Martin Wainwright
Wednesday April 6, 2005
The Guardian

http://society.guardian.co.uk/crimeandpunishment/story/0,8150,1453090,00.html

An overhaul of the way Nottinghamshire police deals with serious offences begins next week after its chief constable claimed that government budgets had left his officers “reeling” in the face of a sharp rise in gun crime.

Steve Green, the head of the Nottinghamshire force, is to share his headquarters with an outside specialist drafted in by the Home Office to sort out failings in dealing with murder and other serious crime.

Chris Sims, the deputy chief constable of West Midlands police – Britain’s second biggest force – will start work in Nottingham on Monday, after a critical report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. A team of inspectors was sent in three weeks ago by the home secretary Charles Clarke, after Mr Green claimed his force was struggling to cope because of recruiting restrictions.

The chief inspector, Denis O’Connor, rejected the complaint and concluded, in a report published yesterday, that Nottinghamshire’s main problem was the way police resources were being deployed.

“The emphasis upon detecting major crime is too passive and the force needs to move to a ‘control and protect’ strategy,” he said.

His report denies that Nottinghamshire police have been overwhelmed – a claim Mr Green withdrew after vociferous local complaints about his comments in a Sunday Telegraph interview.

Mr O’Connor says: “Processes that have underpinned Nottinghamshire’s successes against volume crime [relatively minor] have yet to be developed for serious crime.

“This limits the force’s ability to prevail on this aspect of policing and the same rigour now needs to embrace serious crime. Resources are and will remain an issue, but they are not at the heart of the problem, which is more about how to structure and utilise resources, skills and expertise to best effect.”

Mr Sims, a former colleague of Mr Green, will initially spend three months giving “intensive support”, with a further spell depending on a second inspection by Mr O’Connor in early July. Mr Sims’s specialities in West Midlands have included tackling bureaucracy and internal coordination, and drawing up force management strategy.

Mr Green said he welcomed the helping hand but added: “The command team of this force has never had anything other than total commitment to dealing with serious crime.”

He denied inertia in tackling serious crime and said: “Whilst we want to examine every option in preventing murders, we would argue that there has been excellent work and significant reductions in shootings, which prove that we have been anything but passive in this area.”

The home secretary, speaking in Nottinghamshire during the government’s preliminary election campaign launch, said he had absolute confidence in Mr Green.

“Every inspection makes criticisms of the way a force is run,” he said. “That is the means by which we get improvement.

“These are strong measures but I would not say unprecedented. They are strong measures to deal with a situation in a very strong way.”

Graham Allen, the Labour MP for Nottingham North who led criticism of Mr Green’s newspaper interview, said the test of real change would come during Mr Sims’s secondment.

“The installation of better management will increase, not decrease the likelihood of yet more resources coming to Nottinghamshire,” he said.

“We will see today and over the next few weeks if we have left behind ‘excuse making’ and ‘blame culture’ and maverick media punditry, and moved on to clear goals shared with partners, effective management and a well-led, motivated workforce determined to give villains a tougher time.”

Victor Bates, a Nottingham jeweller who called the chief constable a “menace to law and order” after a teenager was convicted last month of murdering his wife in their shop, called for Mr Green to resign after the inspectors’ report. “Our police need a change in management,” he said.

“They are sending an officer up from the West Midlands to look over his shoulder. I would have thought a chief constable would consider his future after that.”

http://society.guardian.co.uk/crimeandpunishment/story/0,8150,1453090,00.html

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