A police force that failed to properly deal with disorder when a large group of travellers arrived in a seaside town “misread the significance of events”, a report said.
Norfolk Police launched a review into their response to events in Cromer over the weekend of August 18-20, when there had been reports of crimes including a rape and thefts, and residents said on social media that the town was on “lockdown” after pubs closed early or refused to open.
At the time, the force described the incidents as “low-level disorder”.
The review found that police “did not recognise the impact the travellers’ presence and behaviour was having on the community” and, as a result, they failed to deploy enough resources.
“The force misread the significance of events and provided an ill-judged statement on social media referring to the disorder as ‘low level’,” the report said.
The review makes recommendations in four main areas: the sharing of intelligence, leadership decisions, social media messages, and how unauthorised encampments are dealt with.
Norfolk Police had been told by Suffolk Police that the group of travellers had left Lowestoft after causing some disruption there and were heading to Norfolk, the report said.
This information was “not recorded on official systems” in a way that allowed it to reach key people within Norfolk Police, and resulted in senior officers making initial decisions without knowing all of the facts.
It meant police decided that the local council should take the lead on the unauthorised traveller encampment instead of using police powers to move the group, and events were treated “as part of normal business across a busy weekend”.
“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,” the report said.
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.”
Recommendations include further training and changes to internal police processes.