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‘National crisis’ looms over policing - but how did Kent Police get on at its latest inspection?

PUBLISHED: 09:49 02 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:54 02 March 2017

Kent Police

Kent Police

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Reports on each of the country’s police forces have been released today (Thursday)

Kent police and crime commissioner Matthew Scott pictured outside Swanley police stationKent police and crime commissioner Matthew Scott pictured outside Swanley police station

Police inspectors have warned of a ‘perilous state’ amongst British police forces - despite the majority being rated as ‘good’.

Kent Police is one of 28 forces across the country to receive the rating, but Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has raised a symbolic ‘red flag’ against a so-called ‘rationing’ of police services.

Warning signs have flashed up in forces across the country, including here in Kent.

“HMIC said Kent Police needs to understand why so many crimes are not being progressed either because the victim does not support police action or because there are difficulties in securing sufficient evidence, and so it is good to see that Kent Police has already begun looking at this issue,” explained Matthew Scott, the county’s police and crime commissioner.

PCC Matthew Scott together with chief constable Alan PughsleyPCC Matthew Scott together with chief constable Alan Pughsley

The latest reports have been rating effectiveness in each force, following reports into efficiency and legitimacy.

Inspectors rated Kent Police’s efficiency as good, and branded the force’s legitimacy as outstanding.

Concerns were also raised over how officers around the county investigate stalking and harassment offences.

Mr Scott, whose main job is to hold the police to account, added that the force had already begun reviewing its processes, and said he would be “keeping an eye” on the problems highlighted by HMIC.

Inspector Zoe Billingham added: “I am very pleased that Kent Police’s performance is judged to be good in HMIC’s police effectiveness inspection. The force continues to do well in the vitally important areas of operational policing necessary for it to keep people safe across the country and to reduce crime.”

But describing the national picture, the inspector warned forces against ‘rationing’ police services in the face of government cuts.

“We are leading to a very serious conclusion regarding the potentially perilous state of British policing in this report,” she added.

“Over the last few years, HMIC has said consistently that police forces were managing well in increasingly difficult circumstances.

“Nonetheless, today, I’m raising a red flag to warn forces of the consequences of what is, to all intents and purposes, an unconscious form of rationing of police services.”

Michael Barton, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for crime operations, noted that the inspection found that most forces were “good overall” but said it was “disappointing” that HMIC also had concerns that some were “falling short”.

He cited budget reductions and the loss of thousands of officers and staff, adding: “It’s a simple reality that we are required to prioritise more.

“Difficult decisions are being made between resourcing neighbourhood teams, response units, specialist investigations and digital and cyber enabled crime.”

But on the back of three successful reports from the inspectorate, Mr Scott has praised improvements in the force, and explained why he was maintaining PCSO levels, unlike other forces across the country.

Says Mr Scott: “I’m particularly pleased to hear that Kent Police has improved its effectiveness at protecting vulnerable people and supporting victims, including increasing the proportion of domestic abuse suspects who are arrested, because one of the guiding principles of my new Safer in Kent Plan is that vulnerable people must be protected from harm.

“Furthermore, it was acknowledged that Kent Police understands the threats it faces from traditional crimes such as burglary and robbery as well as emerging threats like child sexual exploitation and cyber-crime. Residents have told me that all these different issues are important to them so it is reassuring to hear Kent Police understands them.’

“The report mentions a multi-agency operation dealing with a case of grooming in Gravesend which had originated from concerns raised by local PCSOs.

“This is why the chief constable and I are committed to maintaining Kent Police’s PCSO numbers and why I’ve made providing visible neighbourhood policing a priority.”

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