Forces have been slow to take the steps necessary to root out corruption, inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said.
The police watchdog inspected how forces tackle this sort of crime in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and found that most were slow to root out the problem. As a result inspectors have followed up how forces have progressed since.
In the last three years to the end of March 2019, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) received 415 completed referrals for the category relating to abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
The figures are much greater than those from before 2016 HMICFRS said, but this is believed to be down to forces uncovering more cases and as a result of a change in legislation, although inspectors said the numbers underline the need for forces to recognise the scale of the problem.
Although some "encouraging progress and an "improved understanding" has been made with some forces being "proactive and creative" in looking for signs of corruption, HMCFRS said there were still some examples where some forces were "lagging behind".
Inspectors said forces need dedicated resources to proactively look for warning signs and develop intelligence, but that two-thirds of forces had insufficient capacity in their counter-corruption units.
The watchdog also said that forces need to be able to proactively detect misuse of their ICT systems and the information they hold, but found two-thirds of forces don’t yet have full ICT monitoring on their systems.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said: “It is important to recognise that this sort of abuse of power is thankfully incredibly rare, and the vast majority of officers and staff are dedicated public servants who would never contemplate this inexcusable behaviour.
“We have been urging the police to act on this issue for some years now. Many forces have listened and are already making changes. But I’ve been deeply disappointed to find that others have, after all this time, still not put some basic measures in place. Forces should reflect on the findings of this report and take action: to maintain the legitimacy of the police and, most importantly, to protect the public from predators who have no place in policing.”
An HMICFRS spokesman said:"The force has implemented an action plan and run an effective communications campaign to raise staff awareness. It also works effectively with partner organisations to recognise and take action against any instances of abuse of position."
Inspectors said North Yorkshire Police recognised the abuse of position for a sexual purpose as a "serious corruption", but said the force's plan to address HMICFRS's national recommendation in the area "hasn't yet been fully implemented".