Humberside Police was rated ‘outstanding’ five years after being ranked as failing | Police

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A police force has gone from being rated as failing five years ago to being given the highest marks ever in the modern era by the police inspectorate.

Humberside police have been rated outstanding in six out of nine categories by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Chief Constable of Humberside Police, Lee Freeman, said one of his radical reforms was to free up time for officers to fight crime by cutting the amount of mental health work carried out by the police, which was better managed by health professionals .

He said it was also better for those suffering from a mental health crisis to be cared for by people with adequate medical training. “If you slip off the curb and break your ankle, you won’t end up in a police cell or in a police car. Why should it be any different if you have a mental crisis?” he said.

The inspectorate agreed and found in its report today that patients received better treatment and that the police had freed up resources.

Humberside police pioneered the strategy, which saw them give the health service a year’s notice that they would no longer routinely spend hours sitting with patients in mental crisis or ferrying people to hospital.

The scheme – called Right Care, Right Person – is attracting national attention. Several forces, including the Metropolitan Police, are studying it, with its commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, keen to reduce the time officers lose dealing with work that other services should be doing.

Freeman, who has been chief constable since 2017, said: “We don’t need to wait for legislation or ministerial strategies. We can help ourselves.”

Freeman said he had a good relationship with the health service after first playing “hardball”, where GPs agreed that experts – not police officers – should look after those with health needs. He also managed to dial back 1,100 officer hours per month – 7% of the total. “We held the line and it led to partners in mental health trusts, the ambulance service and the NHS, spending more money.”

The watchdog said: “The right care, right person approach means vulnerable people get the support they need from the right organisation. The force has experts in its control room to support these vulnerable people until help arrives.”

Humberside today scores a record six out of nine outstanding grades, which has never been achieved by any force since the inspectorate began issuing grades. It was assessed as good in two areas and sufficient in one.

Freeman said the principles behind change were the same for small, medium and large forces. “Changing culture takes longer than you think,” he said.

He warned against a top-down approach of leaders devising edicts and handing them out, rather than asking staff and officers for their ideas. “I took over when staff were angry, they felt unsupported, unlistened to and undervalued. They felt that management was doing things against them, not with them.

“Just yelling at people and telling them they’re not good enough doesn’t work.”

Freeman said the culture change had seen officers willing to call out hateful or bad behavior by colleagues and “walk through walls” to improve crime-fighting. He said: “Sergeants and inspectors work for staff, not the other way around. It’s high support, high challenge. We expect them to go the extra mile for the public.”

Freeman said there was now a real police effort. Stations closed at the height of the cuts were reopened and local officers monitored areas and would rarely be taken away. Communities raised issues and saw them addressed, he said.

Humberside is a rare success story for British police, which has been beset by a series of scandals and concerns about its effectiveness. A total of six forces in England and Wales have been placed in special measures by the Inspectorate of Police – a record – with concerns that a seventh could soon join them.

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