PCC responds to HMIC Vulnerability Report
Following an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary into how Essex Police deals with Domestic Abuse and vulnerable victims, the force have been found to be “inadequate”.
In response to the findings Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, made the following statement:
“Protecting vulnerable people must be at the heart of the work of our police service, every minute of every hour of every day.
“As Police and Crime Commissioner I have made reducing the many hidden harms that affect vulnerable people, and especially domestic abuse, a key area of focus for Essex Police. I appointed a Chief Constable who cares as deeply about these issues as I do and who is committed to driving change and improving the performance of Essex Police in these areas.
“Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary performs a crucial role in reviewing the operational work of police forces and I respect and value their work.
“But this report into a key aspect of Essex Police performance is of real concern. Whilst there is much in the report that speaks of improvement, it also reveals the extent of the challenge that remains. It is essential that Essex Police acts upon the recommendations of the HMIC report. Whilst I am confident that improvements are being made, I will continue to scrutinise the work of Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh and Essex Police to ensure that they are fully delivered. Protecting vulnerable people requires a multi-agency focus and commitment, so I will also take a strong interest in how well Essex Police is working with its partners.
“Every day in Essex, there are four times as many domestic abuse incidents requiring an emergency response as house burglaries. I have supported the Chief Constable’s decision to put significantly more police officers and specialist staff into Essex Police’s Public Protection Unit. The force must also ensure the structures and working practices provide the best possible protection for those at risk of domestic abuse, including any children in the household, and target and monitor abusive perpetrators effectively.
“Essex Police has made use of the powers and tools available, such as Domestic Violence Protection Orders and body worn video cameras to capture evidence. These innovative initiatives will be fully evaluated to ensure they are as effective as possible. The force’s work around high risk domestic abuse cases has significantly improved, and that is good news. But HMIC is clear that Essex Police must review the working practices for medium risk domestic abuse cases, and address the unintended consequences of separating responsibility for investigation and safeguarding between different teams.
“HMIC identified concerns around supervisory systems and practices in the area of domestic abuse. With regard to protecting children, the inspection identified more fundamental cultural problems in identifying and investigating child sexual exploitation and this is a real concern to me.
“It is increasingly clear that for decades, across the country, many agencies with important roles in protecting vulnerable children failed both to understand child sexual exploitation or to identify its signs. Helping and protecting these young victims requires time, empathy and specialist skills. It is imperative and urgent that we complete the training of police officers and police staff to provide them with the knowledge to deliver a first class service for vulnerable people in our county.
“Essex Police needs to redouble its effort to target perpetrators of child sexual exploitation and to work yet more closely and effectively with social care and partner agencies to safeguard children. Everyone in the force, in fact all of us, must be alert to the signs and risk of child sexual exploitation.
“I will continue to lead work with local authorities and specialist agencies such as refuges and rape crisis centres to provide more consistent support for vulnerable people across Essex. My office has funded 24 Independent Domestic Violence Advocates in our county, enabling earlier intervention and support to victims in some of the most high risk domestic abuse case. We are also funding the development of domestic abuse perpetrator programmes so we can robustly tackle and address the behaviour of perpetrators. In addition, we are funding work with the Children’s Society to better understand and respond to child sexual exploitation in our county.
“Years of complacency and the poor practices and wrong cultures that resulted from that cannot be put right overnight. Training detectives takes time. Processes and practices need continuous improvement and effecting cultural change can be slow and difficult. But it is essential.
“More must, and will, be done. From my discussions with HMIC I am confident Essex Police is improving; but more improvement is needed and it needs to happen fast. I am thankful that every year, more people are having the confidence to report domestic abuse and sexual assaults on children. But we also know that across our county vulnerable people continue to be at risk, go missing and be in desperate need of our help. All of these vulnerable victims deserve, and must receive, our support and protection. The Chief Constable and I are committed to making this happen.”