A North East police force once branded the "worst in the country" has been taken out of special measures.

Mark Webster, who became Cleveland Police’s seventh chief in less than a decade last year, today (Wednesday, September 20) welcomed the announcement by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The force had been under HMICFRS oversights since a disastrous inspection in 2019, and following a number of in-depth inspections since then, improvements to the service have now been recognised.

Read more: Cleveland Police 'inadequate in every area', say HM inspectors

Mr Webster said: “I am very pleased to confirm that Cleveland Police is no longer in special measures and has been removed from the ‘engage’ phase of force monitoring by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

“Since joining Cleveland Police in April 2022, I have been committed to steering a clear pathway out of HMICFRS oversight.

Read more: Police boss working to deliver troubled force out of special measures

“I have also seen the commitment and determination of colleagues every day, striving to drive the force forward."

Making the announcement today, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said: "I am pleased with the progress that Cleveland Police has made so far.

"Whilst there is still more to do, I have decided to remove the force from our enhanced level of monitoring, known as Engage, and return it to routine monitoring. 

“I am reassured by the plans Cleveland Police has in place to continue making improvements. The force will be inspected again next year, when we will assess its progress to make sure the people of Cleveland are getting the service they deserve from their police force.” 

The Northern Echo: PCC for Cleveland election count at Thornaby Pavillion.The newly elected PCC Steve Turner. Photograph by Stuart Boulton.PCC for Cleveland election count at Thornaby Pavillion. Photograph by Stuart Boulton.

Mr Webster, who took over the reins of the force in February 2022, said: “I would like to publicly thank each and every officer, member of staff, volunteer, the senior leadership team and the Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner for their hard work and dedication which has led us to this point.

“Cleveland Police has the second highest rate of arrests nationally, crime has fallen over the summer this year compared to the previous 12 months.

"We have an above average solved crime rate for residential burglary, personal robbery, vehicle crime and theft from person, we've significantly improved the quality of prosecutions we put before the courts and are rated as one of the best forces nationally for this."

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He added: "There are many more examples of how Cleveland Police has improved, however we will not lose sight of the fact there is still much more to be done.

“Today we are celebrating this news and acknowledging Cleveland Police isn’t the same force it was in 2019, but this does not mean our hard work will stop. We will continue to push forward and embed sustainable improvement to deliver the best possible service to the public of Teesside.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner praised the chief, saying: “Mark’s outstanding leadership and unwavering dedication are some of the key reasons why the force is in this positive position today.”

Sir Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: "This is a real tribute to the officers and staff of the force who have worked very hard to achieve these improvements.

"It is also a tribute to the hard work of the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, Steve Turner, who despite receiving horrendous abuse, including false allegations, has overseen an important process of transformation. 

"Much of that transformation has been made possible thanks to the 267 new officers and the delivery of a Violence Reduction Unit created thanks to £5million of direct government funding. 

"The job isn't finished yet, but for the first time in many years progress is being made."

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, said: "This marks a significant achievement for the dedicated officers and personnel of the force who have tirelessly worked towards this.

"I'd also like to commend the relentless efforts of the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, Steve Turner. In spite of facing unjust criticism and baseless accusations, he has guided a pivotal transformation within the force.

"The successful implementation of the Violence Reduction Unit and the inclusion of an additional 267 officers, facilitated by £5million of direct government support, have been crucial in this transformation.

"While there's more to be done, it's heartening to see real and tangible progress after so many years."