West Midlands Police

West Midlands Police is the territorial police force responsible for policing the metropolitan county of West Midlands in England.

West Midlands Police
MottoForward in Unity
Agency overview
Formed1 April 1974 (1974-04-01)
Preceding agencies
Annual budget£655.6 million (2021/22)[1]
Legal personalityPolice service
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionWest Midlands, United Kingdom
England Police Forces (West Midlands).svg
Jurisdictional area shown within England
Size348 square miles (900 km2)[2]
Population2.93 million[2]
Legal jurisdictionAs per operations jurisdiction
Constituting instrument
General nature
Operational structure
Overviewed by
HeadquartersLloyd House, Colmore Circus Queensway, Birmingham[3]
52°29′01″N 1°53′50″W / 52.48361°N 1.89722°W / 52.48361; -1.89722Coordinates: 52°29′01″N 1°53′50″W / 52.48361°N 1.89722°W / 52.48361; -1.89722
Police and Crime Commissioner responsible
  • Simon Foster
Agency executive
Parent agencyHome Office
Neighbourhood Policing Units8
www.west-midlands.police.uk Edit this at Wikidata

The force covers an area of 348 square miles (900 km2) with 2.93 million inhabitants,[2] which includes the cities of Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton and also the Black Country. In 2020, there were 6,846 officers, 484 police community support officers (PCSO), and 219 volunteer special constables.[4]

The force is currently led by Chief Constable Dave Thompson. The force area is divided into ten Local Policing Units (LPUs), each being served by four core policing teams – Response, Neighbourhood, Investigation and Community Action & Priority (CAPT) – with the support of a number of specialist crime teams. These specialist teams include CID, traffic and a firearms unit.

West Midlands Police is a partner, alongside Staffordshire Police, in the Central Motorway Police Group. The force is party to a number of other resource sharing agreements including the National Police Air Service.


Regional policing in the West Midlands prior to 1974Edit

Historical image of Sedgley police station

Prior to the formation of West Midlands Police as it is known today, the area now covered by the force was served by a total of six smaller constabularies. These constabularies were as follows:

  • Birmingham City Police 1839–1974: Established in 1839 following an outbreak of Chartist rioting that the Metropolitan Police had to help quell, officers from Birmingham City Police first took to the streets on 20 November of that year.[6] Initially with a strength of 260 officers paid at a rate of 17 shillings a week,[6] the constabulary expanded to keep pace with the growth of the city with the final areas to be added before the force's amalgamation in West Midlands Police being the Hollywood area.[7]
  • Coventry Police 1836–1974: Formed with the Municipal Corporations Act in 1836, Coventry Police was initially only twenty officers with the support of a single sergeant and one inspector.[6] The force reached a strength of 137 officers by 1914 and continued to grow until in 1969 it was merged with the Warwickshire and Coventry Constabulary, part of which it remained until the formation of West Midlands Police.
  • Dudley Borough Police 1920–1966: Formerly part of the Worcestershire Constabulary, Dudley gained its own police force on 1 April 1920 following a review by His Majesty's Inspector that had suggested previous policing arrangements were unsatisfactory.[8] Dudley Borough Police remained independent until the Royal Commission in 1960 which resulted in its inclusion as part of the newly formed West Midlands Constabulary.
  • Walsall Borough Police 1832–1966: Moving away from a 'watch' system, Walsall Borough Police were formed on 6 July 1832 with an initial strength of only one superintendent and three constables.[9] As with the other regional forces, Walsall Borough Police expanded with the area's population and in 1852 appointed its first two detectives. The force took on its first female recruits in 1918 and in the 1960s became one of the first forces to issues its officers with personal radios. As with Dudley's police force, Walsall Borough Police became part of the West Midlands Constabulary following the Royal Commission.
  • West Midlands Constabulary 1966–1974: Lasting only eight years, West Midlands Constabulary was a newly formed force encompassing a number of smaller borough forces including Dudley Borough Police, Walsall Borough Police, Wolverhampton Borough Police and parts of Staffordshire and Worcestershire Constabularies.[10] The creation of the West Midlands Constabulary was the consequence of 1960's Royal Commission into policing.
  • Wolverhampton Borough Police 1837–1966: The formation of Wolverhampton Borough Police was approved on 3 August 1837 under the condition that the strength of the force not exceed sixteen men.[11] The Police Act 1839 saw Staffordshire County Police taking over policing in Wolverhampton with Wolverhampton Borough Police regaining responsibility for policing the town in 1848. At the turn of the 20th century the force was 109 strong, reaching a highpoint of around 300 before the force became part of the short lived West Midlands Constabulary in 1966.

Establishment of West Midlands PoliceEdit

West Midlands Police motorbikes in the 1970s

West Midlands Police was formed on 1 April 1974, owing to the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 which created the new West Midlands metropolitan county. It was formed by merging the Birmingham City Police, the earlier West Midlands Constabulary, and parts of Staffordshire County and Stoke-on-Trent Constabulary, Warwickshire and Coventry Constabulary and West Mercia Constabulary. The first Chief Constable appointed to the new force was Sir Derrick Capper, the last Chief Constable of Birmingham Police.

