A decision to put Devon and Cornwall Police into special measures has been described as “incredibly concerning” by a Plymouth MP.

Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Luke Pollard, was reacting after the national watchdog for police and fire services announced it is stepping up monitoring of the force because of its poor performance dealing with crimes involving sex, violence and anti-social behaviour. 

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said it was also concerned about slow response times by Devon and Cornwall Police to non-emergency calls. 

HMICFRS continuously monitors the performance of all police services in England and Wales with a two stage process.  All police forces are automatically in the ‘scan’ phase but this can be escalated to ‘engage’ if concerns arise; effectively placing the force in special measures. 

Announcing the move, the inspectorate said it was putting Devon and Cornwall Police into the engage phase because:

The force’s crime recording has deteriorated since its last inspection.  The inspectorate said the force doesn’t always record crimes against vulnerable victims, particularly violent or behavioural crimes and anti-social behaviour

The force does not answer, or respond to, emergency or non-emergency calls within adequate timeframes, and too many calls are abandoned. Identification of repeat and vulnerable callers is missed and callers are not always given the appropriate advice on preservation of evidence or crime prevention

The force is unable to adequately manage registered sexual and violent offenders which means an increasing risk of further offending may not be identified. 

Reacting to the announcement, Luke Pollard MP, said: “This is incredibly concerning news. We must have confidence in our police.

“I’ve written to the temporary chief constable (T/CC) and the Conservative police and crime commissioner to seek a meeting to hear how our police force will be put back on track.”  

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: “We move police forces into our enhanced level of monitoring, known as Engage, when a force is not responding to our concerns, or if it is not managing, mitigating or eradicating these concerns. 

“The Engage process provides additional scrutiny and support.

“Devon and Cornwall Police has been asked to urgently produce an improvement plan and will meet regularly with our inspectors. We will work closely with the force to monitor its progress against these important and necessary changes.”

It comes as Devon and Cornwall Police’s new chief constable was officially selected for the job last month.  Will Kerr is currently a deputy chief constable in Scotland and is yet to take up the post.