West Mercia Police has been told by a watchdog it must improve when it comes to investigating crime and responding to the public.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has published an inspection report looking at the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of the force, which covers Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
The inspectors concluded many of West Mercia Police’s serious investigations are “inadequately supervised” and “not sufficiently effective” meaning a poor service for some victims of crime.
Several departments within the force reported understaffing, something which can affect workplace wellbeing and also result in a poor service for victims, inspectors said.
Unreliable IT systems were found to lead to inefficient working practices, and to affect the quality and accuracy of the force’s data and management reports, the watchdog added.
Inspectors said: “This means that the force has a poor understanding of its demand in some notable areas, such as its response times.”
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said while she is “satisfied with some aspects of the performance of West Mercia Police” there are areas which need to improve.
She said: “There are still improvements needed, particularly in crime investigation and public protection.
“Despite the force’s efforts to improve, too many of its serious investigations are inadequately supervised and not sufficiently effective. This is resulting in a poor service to some victims of crime.”
She said plans by the force to improve its technical and data capabilities, refresh its operating model and develop its workforce will “provide a firm foundation for continued operational improvements”.
West Mercia’s Chief Constable Pippa Mills accepted the findings and said work had begun to improve areas criticised.
She said: “We agree with HMICFRS‘s assessment that we still need to do more to improve supervision of investigations and the quality and consistency of updating victims. Improvement work has already begun and is progressing at pace. This includes a focus on the standard of investigations and providing a better service to victims through improved and meaningful contact.
“It was recognised in the report that we answer our emergency calls promptly but more can be done to ensure each victim is provided appropriate advice.
“We agree that our technology and use of data needs improvement. We are on track to deliver an investment programme to modernise our digital service and the way that we use data to keep the public safe.”
West Mercia’s Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, said that the force must do better.
He said: “My focus will always be on the victim, and ensuring they get the very best service from West Mercia Police and the justice they deserve.
“This report has highlighted a number of areas where the standard is below what our communities and I expect. The force must take action to improve and I am reassured to see that this is already happening.
“On behalf of our communities, I will continue to hold the Chief Constable to account to ensure that these improvements are made as swiftly as possible. Through the recent budget I have targeted my investments to improve the service and deliver the best for the public.
“The excellent examples of innovative work shows what West Mercia Police are capable of. They must strive for this excellence in other areas too. We can and must do better for our communities.”
Chief Constable Mills welcomed areas highlighted by the report where the force has been commended.
She said: “The report highlighted our innovative preventative approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour across the force to keep our communities safe. We have trained 16 Early Intervention and Prevention officers who work with various partners to safeguard vulnerable people.
“Our Local Policing Community Charter has improved our engagement and helps deliver the service our communities expect and rightly deserve.
“Since arriving in West Mercia Police in September, I’ve focussed on making sure we work more efficiently and effectively. I am proud of the people that make up West Mercia Police and their commitment to providing a quality policing service and protecting people from harm.”