Controversies and allegations of corruptionEdit

Between 1974 and 1989, the force operated the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad. It was disbanded after allegations of endemic misconduct, leading to a series of unsafe convictions. These included allegations that officers had falsified confessions in witness statements, denied suspects access to solicitors and used torture such as "plastic bagging" to partially suffocate suspects in order to extract confessions. They were alleged to have abused payments to informers. A series of around 40 prosecutions failed in the late 1980s as defendants showed that evidence had or may have been tampered with. West Yorkshire Police led an investigation which led to a small number of internal disciplinary proceedings, but did not recommend any prosecutions for lack of evidence. However, over 60 convictions secured from their investigations have now been quashed, including those of the Birmingham Six.[12]

West Midlands Police had two serious firearms incidents, in 1980 and 1985. In 1980, David Pagett held his pregnant girlfriend as hostage while resisting arrest by the police. Officers returned fire, and shot her.[13] Police had initially tried to claim that Pagett has shot her, but it became clear that it was police bullets that had caused her death. In 1985, John Shorthouse was arrested by West Midlands police for questioning about armed robberies in South Wales. His house was then searched. His five-year-old son, John, was shot by police searching under the child's bed. An internal inquiry was held, and as a result, use of firearms was restricted to a specialised and trained unit.[14]

Allegations of bribery and corruption were made in 1994 by World in Action, an investigative current affairs TV programme. The convicted criminal David Harris alleged that West Midlands police officers had demanded payments of more than £200,000 to keep criminals including himself away from prosecutions. Other allegations from police officers focused on officers attempting to persuade others to accept bribes. The CID was the focus of an investigation by Leicestershire Police at the request of the Police Complaints Authority.[15]

2000s and onwardsEdit

Under proposals announced by the then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, on 6 February 2006, West Midlands Police would have merged with Staffordshire Police, West Mercia Constabulary and Warwickshire Constabulary to form a single strategic force for the West Midlands region.[16] This, along with a number of other mergers which would have cut the number of forces in England and Wales from 43 to 24, were abandoned in July 2006 after widespread opposition from police and the public.[17]

Because of the prisons' overcrowding crisis in Birmingham in October 2006 three dozen police cells are to be made available to house inmates in Birmingham to help ease congestion. (By contrast, one contemporary account reported, in 1833, that for days the city gaol had been entirely empty.[18]) Despite a dip in the number of prisoners that month, prisons in the region are close to capacity or already full. Between 32 and 44 cells were set aside at Steelhouse Lane police station, in Birmingham City Centre, in case of emergency. West Midlands Police has an established agreement with HM Prison Service to provide cells in the event they are needed.[19]

In October 2008, the Chief Constable Sir Paul Scott-Lee announced he would not be renewing his contract in May 2009, after seven years in the post. His replacement was Chris Sims.[20]

On taking office, the new Chief Constable announced that the force would be realigned to exist alongside council boundaries, abolishing the Operational Command Units (OCUs) and reforming as Local Policing Units (LPUs). In April 2010, the force reorganised from 21 OCUs into ten new LPUs.[21] There were also changes to the HQ departments, including the new Local Policing Department, the new Public Protection Department and Force CID (formerly Crime Support). These changes were introduced as part of 'Program Paragon' with the aim of making savings for the force of around £50 million.[22]

The aim is to move certain functions from local areas into the central departments – such as dealing with complex or serious crimes, along with finance, IT and administration tasks, so that the local policing units can concentrate on local policing issues. There is also the long-term aim of reducing the number of Contact Management Centres from ten (one each for each LPU) to one, covering the whole of the force.

The force attracted controversy in 2010 when Project Champion, a £3 million scheme to install a network of CCTV cameras in the predominantly Muslim areas of Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, came under fire from local residents and civil rights organisations.[23] A total of 218 cameras had been planned for installation but the project was abandoned following concerns over their legality and objections from residents and local councillors that they had not been consulted by the force.[24]

Owing to the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review, the force has been required to make savings totalling £126 million over a four-year period.[22] Projects including Continuous Improvement and Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) have been established to identify where such savings can be made with a variety of options explored.[25]

The force is one of many to implement Regulation A19, requiring officers with thirty year's service to retire and have made redundancies for police staff ranks.[26] The force had been exploring Business Partnering options involving working with private companies but this plan was halted by Bob Jones, the force's first Police and Crime Commissioner, upon him taking office.[27]

In July 2014 West Midlands PCC agreed to a £25m contract with Accenture[28][29]

In March 2021 Oliver Banfield, a probationary officer with West Midlands Police, was convicted of assault by beating after using techniques taught in police training to attack a woman while off-duty.[30] Banfield was sentenced to a 14-week curfew and ordered to pay £500 compensation to his victim.[30] Former Leader of the Opposition Harriet Harman described the fact Banfield did not receive a custodial sentence as “proof ... that [the] system fails women and protects men”.[30] After the conviction, the Crown Prosecution Service apologised for initially declining to charge Banfield.[31] In a May 2021 hearing, Banfield was found guilty of gross misconduct and banned from policing for life.[32]

Leadership and performanceEdit

As of 2018, West Midlands Police was smaller than at any previous time in its history, having lost nearly 2,300 officers since 2010. Government funding for West Midlands Police fell by £145 million since 2010. The chief constable, Dave Thompson, said in 2018 that falling numbers of police officers due to funding cuts, and a "wider spread of crime", prevented the police doing everything the public want or expect of them.[33][34][35]

Command teamEdit

West Midlands Police HQ - Lloyd House

West Midlands Police is managed by a command team who are based at the force's Lloyd House headquarters in Birmingham. They work alongside the elected West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, who sets the budget and priorities for the force. The command team are able to participate in respective LPU daily management meetings by utilising a video conferencing system.[36]

The current chief constable is Dave Thompson.[37] and the deputy chief constable is Vanessa Jardine.[38]

Chief constablesEdit

Police and Crime CommissionerEdit

Crime statistics and budgetEdit

The following table shows the percentage detection rates for West Midlands Police by offence group for 2012/2013:[47]

