Promoting improvements in policing to make everyone safer
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) independently assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and policing from the work of neighbourhood teams to serious crime and the fight against terrorism, in the public interest.
In preparing our reports, we ask the questions which citizens would ask, and publish the answers in accessible form, using our expertise to interpret the evidence and make recommendations for improvement. We provide authoritative information to allow the public to compare the performance of their force against others, and our evidence is used to drive improvements in the service to the public.
HMIC is independent of the Government and the police:
- HM Inspectors of Constabulary are appointed by the Crown; they are not employees of the police service or the Government.
- HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary reports to the Home Secretary and Parliament on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces in England and Wales.
- HM Inspectors of Constabulary may be called to give evidence before committees of Parliament, and must account for their actions to the public also through the media. As is the case with all public bodies, HM Inspectors of Constabulary are also susceptible to judicial review.
- Although HMIC’s budget is set by the Government, and the inspection programme requires the Home Secretary’s approval, no Minister, police and crime commissioner or chief officer can interfere with the contents of an HMIC report or the judgment of HM Inspectors of Constabulary.
HMIC’s annual inspection programme is subject to the approval of the Home Secretary under the Police Act 1996.
The Home Secretary may also require HMIC to carry out further inspections, beyond the terms of the annual inspection programme. Police and crime commissioners may commission HMIC to do inspections in their force areas, although HMIC is not required to accept any such commission.
In devising its inspection programme for the Home Secretary’s approval, HMIC considers the risks to the public, service quality, public concerns, the operating environment, the effect which inspection may have on a force, and the benefits to the public of improvements which may follow inspection.
HMIC may also carry out inspections on its own initiative if it considers that the performance or circumstances of a force merit it.
HMIC is an inspectorate, not a regulator. Regulators have powers of intervention, direction and enforcement. Inspectorates have powers to secure information (including powers to enter police premises), but no powers to give orders for change. Recommendations are not orders.
It is for chief constables (whose operational independence is a cornerstone of British policing), police and crime commissioners (with powers to set local priorities and budgets) and, in extreme cases, the Home Secretary (who has ultimate democratic responsibility for policing) to take action as a result of HMIC’s recommendations.
Police and crime commissioners are required to publish their comments on each HMIC report within 56 days of its publication, and must include an explanation of the steps to be taken in response to each HMIC recommendation or an explanation why no action has been or is to be taken in that respect.
On our 150th anniversary in July 2006, a book charting the history of HMIC was produced.