Cornwall’s police chief said he is “extremely concerned” that the public could be “misled” over the force’s performance in its latest inspection report, saying certain judgements were based on historical data – some of which he said was more than a year old.

Acting Chief Constable Jim Colwell, for Devon and Cornwall Police, added that he was “disappointed” the report did not acknowledge many improvements that had been made, saying it did not reflect the feedback the force had received during regular meetings with the Inspectorate.

It follows the publication today (Thursday) of the latest performance assessment by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Dubbed ‘PEEL’ it looks at police ‘effectiveness’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘legitimacy’.

In its findings, the Inspectorate graded Devon and Cornwall Police as ‘good’ in one area, ‘adequate’ in three areas, ‘requires improvement’ in two areas and ‘inadequate’ in two areas.   

It found the force had a good approach to preventing and deterring crime, antisocial behaviour and vulnerability. There had also been improvements in the time taken to answer 999 calls and the number of calls abandoned has been reduced.

However, inspectors said they had concerns that the standards of the force's investigations had deteriorated, with many investigations “lacking a detailed plan or effective supervision”.

It led to Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke saying: “I have concerns about the performance of Devon and Cornwall Police in keeping people safe, reducing crime and providing victims with an effective service.

“In particular, I have serious concerns about how it manages its investigations. In view of these findings, I have been in regular contact with the chief constable as I don’t underestimate how much improvement is needed.”

The inspectorate also said the force still isn’t attending incidents resulting from calls for service as fast as it should.

A more detailed summary of the findings can be found below. 

‘Significant concerns’

Responding to the findings, Devon and Cornwall Police said it welcomed the new report, particularly over its positive highlighting of the force’s approach to neighbourhood policing, but said it had “raised significant concerns about some aspects of the report due to the inspection being based on historical data, some of which is over a year old and does not accurately reflect improvements the force has made.”

Acting Chief Constable Jim Colwell said: “I am pleased that the Inspectorate has acknowledged the good work that goes on in our neighbourhood teams every day, which is a reflection on the hard work of our officers, staff and volunteers.

“We are committed to delivering community policing with competence, compassion and common sense which is why we remain the second safest Force area in the country, and this has been clearly recognised by the Inspectorate.”

Acting Chief Constable Jim Colwell Acting Chief Constable Jim Colwell (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)

However, in response to the HMICFRS rating the force as ‘inadequate’ at investigating crime, the force said it had made “sustained and considerable progress” since the last inspection, such as a review of its operating model to create larger and more resilient teams to give more support to victims, and ongoing work to address the national shortage of detectives.

Acting Chief Constable Colwell said: “I fully acknowledge that we still have work to do to ensure that our investigations are completed to the high standards that the public would expect of us – particularly when it comes to serious and complex crimes.

“We have made progress since the last inspection, but I recognise there is still much more to do if we are to deliver a better level of service to our communities and reduce some of the pressure on our colleagues.”

He went on to add that the report did not reflect that the force was formally discharged by HMICFRS in January from concerns regarding the management of violent and sexual offenders. At the time it said the force had made ‘clear and sustainable improvements’, including investment in public protection teams resulting in a significant reduction in overdue visits.

‘Aspects will mislead the public’

Acting Chief Constable Colwell said: “I am extremely concerned that some aspects of this report will only serve to mislead the public about how effective we are at providing a service across Devon and Cornwall.

“I am disappointed it does not acknowledge the improvements we have and continue to make in other areas of our work and the strength of our community policing approach.”

Historical data

The force has raised concerns with the Inspectorate that the report is based on historical data and “does not reflect the sustained improvements the force has made” to areas of concern since being placed in to HMICFRS’s ‘Engage phase’ of closer monitoring in October 2022.

In the report, HMICFRS rated the force as ‘inadequate’ when it comes to responding to the public, stating that it needs to improve the time it takes to answer emergency and non-emergency calls.

However, the force said that when the inspection took place it was answering 79.3% of 999 calls within ten seconds. From January to June 2024, officers answered 93.4% of calls within ten seconds - a significant improvement.

Additionally, for 101 calls, at the time the inspection took place, the report states a call abandonment rate of 48% - but the force said that in the last six months there had been an improvement, with a much lower 18.9% of calls being abandoned by the caller.

‘Does not reflect feedback’

Acting Chief Constable Colwell said: “We have been working with the Inspectorate for some time now through the Police Performance Oversight Group (PPOG) and I regularly report back to them on our progress, however this report simply does not reflect the positive feedback I receive from the Inspectorate at these meetings.

“Reports based on historic data are also limited in helping us to focus and continue to improve as an organisation.

“In the answering of emergency and non-emergency calls, for example, the performance data quoted in the report is not a fair reflection of our current performance with limited recognition from HMICFRS of the improvements we have made.

