Shropshire Star

West Mercia Police chief determined to root out corruption after former officer was jailed

The Chief Constable of West Mercia Police has spoken of her determination to root out corruption from the force in the wake of a former officer being jailed.

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SHREWS COPYRIGHT MNA MEDIA TIM THURSFIELD 15/12/22.Pics of Chief Constable Pippa Mills in Shrewsbury for feature...

Pippa Mills, speaking on her 500th day since taking over from Anthony Bangham, welcomed the jailing of Pc Rhett Wilson last month.

Wilson, 27, was jailed for 34 months for abusing his position as a police officer by engaging in sexual relations with victims of domestic violence who has sought the force's help.

Ms Mills said over the past 12 months a total of eight officers had either been sacked from the force or had resigned before they could be dismissed.

She said this trend was likely to continue with no stone left unturned in the fight to rid the force of corruption.

But she the force was unlikely to see the 'two or three officers a week' in court that Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley had told people to expect.

"It's a really challenging time for policing, with a real focus nationally because of the spotlight that has fallen on the Metropolitan Police," she said.

"I'm incredibly proud to be a police officer.

"We all want to feel proud, and I'm pleased that we don't have the same problems as the Met.

"But misogyny, corruption and sexism are not just not Met issues, indeed they are not just police issues, but they affect society as a whole.

"I want to use my experience from my time in Essex police where I was lead for standards, and I'm unapologetic about rooting out corruption and criminality among officers."

She said Wilson was dealt with immediately the moment concerns were voiced about his behaviour.

"He joined us in April, and he was arrested the following March after concerns were raised about his behaviour. He was suspended from duty two days later, and resigned in July.

"In the past 12 months we have eight officers who were either dismissed or resigned because they had no alternative but to resign.

"Over the last few years that figure has increased, and that will continue, we are putting lots of resources and time to investigating and rooting out corruption."

Ms Mills said Wilson had been subjected to an intensive vetting procedure before he was recruited, with searches of his employment records and social media history.

"We do a really deep trail, but if there's nothing of concern, then that person is deemed suitable for recruitment," she said.

"In this case, the criminal behaviour he exhibited only took place afterwards, and it was dealt with at an early stage."

Ms Mills said the recent recruitment drive had swelled the force's number to 2,456.

"This does not just include the extra officers provided by the Government, but also those funded through the police and crime commissioner," she said.

She added that if the commissioner's latest budget proposals were approved, there would be another 40 officers joining the force next year.

Ms Mills believes the public is already noticing the increased presence on the streets.

She said the latest survey of the general public showed that 79 per cent of people in Shropshire had confidence in West Mercia Police.

"We also ask how many people have seen an officer or PCSO in the last week, and one fifth of people say that they have. I think that is really good, and it gives the public confidence. We will never be complacent about that, but will continue to put more beat officers out there."

Figures released last week showed a 21 per cent increase in overall crime, with robbery, violent crime and vehicle offences among those showing major rises.

Ms Mills said that would partly be down to changes in the way crime was recorded, but admitted that the cost-of-living crisis had contributed to an increase in thefts.

"We now have better recording of statistics around anti-social behaviour, so that we're now recording these as neighbourhood crimes.

"We're targetting motor-vehicle crime, domestic burglary and rape with extra resources," she said.

"These are the crimes which have been identified as major priorities. I'm really pleased we are putting additional money into tackling rape and sexual offences, allowing us to work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and other agencies to improve the conviction rate.

"We have invested this year in a women-and-girls officer, dedicated specifically to tackling that type of crime.

"We are looking at how we can make more use of prevention orders to tackle domestic violence.

"To prevent such offences taking place, we are taking on an operational lawyer who will look at the opportunities of using these orders to prevent domestic violence taking place."

Ms Mills said she was surprised and disappointed by a survey from the Police Federation last month which found the force to be the second worst in the country for morale among officers, with 90 per cent saying morale was "low" or "very low".

"It's incredibly disappointing," she said. "I was a little surprised, as I speak to our people regularly, and coppers are not usually backward in coming forward if they are not happy about something.

"I understand 30 per cent of our officers filled out the survey, and I understand the main reasons were around pay levels and not feeling respected by the Government.

"But I also spoke to one officer, who said she had not filled the form out because she had nothing to complain about."