HMIC reveals dangerous failings in police practices

In a report on effectiveness in policing[1], Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) uncovered a range of “dangerous” and “disturbing” practices that have arisen out of police forces’ approach to dealing with budget cuts in excess of 20%.

Some police staff are deliberately downgrading emergency calls in order to justify a slower response when there is a shortage of officers, HMIC said, while others are reclassifying high-risk domestic abuse victims to a lower level of concern.

Police officers are being assigned to investigations that they are not qualified to conduct, the watchdog found, while forces are struggling to get to grips with the volume of wanted suspects – including murderers, rapists and violent offenders.

HMIC also issued a warning that a shortage of detectives and investigators amounts to a “national crisis”.

“We’re leading to a very serious conclusion regarding the potentially perilous state of policing,” she said. “It’s a red flag that we’re raising at this stage. A large red flag.”

Billingham said “ad hoc rationing” of services was due to “stretch in the system” and was the “unintended consequence of the way in which some forces have adapted to austerity”.

“This suppression of demand, this ad hoc rationing that’s happening at different pinch points, isn’t part of a deliberate plan, it’s not part of a rational evidence-based plan decision model,” she said. “It’s happening under the radar, it’s often happening by stealth and it’s often an unintended consequence of the way in which some forces have adapted to austerity.”

HMIC said it was concerned about the workloads of the teams supervising registered sex offenders. It found that throughout England and Wales, the risk represented by some 2,700 registered sex offenders had yet to be assessed by police officers responsible for their supervision in order to keep communities safe. In six forces, more than 10% of registered sex offenders had yet to be assessed at the time of the inspection. In one force, that figure was 30%.

[1] The Guardian Thursday 2 March 2017 00.01 GMT. House of Commons Briefing papers SN00634 Authors: Noel Dempsey; Grahame Allen. Published Wednesday, October 12, 2016. Update due March 2017 not yet published.