Greater Manchester Police comes out of special measures and is named country’s most improved force

Chief Constable Stephen Watson thanked staff for their efforts to follow the plan set out to improve the force, which has resulted in it coming out of special measures after less than two years.
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Greater Manchester Police (GMP) is no longer in special measures and has been named among the most improved police forces in the country. The move means the force no longer needs to be monitored by the police inspectorate.

The news comes less than two years after the city-region’s police were put into special measures after major concerns were raised about the force’s performance, including a watchdog report which found 80,000 crimes had not been properly recorded.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson hailed the professionalism and hard work of staff in turning things round and implementing the plan he had set out to improve the force when he took over the top job. The police also said this was not the end of the improvement process.

Greater Manchester politicians have also said that this is a good day for the police force while stressing that there remains work to do.

Why have Greater Manchester Police come out of special measures?

GMP said it has continued to make progress in all the areas highlighted as concerning by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). The inspectorate has adjudged GMP to be compliant with national crime recording standards and has rescinded this element of the cause for concern.

There has also been progress on ensuring that calls to the police by the public are answered. Back in June 2021, 999 answer times were averaging at 1 minute 22 seconds, and non-emergency answer time was 6 minutes 44 seconds. By comparison, force says 999 average answer time is now just 7 seconds, putting GMP in the top 10 of forces nationally for emergency answer times. Non-emergency call average answer times are now at 1 min 4 seconds, down from last summer’s peak at 6 mins 44 seconds.

Response times are also under the national target. with police officers now getting to 999 incidents in an average of 10 min 19 seconds, well within the 15 minute target and down from a peak of 13 mins 35 seconds. What are classed as grade two calls are now getting officers out to the public in an average of two hours and 13 mins, down from 28 hours and 45 minutes back in August 2021.

There were 4,872 arrests as of September 2022, an increase of 60% from September 2021, and a 42% increase in investigations leading to a charge or a summons in the 12 months up to September 2022. Following a commitment to get officers out to the scene of every burglary in the city-region, the force says it has solved 1,475 burglaries in the last 12 months, an increase of 88% on the previous year.

The last report on GMP in the summer highlighted several areas where work still needed to be done. One of these was the standard of investigations and the risks posed to victims, including vulnerable victims of crime. GMP says the overhaul to performance management behind the scenes that it has done means the inspectorate no longer views this has a cause for concern.

The other issue the inspectorate said needed to be an immediate priority was the force’s ability to respond appropriately to people who are vulnerable and at risk. While GMP admits that this is still a work in progress, it says it has managed to demonstrate enough improvement in how vulnerable people are treated that the inspectorate has also rescinded this as a cause for concern.

What have the police said?

GMP has said it is not going to rest on its laurels after coming out of special measures and is determined to continue improving its performance across the board.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson said: “Our route into special measures has been thoroughly analysed and much discussed. There are several reasons as to how we came to bear our recent travails, a failure of leadership principle amongst them. As I have stated repeatedly, however, the fundamental failing was simply that we stopped doing the basics well, we stopped being the police and we stopped doing many of the things that our public have every right to expect.

“I have however, from the very point of assuming command of the force last summer, been given ample evidence to assert that our recent difficulties do not bear a true reflection of the commitment, professionalism and courage that are so abundantly to be found amongst the officers and staff of GMP.

“These qualities have come very powerfully to the fore in working to deliver our plan with precision and vigour. The coherence of the plan, the establishment of capable leadership at all levels and the development of effective ways to ensure that the whole force pulls together, have all played a part. Fundamentally however, our progress speaks to the determination, enthusiasm, and hard work of our staff.

GMP Chief Constable Stephen WatsonGMP Chief Constable Stephen Watson
GMP Chief Constable Stephen Watson

“HMIC has, quite rightly, subjected the force to a tough process and have set the bar deliberately high. That our staff are succeeding so tangibly is something of which we can all be proud. The momentum being created reflects our status as the most improved force in the country and gives confidence as to sustainability.

“Nothing in these welcome developments implies any complacency on our part. We fully recognise that much remains to improve still further. It does however represent a tangible and substantial step on our journey toward that to which we all aspire to be the finest force in our country.

“The support from the public and our agency partners is very valuable and much appreciated. I thank our communities across Greater Manchester for keeping faith with GMP and I am confident that you too will recognise the fact that our recent difficulties are being put behind us with increasing pace and certainty. I look forward to sustaining GMP’s march forward and for us to continue to make our region a safer place to live, work and visit.”

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, has also welcomed the lifting of special measures and the praise for GMP’s staff.

Mike Peake, vice chair of the Greater Manchester Police Federation, said: “Chief Constable Steve Watson is right to thank officers and staff for their continued professionalism, which has been present not just during the period of improvement, but an ever constant when facing the everyday pressures that modern day policing brings.

“The hard-working dedication that our members continually display has significantly contributed to the safety of the communities of Greater Manchester. It is also important to acknowledge the positive impact that Mr Watson and the new force senior leadership team have had since their arrival last year. To their credit they have listened to the concerns raised by our members, and GMP Federation has started to forge what is a good working relationship with them.

“However this is not a time to rest on our laurels, there are significant challenges ahead, and we look forward to working with the force to continue to make improvements.”

What have politicians said?

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “This is a good day for GMP – a day when officers and staff can have renewed confidence and pride in the badge. I want to thank the chief inspector, Andy Cooke, and HMICFRS for their support over the last two years to get us to this stage.

“Back in December 2020, when GMP was put in special measures, there was poor leadership and poor culture. This was not the result of the thousands of decent people working day in and day out; it was the leadership.

“The main cause of the change in GMP is the outstanding leadership of Chief Constable Stephen Watson who has presided over the quickest turnaround of a police force and it’s also the most improved police force in the country.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy BurnhamGreater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham

“I also made the decision to increase the police precept to fund vital improvements in GMP, afters years of central government cuts to their budgets, resulting in the loss of 2000 GMP officers. GMP is a different police force today to what it was in 2020. The public in Greater Manchester should have confidence in GMP.”

Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Bev Hughes, added: “This has been a massive team effort right across GMP and at every level. These achievements in a relatively short space of time show what can be done with the right leadership, the right strategic priorities and an inclusive organisational culture that puts victims first. It vindicates the difficult decision we took in changing the leadership of GMP.

This is an important milestone on the journey towards excellence and I will support the Chief Constable in making GMP one of the best police services in the country.”