Dorset Police needs to improve how it keeps vulnerable children safe, a new report has found.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said in too many cases there were inconsistent practices and decision making.
The inspectorate has made several recommendations, including that Dorset Police should immediately improve its management of registered sex offenders.
The force also needs to improve how it monitors offenders through home visits and review its missing persons arrangements, so that there is always an effective response to missing children.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary said:
"Dorset Police's leaders are clearly committed to prioritising and improving child protection, and we found evidence of good work by dedicated frontline officers. In particular, the force is good at working with other organisations - such as schools and social care services - to keep children safe.
"But there is more work to do to provide better outcomes for vulnerable children in Dorset, including improving how the force responds to reports of missing children, investigates online sexual exploitation, manages registered sex offenders, and treats children detained in custody.
"We are optimistic that Dorset Police can turn its commitment into tangible improvements for children. We have made several recommendations that, if acted on, should lead to better results for children, and we will revisit the force within six months to review its progress."
The report however also found examples of good work within Dorset Police, including a good understanding of those children most at risk from exploitation.
It also recognised the clear commitment from the force to improve child protection and praised the swift exchange of information with children's social care services.