North Wales 2015Read more about North Wales 2015
This is HMIC’s second assessment of the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy with which North Wales 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 North Wales Police is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.
The extent to which North Wales Police is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
The extent to which North Wales 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 North Wales Police’s performance this year, including where I would like to see improvements next year.
I am satisfied with most aspects of North Wales Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime, but there are some areas that need to be improved in order to provide a consistently good service.
The force is good at preventing crime and anti social behaviour and in tackling serious and organised crime. However, it needs to improve its allocation of crimes for investigation in a manner that matches the skills and experience of the investigator to the needs of vulnerable victims.
I have concerns about how the force responds to vulnerable victims. The force is developing its understanding of the scale and impact of child sexual abuse and its joint service delivery with Barnardo’s is building stronger support for young people who are at risk. However, this initiative is being hindered by the difficulty of identifying those who are most vulnerable from harm during their initial contact with the police. There are also inconsistencies in the management of offenders and in the assessment of and response to victims of domestic abuse. I welcome the steps that the force is taking to address these areas, including the use of body-worn cameras to improve the quality of evidence that may be obtained. The increase in the number of independent domestic violence advisors will help to bolster the support available for those victims at greatest risk.
I am satisfied that the force has plans, matched to improvements in working practices, that will meet the challenge of doing more with less. Improvements include the wider use of new technology and, in particular, the use of mobile data. These technological changes will enable frontline officers to have access to police IT systems and information, so they can work efficiently and effectively without the need to return to a police station.
Description of force area
North Wales Police provides policing services to the areas of Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd and Wrexham. Although there are some more affluent areas, North Wales has a high level of poverty. Around 0.7 million people live in a largely rural setting. Its several distinct and small urban areas include the town of Wrexham. The resident population is increased by university students and the very large numbers who visit or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure also includes a major sea port.
The proportion of areas in North Wales that are predicted to present a very high challenge to the police 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. Providing services across the entirety of the force area is hindered by the size of the force area and the road network.
North Wales Police is part of the all-Wales counter terrorism unit. It works collaboratively with Cheshire Constabulary on firearms and the force is developing a way to work collaboratively with Merseyside Police and Cheshire Constabulary to provide forensic services. It is also working with the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and the Welsh Ambulance Service to identify potential areas for collaboration.
In our effectiveness inspection, we judged North Wales Police 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. However, in relation to how the force investigates crime, offender management is inconsistent and officers are sometimes assigned crimes to investigate that are beyond their level of training. Also, a more accurate assessment of risk when people first make contact with the force would ensure a better service is provided to victims. The force tackles serious and organised crime effectively in many respects although there is scope for improvement in some specific areas. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.
HMIC found that North Wales Police is prepared to face its future financial challenges. The force has managed its finances well. It has faced smaller than average reductions in its budgets and has therefore faced fewer job cuts, but it needs to do more work to plan how it will manage future reductions. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the previous spending review period, North Wales Police was judged to be good.
HMIC found that North Wales Police took seriously the need to establish an ethical and inclusive workforce, and was committed to supporting the workforce’s wellbeing. Local policing teams have a good understanding of their communities and are committed to the service they provide to victims of crime.
North Wales Police is compliant with most aspects of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme and we are satisfied that Taser is used fairly and appropriately.
This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
North Wales Police is a well led force and can show that it understands the capability and capacity of its workforce. The force has a clear, realistic and motivating sense of its future plans and priorities and its vision, ’A Safer North Wales‘, has been communicated to its workforce and outside the organisation. The senior officer team engages positively with the workforce, though some expressed concerns to us during our inspection that the leadership programme is not fully inclusive.
Insights from other inspections
HMIC undertakes other inspections in addition to the PEEL programme. Since the last PEEL assessment there have been five reports published on inspections that included North Wales 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 the areas for improvement that HMIC has identified in the last year.
I will be particularly interested to see:
- the continued investment in new technology, such as body-worn cameras and mobile data, to improve the quality of service provided to vulnerable victims;
- improvements in the identification of and response to vulnerable people;
- better use of collaborative working to bring about future savings and efficiencies, for example the tripartite venture with Merseyside Police and Cheshire Constabulary, covering forensic services; and
- the work the force undertakes to improve the overall quality of investigations.
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.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
North Wales Police is judged to require improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime.
The force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. However in relation to how the force investigates crime, offender management is inconsistent and officers are sometimes assigned crimes to investigate that are beyond their level of training. Also, a more accurate assessment of risk when people first make contact with the force would ensure a better service is provided to victims. The force tackles serious and organised crime effectively in many respects although there is scope for improvement in some specific areas. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.
