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Wiltshire Police slated by Inspectorate

July 12, 2022 1:38 PM
By Trevor Carbin

"I have concerns about the performance of Wiltshire Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime. In particular, I have serious concerns about how the force responds to the public, protects vulnerable people and makes use of its resources." - HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams.

Underfunding and complacency have left the Force in a very poor position, judging by the report published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

Wiltshire Police Force was graded as 'Requires Improvement', the second worst grade, in the areas of preventing crime, investigating crime, treatment of the public, managing offenders, and developing a positive workplace. It got the worst grade of 'inadequate' for three themes: responding to the public, protecting vulnerable people, and making good use of resources.

A theme running through the report was that front-line officers and staff were doing their best but were let down by bad management and poor organisation.

Many of the complaints commonly received from the public and Parish Councils about the lack of police presence are also mirrored in the report. 'Local policing teams do not consistently involve local communities in their work.' 'Until the force improves its understanding of its capacity, capability and effectiveness in neighbourhoods and investigations it will not be able to effectively reduce crime.'

Poor response to emergency calls means 'that victims are being let down and offenders are not being brought to justice.'

A casual approach to dealing with victims of crime and dealing with the problems caused by persistent offenders was identified. Staff shortages led to officers being shunted around in a random manner, which particularly hit neighbourhood policing: 'Neighbourhood officers told us they were regularly abstracted to support response policing teams. This means that they do not have enough time to focus on neighbourhood policing activity to prevent crime.'

There's a lack of understanding of the benefits of neighbourhood policing, so 'the force is missing opportunities to reduce harm in its communities by addressing the root causes of crime. Doing this would also help reduce demand for its services.'

Anyone who has attempted to use the 101 phone line will be aware of its inadequacies, and these were picked up on by the inspectors. The force also failed in basic requirements such as having enough vehicles available to respond to incidents.

Wiltshire Police was told five years ago to improve the way it communicated with the public, but has failed to do so.

The fact that Wiltshire is a low crime area and therefore relatively easy to police may have contributed to complacency. 'The force does not have enough detectives.' The inspectors note that the force is not very good at getting evidence from digital devices, though they point out that this is a national problem.

Shortages of staff where they are most needed was repeatedly identified in the report. 'Investigators told us they are overwhelmed by their workloads and that this is reducing their ability to support victims.'

Doubts were cast on the way the police contribute to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, or MASH. 'The force contributes to MASH but needs to make sure its staff are adequately trained to perform their role effectively.'

The stresses imposed on front-line staff, and the way this hits the whole organisation, are also emphasised. 'If the force was more effective in developing ways of working to manage its demand, its workforce would be under less strain and as a result would likely need less reactive support.'

Many of the problems are summarised in the force's inability to plan for the future. 'The lack of planning is reflected in several areas, including neighbourhood policing and investigations.' 'The lack of a comprehensive understanding of demand means the force is not using its resources as efficiently as it could do.' 'Officers are working excessive hours, the force is overspending on overtime and there are no clear plans in place to understand and manage current demand.'

The force has been invited by the Inspectorate to put matters right within three months.

Full report available here

Words in italics are direct quotes.