Saturday, May 31, 2008

HMIC criticises Scotland's Police Forces for ignoring the public

Its now the turn of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland to 'criticise' Scotland's Police Forces for seemingly ignoring the public.

The Herald reports :

Watchdog attacks police for ignoring the public


Scotland's police routinely fail to give victims of crimes, witnesses and the public vital information on investigations, an official report has found.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS) warned this failure meant forces are in danger of losing crucial help from the public in solving crimes, while the quality of service was suffering because officers were too busy focusing on target setting and other "performance management".

The report into how police dealt with contact from members of the public comes the day after Lothian and Borders Police was condemned by Scotland's police complaints commissioner for failing to respond properly to complainants.

Both reports mirror statistics revealing a growing public discontent across the country over poor police communication.

The inspectorate's report authors found "no recognisable standard" for providing feedback which was "rarely, if ever" published for people to see.

They stated: "We also considered the large number of calls made to the police to provide information, for example I've seen something suspicious' or I think you should know where these drug dealers are operating'.

"We found little evidence of any systematic approach to either following through this contact ... or capturing callers' views on how they had been dealt with. It appeared that very few were given any feedback, unless they were needed as witnesses. As a result, the service may be missing valuable opportunities to encourage further future contact from these members of the public."

They added: "It appeared to us that the service's focus on quality management had diminished recently. It may be that the increased emphasis on performance management, through process improvement and target-setting, has diverted attention from quality of service."

The inspectorate's review calls for a national minimum standard for feedback which should be published so people know what they should expect.

It also urged the Scottish Government to review the way the criminal justice system provides information to witnesses of crimes and victims, after branding the current approach "uncoordinated at best and confusing or duplicative at worst".

The most recent figures from Audit Scotland based on public opinion surveys by the police found that the number of people who were very or fairly satisfied with the way in which police dealt with them fell from almost 83% in 2000 to just over 77% in 2006.

Conversely, the number of people either very or fairly dissatisfied rose from 8.5% in 2000 to 14.4% in 2006.

The Assistant Inspector of Constabulary Malcolm Dickson yesterday stressed that the police did often provide good feedback and that officers were short on time.

He said: "We appreciate that individual officers are very busy, working 24-hour shifts, so we think giving feedback should be more of an organisational responsibility."

However he added: "This inspection was prompted by a widespread recognition within the police service that one of the weakest areas in its dealings with the public is a failure to provide updates or feedback on how an inquiry was progressing.

"During the inspection we confirmed this weakness."

Other recommendations in the HMICS report included putting a strong emphasis on good customer care when training new staff and making more use of mobile phones and e-mail to boost communication with the public.

Mr Dickson said there had been "tremendous" improvements in the way the private sector provides information to its customers and that the police service could not allow itself to fall behind.

The report author's also suggested that Victim Support Scotland could help provide feedback to crime victims.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland pledged to consider the report's recommendations and implement them "as appropriate".

The government also said it would look at recommendations and explore "what more can be done to improve information flow to victims".

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