Total Violence against the person Sexual offences Robbery Burglary Offences against vehicles Other theft offences Fraud and forgery Criminal damage Drug offences Other offences
West Midlands Police 23 32 28 24 9 8 19 14 10 91 60
England and Wales 29 41 29 21 13 11 21 22 16 94 69

The following table shows the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner Finances in millions of pounds for 2014-15 compared with 2013-14:[48]

Year Employees Premises Transport Supplies & services Gross expenditure Income Net expenditure Use of reserves Net budget requirement
2014-15 467.66 22.24 7.79 45.05 553.55 -24.41 553.42 -9.86 543.56
2013-14 491.63 22.10 9.06 43.81 578.75 -21.96 559.02 2.35 556.67

Dave Thompson stated that unforeseen pensions expenses of £8.6m in 2019 and £13.9m in 2200, from a budget of £514m cost roughly as much as 500 officers and would lower the total number of officers to 6,000, contrasted with 8,600 in 2010. Thompson added, “There is no question there will be more obvious rationing of services. The public can already see it is going on. We are already not pursuing crimes where we could find a suspect. We are doing things now that surprise me. We are struggling to deliver a service to the public. I think criminals are well aware now how stretched we are. These further cuts will leave us smaller than we have ever been. There is unquestionably more demand than there was in 1974.”[49]

In the 2021/22 financial year, West Midlands Police's budget was £655.6 million, an increase from £619.7 million in 2020/21.[1]

Structure and departmentsEdit

Covering an area of 348 square miles (900 km2) with 2.93 million inhabitants,[2] which includes the cities of Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton and also the Black Country. As of September 2020, the force has 6,846 police officers, 219 special constables, and 467 police community support officers (PCSO), 165 police support volunteers (PSV), and 3,704 staff.[4] In 2019, 10.9% of officers were from a BAME background, compared with 8.5% in 2014.[50]

Local Policing UnitsEdit

The area covered by West Midlands Police is divided into ten Local Policing Units (LPUs). Each LPU is headed by a chief superintendent, responsible for the overall policing and management of the area, supported by a Local Command Team (LCT) composed of a varying number of superintendents and chief inspectors.[51]

Each LPU has a number of dedicated Neighbourhood Policing teams. These cover a specific area and are headed by a sergeant with support from a number of police officers, PCSOs and sometimes special constables. The force operates a number of police stations.

Core policing teamsEdit

West Midlands Police is structured in such a way that there are four key teams in each LPU who have the responsibility for dealing with everyday policing duties.[52] The force's current structure was gradually introduced over the past two years with the Solihull and Birmingham South LPUs being the first area to see the change in June 2011,[53] and the Walsall LPU being the last in January 2013.[54] The structural change was introduced as part of the force's 'Continuous Improvement' programme with the ambition of working in a more cost effective and efficient manner and was overseen under the advice of accounting firm KPMG.[53]

Prior to Continuous Improvement, the force had operated with larger response and neighbourhood teams and smaller teams allocated to prisoner handling roles. Community action and priority teams were a new addition to the force's structure under Continuous Improvement.

The core policing teams are:

Community action and priority teams (CAPT)Edit

The 'CAPT' support neighbourhood officers to address local issues and resource demands for service not met by other departments. They can be allocated to neighbourhoods suffering particular issues, for example anti-social behaviour, and are also often public order trained, so are used for policing football matches, demonstrations and similar occasions.[55] As with the investigation teams, the community action and priority teams are supervised by a sergeant, who reports to an inspector.

Key responsibilities of community action and priority teams are as follows:[55]

  • Supporting neighbourhood teams – Providing specialist support to Neighbourhood Teams for example, conducting drugs warrants or addressing anti-social behaviour.
  • Addressing local issues – Supporting other front line policing teams and completing tasking as directed by LPU local command teams
  • Providing support for abstractions – Resourcing abstractions such as football matches, demonstrations and similar incidents so that Neighbourhood officers are able to focus on their beats.

Investigation teamsEdit

Officers on investigation teams have three main responsibilities, these being secondary investigation, prisoner handling and attending scheduled appointments with the public.[56] These officers are also responsible for completing prosecution files and other paperwork necessary for taking cases to court. Investigation teams are split into a number of shifts, each supervised by a sergeant, and will have an inspector supervising the sergeants.

Key responsibilities of investigation teams are as follows:[56]

  • Secondary investigation – Following initial attendance of incidents by Response Team officers, investigations are allocated to investigation teams who conduct any follow up enquiries that are required.
  • Prisoner handling – Offenders arrested by response and neighbourhood officers are handed to investigation teams who will interview and retain ownership of the investigation up to the point of its conclusion.
  • Scheduled response – Operating on a diary system, investigation team officers attend pre-booked slots with members of the public who are wanting to report none urgent matters.

Neighbourhood teamsEdit

Neighbourhood officers with their bikes

Aligned to specific neighbourhoods, these officers seek to tackle long term issues affecting local areas and attend community meetings. There are 171 neighbourhoods across the West Midlands,[57] and officers assigned to neighbourhood teams are often supported by PCSOs and special constables. It is not uncommon for busier areas, such as town centres, to have several neighbourhood teams such as the St. Matthews beat covering Walsall town centre, which has two teams.[58] Neighbourhood teams usually have a single sergeant who reports to a sector inspector.

Force responseEdit

Response officers work in shifts around the clock answering the most urgent calls for service received through the force's call centres. It is not unusual for response officers to work alone and each response shift usually has a number of officers who are authorised to carry Taser.[59] In addition to Taser, some response officers also carry mobile fingerprint ID machines to confirm identities at the roadside.[60] Response officers undergo enhanced driving training and also have a range of other skills required to perform their role including 'method of entry' training so that they can force entry into premises. Many response officers are also public order trained in order to respond to spontaneous disorder should it occur. Response teams are supervised by a number of sergeants and an inspector.

