West Midlands Police: Enhanced monitoring decision
Andy Cooke QPM DL
His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary
His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
23 November 2023
Engage – West Midlands Police
Thank you for your letter of 23 November to HMI Wendy Williams. She has passed the letter to me, as in the circumstances it appears I am the most appropriate person to respond.
My understanding of the sequence of events that have led to your letter is as follows:
- On 22 November at 2.30pm, you had a call with HMI Williams in which she informed you of my decision to place West Midlands Police into our Engage phase of enhanced monitoring.
- In that call, you cited a historic HMICFRS policy document, ‘the Inspection of the performance of Home Office police forces’, which was written by the previous chief inspector of constabulary, Sir Tom Winsor. You cited paragraph 106, which states:
“Upon a force being moved to the Engage phase, the regional HMI will write to the force to set out the cause(s) of concern in question and the factors the inspectorate has taken into account when deciding to move the force to the Engage phase (i.e. the matters in paragraph 98). The letter will contain an invitation to the force to make representations.”
- Based upon the contents of this document, you advanced the view that you had the right to make representations regarding the force being moved into Engage and requested a period of 14 days in which to do so. You state that HMI Williams agreed to this request.
- At 5.02pm on 22 November HMI Williams emailed you to correct the position. This email was sent in advance of your email to her at 5.04pm.
In your letter you have accused HMICFRS of failing to act in accordance with the law, and of acting in a manner that constitutes maladministration and in a way that undermines trust and confidence in HMICFRS. These are strong assertions which are not correct. There are several facts not currently in your possession. After I have stated them, I expect you to withdraw these assertions.
The pertinent facts are:
- As the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, I am an independent public office holder. Whilst I must operate within the law, I decide upon the approach I take to inspecting and reporting on police forces. I am not bound by the policies adopted by previous office holders.
- The HMICFRS policy you refer to is no longer current. It can be found on our website. A decision was made to retain it on the website for the purposes of the public record. But there is a clear update which states “This document is no longer current. Please see the About Us pages for information on how we inspect police forces.”
- Even if this document had been current, paragraph 106 would not have entitled you to make representations. You are the police and crime commissioner, not the force. HMICFRS inspect and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces.
- Our approach to monitoring forces has changed since this document was written, which is one of the reasons why it is no longer current. We now publish when a force is moved into Engage, because it is in the public interest to do so. I have also been clear with my fellow HMIs that the decision to move a force to Engage is for me to make. Our full approach to monitoring forces is no longer published.
- After careful consideration, I made the decision that I would be placing West Midlands Police into Engage because I have significant concerns about the performance of the force. Members of the public are being placed at risk because the force is not as efficient or effective as it should be. These concerns are based on evidence, from our as yet unpublished, PEEL 2023 report of the force. You are not in possession of this evidence.
- Engage is designed to be a supportive process that will help the force to improve.
- HMI Williams made the telephone call to you as a courtesy, to give you advance notification in confidence. She is not the person placing the force into Engage, nor was she authorised to enter into any agreements in relation to my decision. When she spoke to me after her call with you, I informed her I did not think it was appropriate to delay publication of my decision for such a period, nor was it necessary to consider representations from the PCC or further representations from the force. That is why she attempted to speak with you again and why she sent you an email when she could not.
In line with the request in your letter, I have reviewed my decision to place the force into Engage. I have concluded that this remains the correct decision based upon our inspection evidence. I will make this decision public at 10.00am Friday 24 November. It is not in the public interest to delay West Midlands Police receiving the support and challenge they need to improve.
I recognise this is not the outcome you asked for in your letter. You are of course entitled to seek remedy through the courts if you feel that is the appropriate course of action. However, I would politely suggest that the best thing would be for us to work together and play our respective roles to improve the performance of West Midlands Police in the interests of the public.
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