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Avon and Somerset 2015

Read more about Avon and Somerset 2015

This is HMIC’s second assessment of the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy with which Avon and Somerset Constabulary keeps people safe and reduces crime. PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) gives you information about how your local police force is performing in several important areas. It does this in a way that is comparable both across England and Wales, and year-on-year.

The extent to which Avon and Somerset Constabulary is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.

The extent to which Avon and Somerset Constabulary is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.

The extent to which Avon and Somerset Constabulary is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.

Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary

Contact Wendy Williams

HMI's observations

This year, for the first time, we have assessed leadership across the force. The assessment has led to a narrative rather than graded judgment, which is summarised below.

Read more about my assessment of Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s performance this year, including any exceptional events and where I would like to see improvements next year.

I am pleased with the performance of Avon and Somerset Constabulary in keeping people safe and reducing crime.

The force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and has good arrangements in place to tackle serious and organised crime. While our inspections revealed concerns about how vulnerable people are kept safe, the accuracy of some risk assessments and the consistency of its investigations, I am pleased with the positive response from the force. It is clearly striving to prioritise its resources towards areas of greatest threat, risk and harm in order to protect vulnerable people. The innovative Lighthouse programme offers an opportunity for the force to improve its services and give better care to victims.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary has a comprehensive understanding of the demands for its services and the quality of its financial planning will equip it to face future financial challenges. The force has reviewed its structure and services and as a result has successfully implemented a new operating model.

Officers and staff in local teams have a good understanding of their neighbourhoods, and they work closely and engage in a positive way with the public. I was particularly impressed by the effort the force has made in engaging with the Somali community in Bristol.

Description of force area

Avon and Somerset Constabulary provides policing services to the areas of Bristol, Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Avon and Somerset is generally affluent. Around 1.7 million people mainly live in the urban centres which include the cities of Bristol and Bath and the towns of Weston-super-Mare, Taunton and Yeovil. The resident population is increased by students who study in the universities and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, commute into, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes major rail stations and an airport.

The proportion of areas in Avon and Somerset that are predicted to present a very high challenge to the police is broadly in line with the national average. These are characterised by social deprivation or a concentration of commercial premises (including licensed premises), and in some cases both. Providing services across the entirety of the force area is hindered by the road network.

Exceptional events

The force has dealt with a number of high profile events that include: the protracted Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into, and eventual resignation of, Chief Constable Nick Gargan; a high profile IPCC investigation, court case and disciplinary hearings following the murder of Bijan Ebrahimi; and the Becky Watts murder investigation.

The badger cull operations within the area have also placed particular pressure on local police resources, while attracting high levels of media attention.

Working arrangements

The force works collaboratively with other south west police forces in a number of operations. This collaborative work includes major crime investigations, roads policing, firearms and police dogs, as well as regional intelligence and serious organised crime and counter terrorism. In addition, the force is working with IBM to develop force support functions such as HR and finance. This arrangement is due for review in 2017. The force is also considering the business case for entering into an alliance with Wiltshire Police.

Effectiveness

In our effectiveness inspection, we judged Avon and Somerset to require improvement in the way in which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour but the standards of victim care and the quality of investigations lack consistency. The force is generally good at identifying vulnerable people but an accurate assessment of the risks presented to domestic abuse victims and persons reported as missing is in need of improvement. There are good arrangements in place to tackle serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so comparison of their year-on-year effectiveness is not possible.

Efficiency

HMIC found that Avon and Somerset Constabulary is very well prepared to face its future financial challenges. The force successfully reduced spending over the last spending review period through robust financial management and a commitment to continuous improvement. The force has a comprehensive understanding of the demands for its services and is planning effectively for future financial challenges. In last year’s HMIC value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the previous spending review period, the force was judged to be outstanding.

Legitimacy

The force takes seriously the need to have an ethical and inclusive workforce, although we found mixed views about its commitment to the wellbeing of officers and staff and challenging more senior officers. Local police teams have a good understanding of their neighbourhoods, and they engage positively with the public. The force complies with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and Taser use is mostly fair and appropriate.

This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.

Leadership

Avon and Somerset Constabulary has shared its mission, vision and values with its workforce, which understands what is expected of it. The force has articulated clearly its future plans through its new operating model, although some of the workforce has expressed concern about its effectiveness.

