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Northumbria PEEL 2015

Legitimacy

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

Last updated 11/02/2016
Requires improvement

At the time of our inspection, there were a number of concerns about the force’s efforts to instil a culture which promoted innovation and willingness to challenge. This is something the new chief constable is aware of and addressing.

Local police teams have a good understanding of their neighbourhoods and engage positively with the public. This commitment is reflected in good public satisfaction rates.

Decisions made by Taser-trained officers are generally fair and appropriate and oversight of the use of Taser is strong. The force has more to do in order to comply with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and ensure that reasonable grounds for the use of stop and search powers are recorded and supervised properly.

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

HMIC found that staff within Northumbria Police are clearly aware of the importance of ethical behaviour. They appear willing to challenge wrongdoing, and feel they would be supported if they did so.

However, senior managers reported that previous behaviours have discouraged innovation and challenge, often leaving them feeling undermined and disempowered.

Our grading reflects the findings in spring 2015. The new chief constable and the chief officer team are aware of many of the cultural issues identified by HMIC, and are planning to address them.

When HMIC looked at how well the force understands and engages with all the people it serves, we found that most officers and staff that we spoke to understand clearly the relationship between doing a good professional job and increased public confidence in the police. The force’s engagement with communities is tailored to their needs, as shown by the good work of area engagement teams. The force has recently used social media to provide further opportunities for public engagement and involvement.

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. HMIC found that Northumbria Police is not compliant with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and should introduce a ‘community trigger’ policy and publish data that comply with the scheme’s requirements. The force should also do more to understand the impact of stop and search on members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community and young people, albeit the force intends to commission work in this area in the near future. The force uses Tasers 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 staff within Northumbria Police are clearly aware of the importance of ethical behaviour. They appear willing to challenge wrongdoing, and feel they would be supported if they did so.

However, senior managers reported that previous behaviours have discouraged innovation and challenge, often leaving them feeling undermined and disempowered. The force has taken steps to make sure that selection processes are fair, but the perception of unfairness remains among some staff.

The force makes provision to support the wellbeing of staff, and staff are generally complimentary about occupational health provision, and the approach to flexible working. The force has made considerable efforts to promote the introduction of the Code of Ethics. It is woven into policy and training, but more work is needed.

While the current triage system for dealing with less-serious complaint matters has proved successful in resolving low level matters expeditiously and to the satisfaction of complainants, it does not conform to the legal obligations on the chief constable to record complaints. As a result the force maybe under-recording complaints and complainants may have been unaware of their legal rights.

Our grading reflects the findings in spring 2015. The new chief constable and the chief officer team are aware of many of the cultural issues identified by HMIC, and are planning to address them.

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should actively demonstrate that it takes the views and concerns of officers and staff seriously, and that it acts on these concerns where appropriate.
  • The chief constable should ensure that the force is recording public complaints in accordance with the requirements of the Police Reform Act 2002 and the IPCC guidance.
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?

We were pleased to find that most officers and staff that we spoke to clearly understand the relationship between doing a good professional job and increased public confidence in the police. HMIC found that neighbourhood teams across Northumbria engage well with the public and they understand how this promotes police legitimacy. This approach is supported by most officers and staff and clear leadership is being provided on this by the chief constable, particularly through his ‘Proud to Protect’ approach to promoting the force’s values.

The force has a sufficient understanding of its communities and develops this through meetings, surveys 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 area engagement teams. Recently social media has been used to provide further opportunities for public engagement and involvement.

The public are encouraged to engage in policing activities through local problem solving meetings and there is a very well-developed cadet scheme and other opportunities for voluntary work with 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, an approach that is encouraged and supported by the chief constable and other senior staff.

Good
4

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

Northumbria Police is not compliant with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme and should introduce a ‘community trigger’ policy and publish data that complies with the scheme’s requirements. The force should also do more to understand the impact of stop and search on members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community and young people, albeit the force intends to commission work in this area in the near future.

The force should also ensure that reasonable grounds for using stop and search are properly recorded, and that supervisors are accurately checking the forms.

Northumbria Police 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 (the framework by which all policing decisions should be made, examined and challenged).

As Northumbria Police was not compliant in three or more aspects of the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme in 2015, HMIC revisited the force in 2016 to assess improvements made since the initial inspection.

Best Use of Stop and Search letter – Northumbria Police

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure that supervisors properly understand their responsibilities when checking that stop and search is conducted lawfully and fairly, and that reasonable grounds are recorded properly.
  • The force should put in place an action plan setting out how it will comply with all the features of Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. HMIC will revisit the force within six months to determine what improvements have been made.