Police dismay at 'poor' report verdict

POLICE chiefs in Suffolk said they were “surprised and disappointed” last night after the force was named one of the worst in the country for delivering basic policing.

Colin Adwent

POLICE chiefs in Suffolk said they were “surprised and disappointed” last night after the force was named one of the worst in the country for delivering basic policing.

Inspectors found 35 out of 43 forces in England and Wales need to work harder to meet the government's Policing Pledge.

Suffolk and Cumbria were the only two constabularies graded as poor.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said senior officers must do more to keep victims up-to-date on the progress of their inquiries and support dissatisfied members of the public.

Many forces must act to improve simple things such as ensuring police station opening times are accurate, responding to telephone messages and telling crime victims what to expect.

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Suffolk's Assistant Chief Constable Gary Kitching said: “We are surprised and disappointed at the findings of this report and we are sure this sentiment will be shared by our officers and staff, our partners as well as the community of Suffolk.

“Suffolk Constabulary has a proud track record of keeping people safe while offering a quality service. Suffolk is a safe county and our performance in keeping it safe has been consistently strong.

“We have a low crime rate compared to many other areas of the country. Our detection rate is higher than the majority of forces.”

He said response times were within target, and a survey had showed 87% of people felt safe and perceptions of anti-social behaviour are low. It also showed 70% of people thought the force did a good or excellent job.

Suffolk Police Federation chairman Matt Gould said: “This news will be detrimental to morale in Suffolk Constabulary. It has highlighted areas which we will undoubtedly have to try hard to address.

“However, the day-to-day basis of providing a police service to the public in Suffolk is still favourably regarded.”

Jane Stichbury, who was responsible for the HMIC report, said: "Our inspectors have seen first hand how the public have been treated and they have not been treated as well as we would hope.”

RESPONDING to the findings of the HMIC's report one experienced Suffolk police officer, who did not want to be named, said he was not surprised by it.

The officer added operational staff know what should be happening but cannot always deliver the service needed.

The officer said: “The 10-point plan as it is set out by the Government is all well and good in an ideal world where officers have time to investigate crimes thoroughly, and update victims regularly.

“There are only so many hours in an officer's working day. With hourly increases in workloads something has got to give and unfortunately it's the service we are delivering that suffers.

“It would be wrong for the public to think Suffolk officers are uncaring or lazy. This could not be further from the truth. I only hope the public we serve sees this as a work in progress and that we can do much better.

“In my opinion that will be achieved when the Government start to back financially police services and not just leave it to county funding with an ever-shrinking pot of money.

“I would ask the public to trust us, please still back us, and be assured that front line officers do care.

“However, it can be hard with one arm tied behind your back, both in levels of staffing and funding for frontline officers.”

1. Always treat you fairly with dignity and respect ensuring you have fair access to services at a time suitable for you.

2. Provide information so you know who your dedicated Safer Neighbourhood Team is.

3. Ensure your Safer Neighbourhood Team and other police patrols are visible at times when they will be most effective and will spend at least 80% of their time visibly working in your neighbourhood, tackling your priorities.

4. Respond to every message directed to your Safer Neighbourhood Team within 24 hours and, where necessary, provide a more detailed response as soon as we can.

5. Aim to answer 999 calls within 10 seconds. In urban areas, we aim to be with you within 15 minutes and rural areas within 20 minutes.

6. Answer all non-emergency calls promptly. If you are vulnerable or upset we aim to be with you within 60 minutes.

7. Arrange regular public meetings to agree priorities, at least once a month.

8. Provide monthly updates on progress, and on local crime and policing issues.

9. If you have been a victim of crime agree how often you would like to be kept informed of progress in your case.

10. Acknowledge any dissatisfaction with the service within 24 hours of a report.

All the above points were rated as fair with the exception of pledges eight and 10 which were poor.