Birmingham & Black Country

West Midlands Police chief constable says force offers 'poor service'

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Media captionWest Midlands Police chief Dave Thompson says he is "sorry" about poor service

The chief constable of England's second largest police force has admitted it sometimes provides a poor service that fails to meet public expectations.

Dave Thompson apologised and said budget cuts and fewer officers policing a "wider spread of crime" had left West Midlands Police at a point where it was not sustainable to tackle everything.

He said he was "drawing the bar higher" as to what would be investigated.

But the Home Office said every crime and allegation should be investigated.

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Thompson said it was very challenging to balance "all things at once".

'Reality of policing'

"The level of calls we're receiving this summer are very challenging [and] sometimes that service that we're providing [at] those peak times doesn't meet what the public expect.

"I get that. Sometimes that service will be a poor service, sometimes actually the service is what we can and say we will offer, and sometimes that might not always be what the public want to see."

Image caption Taxi driver Talal Hassan said he did not hear from police for six days after he was assaulted by passengers

He said cuts across all public services had seen more vulnerable people coming into contact with police while "the list" of crimes, such as modern-day slavery and gun and gang crime, that must be investigated had grown.

"We may be dealing with it over the phone where they would like to see us and I'm sorry about that but that is the reality of where policing is now," he said.

"And on some occasions yes, you are right, the service will not meet what I want it to do and it will not meet the response that the public absolutely will want when they're at a time of vulnerability.

"We are drawing the bar higher than we used to as to what we will investigate."

Mr Thompson said he accepted "drawing the bar higher" - and perhaps no longer investigating offences such as criminal damage, car thefts and shoplifting - could undermine public confidence, but it was "simply because of the resource available."

He stressed he was not talking about offences such as serious assaults.

'I don't feel safe'

Taxi driver Talal Hassan was attacked by passengers in Kingstanding, Birmingham, in May.

He said they threw "a pile of bricks" on him, hit his elbow and repeatedly hit his side causing severe bruising.

He informed police after the incident but said he was not visited by officers for six days.

"I don't feel safe because if I work and someone attacks me - this is the police response?

"The funny thing is the guys who attack people always say that they're not scared of the police because they feel they will not get caught.

"That's what they tell you... they don't have any respect of law."

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Image caption Mr Hassan said he was attacked with bricks and left badly bruised

In November, leaked documents revealed West Midlands Police was smaller than it had ever been in its history after losing almost 2,300 officers since 2010.

Overall, forces in England and Wales have had a 20% funding cut over seven years.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said the force had been "inundated by violent crime" and that the homicide team was at "breaking point".

"It's extremely difficult to see how we can sustain what the public would call an acceptable level of policing," he said, adding that the pressures on the force meant "things that frankly the public expect from the police are just not being done in the quality that people would expect".

"It's a deadly equation," he said.

Such is the pressure on officers, Mr Thompson went out on the front line himself to help deal with a "very high call demand" across the force.

The force had deployed many staff to help clear a "backlog" and he followed up three calls.

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But Birmingham Edgbaston MP Preet Gill said Mr Thompson's comments overall meant "basic policing" was being overlooked.

"What the police ought to be doing is making sure they are absolutely taking the concerns of victims very, very seriously and responding to crime and clearly it's not happening."

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "Police have the resources they need to carry out this vital work and we have provided a strong and comprehensive settlement that is increasing total investment in the police system by over £460m in 2018-19.

"West Midlands Police will receive £534.3m in direct resource funding in 2018-19, including council tax precept - a cash increase of £9.9m compared with 2017-18."

Because the nature of crime is changing, the spokesman added, the policing minister had spoken to all forces to understand the demands they were facing. He said the home secretary had committed to prioritising police funding in next year's Spending Review.

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