Key responsibilities of response teams are as follows:

  • Primary investigation – Attending incidents in the first instance, Response officers gather available evidence and record offences. Follow up enquiries are then allocated to the investigation teams.
  • Missing person enquiries – Response officers conduct investigations into missing persons with a low or medium risk assessment.
  • Traffic – Officers from response teams attend reported road traffic accidents, sometimes supporting force traffic in the case of serious collisions.

Specialist crime teamsEdit

The core policing teams are supported by, and work closely with, a number of specialist crime teams.[61] West Midlands Police had a mounted division which was disbanded in 1999 to divert funds elsewhere.[62] Current specialist crime teams include:

Air operationsEdit

G-BAKS on hire to West Midlands police in 1978
Previous helicopter, G-WMPA, an Aérospatiale AS355 F2.

The Midlands Air Operations Unit was a consortium of West Midlands, Warwickshire, West Mercia and Staffordshire Police based at Birmingham Airport. It operated from July 1987,[63] until it was replaced by the National Police Air Service in 2012.[64] After experimenting, since the 1970s, with civilian helicopters hired on an occasional basis,[65] West Midlands Police launched their own air unit on 10 May 1989.[63] A WMP helicopter was destroyed by arson in June 2009, while at Birmingham Airport.[66]

Airport policingEdit

The West Midlands Police force area includes Birmingham Airport which is on the Solihull LPU,[67] but not Coventry Airport which is on the Warwickshire Police force area and so policed by their own officers.[68] Birmingham Airport has a dedicated airports policing team assigned who work closely with Border Force customs and immigration officers.[69] Officers working at the airport have additional powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 as the airport is "designated" under the terms of the Act[70] and some are armed.

Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG)Edit

West Midlands Police is one of the two police forces who contribute officers to the Central Motorway Police Group, the others being Staffordshire Police.[71] CMPG operate out of three main bases, the main headquarters being under the M6 motorway at Perry Barr at which their central control room and vehicle depot is situated.[72] CMPG also have a regional control centre in Quinton, Birmingham shared with Highways England.[73] Officers attached to CMPG cover a wide geographical area, including in the West Midlands the M6, M54 and A45.[71]

Counter terrorism unit (CTU)Edit

Based in Birmingham, the counter terrorism unit (CTU) is responsible for co-ordinating the force's counter-terrorism activity. CTU works under the guidance of the Government's national counter terrorism strategy, CONTEST, with the aims of pursuing terrorists, protecting the public, preparing for a possible attack and preventing terrorism by working in the community to address the causes of terrorist activity.[74]

As part of the CTU's role in working with the community, its structure includes a Prevent Team which is a group of officers who visit schools, community groups and partner agencies to raise awareness about the work on the unit. Exercises include Act NOW, a tabletop exercise explaining what happens during a counter terrorism operation and WRAP (Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent), a presentation aimed at front-line public sector workers and organisations that work with potential victims of radicalisation.[75]

Dog SectionEdit

Most dogs in the West Midlands Police Dog Section are products of an in-house breeding program which the force has been running at its Balsall Common training centre since 1994.[76]

Specialist search dogs including Springer Spaniels and Labradors are also used by the Dogs Unit to locate drugs or firearms and explosives. Dogs are continually recruited from rescue centres and from members of the public. All specialist dogs are handled by officers who already have a general purpose police dog, giving the handler responsibility in both training and operational deployment.[77]

Prior to 2013 there were 69 operational dog handlers working in West Midlands Police, dogs underwent an initial training program lasting twelve weeks.[78] Officers with the Dog Section patrol in specially adapted Skoda patrol vehicles with air conditioned cages capable of carrying up to three dogs in the rear[79] and operate from bases at Aston, Canley and Wednesbury.[80]

Events planning and footballEdit

The events planning department has responsibility for co-ordinating large-scale events taking place within the force area and also for ensuring that officers are available should they be required to support other regional forces through mutual aid arrangements.[81] One major responsibility of the department is organising the policing operation for the Autumn political party conferences that are often held at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. Included within this department also is the Football Unit who coordinate policing of football games within the West Midlands and operate a team of "spotters" to identify violent supporters and banned individuals.[82]

The policing of large-scale events such as football matches, VIP visits and public demonstrations can be coordinated from the force's Events Control Suite (ECS) at the Tally Ho facility in Birmingham. The ECS is able to receive live CCTV footage and has computer facilities for the use of partner agencies with whom the suite is shared.[83]


West Midlands Police operate a number of armed response vehicles (ARVs) that patrol the region and respond to incidents typically involving guns, knives or dangerous dogs.[84] Officers undertake a ten-week selection process to join the firearms unit with courses being delivered on weapons, tactics and advanced driving. Most of the ARVs used by the firearms unit are unmarked Audis, converted with the rear seats removed and gun safes installed.[85] Officers with the firearms unit carry Taser X26 stun guns, SIG P229 9mm pistols, H&K MP5 SF A2/A3 9mm semi-automatic carbines and H&K G36K SF, G36C SF and SIG Sauer SIG516[86] 5.56mm semi-automatic rifles.[87]

Alongside attending firearms incidents, officers attached to the firearms unit also provide tactical advice when planning operations and give lectures on firearms awareness to officers and members of the public.[84] The force also has a Firearms Licensing Department which is responsible for the issue of shotgun and firearms certificates to members of the public and explosives certificates to companies requiring them.[88]

