Police have been told by a government watchdog that they must improve the way they protect and support vulnerable victims.
Cleveland Police’s ‘identification and response’ to such victims has been criticised in a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which independently assesses police forces and policing activity.
There are weaknesses at the very first point of contact when people telephone the policeHMIC report
Its response to missing children also requires improvement, according to the report, as does the promptness with which it deals with non-urgent incidents.
Part of the report states: “There are weaknesses at the very first point of contact when people telephone the police.
“The way the force deals with calls means that the correct level of vulnerability of the victim may not be fully identified straightaway and therefore the risks not properly assessed and the right initial response not provided.
“The force has invested in providing skilled, specialist teams to safeguard and protect victims, but the force does not respond to all non-urgent incidents within the required timescale.
“This means that some vulnerable victims may not be getting the speed of response they need to keep them safe.”
The report adds: “The force’s indentification and response to vulnerable victims is a cause of concern to HMIC. There are inconsistencies in the quality of service to vulnerable victims at the first point of contact with the police, which means that their particular needs may not be initially recognised and fully met.
“The force should improve its response to missing children by ensuring that the force and partners can readily use information in a timely manner to safeguard children; that it carries out risk assessments and investigations to an appropriate standard; and that it introduces processes to ensure that it supervises properly tisk assessment and investigations.”
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Ciaron Irvine of Cleveland Police said: “Keeping our communities safe and identifying and protecting vulnerable people from harm is at the core of our work. Cleveland Police welcomes the scrutiny of HMIC which has recognised the importance we place on protecting vulnerable people.
“The report shows that between March 2014 and March 2015 Cleveland Police experienced higher demand than forces in England and Wales in terms of calls for assistance and that domestic abuse calls for assistance are significantly higher than for those other forces. It also highlights that we arrested and charged more people for domestic abuse incidents when compared with other forces across the country.
“It’s pleasing that HMIC has recognised the positive progress that we have made in dealing with incidents of domestic abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation, commenting positively on the standards of investigation, victim care and effective work with our partners.
“We recognise that there are areas for improvement and we have already made strides forward since this HMIC inspection. We have examined how we respond to all calls for service in order to prioritise those that need a quicker response based on levels of serious, threat, risk and harm and this work continues. It’s important that we continue this work to understand our demand so that we can develop our approach to responding to vulnerable victims. A new ‘Victim’s First’ policy in place across the Force will provide standard procedures for all staff in identifying levels of risk and vulnerability.
“We will continue to work closely with our partner agencies to improve the service we deliver and strengthen our positive work.”