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Bedfordshire 2015

Read more about Bedfordshire 2015

This is HMIC’s second assessment of the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy with which Bedfordshire Police 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 Bedfordshire Police is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.

The extent to which Bedfordshire Police is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.

The extent to which Bedfordshire Police is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.

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 Bedfordshire Police’s performance this year, including where I would like to see improvements next year.

Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary

Read the transcript of the video

Contact Zoë Billingham

HMI’s observations

In its PEEL inspections this year, HMIC found some areas of serious concern in the performance of Bedfordshire Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime. In view of these findings, I have been in regular contact with the chief constable and I am reassured by the positive way in which the force has acknowledged and responded to the issues we have raised. However, significant improvement is needed in a number of areas.

I do not underestimate the very significant challenges that the force faces, including its historically low funding position and the complex demands of policing an area like Luton. I am satisfied that the chief officer team in Bedfordshire Police is fully committed to making changes to the way the force organises itself to secure the necessary improvements. I welcome these changes and commend the force for the determination it shows to improve policing services for the public.

While the force’s crime investigation is good, and it works well to stop some re-offending, it needs to improve how it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour, including the way it tackles serious and organised crime.

I am particularly concerned about the force’s inadequate approach to protecting vulnerable victims. Problems highlighted in the inspection include weaknesses in the assessment of risk at the first point of contact, including incidents involving vulnerable people such as victims of domestic abuse; and inconsistencies in the force’s response to missing children and young people. However, I am most encouraged that the force has taken immediate action to address these concerns. I also commend the force for being the first in the country to have secured female genital mutilation protection orders, and in doing so protecting two young girls from atrocious harm.

I am satisfied that the force recognises the difficulty of its future financial position, and I am pleased by the strong collaborative arrangements it has with Hertfordshire Constabulary and Cambridgeshire Constabulary through which it is realising efficiencies. However, I remain concerned that the savings the force has made over the past four years have reduced its capacity to respond to the demands on its services, and it is now struggling to meet the public’s needs. Our efficiency inspection concluded that Bedfordshire Police’s financial position is not sustainable in the long term.

The force has some good examples of public engagement in Luton, but needs to do more to understand the needs of the diverse communities across all of Bedfordshire.

I very much welcome the actions that are being led by the new chief constable to address the concerns that we have identified and the impressive commitment of the officers and staff throughout the force to keeping the public safe.

Description of force area

Bedfordshire Police provides policing services to the county of Bedfordshire. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Bedfordshire is generally affluent. Around 0.6 million people mainly live in the urban centres which include the towns of Luton and Bedford. The resident population is ethnically very diverse, with 23 percent from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and is increased by students who study in the area’s university and the large numbers who travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes a major airport.

The proportion of areas in Bedfordshire that are predicted to present a very high challenge to the police is lower than the national average. These are characterised by social deprivation or a concentration of commercial premises (including licensed premises), and in some cases both.

Working arrangements

A number of chief officer changes have taken place, including the appointment of a new chief constable, who was previously the deputy chief constable.

The mature and successful collaboration of Bedfordshire Police with Hertfordshire Constabulary and Cambridgeshire Constabulary brings efficiencies across specialist operational and support services. There are clear plans in place to develop further joint arrangements.

Effectiveness

In our effectiveness inspection, we judged Bedfordshire Police to require improvement in the way in which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force needs to improve how it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour. The force’s crime investigation is good and it works well to stop some re-offending. The force has good arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities, but needs to improve the way it tackles serious and organised crime which is a significant threat in parts of Bedfordshire. Of concern is the force’s inadequate approach to protecting vulnerable victims as detailed in our vulnerability report in December 2015. 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

Bedfordshire Police is partly prepared to face its future financial challenges. The force has achieved all of the savings required to date, but in doing so it had reduced its capacity to respond to the demands on its services. Bedfordshire Police was struggling to meet the public’s needs, but took immediate steps to address this issue following our inspection. The force recognises the scale of the future challenges and is working hard to address them. However, because of the risks and uncertainties surrounding its future plans, HMIC is concerned that Bedfordshire Police’s future financial position is not sustainable for the long term. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the previous spending review period, Bedfordshire Police was judged to require improvement.

Legitimacy

The chief officer team takes seriously the need for an ethical and inclusive workforce. The force has some good examples of public engagement, but needs to do more to understand and engage with communities across all of Bedfordshire. Decision-making by Taser-trained officers is fair and appropriate, and the force complies with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme.

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

Leadership

Bedfordshire Police has some leadership strengths, and the new chief constable has articulated a clear vision for future improvements. The force has a clear sense of its strategic direction and this can be seen through its work to introduce a new policing model and its strong approach to collaboration with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary.

Insights from other inspections

HMIC undertakes other inspections in addition to the PEEL programme. Since the last PEEL assessment there have been four reports published on inspections that included Bedfordshire Police. More detail on some of these inspections can be found under the Other inspections section.

Looking ahead 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 quality and consistency of the assessment of and response to vulnerable victims; especially missing and victims of domestic abuse; and
  • how the new chief officer team secures an improved service to all the communities across Bedfordshire.

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

HMIC judges that Bedfordshire Police requires improvement in its approach to keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force needs to improve how it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour. The force’s crime investigation is good and it works well to stop some re-offending. The force has good arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities, but needs to improve the way it tackles serious and organised crime which is a significant threat in parts of Bedfordshire. Of concern is the force’s inadequate approach to protecting vulnerable victims as detailed in our vulnerability report in December 2015. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so comparison of their year-on-year effectiveness is not possible.

Bedfordshire Police requires improvement in its approach to keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force is committed to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. Generally, police officers understand this but the force has not yet assigned the right number of appropriately skilled staff to local neighbourhoods so that there can be a focus on preventing problems from occurring in the first place, or from escalating. The force needs to do more to learn from what works and share these lessons throughout the force, so that it can use its limited resources to maximum effect.