Force CIDEdit

Detached from the LPUs, Force CID is staffed by officers holding a detective qualification and investigate serious and complicated crimes not taken on by Local CID or other departments. Such offences include murders, serious assaults, blackmail and arson. Force CID is arranged into a series of Major Investigation Teams and work from bases at Bloxwich, Harborne, Aqueous 2 (Aston) and Willenhall in Coventry.[89]

Working within Force CID are a series of Payback Teams who are responsible for arranging asset seizures and confiscations under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. During 2011 offenders were forced to pay back £6.3 million from proceeds of crime, a 39% increase on the previous year.[90]

Force trafficEdit

Based at Park Lane, Chelmsley Wood and Wednesbury,[91][92] the force traffic unit has responsibility for roads policing on all roads inside the West Midlands other than the motorways which are covered by the Central Motorways Policing Group. Officers from the force traffic unit usually hold advanced driving grades and have access to marked and unmarked vehicles, including BMWs and Audis fitted with evidential video recording equipment. Force Traffic is supported by a Collision Investigation Unit based at Aston Police Station who investigate accidents involving fatalities or life-changing injuries.[91]

Forensic scene investigators (FSI)Edit

Officers are supported by a team of around 100 civilian forensics scene investigators who attend crime scenes and examine seized items to obtain forensic evidence for use in court.[93] Formerly known as scenes of crime officers (SOCO), scene investigators have access to a wide range of specialist equipment to help with their role and alongside gathering forensic samples; they also are responsible for crime scene photography.

Intelligence unitEdit

West Midlands Police has dedicated intelligence cells based on each LPU who collate and disseminate information collected by officers from a range of other sources. This role involves "sanitising" intelligence logs and forwarding them on to relevant persons, receiving information from outside sources such as Crimestoppers, and assisting with the progression of investigations.[94]

The intelligence unit is responsible for organising briefing material for officers and police leadership; they also include a covert operations unit, who coordinate undercover policing operations under the terms of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

West Midlands Police is a partner alongside Warwickshire Police, West Mercia Police and Staffordshire Police in the Regional Intelligence Unit collaborative working agreement under which information is shared between the forces on serious and organised criminals affecting the West Midlands Region.[95]

Integrated emergency management (IEM)Edit

The Operations Integrated Emergency Management service is responsible for ensuring that the force is ready to respond to major incidents, that business continuity plans are in place and that the force's duty under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 is satisfied.[96] This work includes running exercises and drills to test readiness and working closely with other emergency services and local authorities. As part of the service's work, the force also maintains a number of Casualty Bureau facilities at which calls from the public are taken and collated following a major incident such as a plane crash or terrorist attack.[97]

Local CIDEdit

Each LPU has a Local CID team of officers who hold a detective qualification and conduct secondary investigations into serious offences that occur within their area. Offences that fall under the remit of Local CID include burglary of dwellings, personal robberies, frauds and some vehicle crime.

Offender management unit (OMU)Edit

All ten LPUs have an offender management unit (OMU) who work with partner agencies to concentrate on the offenders living on their areas identified as being particularly difficult or damaging. Offenders who fall into this category include those designated as prolific and other priority offenders (PPOs), drug users, violent criminals and young criminals.[98]

Officers from the OMU manage their assigned PPOs under two strands. One consists of rehabilitation and resettlement under which partner agencies are involved in an effort to halt re-offending whilst the other consists of catching and convicting offenders who have been identified as not participating in rehabilitation programmes or are wanted for outstanding crimes.[98]

Operational support unit (OSU)Edit

Working from Park Lane, Chelmsley Wood and Wednesbury Stations,[99] the operational support unit is a team of officers specially trained in areas including Public Order policing, method of entry and searching.[100] Officers working with the OSU are typically deployed as part of a "serial" of one sergeant and seven officers and have access to specialist equipment and vehicles including armoured land rovers.

Public protection unit (PPU)Edit

The public protection unit (PPU) investigates reports of sexual assaults and incidents involving children and vulnerable people. PPU is split between adult and child investigations, is responsible for safeguarding and works with partner agencies such as social services and domestic violence charities.[101] As with CID, most officers working in the PPU hold a detective qualification.

Safer travelEdit

The safer travel team is a collaboration between West Midlands Police, the British Transport Police and CENTRO, focusing on criminal activity occurring on the public transport network.[102] The team is composed of officers and PCSOs who patrol trains, buses and trams in the region.

The Partnership, the first of its type in the country, also has access to around 1,000 CCTV cameras which are located at bus, rail and metro stations, park and ride sites and in bus shelters.[103] The dedicated control centre is staffed 24 hours a day to spot and respond to incidents.[103]

Professional standards department (PSD)Edit

Based at Lloyd House, the professional standards department (PSD) is responsible for the recording and assessment of public complaints about police officers, police staff or special constables. PSD also has a role in investigating serious reports of misconduct and corruption involving members of the force.

Members of the public are eligible to make a complaint if the behaviour about which they want to complain was directed towards them, if they were "adversely affected" by said behaviour or if they were an eyewitness to said behaviour.[104] A person is "adversely affected" if they suffer any form of loss or damage, distress or inconvenience, if they are put in danger or are otherwise unduly put at risk of being adversely affected.

PSD work alongside the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), to whom they will refer the most serious allegations.[104]

Where appropriate, PSD have a range of outcomes following disciplinary panels, including no action, counselling (management advice), written warning, transfer to another post, withholding increments and dismissal.[105]

West Midlands Police recorded 1536 complaints for 2011/12, an 18 percent drop in comparison to 2010/11 during which 1871 complaints were recorded.[106]

Press OfficeEdit

Also known as Corporate Communications, the West Midlands Police Press Office is centralised at headquarters and is charged with representing the force's public image.[107] Each LPU has dedicated Territorial Communications officers and in addition to addressing media enquiries, the Press Office also looks after the force's website and publishes the force's internal online newspaper, News Beat.

