POLICE and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Gloucestershire Chris Nelson said he feels the force is now “developing into a high-performance organisation” after it was removed from special measures by inspectors.
The constabulary has been under an enhanced level of monitoring by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) for two nearly years, after an inspection found it was ‘inadequate’ in five areas of policing.
But improvements have been made, the inspectorate says, and although a Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy (PEEL) inspection is currently ongoing, early results have led to HMICFRS concluding that the Constabulary does not need enhanced levels of monitoring, known as ‘Engage’, moving forward.
PCC Nelson welcomed the news and says the force is now “reaping the benefits” of two years of hard work to address failings identified in a 2021 PEEL report.
Mr. Nelson said: “I have regularly patrolled with our officers, and I never cease to be impressed with their professionalism when tackling serious problems. I am starting to feel like the Constabulary is making real progress developing into a high-performance organisation.
“Within days of my election, I was presented with a draft report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate that was highly critical of the Force, based on performance data from the year before I started work.
“So for just over two years I have been addressing all the resource shortages the Force has had to cope with, recruiting like mad to strengthen the Constabulary, in numbers and in quality. I have also signed a £7M contract to replace our ageing record management system, which is a fundamental part of our crime recording processes.
“For too long the Force has been short of key resources, although its individual officers and staff have always performed at the highest level, giving their all to serve the public with pride. Anti-social behaviour has been cut by over 50% and the cost of rural crime has been cut by 29% - impressive results for any police force.
“Of course there is still more to do, for instance in answering 101 non-emergency calls more quickly and embedding a performance driven culture throughout the Force. But all these independently recognised improvements mean the police are responding faster to incidents, looking after victims better, arresting more offenders, and solving more crimes.
“I am convinced the Constabulary is now reaping the benefits of all its hard work these last two years, and impressing residents with its professional and victim focussed performance.
“The Chief and I are certainly of one mind about where we want to take the force – to be outstanding in neighbourhood policing, crime prevention and taking a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour and male violence against women and girls”.
The areas in which the force was found to be ‘inadequate’ in December 2021 included providing a service to members of the public, investigating crime, responding to the public and protecting vulnerable people.
HMICFRS says “several” improvements made since then include the identification and risk assessment of vulnerability; the quality of investigations and consistently updating victims; the planning and processes around finance and the management of resources; and more accurately recording crime.
Chief Constable Rod Hansen said: “I know just how challenging being in the ‘engage’ phase was for colleagues and I want to pay tribute to everyone’s dedication in addressing the causes of concerns that were identified. I am immensely proud at how well we came together as one team in order to ensure we were doing everything we should to keep the public safe from harm.
“I also want to thank the PCC and his team, as well as our partner agencies, support associations and community groups who have helped provide scrutiny and asked questions that have informed how we needed to change.
“This progress required a sustained and unrelenting collective effort aligned to an absolute determination to improve; we did it by learning how other forces did things better; and also by coming up with our own thoughtful and innovative solutions.
“The results we are already seeing are a more consistent service in how we record and respond to incidents and an improved experience for victims, which is a key reason we do the job we do.
“Our performance measurements reveal the progress we have made and was sufficiently compelling and consistent to demonstrate to the HMICFRS that enhanced monitoring was no longer needed.
“Let me be clear though - there is no room for complacency; nor is there any desire to slacken the pace in our drive to improve. We know there is still much work to be done and, like many other forces nationally, we seek to continually improve to provide a better service to the public and increase trust and confidence in our policing within all of our communities.
“Whilst we have made improvements in our call handling, particularly for 999 calls, we understand 101 in particular is still a cause of concern and something we need to fix.
“The figures show that our staff are providing an excellent service once people get through, but of course we need to make sure people can get through quicker, which is why we are continuing our improvement plan in this area and will have a further intake of staff joining the department in December.
“My ambition for this Constabulary is that we become outstanding across all areas; while in some places we have demonstrated considerable progress (as evidenced by HMICFRS) we still need to do more in others to bring our overall performance up to a high standard. And we are doing everything we can to drive up investigative standards and our detection rate, which is already on an upward path.”
His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke commented: “I am pleased with the progress that Gloucestershire Constabulary has made so far. Whilst there is still more to do, I have decided to remove the force from our enhanced level of monitoring, known as Engage, and return it to routine monitoring.
“I am reassured by the plans Gloucestershire Constabulary has in place to continue making improvements. The force will be inspected again later this year, when we will assess its progress to make sure the people of Gloucestershire are getting the service they deserve from their police force.”