The priority to prevent crime and to keep people safe is commonly understood across the whole force. The force works effectively with partners in achieving these aims; the North Wales Police Victims Care Centre, which brings together partners to provide enhanced support to victims, is a good example.
Some minor improvements are needed in how North Wales Police assesses the impact of tactics used to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour; nevertheless the force uses a broad range of interventions to resolve local problems and is supported well by partner service providers.
North Wales Police’s approach to investigating crime has some shortcomings. The force’s policy for allocating crime to investigators is not clearly understood by the workforce. Furthermore we found examples of frontline officers undertaking investigations that were beyond their level of training and experience, including high-risk domestic abuse cases. This means that the service to victims might fall short of the required standard.
Additionally the integrated offender management scheme, which manages persistent offenders, has a number of problems that limit its effectiveness. These include uncertainty about which offenders to include in the scheme, fragmented support from partner organisations and a lack of personalised plans for each client.
North Wales Police has a developing understanding of serious and organised crime. Serious and organised crime local profiles were being prepared but not complete at the time of our inspection. A greater involvement of partner organisations would not only bring a greater clarity of the scale of the problem but also offer solutions for tackling organised crime groups.
The force is assessed as being in a good state of readiness to fulfil its national policing responsibilities.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that North Wales Police is adequately prepared to face its future financial challenges. The force has managed its finances well. It has faced smaller than average reductions in its budgets and has therefore faced fewer job cuts, but it needs to do more work to plan how it will manage future reductions. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, North Wales Police was judged to be good.
HMIC judges North Wales Police to be good. The force has managed its finances well and has been able to minimise the impact of budget cuts on frontline policing. There has been only a small overall reduction in the size of the workforce. The force is working constructively in collaboration with other forces and with local partners. It has set itself a clear vision to improve policing and staff are working well to achieve improved services.
North Wales Police has recognised the importance of having a better understanding of demand in order to ensure that resources can be most efficiently used to prioritise and respond to the needs of the public. It needs to do more to ensure that police officers can work as efficiently as possible, through using new technology.
The current workforce model is aligned to the financial plans and the savings from workforce reductions to date are sustainable. However, the force has adopted a policy of employing more police officers than its budget allows and is using its reserves to balance the budget. This approach is not sustainable. North Wales Police is at the early stage of determining how the policing model may need to change to enable further cuts in staff numbers and provide sustainable and efficient levels of policing across North Wales.
The force has planned a balanced budget throughout the spending review and has ended each year until 2014/15 with an underspend. This has meant that it has been able to build up a high level of reserves, some of which it plans to invest in the cost of future change.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that North Wales Police takes seriously the need to establish an ethical and inclusive workforce, and is committed to supporting staff wellbeing. Local policing teams have a good understanding of their communities and are committed to the service they provide to victims of crime.
North Wales Police is compliant with most aspects of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, however, HMIC is concerned that reasonable grounds for stops and searches are not being properly recorded, or being properly supervised. We are satisfied that Taser is used fairly and appropriately.
This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
The chief constable has clearly set out a vision for staff to ‘do the right thing’, and the force is working towards a position where an ethical culture forms part of everyday policing. North Wales Police is fully committed to the wellbeing of staff and has a broad range of services in place. The force has set out to integrate the Code of Ethics, and more work is planned for it to be fully established. There is a consistent and fair complaints process and misconduct policy and staff told us they feel they would be treated fairly. There are issues reported in relation to timeliness and staff training for managing complaints.
When HMIC looked at how well the force understands and successfully engages with all the people it serves, we found evidence of effective local connections with local agencies and some communities; however, relevant and up-to-date information about policing actions dealing with local problems is not always provided in a consistent way. There is good evidence that the public of North Wales are being treated fairly and with respect by their local police.
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. North Wales Police is compliant with most aspects of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, with the exception of a ‘ride along’ scheme. HMIC is concerned that reasonable grounds are not being properly recorded for stops and searches, or being properly supervised. We are satisfied that Taser is used fairly and appropriately.
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.
North Wales Police is a well led force and can show that it understands the capability and capacity of its workforce. The force has provided a clear, realistic and motivating sense of its future plans and priorities and has invested in ensuring that it communicates its vision, ’A Safer North Wales‘, to its workforce and outside the organisation. The force has been largely successful in this, though needs to do more work to ensure that this message reaches the whole workforce. The force engages positively with the workforce, though employees expressed concerns to us during our inspection that the leadership programme is not fully inclusive.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of North Wales Police.