When a crime has occurred, the force acts quickly and its subsequent investigations are mostly good. The force works well to identify, investigate and bring to justice repeat and dangerous offenders and stop them re-offending. The force has improved its approach to investigating crime since HMIC’s last inspection in 2014 which is extremely positive given the extensive challenges the force faces, not least its funding challenge.

The force’s approach to tackling domestic abuse has improved since HMIC’s last inspection in 2014, although the force still needs to improve its services dedicated to supporting victims and protecting the most vulnerable people. HMIC has serious concerns about how Bedfordshire Police deals with missing children, particularly looked-after children, who are among the most vulnerable and need to be properly protected. We found gaps in the training and awareness of frontline staff about how they should identify risk and vulnerability and the steps they should take to safeguard vulnerable people, particularly children. Following our inspection the force took immediate steps to address the areas of serious concern. The force has made a good start in preparing to tackle child sexual exploitation.

Bedfordshire Police deals with a range of complex policing challenges and serious criminality on a scale not normally experienced by a force of its size. The force, together with its partners, needs to improve its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime, and improve its multi-agency response to it, including work to prevent people from becoming involved in organised crime.

The leadership of the force has strong oversight of its ability to respond to national threats, such as terrorism, serious cyber-crime incidents and child sexual abuse. Its own arrangements for ensuring it can meet its national obligations in this regard (such as planning, testing and exercising) are good.

 

View the four questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

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

Last updated 20/10/2015
Requires improvement

HMIC found that Bedfordshire Police is partly prepared to face its future financial challenges. The force has achieved all of the savings required to date, but in doing so it has reduced its capacity to respond to the demands on its services, and is now struggling to meet the public’s needs. The force recognises the scale of the future challenges and is working hard to address them. However, because of the risks and uncertainties surrounding its future plans, HMIC is concerned that Bedfordshire Police’s future financial position is not sustainable for the long term. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, Bedfordshire Police was judged to require improvement.

HMIC judges Bedfordshire Police requires improvement. The force has improved its understanding of the demands on its services, although it still needs to do further work in order to make the most efficient use of police time, and more effectively plan for the future.

The force has identified that, as part of past cost-cutting measures, it has reduced its police officer strength to a level that is insufficient to meet either current or future demand for police services. It is planning to introduce a new operating model for local policing to tackle the current weaknesses. The force has demonstrated a keen commitment to working collaboratively with other police forces wherever possible, both regionally and within the tri-force collaboration with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies, to secure efficiencies and make service improvements.

There is a significant amount of change planned over the next two years. Although Bedfordshire Police recognises the risks involved, HMIC is concerned that the force will struggle to maintain an acceptable level of service to the public as the changes are implemented.

Of most concern is the force’s future financial position. The savings planned are heavily reliant on the new model being able to operate with fewer staff; and the proposed extended collaboration providing extensive cost savings. There can be no certainty at this stage that either of these two areas will achieve the planned savings. At the same time, the force is planning to use its reserves to balance its budgets. This means that, at the end of this period, reserves will have been reduced to a level that provides only a very limited cushion against future contingencies. HMIC is therefore concerned that Bedfordshire Police’s long-term financial position is not sustainable.

 

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 chief officer team takes seriously the need to be an ethical and inclusive workforce. The force has some good examples of public engagement, but needs to do more to understand and engage with communities across Bedfordshire.

Decision-making by Taser-trained officers is fair and appropriate and the force complies with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme.

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

The creation of a force-wide ethics committee is encouraging, and the chief officer team is committed to developing and maintaining an ethical culture in Bedfordshire Police. The force has made sufficient effort to establish the Code of Ethics, and has incorporated it into its own statement of visions and values, called ‘Our Force: Our Brand’. These ethical principles are understood by staff. The force effectively promotes the wellbeing of the workforce. However, there was a lack of a consistent approach in the assessment of internal misconduct allegations for police officers and police staff.

When HMIC looked at how well the force understands and successfully engages with all the people it serves, HMIC considers that the force should do more to reflect the good work that it is doing in Luton and ensure that it equally engages and understands other communities across the force area.

The force should take steps to ensure its local teams have sufficient information available to them to improve their understanding of local communities.

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. Officers understand the principles and features of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and the force is complying with it. Taser use is fair and appropriate.

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.

Bedfordshire Police has some leadership strengths, and the new chief constable has articulated a clear vision for future improvements. The force has a clear sense of its strategic direction and this can be seen through its work to introduce a new policing model and its strong approach to collaboration with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary.

HMIC found recent improvements in the way the force manages the performance of police staff and officers, with the introduction of a refreshed performance review system. However, the force does not as yet have a way of identifying and developing talented staff and officers for promotion nor does it have a leadership programme in place.

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 Bedfordshire Police.

View other reports

Key facts

Force Area

477 square miles

Population

0.64m people 11% local 10 yr change

Workforce

76% frontline 78% national level
3.2 per 1000 population 3.6 national level
8% change in local workforce since 2010 15% national change since 2010

Victim-based crimes

0.06 per person 0.05 national level
Local 5 year trend (no change) National 5 year trend (no change)

Cost

43p per person per day local 55p per person per day national

Points of context provided by the force

A small, diverse police force with vibrant urban centres, market towns and rural parishes, critical transport links and complex crime challenges.

A low-cost force, committed to safeguarding and improving services through radical internal change and collaboration with neighbouring police forces.

Police and crime plan priorities

My ambition is to build a safer Bedfordshire by increasing the protection of the public and partnership working, thereby creating confident communities.  My plan aims to prevent crime by tackling the underlying causes, reducing the number of victims and breaking the cycle of reoffending.