ONE of the region’s police forces has become the only one in the country to be given the top rating for effectiveness.

Durham Police has been rated outstanding by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) in its annual PEEL report.

Cleveland, North Yorkshire and Northumbria Police were all rated as good.

The assessment looks at crime prevention and investigation, how police keep vulnerable people safe and their approach to serious crime, to judge how effective the organisation is.

It is the third time Durham has been rated as outstanding.

Durham’s deputy chief constable Jo Farrell, said: “We face the same problems as other forces: austerity, increased demand and having to police the internet.

“But every time the inspection teams have visited over the last 12 months, they have commented that ‘it feels different here’.

“We have very positive, optimistic, professional staff who work as a team and deliver an outstanding service to the people of County Durham and Darlington.”

While rated good overall, both Northumbria and Cleveland were told they need to improve when it comes to protecting vulnerable people.

Northumbria’s temporary deputy chief constable Darren Best, said: “We are obviously disappointed where areas have been identified for improvement. I can reassure the public that a great deal of progress has already been made to address these – but we are far from complacent and this work continues at pace.

“I want to make it absolutely clear, that protecting the vulnerable in our communities and ensuring they are fully supported at every stage are without a shadow of a doubt our top priorities.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said she disagreed with the assessment. She added: “Northumbria Police is good at protecting the vulnerable and I hear praise for that almost every day from members of the public.

“Although they are modest about their achievements, they accept that there is always room to get even better.

“I want to make clear that my own experiences of the force are not in line with those of HMICFRS.”

Cleveland’s assistant Chief Constable Jason Harwin said: “I am pleased that the improvements that have been made in the force since the last HMICFRS efficiency inspection in 2016 have been recognised, however, we are not complacent and we do recognise that there are improvements to be made around the way that we protect vulnerable people. Those improvements are already beginning to happen.”

North Yorkshire was rated as good in all areas. Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward said: “This is the now the third time that we have been rated at good for keeping people safe and reducing crime, and we are pleased to be hitting that standard consistently, because it means the public can have full confidence in the service we provide.

“It was encouraging to see some of the things that we have worked hard to put in place over the last couple of years acknowledged in the report.

“Things never stand still in policing, so we will keep on reviewing what we do, and how we do it, in an effort to improve.”

The inspectorate praised police nationwide, particularly in light of terrorist attacks and increased pressure from a rise in crimes like sexual abuse, child abuse and domestic abuse.

Zoe Billingham, inspector of constabulary, said: “We have seen the exemplary bravery and professionalism of the police, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public. We commend the extraordinary service the police gave communities when they needed it most.

“In the weeks immediately after those appalling attacks, the police saw a significant spike in the number of calls for help from the public. Over the last year, there have also been dramatic increases in complex crimes like sexual abuse, child abuse and domestic abuse.

“It is all the more commendable that, in the face of these substantial increasing pressures, most forces are doing a good – and in one case outstanding – job of keeping the public safe.

“We congratulate police officers and staff on the way they have largely kept standards high, despite a shrinking workforce and increasing, ever-more-complex demand.”