A scandal-hit police force’s catalogue of failings have been “putting the public at risk”, a watchdog has warned.
Cleveland Police has been “operating without a clear plan or direction”, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said in a new report.
No other force in England or Wales has previously been rated inadequate across all areas, the inspectorate said.
Recently appointed chief constable Richard Lewis admitted Cleveland Police was “letting people down”.
The report followed an inspection in May that led to the force being placed in special measures.
The inspectorate, which rated the force inadequate in all areas of inspection, said senior officers “are not consistently demonstrating ethical behaviour”, resulting in a “profoundly negative impact on the force’s ability to be effective and efficient”.
There were “too many examples” of high ranking officers and staff “not taking responsibility, not acting with honesty, integrity and competence, and apportioning blame”, it concluded.
‘Directionless, rudderless and clueless’
Inspectors highlighted senior officers providing “incorrect” statements during the inspection and said they were “unable to provide evidence” of actions they claimed the force was taking.
They added they had “concerns the chief constable is unable to trust the information he receives” from those officers.
And while the force acts “promptly” on reports of corruption within its ranks, “it needs to proactively root out corruption and identify those people at risk of it, to try and prevent it from happening” the report said.
Further criticism included crime prevention not being treated as a “priority” and the force not having a good enough understanding of local concerns.
Those shortcomings were “putting the public at risk,” inspectors said.
Almost 450 assessments for people judged to be at high and medium levels of risk were not progressed with some having waited three months, and children were put in danger of domestic abuse after the force failed to class them as vulnerable.
Staff told inspectors they found the organisation “directionless, rudderless and clueless”.
Inspectors said their findings were “so worrying” they had chosen to publish the report sooner than originally planned.
Phil Gormley, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, told the BBC: “The most critical issue is getting stable, competent and capable leadership into Cleveland Police. The workforce needs clarity and leadership.
“It’s not understanding the vulnerability of some of the people that call for its service and that’s creating a risk to the public.
“What we are seeing is a force that has individual, collective and systemic failings.”
Recent years have seen the force engulfed by controversy. It has admitted misusing anti-terror legislation to spy on journalists and there have been numerous scandals centring on officers’ behaviour including an inspector who targeted junior colleagues for sex.
In April, the force’s assistant chief constable Adrian Roberts was arrested and suspended on suspicion of gross misconduct.
The allegations against him have not been made public.
The force, which covers areas including Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Middlesbrough, has had five chief constables in six years.
Mike Veale resigned from the post in January over allegations he behaved inappropriately towards colleagues.
Mr Lewis, who was appointed his successor in April, said the report was “entirely accurate” and “must act as a line in the sand”.
“This must be the basis from which we improve. It is a wake-up call for the organisation and we are now being honest about where our requirements for improvement lie.
“It is a fundamental requirement of a police service to protect the people it serves.
“Our staff have not been well served by the senior leadership of this force.”
Neighbourhood policing teams were being re-established, Mr Lewis said, while “every stage of the reporting, investigating and safeguarding process is under review”.
Barry Coppinger, who has been Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner since 2012, again rejected calls for his resignation.
He described the force’s performance as “unacceptable” and said he had sought assurance from Mr Lewis that “immediate changes are being made to resolve the most serious issues”.