Bedfordshire Police the only force rated ‘inadequate’ by HMIC, but PCC warns against condemning ‘half-built house’
- Credit: Archant
Bedfordshire Police has been branded the worst force in the country in a damning report released today by the national watchdog.
Beds police is the only force out of the 28 across the UK to be deemed ‘inadequate’ in keeping people safe and reducing crime by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Zoe Billingham, the inspector authoring the report, particularly highlighted concerns over the force’s inadequate effectiveness at protecting victims and those vulnerable to harm – especially missing children.
She said: “HMIC continues to have serious concerns about the force’s overall response to missing children and young people, not just the force control room response.
“The process of assessing calls about missing children is poor, and the review of the initial risk assessment determining whether the case requires a ‘missing’ or ‘absent’ police response is inconsistent.
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“In addition, the force has poor intelligence on those children who repeatedly go missing from care homes, which makes the difficulties in locating them when they go missing, and the time spent doing so, even worse.
“Some of the most vulnerable children and young people are being left at risk of severe harm as a result of systemic failings in this important area of policing.”
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The force’s overall ‘inadequate’ rating – the worst possible – marks a drop from ‘good’, the second best, in last year’s report.
Ms Billingham found that the force did not fully understand the communities it serves, but was recruiting more officers to increase engagement.
She acknowledged that the ‘the context within which the force operates is particularly difficult’ as it faces ‘a more acute financial challenge than most other forces’.
She added that the force faces a high volume of complex crime in Luton, despite its jurisdiction being mostly rural – and that the overall ‘inadequate’ grading should not be seen as a slight on individual personnel.
Beds’ police and crime commissioner Kathryn Holloway welcomed the report’s acknowledgement of the financial challenges faced by the force, but added that describing it as inadequate was like ‘criticising a half-built house for not being water-tight’.
She said: “I am enormously grateful to HM Inspector for nailing her colours to the mast in her recent report for supporting me and the force in recognising the challenges Bedfordshire Police faces because of its low levels of funding.
“The inspector knows that the chief constable, Jon Boutcher, and I are definitely not sitting on our hands, waiting for improvements to happen during a critical period when the government is deciding the method it will use to decide Bedfordshire’s slice of the national funding ‘pie’ this spring.”
She added: “The HMIC latest grading for the force in the effectiveness report cannot reflect all the work currently happening, as an inspector can only give credit for work which is fully completed and bedded in, to prove that it is producing improvements.
“This makes describing Bedfordshire Police as inadequate rather like criticising a half-built house for not being water-tight.
“While it is disappointing, it cannot truly surprise anyone that this means an ‘inadequate’ rating until all the new recruitment is in place.
“What I can do is reassure you that nobody at Bedfordshire Police is complacent about improving its service to you and your communities – and this work is well in hand.
“Getting it right when it comes to the force’s response to young people who run away from local authority care is something which absolutely has to be improved.”
Beds police have released a video in which chief constable Jon Boutcher gives his response, refuting the ‘inadequate’ rating – see above.
You can read the HMIC report in full at justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/wp-content/uploads/peel-police-effectiveness-2016-bedfordshire.pdf.