West Midlands police in special measures over 'failures managing sex offenders and safeguarding'

24 November 2023, 12:24

The chief constable of West Midlands Police has said he "completely disagrees" with a decision by an inspectorate to move the force into an enhanced level of monitoring.
The chief constable of West Midlands Police has said he "completely disagrees" with a decision by an inspectorate to move the force into an enhanced level of monitoring. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

West Midlands police has been moved into special measures over a string of failings, including managing sex offenders and safeguarding.

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The decision was announced on Friday after the force was inspected by His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The watchdog raised concerns about how investigations were managed, how the force safeguards vulnerable people and how it manages sex and child abuse offenders.

The force has now been moved from the default "scan" level of monitoring to "engage".

But the chief constable of West Midlands Police said he "completely disagrees" with the decision.

Many of the issues identified related to a previous operating model, with statistics "largely drawn" from before a new model was introduced in April this year, and that it was outperforming other forces in solving burglary, robbery and homicide cases, WMP said.

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His Majesty's inspector of constabulary, Wendy Williams, said: "We move police forces into our enhanced level of monitoring, known as Engage, when a force is not responding to our concerns, or if it is not managing, mitigating or eradicating these concerns.

"The Engage process provides additional scrutiny and support from the inspectorate and other external organisations in the policing sector to help the police force improve and provide a better service for the public.

"West Midlands Police has been asked to urgently produce an improvement plan and will meet regularly with our inspectors. "We will work closely with the force to monitor its progress against these important and necessary changes."

The inspectorate said that while it was assured the force is taking steps to address concerns, "significant and sustained improvements" were needed.

The force's next inspection report is due to be published in early 2024.

WMP Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: "Although I remain respectful of HMICFRS, I completely disagree with their decision-making to move West Midlands Police into Engage now despite providing them with recent evidence that should inform a much more comprehensive and fair assessment of the force.

"Our job now is to ensure the plans we have already implemented expeditiously address HMICFRS' concerns.

"When I joined WMP in December 2022 I set some clear priorities as I recognised there needed to be a significant improvement in the force's performance, the number of offenders brought to justice and the service we provide to local communities.

"It was for this reason that I implemented a rapid overhaul of the operating model and in April 2023 we created seven new local policing areas, each of which has local responsibility for responding to calls for service and investigating offences.

"Since implementing this new model, changing force contact and opening two more custody suites, our arrest rate has increased by a third, as has the number of offenders brought to justice. This continues to improve each month."

Mr Guildford said it was "misleading" for the inspectorate to say that victims were not safeguarded and that domestic abuse arrest rates have increased from 27% to 39%.

He acknowledged issues around the force's management of sex and online child abuse offenders, but said they had been identified and were a "legacy" of the force's previous operating model.

He also accepted that "investigations need to improve further" but said the force had a "detailed plan" to achieve this.

Chairman of the West Midlands Police Federation Rich Cooke told LBC: "I'm really surprised and disappointed.

"There's no doubt that West Midlands Police and policing in general has been through an extremely challenging decade..."

He continued: "That said, over the last 12 months, we’ve brought in a local policing model that we campaigned for that focuses our officers on local issues, that produces intelligence and leads to better investigations and we’ve seen some really tangible results."

Mr Cooke added: "I just find it bizarre for the HMICFRS to do this now and you wonder what’s really behind it because I don’t think it’s based in reality."

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