Things can only get better

Screenshot 2022-03-02 at 21.45.58

Greater Manchester Police is still rated “inadequate” when it comes to investigating crime and responding to the public, but is has improved its performance in other areas. But overall it’s not achieving the expected level of service, the police inspectorate has said in a report released earlier today (3rd March, 2022).

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found GMP was ‘adequate’ in one area, ‘requires improvement’ in five areas, and ‘inadequate’ in three areas.However, the inspectorate acknowledged that the force had made progress, including improving its crime recording, so that it is now properly recording a substantial majority of the crimes reported by the public.

“Greater Manchester Police has faced immense challenges, but I am pleased with the progress the force has made in the short period of time since it published its new action plan, back in September last year”, says Andy Cooke of HMICFRS.

“However, Greater Manchester Police is still falling short of the level of service both the inspectorate and the public expect. I am particularly concerned about how the force investigates crime, its insufficient understanding of demand, and how it supports its workforce. We have made several recommendations for the force to make improvements in these areas.

“The challenges facing Greater Manchester Police should not be underestimated, but I am optimistic that the trajectory and pace of improvement will continue this year. We will continue to closely monitor the force’s progress.”

The low spots of the inspection found:

– GMP is ‘inadequate’ at investigating crime and highlighted concern over the force’s inability to investigate crime, supervise investigations or update victims to an acceptable standard.
– Less than 9 out of every 100 reported crimes resulted in action being taken by GMP
– GMP is failing to respond appropriately to some people who are ‘vulnerable and at risk’ and ‘missing some opportunities to safeguard victims and secure evidence at the scene.’
– GMP officers ‘significantly under-report their use of force.’
– GMP ‘may be missing opportunities to support ‘repeat and vulnerable victims’ and ‘reduce future demand by preventing victimisation.’
– GMP’s failed command and control system (iOPS) ‘can’t identify repeat callers’ or ‘use flags to identify repeat domestic abuse.’
– GMP’s Police Community Support Officers (better known as PCSOs) are acting up as warranted police officers by providing neighbourhood policing ‘in isolation’

– GMP is using overtime to manage demand leading to a ‘fatigued workforce’.
– GMP inadequately manages of two out of three registered sex offenders.
– GMP has a backlog of 740 outstanding visits to registered sex offenders – representing approximately two months of standard activity.

Greater Manchester Police was placed into ‘Special Measures’ by the Home Office on 19th December, 2020, following years of scandal, cover-up and underperformance. Culminating in an excoriating inspection report by the same police watchdog which found that 80,000 crimes in one twelve month period had not even been recorded by the force.

Disgraced chief constable, Ian Hopkins, left the force soon afterwards. He was replaced in May, 2021 by Stephen Watson who vowed to turn the performance of the force around within two years or resign. Nine of those twenty four months have elapsed and there is, obviously, still much work to do.

Whistleblowers say morale within the force is still very low and there has been a substantial exodus of experienced officers either to other forces, retirement or to seek out alternative careers. CC Watson has also had a ‘clear-out’ amongst his own Command Team with only two of the Hopkins cohort surviving.

It falls to one of CC Watson’s new recruits, Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods, to respond:

“Today’s report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services is a fair and accurate illustration of the position Greater Manchester Police was in last September when they undertook their assessment visit. Indeed, much of what the report highlights was a feature of our own root cause analysis published around that time which informed the development of our strategic improvement plan.

“In September, when the Chief Constable addressed the HMICFRS accelerated cause for concern that was issued ahead of the full report, we knew that there was, and still is, a significant amount of work to do to turn GMP around. I can assure the public, and the hard-working staff and officers at GMP, that we are as committed now as we were then to fixing these issues and that the plan we are pursuing at pace addresses each and every one of the areas raised in the report.

“I’m pleased to say, since the launch of our ‘Plan on a Page’ [read in full here] and our promises to the public in September 2021, we are already seeing green shoots of improvement in the many areas we know are of most concern to both HMICFRS and the residents of Greater Manchester. This is positive news for the public but also for everyone at GMP who is committed to this journey of improvement.

“One of the main issues we faced in September was crime recording and, positively, HMICFRS has recognised our significant improvement in this area. Our current compliance with national crime recording standards is nearly 91%. This is an extremely positive shift from being one of the poorest performing forces in the country, to being in the upper quarter of the table in a relatively short period of time. This improvement clearly demonstrates our commitment to a sustainable and continued progression with our crime recording and shows we are on track.

“We know historically there has been long waits for both 999 and 101 calls, and I understand this is one of the most important issues the public wants us to fix. We have invested heavily in this area, and I’m pleased to say we have seen the waiting times come down as a result. The average time for 999 calls to be answered is currently around 25 seconds, which has reduced by half compared to the critical incident of July last year. 101 call answer time has also significantly improved, to an average of three minutes 47 seconds – a sizable reduction from the eight minute peak we saw in the same critical period in July. Whilst this is an excellent start and shows the investment is working, these times are still longer than our original target. We are grateful to the Mayor and the Police and Crime Panel – and most importantly to our Council Tax payers – for supporting the additional investment through the council tax precept which has enabled us to start a substantial recruitment campaign for 100 new call handlers. We are looking to recruit in Greater Manchester and there has never been a better time to join us and help us achieve our goals – applications can be submitted on our website.