Social mediaEdit

West Midlands Police maintains a presence on social media websites including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and blogging platforms.[108] Each LPU has a dedicated Facebook and Twitter account, with more than 200 departments, officers, PCSOs and special constables also tweeting from officially endorsed accounts.[108]

Several of the force's social media accounts have won recognition as examples of best practice, including Solihull Police's Twitter feed which came first place in the 2012 Golden Twits' Customer Service category[109][110] and Inspector Brown's Mark Hanson Digital Media Award 2012 for his mental health blog.[111]

Special constabularyEdit

Officers belonging to the special constabulary have the same powers as full-time officers and are unpaid volunteers, giving a minimum of sixteen hours a month of duty time.[112]

Initial training for special constables lasts 22 weeks, and when deployed they wear the same street uniform as other officers. They can be identified as Specials by their collar numbers, which start with 7 and the 'SC' on their epaulettes.

Special constables provide West Midlands Police with around 96,000 hours of voluntary duty each year and usually work alongside regular officers on neighbourhood teams, response teams[113] and also Community Action & Priority Teams.[55]

Recruitment and trainingEdit

Applicants to join West Midlands Police as police officers are subject to a staged recruitment process designed to assess their suitability for the role. The process consists of the following steps:

  • Application form: The first stage of the application process is a paper sift assessing applicants' competency. Unsuccessful applicants are required to wait six months before reapplying.[114]
  • Assessment centre: The assessment centres involves written tests measuring candidates' English and maths, a series of exercises involving role playing actors and a twenty-minute competency based interview.[115]
  • Background checks: All applicants to have passed the assessment centre are subject to a series of enhanced background checks examining both their security and financial history.[116]
  • Medical: Applicants are required to undergo eyesight and hearing tests, a general medical assessment and submit hair samples for drugs testing.[117]
  • Fitness test: The final stage of the application process is a fitness test involving completing one circuit of an activity course within three minutes and forty five seconds and a twenty-second test on a push-pull machine.[117]

On being accepted to join the force, new recruits undergo an initial training course last eighteen weeks which is non-residential and based mainly in the classroom but with periodic practical exercises and attachments. Performance is assessed by a series of examinations and training includes self-defence lessons and tuition on police computer systems. Following successful completion of initial training, recruits are then tutored on their LPUs for nine weeks before being signed off for independent patrol. They retain their status as student officers for a period of two years from their joining date during which they are required to maintain a record of their development. Upon reaching two years service, student officers are 'confirmed' in their rank by a senior officer, usually their LPU commander.

The recruitment process for PCSOs is similar to that of police officers although training periods are reduced. The recruitment of police staff varies according to the role.

West Midlands Police has not received any new police officers or PCSOs since midway through 2010, the recruitment freeze owing to the need to make budget cuts.[118]

On 11 June 2020, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson committed to ensuring that the force recruits 1,000 new BAME police officers over the next three years to make the force look more like the communities it serves.[50]

Racism and sexism in promotions controversyEdit

In November 2018 it emerged that the police force had blocked white male officers from promotion, setting aside half of all promotion slots for women and ethnic minority candidates in seven out of eight of the year's promotion rounds. In the year's final round the force continued to discriminate, by blocking white male applicants for two days. A complaint by the Police Federation union noted that the practice was illegal and condemned it as "not fit for purpose". As a result West Midlands Police "paused" the practice.[119]


Police officers working for West Midlands Police have access to a wide range of different uniforms, equipment and vehicles dependent of their specific role.


Officers wearing typical street uniform

West Midlands Police officers wear the traditional black custodian helmet in the rose style, with seamed joined and thin black metal band with a Brunswick star that reads 'West Midlands Police'.[120] Female officers wear a black bowler hat with Sillitoe tartan banding for foot patrol and mobile patrol.[120] Traffic officers wear a white peaked cap with Sillitoe tartan banding, or a white bowler with Sillitoe tartan banding hat for mobile patrol,[121] as do officers holding inspector rank or above although their caps are black rather than white.[122]

PCSOs always wear a peaked cap with a blue band, or a bowler hat with a blue band for female PCSOs, and all officers, whether Constable or PCSOs, when travelling on bicycle wear a black cycle helmet with 'Police' inscribed on it.[123]

Armed Response or Dog Section officers wear black protective baseball caps that read 'Police' and have a Sillitoe tartan pattern on the sides[124] whilst motorcycle officers and Air Operations officers wear specialised hard helmets with in-built radio microphones.[125]


Officers' standard street uniform consists of black lightweight zip-up shirts, black trousers and a high visibility protective vest. White shirts were replaced by the black T-shirts in 2010 at a cost of £100,000 but are retained for court and station duties.[126] Officers are issued with fleeces, weatherproof pullovers, fluorescent jackets, high visibility tabards, waterproof over trousers and slash resistant gloves.

Aside the standard street uniform, there are a variety of additional uniforms issued to officers performing specialist roles. Public Order trained officers wear two piece fire retardant overalls and boots with additional body armour and NATO helmets,[127] whilst those with the Cannabis Disposal Team wear one piece jumpsuits and hard hats.[128] Officers working with the OSU searching teams are issued thicker winter coats and tie cord trousers.[129]

Ranks & epaulettesEdit

Shoulder insignia for ranks above police constable are as follows:

When dressed for public order policing, officers wear coloured epaulettes indicating their respective roles. Bronze commanders wear yellow epaulettes, inspectors wear red epaulettes, sergeants wear white epaulettes, tactical advisors wear blue epaulettes, medics wear green epaulettes and evidence gathering officers have orange epaulettes.[130]

Collar numbers within West Midlands Police are between two and five numbers long. Prior to 2006 collar numbers were up to four numbers in length, the numbering system was altered in 2006 to accommodate proposed changes that would have been introduced by a merger of local forces. Officers to have joined since 2006 have five figure collar sequential numbers starting with a 2, PCSOs have collar numbers starting with a 3, police staff have collar numbers starting with a 5, special constables have collar numbers starting with a 7 and transferees from other forces have collar numbers starting with 29.


