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Time to stop the stunts, police told

Police have been accused of letting criminals off the hook while indulging in bizarre stunts such as painting their nails.

Inspectors raised ‘serious concerns’ about how gangmasters smuggling illegal workers to the UK are routinely not brought to justice because of police failings.

Last night, as the row over police gimmicks grew, one top officer broke ranks to brand them an ‘embarrassment’. Senior police in Avon and Somerset were criticised last week after it emerged male and female staff were asked to paint their nails to highlight the problem of people trafficking in nail bars.

Police were told their increasingly bizarre gimmicks, such as posing in bear masks, are undermining the job of tackling crime

Police in Cardiff wore high heels as part of a campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse

Police in Cardiff wore high heels as part of a campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse

Officers tweeted about ‘pampering’ themselves before shifts, and posted photos of their lurid nails out on the beat. Another stunt, in South Wales, involved staff wearing high heels on duty, with dozens of uniformed officers strutting across Cardiff to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman wrote online: ‘The issues are serious and real, but this is an embarrassment.’ He added a ‘thumbs down’ symbol.

His blunt assessment was supported by colleagues, who said the gimmick made them a ‘bloody laughing stock’. Another added: ‘We don’t help ourselves.’

Mounting criticism of the stunts came as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary warned in a damning leaked report that human trafficking cases are being shelved without proper investigation.

An inspection of forces across the country found ‘wholly inadequate’ investigations are allowing gangs behind modern slavery rings to escape justice.

There are an estimated 13,000 victims of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude in Britain.

The report said: ‘We found that investigations are being closed prematurely, with lines of enquiry still open. In some cases, victims and witnesses were not even spoken to by the police … Victims are left unprotected while offenders are not brought to justice, leaving them free to continue to exploit people.’

HMIC said it was ‘unacceptable’ that some senior officers in the ten unnamed forces it inspected ‘expressed a reluctance to “turn over the stone” and proactively look for modern slavery and human trafficking’, because of concerns about the scale of the problem they may find.

Many suspected victims were deported without being properly interviewed by officers. This meant vital information was missed, the report said. HMIC inspectors warned that even when officers were given details that could lead to the suspected ringleaders, they failed to investigate properly. ‘We found cases closed with major lines of inquiry outstanding, including when there were named suspects, but no attempts were made to locate and pursue the offenders,’ inspectors said.

Tory MP Andrew Rosindell said: ‘This worrying report shows exactly why police chiefs should be targeting their resources on catching criminals rather than silly stunts. Gangmasters will only be caught if officers are allowed to spend their time doing their job, rather than being encouraged to engage in gimmicks.’

Avon and Somerset Constabulary's campaign Let's Nail It! saw officers wearing nail varnish on patrol

Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s campaign Let’s Nail It! saw officers wearing nail varnish on patrol

Examples highlighted by HMIC included a pregnant Eastern European woman found at a motorway service station who said she had been forced into prostitution in her home country, trafficked, and forced into prostitution again.

The report said: ‘The victim … gave the first names of her guards, the first name of the man who helped her escape, and the full name of the individual responsible for forcing her into prostitution in the home country. She also mentioned at least one other woman was being held in similar circumstances.’

Inspectors found officers did not start investigating until four months later. The report added: ‘Delays in taking urgent steps … potentially mean that the named individual is continuing to kidnap women and facilitate their trafficking.’

In another case highlighted in the report, a Polish translator rang police on behalf of a man who said he had been made to work without pay for seven years by a boss who beat him. Inspectors found officers took no action until the man was assaulted seven months later.

After Mr Chesterman – who is responsible for firearms policing nationwide and is based in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary – criticised the high heels stunt, there was an angry response from the top brass in South Wales.

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: ‘It was done in good faith and I support the officers involved. It was received well locally and by our partners.’


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