Inspectors say they are “concerned about public safety in Greater Manchester” after finding that the region’s police force was failing to support vulnerable victims of crime – four years after the alarm was first raised.
The extraordinary warning, believed to be the first issued to a force of its size, came after inspectors found that Greater Manchester police (GMP) had failed to address “significant delays” in its handling of serious crimes.
The troubled force, which has been in special measures for nearly a year, attended under a third of incidents that should be responded to within an hour, the watchdog found, with some victims left waiting days for a response.
Andy Cooke, inspector of constabulary, said he was “deeply concerned” that GMP had “consistently failed to make significant improvements in how it responds to vulnerable victims of crime”.
He said inspections had been carried out on GMP in 2019, 2020 and in the past few weeks. He concluded the force had not sufficiently addressed concerns first raised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) nel 2017.
Cooke added: “It has now reached the point where we are concerned about public safety in Greater Manchester.
“The people of Greater Manchester will rightly expect their local police force to do all it can to protect them from harm. We will therefore be closely monitoring the force’s performance to make sure that public safety comes first.”
GMP is the biggest police force in England and Wales outside London. It is believed to be the first time inspectors have issued a warning about public safety – known as issuing a “cause for concern” report – about a force of its size.
Recent cause for concern reports were made for Cleveland police and Dyfed-Powys police, forces that cover a much smaller population that GMP.
GMP is in special measures after an earlier inspection report found that it had failed to record 80,000 crimes – one in five of all reported offences – in the year to June 2020.
Il latest HMICFRS report into GMP said the force had a “significant” backlog of 2,700 emergency calls from the public and that it was failing to in effect prioritise the most vulnerable.
It said: “We reviewed a number of incidents where vulnerable people were at risk and found that there were significant delays before the police attended. The force attends under a third of incidents that should be responded to within an hour.
“Some victims wait for several days, in some cases over a week, and in most cases, the force doesn’t contact the victim to explain that there is a delay. Some of these incidents had been closed without any police response being deployed.”
Stephen Watson, who took over as chief constable of GMP in May 2021, disse: “We recognise and accept HMICFRS findings about our continued weaknesses, which follows a routine inspection.
“These describe a quality of service which is not yet where we want it to be and which I know is far from what the people of Greater Manchester deserve.
“For this simple fact I humbly apologise. I am truly sorry for every time we have not met the needs of victims of crime. I can assure you that our top priority is to keep people safe.”
Inspectors said GMP was failing to grasp the level of demand it faces and was often relying on officers working overtime, or diverting them from other tasks, to respond to calls from the public.
They said the workload was “significantly adversely affecting control room staff” with high levels of sickness and staff feeling “stressed and unsupported”.