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Avon and Somerset PEEL 2015

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.

Questions for Legitimacy

1

To what extent does practice and behaviour reinforce the wellbeing of staff and an ethical culture?

HMIC found that the practice and behaviour of staff in Avon and Somerset Constabulary reflects an ethical culture, in which their wellbeing issues are monitored. However, the constabulary had no overall wellbeing policy, and officers and staff reported mixed views about the constabulary’s commitment to their wellbeing.

The constabulary promotes the Code of Ethics as an integral part of its Be Proud programme, which reinforces expectations relating to ethical behaviour. The launch of the code was accompanied by briefings to officers and staff. Be Proud had a high profile on the intranet, and through posters displayed in police stations. Supervisors were encouraged to talk with officers and staff about what makes them proud, and to link this to the constabulary’s values, service promise and Code of Ethics.

We found that staff were confident and willing to challenge decisions or behaviour of peers. However, staff told us they felt less confident or willing to challenge the decisions or behaviour of senior managers, for fear that it might detrimentally affect their career.

The constabulary recognised that it needs to do more to ensure it has accurate data in respect of complaints and misconduct allegations and to ensure fairness in respect of investigation outcomes.

Good
2

To what extent are forces recording crimes in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules?

This question has not been inspected or graded in 2015.

Ungraded
3

How well does the force understand, engage with and treat fairly the people it serves to maintain and improve its legitimacy?

Neighbourhood teams across Avon and Somerset engage well with the public and understand how this promotes police legitimacy. Most officers and staff support this approach, with leadership being provided by chief officers, who promote constabulary values through the Be Proud programme.

The constabulary has a sufficient understanding of its communities and develops this through meetings, surveys, impact assessments and a commitment to listening and providing feedback to the public.

Engagement with communities is tailored to their needs, as shown by the good work of local officers and a central team that provides effective advice and support to them. The constabulary also uses social appropriately to enable further opportunities for public engagement and involvement.

The constabulary encourages the public to engage in policing activities through local meetings, open days and social media and we found a broad range of opportunities for voluntary work with the police.

Call-handlers and front desk staff are generally polite, friendly and helpful and most officers and staff behave in a respectful and fair manner. The chief constable and other senior staff encourage and support this approach.

Good
4

To what extent are decisions taken on the use of stop and search and Taser fair and appropriate?

Avon and Somerset Constabulary is compliant with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. Most officers have a good understanding of their powers, although not all officers use the National Decision Model (the framework by which all policing decisions should be made, examined and challenged) when using these powers. Understanding of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme is not consistent.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary has an effective system for ensuring that Tasers are used fairly and appropriately.

Taser-equipped officers have a good understanding of the National Decision Model. Effective supervision and evaluation of Taser use also supports fair and appropriate use.

We found a clear rationale for the distribution and numbers of Taser-equipped officers across the constabulary. Operationally, officers are mostly using Taser fairly and appropriately.

Good