Hartlepool resident's group chief tells of inadequate dealings with Cleveland Police bosses after damning report

A Hartlepool resident’s association chief has hit out at police’s ‘appallingly inadequate’ communication systems after the force was rated inadequate in all key areas.

Sunday, 6th October 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Sunday, 6th October 2019, 5:05 pm
Robert Smith, chair of Hartlepool's Fens Resident's Association.

The experiences of Robert Smith, chair of the Fens Resident’s Association, mirror failings of Cleveland Police found by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate and Fire and Rescue Services.

In his report, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Phil Gormley revealed a lack of engagement and openness by Cleveland Police, said the way the force treats the public is not good enough, and the limited extent to which it understands the demands on its services is ‘worrying’.

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Cleveland Police Chief Constable Richard Lewis

Talking about his recent experiences, Mr Smith said: “In my role as chair of Fens Resident’s Association I have recently had cause to communicate with the Chief Constable by both email and post about a serious issue affecting the Fens and the whole town.

“Neither communication has been acknowledged and progress has only been made as a result of a chance encounter between myself and a PCSO, who initiated an immediate proper response.”

Mr Smith said most front-line officers were blameless and were victims of system failings just as much as the public.

“I have discovered on more than one occasion that communications within the force are appallingly inadequate with important information failing to reach the appropriate officers,” he said.

“The 101 reporting system lost the confidence of the public some time ago because of long waits for an answer and a perception that information is not handled efficiently.

“This has led to massive under reporting yet Cleveland Police have used 101 statistics as its only benchmark for deploying resources. In effect if it has not been reported on 101 it has not happened.

“Hopefully they are taking all forms of intelligence into account now as I suggested to them.”

Mr Smith suggested replacing the role of the police and crime commissioner, held by Barry Coppinger, who holds the force to account, with a more cost effective system and the savings going to front-line policing.

He added: “We have already started to make the rapid and decisive improvements necessary to become a more public service focused organisation with prevention at its heart.

“Our whole approach must and will change. We know trust is earned and we have given you our pledge to improve confidence by becoming a more public service orientated organisation.

“Engagement in its widest sense has not been good enough; both within our organisation and – more importantly - externally with our communities.

“This is a matter that the organisation as a whole needs to focus upon.”