“We also knew back in September that we needed to free up officers to do the job they were brought in to do – tackle crime and bring offenders to justice. This meant better handling of the crime reports as they come in and reducing demand on our response officers. Our new training for call handlers and a new, more effective, policy for grading calls has been launched and has already seen the demand being placed on response officers reduce by 15%. This is due to the new approach of resolving the needs of the caller at source where appropriate.

“One of the observations of the Peel review is our need to better investigate crime, and these measures are freeing up crucial time for our officers to better respond to more serious incidents. Attendance at grade 1 incidents has reduced from 21 minutes to an average of 17 minutes. Whilst this is still above our overall target of 15 minutes, we are already seeing five of our districts reduce their response times below this.

“I also want to take this opportunity to bring to the fore some of our other commitments on which we are delivering at pace and which I hope can demonstrate that GMP is making significant progress.

“One of the Chief Constable’s main pledges to you was to double the number of arrests in a year, and again our numbers are showing we are on track with a month-on-month increase, making our arrest numbers the highest they’ve been for several years. We also committed to attending every burglary across Greater Manchester, and whilst not everyone will take up this offer, in the first week of February we attended 98% of burglaries requiring a grade 1 response. We are also placing greater emphasis on roads policing which has been bolstered by the precept investment, leading to an additional 60 new officers dedicated to the roads policing unit which will help us in our efforts to take dangerous, uninsured and reckless drivers off our roads.

“We know Neighbourhood Policing is an essential part of getting to grips with the criminals who blight your local area, and to better understand this, we have launched our neighbourhood consultation online and through events in every district across Greater Manchester. These are being led by our Chief Officer team and our Neighbourhood Policing teams to really get to grips with the issues that matter most to our communities and work together in making Greater Manchester a better place to live. You can find the online survey and all of the dates for events in your area on our website.

“Whilst the HMICFRS peel review quite fairly portrays the position we were in six months ago, I am confident that we are already in a much improved position and the changes we are making are having a positive and sustainable impact.

“Much of what we have achieved so far has been accomplished through having a simple and clear plan, strengthened leadership and better management of performance. The next stages of the plan involve the more fundamental changes needed in all areas: a wholescale overhaul of our operating model involving call handing; response policing; neighbourhood policing; safeguarding; and public safety.

“Of equal importance will be a renewed focus on supporting and developing our workforce because it is down to the hard work and dedication of our dedicated officers and staff that we are beginning to turn the tide and surge GMP into a force to be reckoned with.

“Not only will the public see and feel GMP’s presence, so will those coming to Greater Manchester intending to commit crime. No longer are we settling for inadequacy, instead we are sending a strong message to criminals – do not commit crime in our districts. We will catch you, we will arrest you and we will bring you to justice. That is what these clear signs of advancement show”.

In the Hopkins era, GMP consistently played down or denied criticism or report findings. Particularly from HMICFRS where there is a lengthy history of uncovered failings that they brushed aside or were simply left unaddressed. One of the main challenges the new hierarchy faces is re-establishing trust to the extent that the word of senior officers can be relied upon to give the true picture.

The Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, responsible for holding the chief constable to account, has yet to comment. His almost complete lack of political oversight, and being so easily misled by his friend, Ian Hopkins, is in large measure at the root of many of the force’s problems today. His Deputy, Bev Hughes, says:

Bev Hughes, Greater Manchester Deputy Mayor of Police, Crime, Criminal Justice and Fire said: “We know Greater Manchester Police is on a journey to bring about the improvements it needs to make in order to provide the quality service the public expect and deserve to keep them safe.

“Today’s HMICFRS inspection report shows that while progress is being made GMP has some way to go and I know communities will be disappointed by this.

“However it is encouraging that HMICFRS have acknowledged progress, especially in recording crime, which I welcome.

“The inspection happened in August and September 2021, using data from June and July. Our new Chief Constable, Stephen Watson, took office in May last year and within months published his long-term improvement plan, which has already been tackling the shortcomings that the inspection report has identified.

“The momentum is there and with our further financial investment in GMP, through the police precept, to improve services such as their call handling centre and the re-opening the Bolton custody suite, as well as recruiting more frontline officers, we will see more strides being made to improve the service in the coming months.

“I will continue to meet with the Chief Constable to ensure this happens.”

The full HMICFRS September 2021 PEEL inspection report can be read at this link.

PEEL stands for police effectiveness, efficiency, and legitimacy.

Page last updated: Thursday 3rd March, 2022 at 0925 hours

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

Picture credit:  GMP

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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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