The HMICFRS report into Cleveland Police published in September 2019 felt like an earthquake for the force; a swift and devastating blow across the whole organisation and our communities. Earthquakes are seldom isolated and sudden events; those that watch closely see that a number of smaller, almost gradual events pre-date the devastating blow that a report such as the one I mention above has.
Those that were close observers of Cleveland Police did not see the 2019 HMICFRS report as unexpected but the latest and most devastating blow to an organisation that had suffered a fair amount justifiable criticism over the years.
Recognising and accepting that criticism as being truthful and accurate is the first step to improvement and I have been consistent in publicly stating so since my appointment as Chief Constable.
Rebuilding an organisation as large as Cleveland Police takes time and investment. Indeed, along the way there will be missteps but the direction of travel is not in dispute; things are improving and whilst I’m delighted with all of the improvements we’ve made, I’m especially pleased with the progress we’ve made in our response to Domestic Abuse. My view is that our work in this area rivals the very best forces in the country in many regards.
It is not right to conveniently highlight the success stories and ignore the areas that remain areas for development. Much remains to be done here at Cleveland but our multi-year plan for improvement is comprehensive. I am frequently asked how long we are likely to be an ‘engaged force’ (in lay-person’s terms ‘special measures’). Of course it is not in my gift to determine the timescale, it is a role for the Chief HMI, Sir Tom Winsor, but I am able to say that we are likely to remain ‘engaged’ for quite some time and nobody is more impatient than me to remove Cleveland from that status.
What our communities can be sure of, is my commitment to providing Cleveland with safe passage to being a force that is recognised nationally as being good at what it does.
It takes time to rebuild and often what emerges is not the same as what stood before. I know that we now have an opportunity to rebuild an organisation and service that is better and stronger.
Finally, a word about our staff members. I’m proud of the staff we have here who have worked tirelessly to put right the problems of the past that were not of their making. The credit for improvements is theirs and responsibility for the areas that still require work is mine.
Our staff care deeply about our communities and the service we provide. The improvements have been made despite unprecedented demand and in the face of a global pandemic. It is remarkable that we’ve made as much progress as we have given the context in which we work.
We will take no time to draw breath on publication of this report; we will continue our journey of improvement and I look forward to further progress being reported in the months to come.