A record six police forces are currently judged as failing so badly that they need special help as a furious political row erupted over the placing of Scotland Yard into special measures.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary confirmed on Tuesday that the Metropolitan police had been placed into special measures as it waits for a new commissioner to reverse plunging public confidence.
But the full extent of one of the worst ever crises gripping policing across England and Wales is much more widespread and has not yet been made public.
Never before have so many of the 43 local forces been judged to be failing at the same time. Almost one in seven forces are currently judged by HMIC, the official policing inspectorate, as needing to accept intensive help and monitoring to urgently improve their performance.
The descent of the Met, which is Britain’s biggest police force, into the failing force category led the Conservatives to blame the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, while Labour said the government in power since 2010 bore responsibility.
As well as the Met, forces known to be in special measures, officially termed as being in “engage”, were Cleveland, Greater Manchester police, Gloucestershire. Staffordshire and Wiltshire forces are the other two failing forces, a spokesperson for HMIC confirmed to the Guardian.
The HMIC spokesperson said: “The number of forces in the engage phase varies from time to time. Six is the highest number of forces that have been in the engage phase simultaneously.”
The Met is the most high-profile failing force and it is the first time since its founding in 1829 that it has been judged in need of special measures.
On Tuesday, the Guardian revealed 14 new failings that were uncovered by a still secret HMIC inspection, coupled with plunging public confidence after repeated scandals led the inspectorate to take the unprecedented move.
The report is still at least six weeks from being made public and comes after the first round of interviews for the two remaining candidates to be the next commissioner.
They are Mark Rowley, who left the Met in 2018 after serving as head of counter-terrorism, and the assistant commissioner, Nick Ephgrave, who ran local policing across London.
Cressida Dick was ousted in February, choosing to resign after Khan told her he was unconvinced by her plans to pull the Met out of a successions of crises.
In the Commons, the policing minister, Kit Malthouse, rewrote his speech at the last minute to include an attack on Khan, who is also the police and crime commissioner for London. Malthouse said: “I don’t know how much more serious it can get for London’s police force. This is the first time in their history they have been put into special measures.
“They are supposedly our premier, our biggest police force, and the primary accountability is the mayor of London … He has to step forward and do his job.”
Khan hit back and said: “Londoners won’t be surprised at our Conservative ministers deflecting their responsibility after 12 years of massive cuts.
“We’ve lost 21,000 experienced officers around the country, many of them in London. Because of City Hall funding we’ve managed to replace many of them, but clearly, with newer, inexperienced officers.”
Dick, under whose commissionership the Met plunged into failed force status, was jointly selected in 2017 by Khan and the Conservative government.
Her replacement is expected to be announced at some point in July and will be appointed by royal warrant. The home secretary, Priti Patel, makes the choice, and has to have due regard for the views of London’s mayor. Despite not officially being part of the process, Downing Street also influences the choice.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect improvements to be made.
“We are clear forces and their police and crime commissioners must deliver on the public’s priorities … while continuing to recruit thousands of new officers to protect local communities.”