West Yorkshire Police Covid pandemic response highlighted in national inspection report
Former West Yorkshire Police staff were drafted back into the force to ensure its ability to answer calls from the public was protected during the coronavirus pandemic.
The creation of a small bank of extra call handlers is just one of the measures set out in a report into the way police forces in England and Wales have adapted during the crisis.
An inspection of policing between March and November 2020 by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that although there were some inconsistencies, police forces generally took immediate and decisive action to respond to the extreme circumstances unfolding.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said: "In these unprecedented times, the public looked to the police to continue to keep them safe and to keep order. While daily life substantially changed for the majority of us, the police were expected to continue to carry out their duties.
"Overall, the police rose to the challenge with dedication and commitment by taking immediate and decisive action to keep people safe and prevent crime, while also learning lessons from the rare occasions that they got it wrong."
It noted that demand changed during the first lockdown, with fewer reports of crimes such as theft and robbery but an increased need to support the work of other frontline services as well as enforcing lockdown restrictions. This change meant forces utilised their resources differently, with some clearing backlogs of outstanding arrest warrants.
The HMICFRS report - Policing in the Pandemic - highlighted how West Yorkshire Police had stepped in when some statutory agencies withdrew or reduced their frontline services during the lockdown.
One example was an officer being asked to take photographs inside of a house and email them to a social worker so social services could assess if it was suitable for a child to live in.
Probation staff were also asking police in West Yorkshire to undertake visits on their behalf to make safeguarding disclosures and tell families about potential risks posed by an offender.
West Yorkshire Police also worked with postal staff and other delivery drivers through a project encouraging them to use professional curiosity to identify potentially vulnerable people, rather than making assumptions or accepting things at face value.
Welcoming the report, the county's police and crime commissioner it was a timely opportunity to reflect on the challenges faced by officers and staff, and what can be learned from the experiences of the past year.
Mark Burns-Williamson said: "West Yorkshire Police have maintained their effective approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging the public, but using enforcement powers when and where it’s necessary for wider public protection purposes. I think it has been a very difficult balance and they have managed it well as this report shows.
"With the pandemic, policing demand changed and so services had to adapt. Here in West Yorkshire, for example, working with victims in an online setting worked really well for our Victim Support services and taking statements from victims online in certain circumstances has also been a positive."
He said he had been in regular contact with the chief constable about how the force was adapting, adding: "I want to take this opportunity to thank police officers and staff who put themselves in harm’s way to ensure they have been doing their best for the communities they serve."
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