The new chief constable of Greater Manchester police has not ruled out scrapping the beleaguered force’s £27m crime recording system as it faced fresh accusations of failing victims.
The second largest police force in England and Wales launched the computer system only two years ago but it remains beset by problems, according to serving officers.
Stephen Watson, who took over as chief constable three weeks ago, said he had commissioned a review of the Integrated Operational Policing System (iOPS) but that “the information that I do have tells me that it doesn’t work”.
Greater Manchester police is in special measures after an inspection report found that it had failed to record 80,000 crimes – one in five of all reported offences – in the year to June 2020.
The force faced fresh criticism on Tuesday after several serving and former officers told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that it was still failing victims. Officers said the panic buttons on their radios did not work properly and that police were sometimes sent to potentially life-threatening incidents without being told that firearms may be present.
It was reported that 155 officers had applied to leave Greater Manchester police to join neighbouring Lancashire constabulary in the recent period, up from five in 2017.
Watson said iOPS may not be the sole reason for the exodus but accepted that officers were “voting with their feet” over the failings.
Asked whether he would scrap iOPS, which went live 19 months behind schedule in July 2019, he said: “I will be in a position before too long to make an informed decision about the future. What I’m not quibbling with and the information that I do have tells me that it doesn’t work.”
Watson said he had commissioned an independent technical report to see whether iOPS could be radically improved or, if not, “what are the options for doing something differently”.
He added: “It’s all very well encouraging this ‘I’ll throw it out and get something new’ – well, we’re talking of many, many millions of pounds and two or three years worth of procurement programme here so these things do need to be properly considered.”
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) previously said iOPS failings had exposed hundreds of vulnerable people to “potential risk of harm”.
Watson, who spent six years turning round South Yorkshire police after the Rotherham abuse scandal, was appointed after the Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, asked for the resignation of previous chief constable, Ian Hopkins, in December.
GMP has said it plans to hire 325 new officers by 2022, paid for by an increase in council tax, as part of an election pledge by Burnham.