A police force has gone from being classified as a failure five years ago to receiving the highest ratings in the modern era from the police inspectorate.
Humberside Police have been judged outstanding in six out of nine categories by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
Humberside Police Chief Lee Freeman said one of his sweeping reforms was to free up time for officers to fight crime by reducing the amount of mental health work done by police that 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 sufficient medical training. “If you slip off the sidewalk and break your ankle, you’re not going to end up in a police cell or a police van. Why should it be any different if you have a mental health crisis?” he said.
The inspectorate agreed and in its report today found that patients were receiving better treatment and that police had freed up resources.
Humberside Police pioneered the strategy, which saw them give health services a year’s notice that they would no longer sit for hours with patients in a mental health crisis, nor take people to hospital.
The scheme, called Right Care, Right Person, is attracting national attention. Several forces, including the Metropolitan Police, are looking into it, with its commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, wanting to reduce time wasted by officers dealing with work other services should be doing.
Freeman, who has been police chief since 2017, said: “We don’t have to wait for legislation or ministerial strategies. We can help ourselves.”
Freeman said he maintained good relations with health services after initially playing “hardcore”, with professionals agreeing that experts, not police officers, should care for people with health needs. He also managed to recover 1,100 officer hours per month, 7% of the total. “We held the line, and that led to partners in mental health trusts, the ambulance service and the NHS, spending more money.”
The inspection said: “The right care, right person approach means vulnerable people get the support they need from the right organisation. The force has experts inside its control room to support vulnerable people until help arrives.”
Humberside today scores a record six out of nine outstanding ratings, never achieved by any force since the survey began issuing ratings. He was rated good in two areas and adequate in one.
Freeman said the principles for driving change were the same for small, medium and large forces. “Changing the culture takes longer than you think,” she said.
He cautioned against a top-down approach of leaders imagining edicts and distributing them, rather than asking staff and officers for ideas. “I took charge when staff were angry, felt unsupported, unheard and worthless. They felt that the leadership did things to them, not with them.
“Just yelling at people and telling them they’re not good enough doesn’t work.”
Freeman said the change in culture had seen officers willing to report hateful or substandard behavior from their colleagues and “break through walls” to better fight crime. He said: “Sergeants and inspectors work for the staff, not the other way around. It is a great support, a great challenge. We hope they go the extra mile for the public.”
Freeman said there was now a genuine police effort in the neighborhood. Stations closed at the height of the outages were reopened, with local officers patrolling the areas and rarely taking them away. Communities raised problems and saw them solved, he said.
Humberside is a rare success story for the British police, which has been beset by a series of scandals and concerns about its effectiveness. The police inspectorate has placed a total of six forces in England and Wales on special measures, a record, with concerns that a seventh could soon join them.