WITH the possible exception of those Chief Constables whose pips are now on the line, everyone will welcome today's detailed police ratings.

The reports by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) have obvious benefits. For the first time, the public can accurately appraise their constabulary's performance in comparison with neighbouring forces, and judge whether their money is being spent wisely.

Chief Constables can use the independent assessments to improve areas of weakness. There is plenty for North Yorkshire's leading policewoman, Della Cannings, to work on. HMIC chief Sir Keith Povey said the force was "teetering on the edge" of being ranked alongside the worst five performingforces. That is disappointing. Ms Cannings has responded by pointing to the progress the force has made since the report was compiled.

She has a point. The inspectorate itself noted signs of improvement in recent months. North Yorkshire police's worst rating was the "poor" it scored for volume crime such as theft and robbery. The improvement in this area is already visible.

Last week we reported the latest crime figures which left North Yorkshire on target to become the best-performing force in the country.

Robbery was down by a quarter, domestic burglaries dropped by more than a third and vehicle crime fell by more than 40 per cent.

Clearly the force is moving in the right direction. But the public will expect more, particularly after huge rises in the amount they pay in tax to the police.

Ms Cannings has some excellent officers: we report tonight how a judge commended undercover police work which trapped York drugs dealers.

If she can deploy her record-breaking resources to maximum effect, this will ensure the next inspectorate report makes for happier reading.

Updated: 12:03 Monday, June 14, 2004