The beginning of the end

In August last year, I assisted in breaking one of the biggest policing scandals in recent times. ITV led their regional news bulletin with this package (view here) and it went out later across the network.

It concerned a technology upgrade at one of the country’s biggest police forces that had gone badly wrong. On the evidence it appears that the original budget estimate of £27 million was now dwarfed by actual costs of £80 million and rising (read more here).

More crucially, it was putting officers’ and public lives at risk, according to the local Police Federation Chair, Stuart Berry.

A furious chief constable, Ian Hopkins, tried to deflect criticism and play down the defects of the system known colloquially as iOPS (Integrated Operational Policing System) and monumental extra cost to the taxpayer.

Allowing his force to ‘beta test’ a module of the system known as ‘Police Works’ had backfired grotesquely.

One journalist/broadcaster who criticised iOPS publicly, quite correctly describing it as ‘a disaster’, was pursued by Hopkins in an ugly vendetta and lost his job as a result. The out of control chief described me as ‘an odious man‘ for having the temerity to go public with a damning document, leaked to me, that revealed the scale and reach of the technology failings.

Earlier today, it was revealed that the new IT system was largely responsible for the failure to record more than 80,000 crimes in the year ending June, 2020 (an average of 220 per day). Thousands of cases were also without proper investigation say Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC).

The watchdog say that beleaguered Greater Manchester Police‘s (GMP) service to victims of crime was a “serious cause of concern”. Ms Billingham might well have said service was virtually non-existent if she had actually spoken to some.

In its routine ‘jam tomorrow’ response, Deputy Chief Constable Ian Pilling said it had “robust plans” to address the issues and, incredibly, sought to blame the CO-VID19 crisis for the problems.

Robust plans is, broadly, the response to every other crisis or scandal that besets GMP, on an almost weekly basis. It is police management speak for ‘cover our a***s’.

DCC Pilling is at the very heart of most of the more serious force failings. Not least this one, upon which I reported extensively, concerning the outfall from the Grainger Inquiry (read here).

During the period reviewed by HMIC, it was estimated that GMP had recorded 77.7% of reported crimes, a reduction of 11.3% from the corresponding period in 2018, prior to the launch of iOPS. Previous HMIC inspections of GMP in 2016 and 2018 were also critical of crime recording practices and were very largely ignored by the force leadership.

The toothless watchdog also noted that one in five of all crimes and one in four violent crimes reported to GMP were not recorded – and found officers prematurely closed some investigations on the false premise that victims did not support police action.

Zoe Billingham, who signed off the HMIC inspection, says: “In too many of these cases, the force did not properly record evidence that the victim supported this decision,

She added, “It is simply not good enough that, despite being urged by the watchdog to improve in 2016, concerns have not been addressed for over four years”.

Here is a graphic and prime example of a case where the investigation was closed just 12 hours after it was reported where the allegations include aggravated burglary and attempted murder. Good descriptions of the perpetrators and their vehicle were given to the call handler (read in full here).

A further inspection by HMIC is scheduled to take place within the next six months. Whistleblowers say that the problems inherent in iOPS are so deep rooted that they may never be fixed without ripping out PoliceWorks and starting again. A matter repeatedly denied by the force, the suppliers and the contractors involved in the installation and implementation of the system.

The force has NOT referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct over these serious failings.

Greater Manchester’s Deputy Mayor for Policing, Beverley Hughes, said the HMIC findings were “extremely disappointing”, but has given no indication of any holding to account of the chief constable over these latest catastrophic revelations. She sees her role, and has done since the day she was appointed, of pouring oil on troubled waters, making excuses and covering up for Ian Hopkins. That, essentially, is how the force has descended into such a desperate state.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is as usual, missing in action when these class of scandals reach the public domain (read more here). Trains, trams and cycle paths take priority over the risk to safety of every single one of his constituents via an utterly failed police force in the region.

He also approved a new two year contract, negotiated by his Deputy, for his perennially disgraced chief constable, at the very height of the iOPS, crime recording, risk to victims and officers scandal.

When asked, during a recent CO_VID19 press conference, the Mayor refused to confirm whether he maintained confidence in Ian Hopkins or whether his contract will be renewed in June, 2021.

The Police Federation, for their part, appear to have been absent from any criticism of iOPS since the time that problems were first identified.

Also absent since the scandal broke, and now routine when the force comes under fire, was CC Hopkins (read more here). An ugly trait made many times worse by being first on the scene if there is an personal glory to be squeezed out of any given situation.

The HMIC report can be read in full here. Following its publication, the Home Secretary has written to the Mayor to express her concern, not just over iOPS but the other reported failings of the force, and demand sight of the chief constable’s action plan to recover the situation.

It is the beginning of the end for Ian Hopkins. Andy Burnham has also belatedly realised that the failure to hold the worst chief constable in the country to account will cost him the Mayoral election in May, 2021.

This is a developing news story and will be updated. Follow Neil Wilby on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Page last updated: Saturday 11th December, 2020 at 0645 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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