Cleveland Police 'making progress but concerns remain'

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image copyrightPA
image captionCleveland Police was heavily criticised after previous inspections

A police force previously dubbed "clueless" is making progress but areas of concern remain, a watchdog has said.

Cleveland Police was placed in special measures in 2019 when it was the first force in England or Wales to be rated as failing in all areas.

A new report found improvements in the protection of vulnerable people but said work was still needed in cases involving children and domestic abuse.

The force's chief constable said it was improving "at a steady pace".

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) previously raised "serious concerns" Cleveland Police was leaving victims at risk after staff told inspectors they found the force "directionless, rudderless and clueless".

Its latest inspection, conducted in November, found shortcomings in dealing with missing children, domestic abuse against children, child abuse and exploitation.

"Less than half" of the force's investigations were of a good overall standard, with inspectors noting failings in "complex" cases involving vulnerable adults and children.

Recording of sexual offences showed improvement, the watchdog said, although two reports of rape relating to historical attacks on a victim were incorrectly recorded and officers "made little attempt to safeguard [the person] or carry out an effective investigation".

image copyrightCleveland Police
image captionChief Constable Richard Lewis vowed to turn the force around with a five-year plan when he joined in 2019

Cleveland Police showed "limited improvement" in how it records domestic abuse, inspectors found, but it had made progress with support for victims, after previously being criticised for failing to provide "any response at all to some".

The report focused on the response to recommendations made to the force, which covers Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Middlesbrough, between 2017 and 2019.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said the force was "starting to show progress" but warned the watchdog would continue to monitor developments.

"The force still has work to do to respond to the areas of concern we have identified in the past," she said.

Cleveland Chief Constable Richard Lewis said "positive steps forward" had been taken.

"We have reached the first checkpoint on the marathon that is our improvement journey, and we are at a steady pace.

"Change takes time. This isn't about ticking boxes. We're not trying to make surface level improvements, we're making real, lasting changes."

Cleveland's Acting Police and Crime Commissioner, Lisa Oldroyd, said she was "confident the force is heading in the right direction".

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