Essex PEEL 2015
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.
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.
Essex Police is a well led force. It understands what is expected of leaders at every level and communicates this across the organisation. The chief officer team has a clear and realistic sense of the force’s priorities, though the force could take further action to ensure that its workforce fully understands this.
The force has begun a programme to invest in the leadership development of the workforce, and has updated its annual performance review process, but work is still required for the whole workforce to be fully involved in and supportive of the process.
How well does the force have a clear understanding of the current state of its leadership at every level?
HMIC examined how well forces understand the strengths and weaknesses of leadership across the force and how well the workforce understands its leadership role. Strong, clear leadership across every rank and grade is vital to the effectiveness and efficiency of a modern and capable police force.
Essex Police has a good understanding of what is required of leaders at every level and has communicated this across the organisation. The chief constable is recognised as the inspiration behind the clear messaging, and officers and staff describe him as having made a very positive impact on the force.
We found that Essex Police understands clearly the state of leadership at most levels of the force, including strengths and weaknesses and some understanding of skills, capacity and capability. It has a good understanding of senior leadership capabilities and those areas of risk such as child abuse investigation and public protection. The force is yet to carry out an assessment across the junior leadership roles but it regularly reviews leadership posts to ensure it can fill them when they are vacated.
Essex Police also has a good understanding of how its workforce perceives its senior leadership and leadership in general. The force has carried out two staff surveys recently (in 2013 and 2015) and workforce members we spoke to during our inspection reported that they had seen positive changes in the force as a result of these surveys.
How well has the force provided a clear and compelling sense of the future direction of the organisation?
HMIC examined the extent to which forces have set out a clear, compelling and realistic sense of future direction, because it is important to ensure that the workforce is motivated to build for the future and that the force knows the kinds of skills it is looking to develop. We were also interested to find out how well leaders are making use of new approaches to enable forces to meet future financial challenges.
The force has set clear and realistic priorities and can demonstrate that it has communicated this to some effect, inside and outside the force. The force has communicated this direction in a number of different ways including the use of a ‘plan on a page’, which conveys simply and effectively the force’s mission and values. The workforce knows well and understands the ‘plan on a page’, and the twice-weekly chief constable’s blog further reinforces the plan’s messages.
Despite these successes, HMIC found that some of the workforce does not understand fully the force’s change programme and future priorities. During our inspection, some police staff and officers spoke of sending questions to the force’s change programme team and not receiving a reply, which they felt was an area in which the force could improve.
The force is reviewing and implementing a range of new ideas, approaches and technological opportunities. These include body-worn cameras, which has already improved officer safety and provided better evidence at domestic abuse cases. The force intends to equip its frontline officers with the latest mobile technology, supporting them to provide faster and more effective responses to crime and anti-social behaviour.
How is the force developing leadership, motivating the workforce and encouraging staff engagement?
HMIC examined how well forces identify and develop leadership, as good quality of leadership is key to ensuring that forces overcome their challenges of reducing crime and meeting the needs of victims. We were not looking for one particular style of leadership, but focused on how well leaders motivate their workforce and improve performance to provide a quality service to the public.
The force has strengthened workforce annual assessments, but could improve them still further. While staff and officers recognise that without a completed annual performance review they will not be considered for promotion, they do not generally understand how to set their personal objectives in line with the force’s expectations. As such, the force should continue to develop its performance management system so that the whole workforce recognises it as an essential tool for their development.
The force is taking proactive steps to improve future leadership. It has recognised the need to identify talented staff and bring them through the ranks and grades, although its plans to do so are at an early stage. The force appointed a talent manager last year who is responsible for the provision of workforce mentors and coaches. The force already has a formal mentoring programme and is creating a talent management strategy. The new strategy will firmly place the annual performance review at the centre of recognising talent, and make it easier for those wishing to develop their careers either via promotion or laterally. This is a positive step and should also contribute towards improving workforce performance management.
To what extent is leadership improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of the force?
Leadership in Essex Police has resulted in a stronger focus on improving their legitimacy, in the way it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The chief officer team has clearly set out expected standards, and the workforce perceives the team as being approachable. The chief constable has articulated clearly the force’s expected ethical culture, and many staff and officers we spoke to during our inspection commented that the chief constable was obviously keen to engage with the workforce through road shows and a blog. HMIC found that this leadership had resulted in the workforce widely understanding the force’s core values and principles.
The force has ensured that the Code of Ethics underpins its policies. The chief officer team is committed to implementing fully the code. Senior officers and managers lead seminars on this for all staff. However, it is important for the force to ensure that its staff and officers comply fully with the force’s policies and procedures.
Wellbeing is also important to senior leaders and the force has held wellbeing days over the past year. The workforce has received this well, however during HMIC’s inspection, some of the individuals we spoke to commented that the occupational health department is currently not able to meet demand.