Beds Police has ‘serious weaknesses’ with the way it protects victims and vulnerable people, inspectors have found.
In a report this morning, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has slammed the force’s work with vulnerable persons and issued an urgent list of improvements to be made.
Chief among its concerns is “unreliable and ineffective processes” which are said to put missing children and young people at “significant risk”.
The report reads: “The force’s response to missing and absent children is poor.
“HMIC found that too many children are recorded as absent instead of missing and therefore considered to be at ‘no risk’.
“This means that opportunities to protect vulnerable children or, for example, to identify a potential risk of sexual exploitation, may be missed.”
HMIC has also said that the force’s work with victims of domestic abuse is also a cause of concern.
The report notes that at times risk assessments are carried out over the phone and officers do not always visit victims.
According to the HMIC this can leave domestic abuse victims “not being appropriately safeguarded with tailored support”.
Inspectors also found ‘inconsistencies’ in the quality of investigation and handover of domestic abuse cases.
The report adds that though the force has made progress in tackling child sex exploitation, it does not have ‘full understanding’ of the problem across the county.
Beds Police’s work with vulnerability has been rated ‘inadequate’ and the force has been given until January 31 to provide evidence of improvements.
PCC Olly Martins has blamed a lack of funds for the dismal report.
He said: “Although it is always disappointing to be graded ‘inadequate’, HMIC is quite clear on this occasion that Bedfordshire Police “faces a greater challenge than many other forces in responding to the required budget reductions in this era of austerity”.
“The force has to constantly ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ as it seeks to juggle the various high harm priorities it faces with an inadequate level of funding.”