WEST MIDLANDS Police ‘requires improvement’ according to today’s official watchdog report.
Preventing crime and tackling more serious offences were rated as good by the PEEL Police Effectiveness report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
But the force’s ability to protect vulnerable people was shown to be ‘inadequate’ – the worst possible grade.
In the last HMICFRS report, West Midland’s Police was rated as ‘good’ by inspectors.
The HMICFRS national report has acknowledged regional forces have been placed under strain by the government’s police budget cuts and pinpointed “shrinking workforces” as a primary issue.
The report on the West Midlands Police states: “We found serious failings in its ability to protect vulnerable people from harm.
“Staff are generally good at identifying vulnerable people when they first contact the police, but at the time of our inspection there were often not enough officers available to respond to incidents quickly when required.”
Regarding more positive outcomes, the report says: “The force has greatly improved its understanding of organised crime threats, including urban street gangs, and it works well with partners to develop this understanding.
“It has necessary arrangements in place to fulfil its national policing responsibilities, and to respond initially to an attack requiring an armed response.”
In response to the release of the report, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) David Jamieson, said: “The force is rated as ‘inadequate’ for vulnerability. I find the final grade disappointing, but reflective of demand, a factor outside of the force’s control.
“However, I am pleased at the recognition of the innovative work the force are doing to tackle gangs through injunctions.
“In the wake of unprecedented demand and terrorist incidents last year, a backlog of calls developed in the West Midlands.
“As an area of significant threat this was more acute in the West Midlands than many other places.
“I shone a light on this, to highlight the pressures forces like the West Midlands face.
“Senior police officers are right to question why the inspection has focused on the scale of demand rather than why it was challenging to manage, despite inspectors rightly recognising that policing is under significant stress.”
Deputy chief constable Louisa Rolfe raised concerns about the specific problems West Midlands Police face, adding: “While I am disappointed with the final grade, the inspection acknowledges good and improving work in our response to serious and organised crime.
“The one inadequate grade relates to concerns HMICFRS raised about a high volume of demand the force experienced last summer. This was heavily reported in the media and is no secret.
“West Midlands Police deals with around 70 per cent of its demand over the phone and the backlog concerns only 30 per cent of the calls we actually attend in person.
“We police the youngest population in the UK, the most deprived and the second most diverse.
“These factors create a much higher level of vulnerability for the force to police.
“West Midlands Police receives a funding per head of population below the national average and considerably behind very similar forces.
“That budget has fallen more heavily than other forces and, even with an improved settlement, the force will see the lowest rise per head of population in the next two years. A rise well below inflation.
“It is interesting to note that during the last inspection on efficiency, HMICFRS graded West Midlands Police’s change programme for the future as outstanding.”