‘Positive comments’ in HMICFRS report welcomed by chief constable

The chief constable of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary has praised the “clear evidence” in the latest inspection report of the “great service” being delivered by his officers, staff and volunteers.

Apr 13, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Chief Constable Scott Chilton

Scott Chilton welcomed the “positive comments” in His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) report, which rated the force as ‘good’ in recording data about crime, its treatment of the public and developing a positive workforce.

However, inspectors found preventing crime and responding to the public ‘requires improvement’.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Roy Wilsher acknowledged that as one of the lowest funded forces in the country, it “influences the decisions leaders have to make about where to focus resources”.

But, overall, he said he was “satisfied” with the performance of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary in keeping people safe and reducing crime, although there were areas where it needs to improve.

Mr Chilton said: “I was clear when I returned to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary that being tough on crime and providing much more visible policing were my priority.

“It was clear to me then, and it is clear in this report, that we need to relentlessly pursue criminals so that their lives, not those of local people, are a misery.

“Those criminals need to know that Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is a hostile environment for them, and that every effort will be made to see justice served.

“I have spent my first few weeks meeting the dedicated officers, staff and volunteers who share my passion for policing, and I am pleased to see clear evidence in this HMICFRS report of how they already deliver a great service.

“I would like to thank each and every one of them for what they are doing at a difficult time for policing. They deserve far more recognition than they get.”

He added: “It’s no secret that Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is one of the lowest funded forces in the country. The report recognises this, highlighting the difficult decisions we have to make to ensure we prioritise responding to those in urgent need of help and investigating serious and complex crimes.

“But it’s also why my officers, staff and volunteers need to be freed up to deal with issues that only the police can deal with, rather than filling the gaps left by other agencies.

“It is important to me that investigations are carried out in a timely way, with victims being kept updated well, as I want people to feel confident to report crime.

“Therefore, I welcome positive comments in this respect, and I am also pleased that the efforts of the force over some considerable time on standards and ethics are recognised.

“We will continue to identify and deal robustly with those who corrupt policing, cause harm, and damage the confidence of our communities.

“Our rapid video response service to support victims of domestic abuse, and how good officers attending incidents are at identifying vulnerability, are two more examples of where we are getting it right.”

Mr Chilton said while there are a lot of “positives” in the report and the vast majority of the public support the police, “this crucial relationship becomes strained when policing does not respond or engage well enough”.

“Our communities need to have better information about what is happening, who is responsible for causing the misery, and to know that their police force is doing something about it,” he said.

“That is why, in my first month, I appointed area commanders to lead a new geographical model of policing, restoring a crucial link to local people.

“That is just a first part of building stronger relationships that are the bedrock of policing. A number of other steps are also in progress.

“We have successfully brought in 600 extra officers, with 50 more to come. They help us to achieve our ambition in the years ahead, as will our new Policing PLUS scheme that removes the requirement to complete a degree and gets our student officers out of classrooms quicker, putting thousands of hours of police time back into communities with on the job training.

“Other pieces of the puzzle include our police and crime commissioner, Donna Jones, announcing that by April 2024 there will be named, dedicated police officers and PCSOs for every community, and the reopening of some police buildings to the public.

“I know that communities want to know who their local officers are, see them tackling the crimes that cause them concern, and be able to speak to us when they need to. The changes I am making, with the commissioner’s support, will deliver my priority of much more visible local policing.

“It is still early days. Together, we are building something local and very exciting in Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary. As well as being a chief constable and a local resident, many of my family and friends also live here. I have the same expectation that our communities do, that Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is not just safe for everyone, but feels safe too.”

Mr Wilsher said its assessments of the force over the past year found crimes reported by the public were accurately recorded, and in most cases, victims of crime received an acceptable response.

“I am pleased to see the progress that the force has made in the overall accuracy of its crime recording. It correctly records more than 96 percent of reported crime, which is an improvement since our previous inspection,” he said.

“And the force is working hard to make sure that victims and witnesses are treated in line with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.

“We found good work with partners to protect victims of domestic abuse and child criminal exploitation. Partnership work to protect children from being exploited and victimised was present across the force. There has been a real focus both on this and protecting and supporting victims of domestic abuse.”

Despite these “positive findings”, Mr Wilsher said capacity to meet all demand is “stretched”.

“We found that delays occurred, and these had adverse effects. The force doesn’t always meet demand quickly enough,” said Mr Wilsher. “This is clear from the first point of contact, as the time the force takes to answer a call from the public is often too long. There can then be delays in officers arriving at incidents in which members of the public need their help.

“We also found that there were delays in commencing investigations into some types of less serious crime. There is a risk this could lead to the force losing evidence. During our inspection, we found backlogs of work, some in critical areas. The force has used extra resources and made better use of technology to reduce some of these backlogs as part of developing a permanent solution.”

Inspectors found neighbourhood police officers were often taken away from their core tasks.

“The force also uses neighbourhood police officers to respond to calls and carry out some crime investigations,” said Mr Wilsher. “This means that those officers are less visible in their areas and less able to find out what matters most to local communities and carry out preventative and problem-solving work.

“We also found that neighbourhood officers didn’t consistently use a structured problem-solving model, which resulted in fewer opportunities to learn and share best practice.”

He said the force prioritises resources according to its understanding of risk, but it “struggles to fully manage the wider effect of demand on the way it carries out its activities”.

But overall, Mr Wilsher said inspectors found that the force was “managed efficiently”.

“It has one of the lowest amounts of funding per head of population in England and Wales, which influences the decisions leaders have to make about where to focus resources,” he said. “For example, it prioritises 999 calls over non-emergency calls, and it puts any staffing increases in place in units that deal with more complex and serious crimes.

“It has taken action to address its most high-risk problems, such as backlogs in assessing risk to vulnerable people. But it now needs to satisfy itself that it is using all resources in the most effective way. In particular, it needs to anticipate and guard against the unintended consequences of moving work from one area of the force to another.

“This is necessary if it is to replicate its strong performance in some higher-risk areas with a consistently high day-to-day response for the public.

“I will continue to check the force’s progress in addressing these in the coming months.”

Related News

Select Vacancies

Police Sergeant Transferee

Merseyside Police

Police Officer Transferee

Merseyside Police

Copyright © 2023 Police Professional