Cheshire East’s police force has been described as “inadequate” and given the lowest possible score in the recent HMIC report on Crime Recording. The Liberal Democrats have called on the Police and Crimes Commissioner to urgently address the problems identified, and ensure that the police force can meet the needs of Cheshire East residents.
Neil Lewis, the Liberal Democrats’ candidate in the 2016 Police and Crimes Commissioner election, said: “The Cheshire constabulary has many strengths, and we recognise the intense pressure under which our police operate and are hugely appreciative of their dedication and commitment to keep us safe. However, we must be aware of the weaknesses identified by the recent inspection and expect these issues to be swiftly addressed.”
The report states that "these [crime recording] failures are often due to poor crime-recording processes and an insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements by officers and staff, compounded by limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity."
Critically, these appear similar to the weaknesses that were found in regards to the Constabulary's recording of missing and absent children from the 2015 PEEL report on police effectiveness, which noted that: “Some elements of the missing report and investigation actions are often duplicated on computer systems including the command and control system and also on the person’s record on the constabulary’s online records management system. However, the paper record is the single definitive point of complete reference. The use of a paper-based system means that not all the information on an individual case is always readily accessible. It also leads to significant duplication of effort in respect of double or even treble-recording of the same information on different paper and computer systems, particularly for those who go missing on a regular basis."
Neil added: "“Under Theresa May, first as Home Secretary and now as Prime Minister, police numbers in Cheshire East have fallen by around 6 per cent. This reduction in numbers clearly puts strain on the service, and increases the pressure on police officers to cope. The Conservative Party must take responsibility for the effects that their austerity policies are having on our communities.”
On behalf of the residents of Cheshire, we urgently wish to know:
1. Are missing children's records now recorded effectively, efficiently and comprehensively in a single place?
2. What digital and paper-based systems are being used to record crime across the force and what immediate plans to upgrade and/ or streamline these systems are in place and how will these improvements provide better supervision and oversight?
3. Who will take responsibility for the making of crime-recording decisions on a day to day basis and how will the Police & Crime Commissioner gain oversight on this activity?
4. How has the Police & Crime Commissioner been actively holding the Chief Constable to account on these issues over the past 13 months?
5. What resources does the Chief Constable lack or require in order to make good these defects quickly and in particular by the date of the next inspection in early 2018. We note that The Liberal Democrats spending plans would have delivered £4.1m funding for the Cheshire police force - how might this extra money relieve pressure and enable the highest performance possible?
6. What action will the Police & Crime Commissioner take to ensure that the Chief Constable has the necessary resources at his disposal to make those changes?
7. The issue of crime recording appears to be a nationwide issue, hence, what initiatives will the Cheshire either lead or participate in to improve national crime recording and to share best practices among similar sized force areas?