Police exposed as weak in new report
Josie Hinton POLICE chiefs in Westminster has come under fire in a damning report by an independent watchdog. Weak management, poor detection rates and low professional standards are among the criticisms of the borough exposed in a report by Her Majesty
POLICE chiefs in Westminster has come under fire in a damning report by an independent watchdog.
Weak management, poor detection rates and low professional standards are among the criticisms of the borough exposed in a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.
The report, made public in the past week, reveals the borough's force of 2,500 police and staff is the worst in its field for detecting crimes. It also attacks senior management and says "entrenched attitudes" had led to de-motivated officers and staff.
Borough commander Simon Bray has defended his force, saying major re-structuring over the past year has created significant challenges.
But while the HMIC report recognised the obstacles imposed by the overhaul, it said that "the degree of its impact" could have been "limited by effective programme management".
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The report states: "These challenges need to be addressed through strong leadership and clarity of purpose from the commander with the full support of the senior management team.
"Such support was not always evident during the inspection with instances of disparate approaches being adopted by superintendents.
"This disunity has served to further frustrate the progress of change and has led to confusion among some staff."
The report raised concerns about the professional standards of staff who often failed to comply with policy and direction, leading to low quality investigations and poor attendance at court.
It says: "This 'malaise' represents an unacceptable standard of professionalism and conduct. It needs to be directly challenged by management."
The report also highlighted the need to improve the "morale and integration" of police community support officers (PCSOs) while on patrol.
It states: "There is evidence that the security and treatment of PCSOs could be more professional and supportive. Indeed, staff engaged on duties often described themselves as de-motivated and under-valued."
Local business leaders have welcomed the report's findings, which they hope will act as a catalyst for change.
Maureen Butterworth, a St John's Wood trader, is one of the shop owners forced to hire private security to guard against smash-and-grab thieves.
She said: "What we want is a visible police presence on the high street. As yet, that hasn't happened.
"Despite all the robberies we have had, there is still no regular patrol and the response is very slow."
During the inspection in January, a total of 75 structured interviews and focus groups were conducted involving more than 200 staff.
Commander Bray said he was committed to improving performance.
He said: "We fully take on board the recommendations of the HMIC report. Our performance is already improving, with our end of year performance figures up on the previous year."
Council community boss Cllr Daniel Astaire said he was "concerned" by the report, but added he was confident the force would take steps to address the criticisms.