Cambridgeshire Constabulary ‘requires improvement’ according to government inspectors who have raised concerns about some of the force’s investigations.
The report by HMICFRS said a sample of 60 investigations were of an “inconsistent standard” with “serious concerns” identified in two files.
There was also ‘disappointment’ that PCSOs were involved in investigations, while the decision to ask some victims of “less-serious crimes” to complete initial enquiries was described as “inappropriate.”
Moreover, a shortage of officers had led to delays in attending some crime scenes, which in turn meant not all evidence was collected and preserved.
Delays in responding to domestic abuse incidents in Peterborough were also labelled “unacceptable.”
Inspectors added: “The force is potentially failing to provide an appropriate response to vulnerable victims of domestic abuse due to these delays”
A shortfall of detectives was another concern, but the force was also praised for bring fraudsters to justice, the understanding of staff to protect people with mental health conditions and the “proactive steps” taken to uncover vulnerable people being trafficked or subjected to forced labour.
The report also makes clear that the inspection took place following a “period of exceptional demand in summer 2017 which has since returned to normal levels.”
Responding to the report, Deputy Chief Constable Alan Baldwin said: “We accept the findings of HMIC’s effectiveness inspection, however, we are disappointed with the judgement of ‘requires improvement’.
“Our inspection came at a time of unprecedented demand for the police service, not only in Cambridgeshire, but across the country, and the findings by HMICFRS reflect this.
“While we continue to have peaks in demand, our levels have returned to normal, and we are putting measures in place to reduce the chances of this happening again.
“For example, we are currently implementing the Local Policing Review - a new policing model that will deliver a demand-led and victim-focused service to provide much needed support to the frontline, and our Police and Crime Commissioner has the support of the public in the county to increase council tax by £12 per year, which will be used to recruit 55 new warranted officers.
“While the timing of the HMICFRS inspection demonstrated the strain on the force during the period of exceptional demand, we are still proud of the good work we are doing, as highlighted in the report, and will use the areas of improvement identified by HMICFRS to ensure we continue to improve our service for the people of Cambridgeshire.”
Cambridgeshire police has less recorded crime per person than the England and Wales average, but the force saw a 24 per cent rise in recorded crime in the 12 months up to June, compared to a 14 per cent rise in England and Wales.
The Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite said: “Whist I acknowledge the grading of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), that our Constabulary ‘requires improvement’, it is important to reflect on the positive progress made over the past year.
“Chief Constable Alec Wood recognised our force was under significant pressure in autumn 2016. His response to this was to put in place a fundamental review of local policing.
“The local policing review brings additional resource to the frontline, increasing the number of warranted officers to ensure the force is in the best shape possible to both respond and protect people in our communities.
“His positive and ethical operational leadership, which I am pleased to say has been previously recognised by HMICFRS, makes me confident the appropriate measures are being put in place.
“I am also aware that this week many of you will be receiving your council tax bill which includes the £1 per month increase towards policing. The 55 new warranted officers this will pay for over the coming year will provide the resource needed by the frontline.
“I will, of course, continue to monitor progress but I am satisfied that together we are putting in place the necessary steps to tackle increased demand and respond to financial pressures.”
The report states:
. Police do not always have enough officers to attend all ‘prompt’ incidents within one hour. Delays in attending some crime scenes means not all evidence is collected and preserved
. The force is good at bringing perpetrators of fraud to justice and at protecting vulnerable people from being targeted
. A small number of victims were asked to collect CCTV evidence and to complete initial enquiries on less-serious crimes themselves, “which is inappropriate”
. Inspectors were “disappointed” PCSOs were involved in conducting some investigations, which includes taking witness statements, rather than their traditional role
. A sample of 60 investigations showed they were of an “inconsistent standard,” with problems identified in 12 files, two of which were “serious concerns”
. The force made good use of intelligence to support investigations
. With re-offending, where the identity of the suspect is known, the force is sometimes slow to locate or arrest them
. A high number of offenders are arrested using European arrest warrants
. The force is effectively arresting and bringing to justice high-risk domestic abuse and rape offenders
. Officers and staff take proactive steps to uncover ‘hidden harm’, such as vulnerable people being trafficked or subjected to forced labour
. Delays in responding to domestic abuse incidents, specifically in Peterborough, are “unacceptable.” It was added: “The force is potentially failing to provide an appropriate response to vulnerable victims of domestic abuse due to these delays”
. Officers and staff in the control room have a good understanding of the importance of taking immediate action where necessary to protect those with mental health conditions
. There is a shortfall of 45 fewer qualified detectives and high workloads could compromise the ability of specialist teams to “conduct high-quality investigations and provide tailored support to victims”
. The force is good at managing sex offenders but neighbourhood officers had little knowledge of the sex offenders resident in the area they police.