“We continue to invest in innovative technology, such as our well received call back system and seek to improve our processes to further reduce abandonment rates including managing our digital demand.

“Whilst we have raised our concerns with HMICFRS, when the inspectorate say we need to improve, we work hard to do so, as evidenced by the improvements we have made in managing violent and sexual offenders in our communities – another area that HMICFRS has omitted from its report.

“I am extremely proud that Devon and Cornwall remain the second safest counties in the country, and this is testament to the hard work of all our officers, staff and volunteers. We will continue to work with the Inspectorate, our partners, and our Police and Crime Commissioner, to deliver sustained change in the right areas to ensure we deliver a service to our communities that we can be proud of.”

HM Inspector’s summary

Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke has written:

“I have concerns about the performance of Devon and Cornwall Police in keeping people safe, reducing crime and providing victims with an effective service.

“In particular, I have serious concerns about how it manages its investigations. In view of these findings, I have been in regular contact with the chief constable as I don’t underestimate how much improvement is needed.

“Since our previous inspection, the force has made significant efforts to improve in the areas we highlighted as causes of concern or areas for improvement, which is recognised. However, despite those improvements, more is required to place the force in a position where it is consistently providing a good standard of service to its local communities.”

Response times

“The force still isn’t attending incidents resulting from calls for service as quickly as it should. This was something we found in our previous inspection in 2021/22 and, although there have been some recent improvements, it is still the case that the force isn’t meeting the targets it has set to attend incidents.

“Devon and Cornwall Police has made several improvements in the force control room to address these and other areas, including increasing staffing levels, improving training and slowly improving its systems. These have achieved some positive results.

“For example, the time taken to answer 999 calls is much improved and the number of non-emergency calls abandoned is reducing.”

‘Standard of investigations has deteriorated’

“I am concerned that the standards of its investigations have deteriorated and this is now a cause of concern. Although aspects of crime investigation governance have improved, the force has understaffed and inexperienced teams investigating serious offences.

“There are delays in crime allocation and supervision, with many investigations lacking a detailed investigation plan or effective supervision. The force needs to improve in this area to achieve better outcomes for victims of crime.”

Improvement in sex offender management

“In our inspection we found the force had improved how it manages its offenders and registered sex offenders. It was pleasing to see an increased focus and investment in these areas, but more work is needed. A continued focus is required to make sure the risks posed by such individuals are properly understood and managed.”

Neighbourhood policing

“The force continues to support its neighbourhood policing teams to carry out prevention and deterrence work. But neighbourhood officers are frequently being diverted to manage other demand, and this is affecting the service the force provides in this important area of policing.”

Treatment of the public

“I am pleased to see that the force continues to treat the public well. Its officers receive communication skills training and use body-worn video cameras when appropriate.

“The force needs to do more to make sure all officers are trained in how to carry out stop and search. But it is good that training on communication skills and how to use force appropriately is being improved. Internal and external monitoring of the use of these powers is making sure the public in Devon and Cornwall are treated fairly.

“The force has made considerable improvements in how it treats the people who contact it, from the quality of the initial call to the services the force offers. But the force still needs to improve the time it takes to attend incidents.”

Support for workforce

The force provides good welfare and well-being support for its workforce. But it must make sure that the support it offers its officers and staff is accessible and that it understands the reasons why they are accessing the support.

“The force experiences high levels of demand and officers and staff are working additional hours to maintain services. This needs to be understood in more detail to support a more sustainable solution.”


“Finally in leadership and force management, Devon and Cornwall Police hasn’t made the improvements we identified in our previous inspection and still has work to do.

“The force has substantial issues with recording and reporting data and isn’t able to access all the information it needs. The force must make sure that its data reporting processes are accurate and timely.

“A restructured leadership team is now in place to help it improve in areas that still need attention. These include the visibility of leadership and understanding demand.

“The force is making changes to improve its operating model to support the workforce more effectively. This will provide better insight and help it to achieve a balance with the operational requirements, the geographical challenges it experiences and the working practices of its officers and staff. Its financial plans are sound.”

External factors

“All these observations are made while also acknowledging external factors beyond the force’s control, such as its funding levels (which are within the typical range for forces in England and Wales) and levels of deprivation.

“I also accept that operating as a temporary senior leadership team since June 2023 hasn’t been easy.

“Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is one of the largest policing regions in England and Wales. The infrastructure of both Devon and Cornwall presents challenges in how the force can use resources to improve services in the areas we have identified.

“The number of officers it now has is the highest it has had for some time and although some of these officers will be less experienced, this presents a good opportunity for the force to make progress.

“I look forward to seeing how the force continues to work to improve its performance, which I will be closely monitoring.”