Some police forces are putting the public at risk by rationing their response as they struggle with cutbacks, the police standards watchdog has warned. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said some forces are “downgrading” 999 calls, in order to justify responding to them more slowly.
HMIC's report found that most of the 43 forces in England and Wales were providing a good service.
But that others have let victims down. The inspectors said there are now too few detectives and in some areas an erosion of neighbourhood policing.
The former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy, said that forces will have to do things differently in the future, if the government continues to ask them “to do more with less”.
In its annual report on forces, the inspectors said officers were arresting fewer people and too many crimes were being shelved without proper investigation.
It found that 67,000 people suspected of crimes were not entered onto the police national computer – so that all forces were made aware of them.
The report highlighted measures some forces had deployed to manage demand – although in each case it was not entirely clear whether they were directly caused by cuts or local management decisions.
- Three forces – Hertfordshire, Humberside and Nottinghamshire – had not been “responding appropriately” to emergency calls during inspections.
- If a force reclassified or downgraded a call because of a shortage of officers, it could then justify a slower response time, said the inspectors.
- Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire and Sussex had assessed domestic abuse victims over the phone rather than face-to-face.
- Other forces appeared to be avoiding classifying violent gangs as organised crime because doing so would stretch resources.
“We are leading to a very serious conclusion regarding the potentially perilous state of British policing,” said Zoe Billingham, the lead inspector.
“Over the last few years, HMIC has said consistently that police forces were managing well in increasingly difficult circumstances.
“Nonetheless, today, I'm raising a red flag to warn forces of the consequences of what is, to all intents and purposes, an unconscious form of rationing.”
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