Northamptonshire Police has been told to improve and described as 'inadequate' by the police watchdog in a damning report published today (Friday, September 27).
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found a wide range of issues with the force during an inspection in January.
But Chief Constable Nick Adderley insisted changes have been made since then and the findings do not reflect how Northamptonshire Police operates now.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said: “I have concerns about the performance of Northamptonshire Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime.
"I am especially worried about the force’s efficiency, and how effectively it investigates crime and protects vulnerable people."
Inspectors found Northamptonshire Police 'requires improvement’ in effectively reducing crime and keeping people safe, is ‘inadequate’ at operating efficiently and providing sustainable services to the public and ‘requires improvement’ in the way it treats the public and its workforce.
The force needs to improve how it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour, and how it engages with communities and partner organisations to solve problems, Ms Billingham said.
“The force is not investigating crime effectively. I am concerned about the standard of investigations and the lack of scrutiny by supervisors and senior managers," she added.
How the force managed and understood demand was one of the areas HMICFRS was most critical of, being judged as 'reactive' while struggling to manage backlogs in open investigations.
Protecting vulnerable people was also an issue, with inspectors determining officers and staff did not fully understand the scale and nature of vulnerability, not least its response to missing persons, including children.
Ms Billingham was also concerned that police did not always comply with legislation when detaining people in custody.
However, budget constraints have had a particularly damaging impact on the force after a decade of under-funding, the inspector added.
“Northamptonshire Police has made some positive changes in its approach to crime prevention since our last inspection," she said.
"It now has dedicated local policing teams working more closely with communities and organisations.
"New approaches to problem solving, including working more with other organisations, means the force has improved in this area since our last inspection."
Since the inspection nearly nine months ago, a raft of measures have been put in place, including the formation in June of the initial investigation team which has dramatically reduced crime backlogs from 700 a year ago to around 70 now.
Plus a dedicated vulnerability group has been established as part of the wider service improvement programme, while a dedicated missing persons unit has been set up to improve the force’s response to missing people.
Mr Adderley said: “We fully recognise the findings made during the HMICFRS inspection and I acknowledge they make difficult reading, however we are continuing to work closely with HMICFRS as we strive to address the areas of weakness which they have identified.
“That said, some really significant work is being carried out, not least in improving our investigative capability which the Inspectorate rightly identified as being inadequate."
Northamptonshire police, fire and crime commissioner Stephen Mold said he will be continuing to ask the chief constable to report on progress regularly to ensure that the pace of improvement continues.
"There is no doubt that this report makes disappointing reading and I thank the Inspectors for their thorough review, the information they provide and their advice is very helpful in my role of holding the Chief Constable to account and reflect the concerns I had already voiced to him," he said.
“However this is the result of an inspection that took place more than nine months ago, it does not reflect Northamptonshire Police as it is performing today."