As part of standard issue Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), officers carry Sepura TETRA radios, rigid handcuffs, CS spray and an extendible friction lock baton.[131] Officers also have access to first aid kits, limb restraints and torches.[132]

Officers have access to a huge range of additional equipment for specialist operations, some of which requires training before it can be used.

In terms of 'method of entry' equipment, main stations usually have a store in which is kept battering rams,[133] pulley bars, hydraulic presses, ladders and even circular saws for cutting away bars.[134]

Traffic units, particularly officers performing collision investigation duties, use laser plotting devices to accurately survey collision sights and carry devices that can be used to measure road friction and deceleration values.[135]

Forensic teams can call for the deployment of tents to cover crime scenes, lighting rigs, stepping plates and a host of other items required to help them preserve evidence. Laboratories have installed drying cabinets, microscopes and sampling equipment for the securing and analysis of specimens.


A marked Vauxhall Insignia as used by response officers pictured in 2012

All of vehicles are modified for police usage with radios installed, lights, sirens.

Police motorcycles pictured in 2015

Force Traffic have a range of marked and unmarked patrol vehicles, all modified with the same equipment as response vehicles but with the addition of ANPR/HD video cameras, data terminals and accurately calibrated speedometers.

Firearms units are modified with gun cabinets, radios and bullet proof plates. Dog Units are assigned vehicles with air conditioned cages built into their boot.

For public order duties, West Midlands Police use vans with equipment racks in the rear for the storage of shields and other public order equipment.Armoured vehicles are also available for public order situations.

West Midlands Police Fleet Services also has a range of specialist recovery vehicles including the flatbed trucks and portable custody vans.

Driving gradesEdit

There are three different levels of driving grade within West Midlands Police which are as follows:[136]

  • Basic driver: Officers with a basic driver grade are able to drive marked and unmarked vehicles but are not allowed to exceed speed limits or use the lights and sirens. The basic driver course lasts around half a day.
  • Standard driver: The standard driver grade allows officers to exceed the speed limit by up to 20 mph and conduct the initial stages of a pursuit providing it is safe to do so. The standard driver course is three weeks long.
  • Advanced driver: Drivers holding an advanced grade are able to drive higher performance vehicles at speeds above the extra 20 mph granted to standard drivers and receive additional training in pursuits and specialist techniques such as making a silent approach towards incidents. The advanced driver course is four weeks long.

Further to the above grades, the driver development school also provides bolt on courses relating to driving police carrier vehicles, four by fours and VIP escort skills.


The Events Control Suite

There are currently[when?] 52 police stations in the West Midlands Police force area situated across the 10 LPUs alongside a number of other facilities housing specialist crime teams and support services not open to the public. Only one police station is open 24/7, 365 days a year and is located at Lloyd House, with a separate public entrance. Most of the few police stations open to the public have limited opening hours and generally are shut by 10pm.[137][5]

The force headquarters is Lloyd House on Colmore Circus Queensway, Birmingham City Centre, and houses the Command Team alongside other departmental offices including the Press Office and Professional Standards Department.

The NPAS helicopter operates from a base at Birmingham Airport in Solihull which has facilities including motorised hangar doors, reinforced steel pedestrian access, an alarm system and CCTV to provide the helicopter protection whilst on the ground.[138]

Large scale policing demonstrations such as protest marches and football matches are coordinated from the Events Control Suite (ECS) in Birmingham. Alongside radio facilities and the ability to stream live footage from the force helicopter, the ECS also has shared space for partner agencies.[83]

Public Order courses are hosted at the regional training centre which consists of a converted aircraft hangar on the RAF Cosford site near Telford. The site has facilities allowing officers to experience riot situations including dealing with 'Emotionally Disturbed Person' scenarios during which they are subject to attacks by role playing actors wielding weapons.[139]

Custody SuitesEdit

As of October 2010 there were 18 custody suites designated under PACE for the reception of detainees.[140] Not all of these custody suites are currently used by the force, most have been mothballed owing to budget restraints and have been replaced by two planned 'super blocks', each with sixty cells @ Perry Barr and Oldbury.[140] Other current custody suites are as follows: Bournville (Birmingham South) 17 cells and Coventry Central (Little Park Street 26 cells and Chace Avenue, Coventry for terrorism cases only.[140]

During an overhaul of the CCTV systems used in the force's custody suites that was completed in 2011 at a cost of £2.5 million, a networked range of audio and visual recording equipment was installed allowing staff to monitor detainees for the purposes of ensuring their safety and furthering investigations.[141] Footage is recorded to RAID storage devices with a total capacity of 1400 terabytes.

West Midlands Police operate a Custody Visiting Scheme under which independent representatives from local communities are able to access detention facilities to observe, comment and report upon the welfare and treatment of detained persons.[142] Visits are conducted at random by volunteers working in pairs who then write a report on the feedback gathered during their visit.[143]

In 2017 a joint inspection of the force's custody suites was conducted by HMIC and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons.[140]

West Midlands Police FederationEdit

The West Midlands Police Federation is a part of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which is the representative body for every police officer below the rank of superintendent. Representatives of the Federation are elected for three year terms and must be serving police officers.[144]

Police officers are restricted by their regulations from striking and from taking part in politics, hence the Federation represents their interests and negotiates on their behalf in the Police Negotiating Board in relation to pay, conditions and pensions.

