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Staffordshire Police 'putting public safety at risk' by failing to investigate crimes properly

A damning report has found that Staffordshire Police is failing to investigate crimes properly putting public safety at risk.

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Staffordshire Police's headquarters in Stafford

A planned check by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that investigations were ineffective and that call operators were failing to properly identify and assess victims’ vulnerability at first contact.

Stafford Police Chief Constable Chris Noble said he expected to be personally held to account for the shortcomings and that efforts were well underway to make improvements to force operations including investing in more officers and re-organising local policing teams.

The inspection carried out two months ago raised "two causes of concern" to be addressed in the area of carrying out effective investigations and appropriate support for victims reporting crimes.

The report published on Tuesday included a raft of measures including that call handlers should correctly record initial triage and risk assessments to better assist with prioritising calls, make routine identification of vulnerable and repeat callers, and be given relevant advice on the preservation of evidence and crime prevention.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams

The force must complete investigation plans to give direction and identify lines of inquiry at an early stage, to ensure investigations are actively and regularly supervised with progress reviews, and that all proportionate lines of inquiry are followed, evidence-led prosecutions should be pursued when a victim withdraws support for the investigation, and that probes comply with the requirements established in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: “We have serious concerns about two aspects of Staffordshire Police’s performance, which are putting public safety at risk.

“The first concern is regarding the force’s call handling. We found that the force is failing properly to identify and assess victims’ vulnerability when they first contact the police. Repeat victims are not always identified, along with others in the household who may also be vulnerable, which means this is not taken into account when considering the response the victim should have. Calls are not always responded to in a timely way.

“The second is regarding how the force carries out investigations, including providing appropriate support for victims. In some cases, investigations were not carried out in a timely manner and relevant and proportionate lines of inquiry were not always completed. Many investigations were not properly reviewed by supervisors, and victims were sometimes not updated throughout investigations.

“We have made several recommendations for Staffordshire Police to address our concerns and we will closely monitor the force’s progress.”

Chris Noble

Mr Noble said: “I recognise and acknowledge the shortcomings identified by HMICFRS and the concerns raised with me about specific areas of our service. They are areas I am personally concerned about, and have been for some time, and I feel it is important I bring them to the public’s attention.

“The first concern relates to conducting effective investigations and ensuring that we aren’t just dealing with and investigating the reported crime, but also supporting victims and keeping them updated throughout the criminal justice process.

“The second is in respect of our handling of calls and requests for service from the public. In particular, the early investigative actions we take when the public first contact us to ensure we understand victims’ vulnerabilities and victims’ needs.

Staffordshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Ben Adams added: “I understand the frustration that some fundamental police services are not up to the standards the people of Staffordshire expect and deserve. People expect calls to be answered quickly, for the police to respond rapidly and to deal effectively with problems in their area.

“I share these frustrations and aim to rebuild public confidence by rebalancing the essential activities needed to protect vulnerable people within our community."

“Whilst progress has been made, I recognise the need to move quickly to address the issues driving these failings,” he added