Report finds Cleveland Police is improving public engagement but Covid-19 has hampered efforts

A review into Cleveland Police has found that it has improved public engagement - two years after it was flagged as a cause for concern.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary highlighted six causes of concern within the force in 2019, including that it did "not adequately engage with local communities".

A report published on Thursday, 2 September, The report author said that while the force was making progress, "any engagement with local communities, and scrutiny by people outside the force, have been affected by COVID-19" and the restrictions around face-to-face contact.

Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner agreed the force was making good progress and would continue to listen and learn.

What did the report find?

The report found Cleveland Police had improved the way it communicates with the public - "more frequently and openly" and using "a variety of methods" - and it was "more willing to listen".

However, it also found neighbourhood officers were being taken from their roles to attend to more urgent work.

The report identified the force was doing more to understand local communities, for example those less likely to complain or engage with police, but attributed difficulties making further improvements with the pandemic.

It read: "We found some good examples where staff were trying to improve engagement. But, generally, it has been difficult to improve engagement during COVID-19 as a result of the restrictions in place and the lack of technology available to carry out engagement remotely."

It found improvements had been made to scrutiny of the force's data and processes including the use of force and stop and search.

However in one meeting the review found members of the strategic independent advisory group (SIAG) did not scrutinise the data.

It also found that the force has data quality issues with its use of force data and that the watchdog's "2021 custody inspection found that this data is not comprehensive, reliable or accurate".

The report established that despite the force being open to external scrutiny, the Covid-19 pandemic meant physical visits to its suite had not taken place in the last year and visits were yet to be resumed.

What has been the response?

Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Steve Turner, said: "I think it's understandable that we hadn't gone as far as we wanted to go in the last year because of Covid but I'm really pleased to see the inspectorate report saying that we are making good progress in the areas in which it measured us."

Mr Turner added he had spent a time in the last week with the force's engagement team to see the work they are doing and how his office can support them.

What happens next?

As the issue of public engagement and external scrutiny is just one of six causes of concern being monitored, Cleveland Police remains in the "engage phase" of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's monitoring process, at least until its next review period.

The report comes as Mr Turner launched the force's Chief Constable recruitment process, following the announcement last month that current Chief Constable Richard Lewis will be leaving the force after almost three years at the top.

Mr Turner said he was looking for an "inspirational leader" and "drive forward change that will make a lasting difference to policing and the public".