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Police told to sharpen focus on organised crime threat

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THE States police serves Jersey well but must urgently improve its community policing and ability to tackle serious organised crime – including human trafficking and child sexual exploitation – according to a hard-hitting report.

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For the first time since 2008, the force has been independently reviewed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, which found that, overall, the police ‘responds to incidents quickly and investigates crimes well’.

But inspectors, who conducted their review in late 2018 and early this year, have outlined a total of 18 recommendations for improvement.

It urged the force to immediately revise its policing model to get more officers back into ‘dedicated’ community roles. The community unit was disbanded in 2018 after a nine-year run when the force’s budget was slashed.

A focus on community police was reintroduced later in the year but inspectors found that many community officers’ work lacked ‘focus and direction’, and the unit was ‘ineffective’, the report found.

And the States police was also criticised for focusing heavily on drug trafficking gangs and not analysing other serious organised crime threats, such as modern slavery and child sexual exploitation. It lacked a ‘comprehensive understanding of the threat’ organised criminals posed to the community, according to the report.

Earlier this year, after inspection, the JEP reported that the force was reigniting its intelligence-gathering work on human trafficking into and in the Island.

By May, the force was urged by inspectors to improve its intelligence gathering, adopt the National Intelligence Model and develop a Serious Organised Crime Strategy.

Inspectors acknowledged the report was carried out at a ‘challenging time’ for the States police after former chief Mike Bowron had retired and his successor, Rob Bastable, died following an illness. Less than a month before the inspection the police had introduced Project Horizon – a restructuring of the force to deal with budget cuts. The project was postponed earlier this year amid concerns of its major negative impact on staff morale.

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The report also found that:

  • Victim care is ‘unstructured and needs to be improved’.
  • The force need to do more to attract staff from ‘under-represented’ groups.
  • Governance and financial management of the force is ‘complex and opaque’.

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  • A proposed merger of the force and Customs ‘potentially makes this governance situation worse by compromising the operational independence of the chief of police’.
  • Staff morale is ‘better’ but it had been ‘far lower than among the UK public services’.
  • There is a lack of business support in terms of IT, performance and demand analysis, independent HR and financial management
  • Social media engagement is good, but the force need to do more to engage with rural parishes.
  • Missing-children investigations are ‘thorough’ and the police have a good understanding of supporting people with mental-health issues.

Home Affairs Minister Len Norman said a lot had changed since the inspection.

‘Many of the issues and recommendations relate to day-to-day operational policing matters and a number of these areas, particularly community policing and resourcing, are being addressed by the senior leadership team,’ he said.

Officer numbers have fallen from a peak of 245 to 190 over the last ten years. Numerous officers from forces including the Met Police have been recruited in recent months and the States police are in the midst of one of their largest ever recruitment drives.

A total of 30 new constables are due to join the ranks over the next year. And new chief Robin Smith, currently the Assistant Chief Constable for the British Transport Police, is due to start in the new year.

In a statement, the States police said resourcing was ‘undoubtedly’ a factor in a number of the areas highlighted in the report.

A spokesman said: ‘It is clear that we continue to serve this Island well. However, as with all police forces, we have areas for improvement and we have already set about addressing these.

‘We believe that Jersey has a police force of which it can be proud. This has been a challenging period, but it is clear from this report that there is much to celebrate. Our commitment now is to do all that we can to learn from the report, to improve and to ensure that we remain an effective police force in the service of our whole community.’

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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