Watchdog tells West Midlands Police to improve management of sex offenders
One of the UK’s biggest police forces has been told to improve the way it manages sex offenders to control the risk to the public.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that West Midlands Police (WMP) was “good” in five areas, “adequate” in three areas and “requires improvement” in three areas.
The three classed as “requires improvement” were investigating crime, supporting victims and protecting vulnerable people.
Among the issues highlighted was a need to make sure the force has the resources to control the risk sex offenders pose.
The report by HMICFRS said: “West Midlands Police needs to improve its management of sex offenders.
“It should make sure it has the capacity and capability to mitigate the risk sex offenders pose to the public.”
Inspectors found that WMP does not have the same technical capabilities as other forces when dealing with such offenders and so fails to “exploit all opportunities to identify new offences”.
The report said: “Some staff who manage or investigate sex offenders lack confidence in the processes they should follow when examining digital devices.
“We identified examples of investigations being handled by Sex Offender Managers who don’t have the training they need to investigate cases involving indecent images of children effectively.”
It also found WMP should improve how it investigates reported crime.
Inspector Wendy Williams said: “The force must improve how it carries out proportionate, thorough and prompt investigations into reported crimes.
“I saw some examples of good practice, including the detective academy. But the force lacks capacity in its investigation teams and investigations aren’t always overseen effectively.
“So it is less likely that investigations will have a satisfactory result for the victim.”
In the year to March 31 2021, West Midlands had the highest rate of firearms offences (24.5 offences per 100,000 population) and knife crime offences (1.55 offences per 1,000 population) of any force in England and Wales.
It also recorded one of the highest rates of domestic abuse incidents, with 29.8 per 1,000 population, compared to the average of 20.4 across the two nations.
The watchdog found that incidents involving vulnerable people were not responded to as quickly as others, and that overtime levels among response officers were “putting pressure on their wellbeing”.
Ms Williams said: “The force doesn’t always respond to incidents involving vulnerable people as promptly as it does to other types of incident.
“I am pleased with some aspects of the way West Midlands Police protects vulnerable people. But it can’t meet the demand for its services in protecting vulnerable people with the resources it has.”
The inspectorate rated the force “good” for preventing crime, recording crime data, treatment of the public, use of resources and disrupting serious organised crime.
It was rated adequate for responding to the public, managing offenders and developing a positive workplace.
HMICFRS also said it was performing well in protecting the public from armed threats, and dealing with national priority crime areas including terrorism, child sexual abuse, cyber-threats, serious and organised crime, public emergencies and threats to public order.
While it has not yet met a 2019 recommendation to comply with national guidance on vetting, it has a plan in place to do so and is reducing the number of staff waiting to be vetted by 350 per month, inspectors found.
WMP noted the report accepted the force could not meet the demand for services in protecting vulnerable people with the resources it had, but pledged to continue to work to improve its response.
Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine said: “The inspection took place at a demanding time in the pandemic which accentuated some issues. It coincided with the introduction of new operational technology to the force which will offer long-term improvements but has created short-term disruption.
“We recognise we need to do more to improve how we investigate some crimes. We are working hard to achieve this with measures such as an end-to-end review of investigations and our detective academy. These are helping to improve our investigative capacity, capability and outcomes. We have already addressed most of the issues identified in the management of sex offenders.”
She added: “While we are pleased that inspectors recognised our crime recording as good, we believe the current system is in need of urgent reform. Accurate crime recording is important but the current system is overly bureaucratic, creates a misleading picture of crime and does not act in the public interest in the way it operates. It is partly responsible for the pressures on investigators.”
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