West Midlands Police reacts to being put in special measures
and live on Freeview channel 276
West Midlands Police has been put into an "enhanced level of monitoring" following a string of concerns, it was announced today (Friday, November 24).
Concerns have been raised by His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) about how the police force manages investigations.
There are also concerns over how the force makes sure multi-agency risk assessment conferences work effectively to safeguard vulnerable people and over the management of sex offenders and offenders accessing indecent images of children.
Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Craig Guildford, said he disagrees with the decision and that many of the issues identified developed as a result of a previous operating model.
He said statistical findings were largely drawn from datasets that pre-date the launch of the force's new operating model, which launched in April, but accepted there were areas for improvement.
Chief Constable Guildford said: “Although I remain respectful of HMICFRS, I completely disagree with their decision-making to move West Midlands Police into ‘engage’ now despite providing them with recent evidence that should inform a much more comprehensive and fair assessment of the force.
“Our job now is to ensure the plans we have already implemented expeditiously address HMICFRS’ concerns. When I joined West Midlands Police in December 2022 I set some clear priorities as I recognised there needed to be a significant improvement in the force’s performance, the number of offenders brought to justice and the service we provide to local communities.
“It was for this reason that I implemented a rapid overhaul of the operating model and in April 2023 we created seven new local policing areas, each of which has local responsibility for responding to calls for service and investigating offences.
"Since implementing this new model, changing force contact and opening two more custody suites, our arrest rate has increased by a third as has the number of offenders brought to justice. This continues to improve each month."
He said West Midlands Police was now the best-performing force of its 'most similar forces group' when it comes to solving burglary, robbery and homicide. "The number of rapes we solve has increased dramatically, such that we have now surpassed the national average," he added.
"We have gone from being one of the worst call-handling forces to one of the best in 11 months. We answer 70,000 999 calls each month in an average of five seconds and have improved the proportion of emergency incidents attended within our specified targets by 25 per cent.
“Our data is showing some significant reductions in crime. If the current trends continue, we expect to be one of the best-performing forces nationally for crime reductions.
“Accepting that you cannot turn a force the size of West Midlands Police around overnight, and notwithstanding all of the progress, we accept that investigations need to improve further.
"Indeed, we had already identified the concerns relating to investigations before HMICFRS inspected us; and we now have a detailed plan which is already delivering improvement. This will continue to be shared with HMICFRS.”
HMICFRS also highlighted concerns about the effectiveness of the multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARAC) which is a partner-agency arrangement that provides an additional layer of support to victims.
Chief Constable Guildford said: “West Midlands Police always provides safeguarding to all victims, irrespective of eligibility for MARAC, so it is misleading to say that victims are not safeguarded as a result of delays in MARAC.
"Working with partners we have a plan in place to address the backlog which is already delivering improvements. Our domestic abuse arrest rate has increased from 27 per cent to 39 per cent since changing our operating model.”
In response to issues raised over the management of the risk posed by registered sex offenders and online child abuse offenders, he said: “I want to reassure people that we had already identified these issues and put robust plans in place to rectify them. Whilst I accept the broad findings in relation to the frequency of some visits and supervisory oversight, this was a legacy of the previous force operating model which I have changed.
“We have merged sex offender manager units into our specialist public protection unit so that the issues identified are being better managed by the specialist leadership. We are already seeing significant improvements including a reduction in outstanding risk assessments by 58 per cent, and the introduction of a new staff welfare programme and performance dashboards that allow for enhanced scrutiny and oversight by managers.
“Our online investigative capability has been increased since the inspection, and as we shared with HMICFRS, we quickly eliminated a backlog in enforcement, and have sustained that improvement ever since. At the same time, we have implemented a new safeguarding referral process ahead of the national deadline set by the HMICFRS.”
The focus of the HMICFRS engage phase is to assist the force in finding ways to improve and resolve identified causes of concern, where they have not been successful in doing so independently. At this stage, forces are asked to carry out a comprehensive analysis and develop an improvement plan to set out how causes of concern will be addressed.
Chief Constable Guildford added: “We already have plans in place to address the concerns highlighted by HMICFRS which are working to deliver sustained and verifiable results. My officers and staff, who I hugely respect, continue to work very hard on behalf of the public.
“We remain focused on doing our very best to keep the public safe and bring offenders to justice. I have every confidence that we will continue to deliver sustained improvements for local communities and I look forward to evidencing this over the coming weeks and months to HMICFRS.”
The region's Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster said he had already met with Chief Constable Craig Guildford and was "holding him to account, to ensure he prepares and implements an effective action plan, in order to resolve the areas of concern as a matter of urgency".
But he also said he disagreed with the decision and that action was already being taken to make improvements. Mr Foster added: “I am treating this matter with the utmost seriousness and as a top priority.
“Action has already been taken and continues to be taken, to drive significant improvements within West Midlands Police. That includes transforming 999 and 101 performance and the largest crime reductions by volume of any force in the country.
“I have been repeatedly warning the government that its reckless cuts to policing, which even after the so-called police uplift, left West Midlands Police with 1,000 fewer officers than it had in 2010, have caused immense damage to the force.
“Today’s announcement by His Majesty’s Inspectorate, is yet further evidence of the damage inflicted on West Midlands Police and the people of the West Midlands by the government. I trust the government can appreciate the consequences of its own actions.
“I was first notified of HMICs decision and its areas of concern on November 22. I disagree with the decision of HMIC – a view that is shared by the Chief Constable. It is important to note: the decision is based on data already between eight to 11-months-old and pre-dates launch of the new neighbourhood policing strategy on April 3, 2023. The decision taken is in many respects, a reflection of ‘what was’ rather than ‘what is’.”
HMICFRS said that it was assured West Midlands Police is taking steps to address these concerns, but significant and sustained improvements are required and the inspectorate will be closely monitoring the force’s progress.
The inspectorate also said more detail about West Midlands Police’s performance would be included in its next inspection report, which is due to be published in early 2024.
His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: “We move police forces into our enhanced level of monitoring, known as engage, when a force is not responding to our concerns, or if it is not managing, mitigating or eradicating these concerns.
“The engage process provides additional scrutiny and support from the inspectorate and other external organisations in the policing sector to help the police force improve and provide a better service for the public.
“West Midlands Police has been asked to urgently produce an improvement plan and will meet regularly with our inspectors. We will work closely with the force to monitor its progress against these important and necessary changes.”