The force largely mitigated the negative effects on the workforce of the high profile changes to the chief officer team. It has developed a strategic approach to talent management, which will help the force develop its leaders of the future.

Insights from other inspections

HMIC undertakes other inspections in addition to the PEEL programme, since the last PEEL assessment there have been six reports published which covered Avon and Somerset Constabulary. More detail can be found under the Other inspections section.

I would draw particular attention to our thematic inspection of the police service’s handling of honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The force had in place some effective mechanisms to engage with harder to reach communities and had worked hard to encourage victims of these crimes to come forward.

Looking forward to PEEL 2016

In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how the force responds to this assessment, and to the causes of concern and areas for improvement that HMIC has identified in the last year.

I will be particularly interested to see:

  • how the force improves the consistency of its assessment and response to missing and absent children;
  • how the force improves the consistency of its assessment and response to domestic abuse;
  • how the force improves the initial investigation and allocations of cases for investigation; and
  • how the new chief constable will lead the force to achieve improvements in policing services.

In May 2016, like the majority of forces in England and Wales, the force will see the second elections for its police and crime commissioner.

 

Effectiveness

How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 18/02/2016
Requires improvement

Overall, Avon and Somerset Constabulary is judged to require improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The constabulary is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour but the standards of victim care and the quality of investigations lack consistency. The constabulary is generally good at identifying vulnerability but an accurate assessment of the risks presented to domestic abuse victims and persons reported as missing is not always evident. There are good arrangements in place to tackle serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so comparison of their year-on-year effectiveness is not possible.

HMIC judges overall that Avon and Somerset Constabulary requires improvement in the way that it keeps people safe and reduces crime.

It is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and these priorities are understood by frontline staff that we spoke to. The constabulary places a firm emphasis on problem-solving; it works carefully with partners to put in place early interventions for those who are at risk of slipping into crime or anti-social behaviour.

The constabulary works with five local councils and adapts its services well to different working practices within each of them. This can bring challenges at times and may limit some of the constabulary’s ambitions. For example, a multi-agency safeguarding hub which provides support to victims has been established in one council area whereas different arrangements exist elsewhere.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary requires improvement in the way it investigates crime. HMIC found examples of crime being assigned to investigators who lack the requisite skills and experience and standards of investigation are inconsistent. Furthermore, the constabulary’s responsibility to update victims about the progress of crime enquiries is not understood and accepted by all as routine practice. This is of particular concern as both of these shortcomings were pointed out to the constabulary in inspections over the last two years.

HMIC acknowledges that these difficulties are exacerbated both by the introduction of an updated crime reporting system and the implementation of a new operating model.

The constabulary’s ability to protect the vulnerable also requires improvement. It is generally good at identifying vulnerable people but more needs to be done to accurately assess the risk presented to domestic abuse victims and people who are reported as missing.

More positively, the constabulary responds well to the harm that organised crime groups can cause in communities.

 

 

View the four questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 20/10/2015
Good

HMIC found that Avon and Somerset Constabulary is very well prepared to face its future financial challenges. The constabulary successfully reduced spending over the last spending review period through robust financial management and a commitment to continuous improvement. The constabulary has a comprehensive understanding of the demands for its services and is planning effectively for future financial challenges. In last year’s HMIC value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, the constabulary was judged to be outstanding.

HMIC judges Avon and Somerset Constabulary to be good. It has carried out a highly effective piece of work that has provided a detailed understanding of demand for its services. It has used this understanding to restructure its operating model to make the best use of its workforce which is sustainable, affordable and continues to provide effective policing services to the public.

The constabulary uses an online resource modelling tool to allocate staff to areas of policing so it can make sure that there is a systematic and scientific way of aligning resources to demand and providing sustainable services to the public.

The constabulary makes good use of technology to allocate resources on a day-to-day basis, supported by improved processes. The constabulary has also invested in technology so its workforce can have better remote access to its IT systems. This means the constabulary has increased available resources that it can deploy to meet demand.

The constabulary has recognised that it has to recruit and train its people to meet the changing demand on policing within a reduced budget. It has reviewed its training needs and has prioritised training to prepare and equip staff to work within the operating model.

