THE PLANS for the future of policing in the West Midlands has been described as ‘outstanding’ by the national police watchdog.
In a report out today (Tuesday, October 20), inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspect of Constabulary (HMIC) have named West Midlands Police as one of only five ‘outstanding’ forces in England and Wales.
In the face of a challenging future of further funding cuts and falling officer numbers, the report has found West Midlands Police to be ‘exceptionally well prepared’ to continue to cut crime and keep the public safe.
HMIC inspectors described the force’s five-year change programme WMP2020, which shifts the focus from reactive policing to a more preventative approach, as “ambitious and far-reaching” – pointing to more robust offender management, a tackling of problem families, and a partnership response to issues like mental health.
The force was praised for its mental health triage scheme − the only one of its kind uniting psychiatric nurses, police officers and paramedics on a response vehicle − achieving £642,000 a year in efficiency savings while providing on-the-spot help for people in crisis.
The report also pointed to the force’s commitment to embracing new technology, which includes plans for an online crime reporting and case tracking facility, plus a move to arm officers with smart phones linked to police systems that will allow them to access information while en route to emergencies or at crime scenes.
Welcoming the report, Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson said the change programme will seek to ensure a continuation of the ‘first class service’ the force provide to local communities.
He added: “We are continually monitoring demand for service and making flexible deployment decisions − most recently that saw us expand our public protection unit working in areas such as child sexual exploitation and domestic abuse.
“There is clearly much more work to be done but I’m glad HMIC has noted we are on track and have built a strong platform for policing in 2020 and beyond.”
Since 2010, West Midlands Police’s budget has faced unprecedented cuts from government.
Around £146 million – 22 percent of the total budget – has been axed and police officer numbers reduced by almost 1,500, with further and similar spending cuts expected by 2020.
West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said today’s independent report recognised the ‘outstanding job’ the force had done in the face of disproportionate cuts.
He added: “Austerity and the disproportionate impact that it has had on West Midlands Police remains a massive challenge.
“Our funding and the expected cuts in the Comprehensive Spending Review remain our biggest single challenge.
“This independent report recognises the huge efficiencies already made and our sensible plans for the future.
“I must be clear though, further disproportionate cuts above the levels already set out will be robustly challenged, as they would leave West Midlands Police in a very difficult position.”