'Serious concerns' raised about performance of South Yorkshire Police

South Yorkshire Police headquarters
South Yorkshire Police headquarters

Serious concerns have been raised about the performance of South Yorkshire Police following a series of inspections.

The force has been judged as requiring improvement in its effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy in fighting crime and keeping people safe.

In an annual report, published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, Inspector Michael Cunningham said he has 'serious concerns about the overall performance' of the force based on inspections last year.

He raised concerns about the force's approach to 'preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour' and said changes to its neighbourhood policing model last year had 'weakened its ability to tackle the threats facing the people of South Yorkshire effectively', pointing out that staff were regularly taken away from preventative neighbourhood work to cover more reactive duties.

Mr Cunningham said he is pleased with progress made by the force in how it keeps vulnerable people safe, but said further improvements are needed.

He described the force as generally good at identifying signs of vulnerability and consistent in how it handles calls reporting incidents involving domestic abuse. But labelled the quality of risk assessments made at the scene of domestic abuse incidents as 'poor', which he said affected decisions about safeguarding victims and referring them to other services.

He said he was pleased with South Yorkshire Police’s approach to tackling serious and organised crime, pointing out that the force has good processes for gathering intelligence and mapping organised crime groups, and that it prioritises and tackles organised crime effectively.

But the inspector said the force has 'a very limited understanding' of the current and likely future demands for its services and urged it to work more closely with other services.

He said: "The force’s current operating model was built on this limited understanding of the demands for its services, and that this has contributed to the inconsistent service the force is providing to the people of South Yorkshire.

"The force has taken some steps to understand and reduce the wasteful use of its resources arising from inefficient working practices, but it needs to extend this work to its other practices.

"I am also concerned that the force does not have a comprehensive workforce plan, and that its understanding of its workforce’s capability and capacity is poor. This compromises the force’s understanding of the costs of providing its services and its ability to match resources to demand.

"In view of the findings in this assessment, I have been in regular contact with the new chief constable who understands the challenges facing the force. I do not underestimate how much improvement is needed for the force, led by its new chief officer team, to provide a consistently good service to the people of South Yorkshire."

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “We acknowledge and note HMIC’s overall rating as a result of inspections carried out over the last year. We have already taken action to address the concerns raised, such as having a clear focus on the management of domestic abuse and vulnerability.

“We are working urgently to address these issues and have introduced a process to improve the accountability of our safeguarding arrangements to victims. We are also working closely with victims and their feedback is invaluable in helping to improve the service we provide.

“We also recognise the issues around neighbourhood policing and are currently developing a new policing model which will reflect our commitment to neighbourhoods.

“Whilst we recognise the urgency of this work, we must get the new model right. Hence our investment in a rigorous research phase prior to implementation, during which we will
consult with partners and members of the public at a series of consultation events with the Chief Constable.

"The views and concerns captured at these consultation events will mark the start of a programme of ongoing engagement and will inform the assessment into the force’s neighbourhood service, before changes are agreed and implemented.”