The constabulary understands the risks associated with the change programme; initial indications are that the new operating model is currently meeting demand within the constabulary’s budget. It will need to undertake further work to assess formally the benefits of these changes. Greater detail will be required for the mid-term financial planning.

The constabulary’s plans reflect the policing priorities set by the police and crime commissioner (PCC). This is further supported by clear governance arrangements, information sharing and joint financial planning with the office of the police and crime commissioner (OPCC).

The constabulary has a solid track record of achieving savings and has received favourable comment from both internal and external auditors with regard to its financial planning.

The constabulary is well positioned to identify savings for years beyond 2015/16, but further work is required to develop the detailed proposals.

 

View the three questions for efficiency

Legitimacy

How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 11/02/2016
Good

The constabulary takes seriously the need for an ethical and inclusive workforce, although we found mixed views about its commitment to wellbeing. Local police teams have a good understanding of their neighbourhoods, and they engage positively with the public. The constabulary complies with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and Taser use is mostly fair and appropriate.

This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.

HMIC found the practice and behaviour of staff in Avon and Somerset Constabulary reflects an ethical culture in which their wellbeing is monitored and maintained. The constabulary promotes the Code of Ethics as an integral part of its Be Proud programme, which reinforces expectations relating to ethical behaviour. We found staff were confident to challenge unethical decisions or behaviour of peers, but less confident to challenge senior managers. We found mixed views about Avon and Somerset’s commitment to the wellbeing of its staff, and the constabulary did not have a wellbeing policy.

When HMIC looked at how well the constabulary understands and engages with all the people it serves, we found that most officers and staff engage fairly and positively with the public and understand their needs, as shown by the good work with the Somali community in Bristol.

As a result we are satisfied that the constabulary has a good understanding of the needs of local people and that most officers treat people fairly and with respect.

Stop and search and Taser are two ways that the police can prevent crime and protect the public. However, they can be intrusive and forceful methods, and it is therefore vital the police use them fairly and appropriately. Avon and Somerset Constabulary is compliant with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, although its understanding of the scheme is not consistent. Officers are mostly using Taser fairly and appropriately.

View the four questions for legitimacy

Other inspections

How well has the force performed in our other inspections?

In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMIC carries out inspections of a wide range of policing activity throughout the year. Some of these are conducted alongside the PEEL inspections (for instance, our 2016 leadership assessment); others are joint inspections.

Findings from these inspections are published separately to the main PEEL reports, but are taken into account when producing the rounded assessment of each force's performance.

Leadership

Last updated 25/02/2016

As part of HMIC’s annual all-force inspections into police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) in 2015, HMIC assessed how well led forces are at every rank and grade of the organisation and across all areas inspected in PEEL. We reviewed how well a force understands and is developing its leaders; whether it has set a clear and compelling future direction; and how well it motivates and engages the workforce.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary has clearly shared its mission, vision and values with its workforce, which understands what is expected of it. The force has articulated clearly its future plans through its new operating model, although some of the workforce has expressed concern about its effectiveness.

While the constabulary has recently changed some of its chief officers, it has managed largely to mitigate any negative effects on the workforce. This includes the development of a strategic approach to talent management, which will help the constabulary develop its leaders of the future.

View the four questions for leadership

Other reports

Last updated 22/02/2016

This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

View other reports

Key facts

Force Area

1844 square miles

Population

1.65m people 8% local 10 yr change

Workforce

76% frontline 78% national level
3 per 1000 population 3.6 national level
11% change in local workforce since 2010 15% national change since 2010

Victim-based crimes

0.06 per person 0.06 national level
Local 5 year trend (no change) National 5 year trend (no change)

Cost

46p per person per day local 55p per person per day national

Points of context provided by the force

The area has extensive rural areas, coast, holiday and market towns through to busy city centres and is intersected by major transport routes.

The area hosts Glastonbury Festival, one of the world’s largest music festivals, and this is one of the force’s most significant events.

Police and crime plan priorities

  • Reducing anti-social behaviour
  • Reducing burglary and fear of burglary
  • Tackling domestic and sexual abuse
  • Putting victims at the heart of criminal justice