Staffordshire Police says it is focused on improving policing as a lead force in targeting those who abuse their authority for sexual purposes, a superintendent has said.
It comes following concerns by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) that some forces across England and Wales were failing to tackle the problem of officers and staff abusing their authority for sexual gain.
Forces were given six months to develop and begin to implement plans to better identify possible abuse and Staffordshire Police was highlighted as not doing enough to prevent potential problems of officers abusing their position for sexual purposes.
The plans included reviewing and improving the ability of counter-corruption units to identify potential abuse of position for a sexual purpose, through being properly resourced and having staff with the right skills, as well as plans for improving capability to monitor and audit IT systems to identify individuals who misuse them for corrupt activity, the Inspectorate said.
Forces were also expected to come up with plans for how they would build links to organisations that work with vulnerable people, such as domestic abuse charities, in order to improve reporting and intelligence gathering on potential abuses.
However, it was initially found that Staffordshire Police's plans did not reflect this national strategy agreed at the National Police Chiefs' Council in April of this year, according to the Inspectorate.
It had said that the force gave no information to assess its progress in reviewing the capability and capacity of the counter-corruption unit or in developing the IT systems' monitoring capability.
It also gave no information on work done to seek intelligence from those organisations that support vulnerable people, although the Inspectorate noted it found evidence of these links in the 2016 inspection.
However, Superintendent Jason O'Toole, head of professional standards at Staffordshire Police, said: "Staffordshire have been a lead force in targeting those who abuse their authority for sexual purpose. Over recent months we have been updating our plans in line with the national strategy.
"The Inspectorate has a role in improving policing and have conducted reviews of this abuse of authority nationally; we have listened to them and are currently liaising with other forces to ensure we continue to focus and improve in this area. Staffordshire Police are in the process of procuring an end-to-end IT system which will significantly improve and assist this process."
The Inspectorate said the conviction in January 2011, of PC Stephen Mitchell from Northumbria Police, who was sentenced to two life sentences after being found guilty of two rapes, three indecent assaults and six counts of misconduct in public office, should have been a watershed moment for the police service across the country.
It said the case, while an extreme one, was not an isolated one. Other officers and staff have since been convicted of using their position to engage in sexual activity with vulnerable people they have met through their work.
However, despite a 2012 report on the scale of the problem and Inspectorate's 2014 inspection findings raised concerns about forces' anti-corruption capability and capacity, and the 2016 PEEL legitimacy inspection continued to identify serious concerns.
These included forces failing to recognise abuse of position for a sexual purpose as serious corruption, failing to refer cases to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), and lacking the capacity and capability to seek intelligence on this form of corruption rather than wait for it to be reported.
The majority of police forces in England and Wales still have work do in regard to their planning around preventing the abuse of position for a sexual purpose, according to a report published by Inspectorate.
Mike Cunningham, who led this inspection, said: "When police officers and police staff abuse their position for a sexual purpose it has a devastating effect on the lives of victims, and corrodes trust and confidence in the police. It is of great importance that forces are prepared to seek intelligence on this type of corruption, and when they find it deal with it vigorously and decisively.
"Following the recommendation in our 2016 report, 17 forces had made progress in developing and implementing plans. Derbyshire Constabulary and Merseyside Police already had plans in place, and are to be commended on their swift and decisive action. Other forces now need to follow suit, as the majority still have significant work to do to address this critical issue.
"The importance of public trust in the police cannot be understated, and forces need to do everything they can to ensure this trust isn't eroded. The Inspectorate (HMICFRS) will be inspecting how forces have implemented these plans in 2018, so forces now have another opportunity to show they have understood the importance of this issue, and make progress.
"Between our feedback, the NPCC national strategy, changes to the IPCC referral criteria and College of Policing guidance we believe forces have all the information they need to get this right, so we expect to see an improved picture when we inspect next year."
About that plan
In December 2016, the Inspectorate (HMICFRS) recommended that within six months all police forces in England and Wales should develop and begin to implement plans required to seek intelligence on potential abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
Forces were asked to submit plans to HMICFRS by May 31, 2017, for review.
Upon reviewing individual force plans, HMICFRS found that 11 force plans contained insufficient information, 15 others had plans but had not yet commenced implementation, 15 had plans in place and had started implementation and two already had all elements in place - Derbyshire Constabulary and Merseyside Police.
This report is based on a desk-based review of plans submitted by forces. A full inspection of this and other elements of police legitimacy will be carried out in 2018.