The Federation is funded by a monthly subscription paid from officers' salaries and provides representation and advice to officers who are subject to disciplinary offences. Each LPU has Police Federation Workplace representatives to whom officers can go to for support.[145]


West Midlands Police Benevolent FundEdit

The West Midlands Police Benevolent Fund was set up in 1974 following the amalgamation of local forces to form West Midlands Police. The fund is financed by subscriptions from members and donations from a wide variety of sources and monies are distributed on application to the committee to both serving and retired officers who are subscribing members and who find themselves suffering financial hardship and in need of assistance.[146]

Police officers are able to subscribe to the Benevolent Fund for a subscription of £2 a month[147] and are eligible to receive a range of charitable grants and loans at the discretion of the Management Committee.[148]

West Midlands Police Sports & Social ClubEdit

The West Midlands Police Sports & Social Club is a subscription based club offering members access to a wide range of discounted goods and services including hotels, attractions and meals.[149] The club runs a monthly lottery with a £5000 jackpot open not only to all serving police officers, PCSOs and staff but also to retired employees.

A wide range of sporting clubs operate through the club including athletics, walking, shooting and fishing. The club owns a minibus which can be booked out for members' use and members are able to apply for grants from the club to subsidise the cost of events.

Officers killed in the line of dutyEdit

Albert Willits' funeral procession
Memorial to PC Malcolm Walker at Perry Barr

The Police Roll of Honour Trust and Police Memorial Trust list and commemorate all British police officers killed in the line of duty. Since its establishment in 1984, the Police Memorial Trust has erected 50 memorials nationally to some of those officers.

The following officers of West Midlands Police and its former constabularies are listed by the trust as having died attempting to prevent, stop or solve a crime, since the turn of the 20th century:[150]

  • 1901: PC Charles Phillip Gunter. Fatally injured by thrown brick while attempting to disperse a disorderly crowd
  • 1925: PC Albert Willits. Shot dead while attempting to arrest three men
  • 1928: PC Charles William Sheppard. Beaten to death attending a disturbance
  • 1965: DS James Stanford. Fatally stabbed; posthumously awarded Queen's Police Medal
  • 1975: PC David Christopher Green. Fatally stabbed during an arrest
  • 1984: PC Andrew Stephen Le Comte. Fell from a roof while searching for suspects
  • 1984: PC Colin John Hall. Collapsed attending a disturbance and died
  • 1988: PC Gavin Richard Carlton. Shot by armed robber during a police pursuit
  • 1989: PC Anthony John Salt. Fatally injured by falling on a mechanical digger after getting drunk on duty[151][152]
  • 2001: PC Malcolm Edward Walker. Fatally injured when his motorcycle was struck during a police pursuit
  • 2004: DC Michael Swindells. Fatally stabbed; posthumously awarded Queen's Gallantry Medal

Notable incidents and investigationsEdit

  • 21 November 1974 (1974-11-21): Birmingham Pub Bombings: Twenty one people killed and one hundred and eighty two injured after devices exploded in the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs in Birmingham City Centre. Investigation by the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, six convicted but later compensated for wrongful imprisonment.
  • 19 October 1978 (1978-10-19): Murder of Carl Bridgewater: Investigation by the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, four convicted but later released and compensated for wrongful imprisonment.
  • 1989: Review of South Yorkshire Police following the Hillsborough Disaster: Force called in to investigate South Yorkshire officers' conduct after the 1989 stadium crush. West Midlands discovered that South Yorkshire Police had altered 164 witness statements and alleged that they pressured and bullied witnesses to change their statements about the disaster.[153]
  • 2 January 2003 (2003-01-02): Murder of Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis in a gang-related drive-by machine-gunning.
  • 28 July 2005 (2005-07-28): Birmingham tornado: Officers involved in rescue and recovery operation following a tornado touching down in Sparkbrook.
  • 22 October 2005 (2005-10-22)–23 October 2005 (2005-10-23): Handsworth Riots: Race riots in Handsworth and Lozells on two consecutive nights, following rumours of an alleged gang rape of a teenage black girl by a group of South Asian men. One member of the public died as a result of stab wounds and a police officer was shot and wounded.[154]
  • 2007: Operation Gamble: A plot by British Pakistanis in Birmingham to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier. Eight homes and four businesses were raided after an investigation involving intelligence services and other police forces. The investigation led to 9 arrests, 6 of whom were charged.
  • 2010: Papal visit to the United Kingdom: Large policing operation to assist with security measures during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom which included a mass of Beatification in Cofton Park and dinner at St Mary's College, New Oscott, Sutton Coldfield.
  • 6 August 2011 (2011-08-06)–10 August 2011 (2011-08-10): England Riots: Large scale disorders across England affecting the centres of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and West Bromwich, following the death of Mark Duggan
  • 2012: London Olympic Games: Officers from across the West Midlands were involved in policing events in the region and were deployed on Mutual Aid to help assist other forces.

Photo galleryEdit

See alsoEdit


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Further readingEdit

  • M. Talbot, A Peeler in the Family, 2011.
  • M. Talbot, Birmingham City Police (1939–1945), 2012.
  • J. Klein, Invisible Men: The Daily Lives of Police Constable in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2010.
  • J. Reilly, Policing Birmingham: An Account of 150 Years of Police in Birmingham, West Midlands Police, 1989.
  • P. Browning, The Good Guys Wear Blue: One Mans Struggle Policing the Tough Streets of Coventry, Reality Press Ltd, 2007.

External linksEdit