Police force needs improving

Sussex Police has been told to make improvements as well as being praised for good police work by a watchdog.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s latest report on the force highlights a number of areas where it needs to make improvements.

HMIC’s PEEL Effectiveness report follows an inspection of the force during the height of change to the service and has graded the force as ‘requiring improvement’.

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The report emphasises Sussex Police needs to maintain the ability to prevent crime and do more to support some victims of domestic abuse and bring more offenders to justice.

Deputy Chief Constable Bernie O’Reilly said, “We always value HMIC’s independent scrutiny and have already taken significant steps to address the areas they have identified for improvement.

“We are determined to make policing services more effective, as we face the challenge of operating with new demands against a shrinking budget.

“Over the last seven years the force has made £76million of budget savings and efficiencies to balance its budget, and to help ensure the services provided represent good value for money for the community. Looking ahead there are further savings in 2017/18 of £16 million, whilst we also direct £3 million of additional investment towards the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan and operational priorities.

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“In creating our new policing model we are undertaking work to understand all the different demands on our teams.

“The inspection took place midway through significant changes and we recognise in anticipation of the changes that we were running below strength. We now have a full complement of PCSOs and have developed a model that meets local needs with all officers involved in policing neighbourhoods across Sussex.

“We also recognise HMIC’s concern about the service to some victims of domestic abuse and have examined if victim confidence in reporting is a specific problem and if officers feel enabled to take robust lawful action to arrest whenever necessary.

“We accept our previous practice of completing a small proportion of initial risk assessments with people reporting domestic abuse over the phone, done in the interests of understanding the safeguarding needs of the victim as quickly as possible, may not be the best approach in some cases. Plans are already in place to reverse this to ensure an officer visits them.

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“Other moves to improve the overall Sussex Police response include putting victims’ first in terms of their safeguarding and all first responders will be undertaking further training to help keep people safe and seek justice.

“Their report states that although the force has seen an increase in some types of crime, it is less than that nationally. We also reduced anti-social behaviour by 13 per cent, compared to 9 per cent nationally in the 12 months to March 2016. These are notable markers of our success in preventing crime during this period of huge change.”

“I am determined that Sussex remains a low-crime area - we work tirelessly to improve our service, especially for vulnerable people. We are constantly reviewing how we deliver services and will be taking in HMIC’s comments as each stage of new policing model is rolled out. I am confident it will meet the demands of current and future policing.

“We are committed to making people aware of what we doing, and we are working closely with partners as we improve our service.

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“We continue to listen to the public to ensure that policing reflects local priorities. Our latest crime victim survey sees about 79% of the public satisfied in their overall experience with the police and more than 90% for the way they have been treated.

“We are part way through an unprecedented period of change and as we finalise the last elements of the local policing model we welcome HMIC’s comments and will continue to review our service to be the very best we can.

Investment through the police precept will give extra focus in areas where the most harm or vulnerability exists and help make people feel safer through even stronger prevention teams working in their neighbourhoods.”