.”

Deputy Mayor for Police, Crime, Fire and Criminal Justice, Kate Green, added: “I know the last few years have not been easy for GMP and it has impacted public confidence in policing. I believe that people in Greater Manchester should feel confident that they now have a hard-working force, dedicated to fighting crime and keeping them safe.

“Since 2021, more crimes have been solved, neighbourhood crime and vehicle crime are falling, residential burglary has gone down by a fifth, more positive outcomes in domestic abuse cases, and homicide is down by nearly a quarter. It has taken considerable work and strong leadership to make this happen and myself and the mayor will continue to work with GMP to ensure they keep on improving.”

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