A police force must improve how quickly it answers 999 calls and attends incidents, but has made improvements in the way it supports victims, a watchdog has said.
West Mercia Police was told it needed to improve how it investigates crimes, supervises investigations and updates victims, by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services, (HMICFRS) in 2021.
Following a revisit between July 3 and July 8 this year, the force was found to have improved the way it liaises with and consults victims, but has not improved how effectively crimes are supervised and “should” improve how quickly it answers emergency calls.
Wendy Williams, His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, said: "We found that West Mercia Police has made progress against some of the cause of concern recommendations that we focused on in this revisit.
"But it needs to do more in relation to supervision and the allocation of investigation plans.
"The force needs to improve how it responds to the public, particularly in how effectively it answers 999 and 101 calls and attends incidents.
"We will continue to monitor the force’s performance in these areas.
"While I congratulate the force on the progress it has made, the existing cause of concern will remain."
Following a review of cases from between January and March this year, the force has met improvement targets related to consulting victims and recording contact with them, and ensuring that repeat and vulnerable emergency callers were identified.
It "partially met" a target to give callers appropriate advice on crime prevention, but “could do more to make sure callers are given advice about the preservation of evidence”, the HMICFRS said.
However, the force "still needs to improve" recording victims’ decisions and reasons for withdrawing from investigations.
The revisit also found that the force was not answering 999 calls within the national standard for England and Wales, with only 76.1% of calls answered within 10 seconds, compared with the national standard of 90%.
Inspectors also found that 22.7% of callers on the force’s 101 non-emergency line were hanging up before their calls were answered, well above the expected standard of 5%.
Furthermore, of 63 incidents examined, only 38 were attended by officers within the force’s own published time frames, which is a decline from the previous audit.
Acting Deputy Chief Constable Richard Cooper said: "We’re pleased to see a sustained and significant improvement in several areas including our compliance with the Victims’ Code of Practice which focuses on the rights of victims."
"Despite a continued focus to improve our investigative standards we acknowledge and share the concerns raised by the inspectorate."
"We welcome the independent oversight and scrutiny from HMICFRS in this area which will help us to refocus on meaningful improvement."
"Since the initial inspection took place in late 2021, we have invested in and continue to invest in investigative skills training for both new and existing officers, changed our process to improve co-ordination and introduced sergeants dedicated to overseeing investigation quality.
"We’re pleased to hear that in all of the calls reviewed by the team, our contact handlers dealt with callers professionally and with empathy.
"We do recognise though the amount of time it takes to answer calls needs to improve and we are currently changing our approach to ensure this happens."
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