Norfolk police chiefs have admitted that not enough officers were sent to deal with trouble in Cromer during the final weekend of August’s carnival because the situation had been “misread”.
Norfolk Constabulary has issued recommendations as a result of its response to the disorder, which included the rape of a woman.
The police response led to an angry verbal backlash from many in the Cromer community who felt the police had badly let them down.
The police report, issued today, Wednesday October 25, says:
A number of recommendations have been made following a review into Norfolk Police’s response to disorder in Cromer during the final weekend of August’s carnival.
The review found a number of learning points for the constabulary around how the force could have responded differently to reports of crime and disorder involving a group of travellers who had arrived on Friday August 18.
The force did not recognise the impact the travellers’ presence and behaviour was having on the community.
As a result, insufficient additional resources were deployed and consequently the officers on scene were unable to take positive action. Had the constabulary been in a position to understand the collective impact of the group’s behaviour on the community and understood the tension it was causing, it would have recognised the need to identify a specific response and apply appropriate command structures, officers and tactics.
The force misread the significance of events and provided an ill-judged statement on social media referring to the disorder as ‘low level’.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “As I have said before, we got this wrong and I feel terribly sorry that the people of Cromer feel let down by our response.
“Moving forward, it is important that as an organisation we take any learning opportunities, put measures in place and make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“I have met with local councillors, business leaders and victims affected by the events of that August weekend, to explain the learning identified. We will continue to work with them to build and regain the communities’ confidence.”
The specific recommendations of the review fall under four main areas:
- The flow of information and intelligence within the Constabulary
- Leadership decisions
- Media response
- Protocols for dealing with unauthorised encampments
Flow of information and intelligence within Constabulary
Certain members of the Constabulary were informed of the fact that the group of travellers had left Lowestoft and were heading to Norfolk and some were aware of the disruption that the group had caused in Lowestoft.
While there was no information to suggest that they were heading to Cromer, the information and actions were not recorded on official systems in a way that would have enabled the information to reach the appropriate level and be shared more widely across the Constabulary.
The specific recommendations relate to the recording and sharing of information and intelligence internally.
Specific leadership/command decisions
It is important to note that an independent review into the decisions of individual commanders is still ongoing. The review is being undertaken by Cumbria Constabulary.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the problems in information flow through the Constabulary led commanders to make initial decisions without knowing the problems caused by the group in Lowestoft.
This meant that the Constabulary responded to events as part of normal business across a busy weekend. This also led to the decision to deal with the travellers through Norfolk’s unauthorised encampment protocol, with the council taking the lead rather than the Constabulary invoking its specific powers.
These decisions combined meant that the travellers were not moved on quickly enough and the Constabulary did not have the resources available to deal appropriately with the events that occurred in Cromer on that weekend, placing officers on the ground in an impossible position.
Any specific recommendations regarding leadership actions and decisions will be implemented once the independent review by Cumbria has been completed.
The problems with information flow across the Constabulary meant that, combined with the failure to recognise the community tensions in Cromer as expressed on social media, media advisors made initial decisions without knowing the full facts.
This led to the Constabulary assessing events in isolation, underestimating the impact and stating incorrectly that the anti-social behaviour and incidents were ‘low level’.
Specific recommendations relate to how the Constabulary scans social media, whether it can provide further media staffing across weekend periods and the development of a communications plan in relation to unauthorised encampments.
Protocols for dealing with unauthorised encampments
The review identified a change in the nature of certain travelling groups, with these groups now being seen more frequently in Norfolk.
Specific recommendations relate to further analysis of these groups and the need to work with partners to review Norfolk’s protocols for unauthorised encampments. The Constabulary’s operational plans and guidance for leaders/staff must also be revised and updated.
- The emphasis of the review has been on organisational learning. Across all four areas, recommendations will incorporate further training for staff, management advice to individual officers and changes to internal processes.
- An Assistant Chief Constable will be in charge of an action plan to deliver the recommendations. The Chief Constable will oversee the plan and progress will be monitored by the Police and Crime Commissioner.
- The action plan will also look at developing an overarching strategy for the Constabulary to any future incidents across the county.
- The Constabulary will work closely with Cromer Carnival Committee and review its planning for the Feast of the Assumption at Walsingham to ensure that appropriate resources are in place to prevent a reoccurrence of the problems seen at Cromer next year.
- The Constabulary will also develop a key list of community contacts within Cromer and Walsingham to call upon for support in the planning and response to any similar issues in the future.
- We continue to investigate crimes reported over the weekend and have ongoing enquiries with other forces to identify a number of suspects. Two have been resolved via community resolution (agreement between parties involved) and it is has been established that two crimes (vehicle crime and theft) are not related to the incidents of disorder.
- Detectives are continuing to investigate the rape of a woman in Cadogan Road on 18 August – two of the three men arrested in connection with the incident remain on police bail until 23 November. A third man has been released under investigation while enquiries continue.