Staffordshire PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Staffordshire Police’s overall approach to keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.
HMIC found a mixed picture of performance. The force works well with partner organisations and is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour; it also works well to tackle serious and organised crime. However, improvements are needed in the way it investigates crime and manages offenders. Of more serious concern are aspects of the services it provides to keep vulnerable victims safe, which were found to be inadequate. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.
The force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. It demonstrates a strong commitment to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe, with an emphasis on prevention through early intervention. The force is particularly effective in working with local partner organisations to share information and develop joint solutions to local problems, making effective use of combined resources.
Staffordshire Police’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders requires improvement. There are delays in some initial investigations, a lack of victim contact, limited supervision, and on occasions crimes are allocated to staff without sufficient investigative skills. The force has recognised these issues and is taking active steps to improve standards.
There are weaknesses in the services being provided by Staffordshire Police to protect and support some victims, most notably victims of domestic abuse. The force focuses strongly on identifying and protecting vulnerable victims, and it works well with partner organisations to safeguard and support victims who are identified as being at risk. However, we found several areas where improvement is needed.
The force is not consistently assessing the risks faced by all domestic abuse victims. Victims’ needs may not be fully met by the police and partner organisations because the risk they face has not been properly assessed.
Staffordshire Police is good at identifying and tackling serious and organised crime groups in its area. The force is still developing a full understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime. It is working well to provide an effective response to it, including work with partners such as good use of integrated offender management to tackle gang violence. Staffordshire Police could further enhance its understanding of the threat from serious and organised crime. An opportunity exists to build upon the profile of offending which has been established by the Cannock District local policing team and develop similar local profiles for all areas of the county.
How effective is the force at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe?
Staffordshire Police is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. This is consistent with last year’s crime inspection where the force was judged to be good at reducing crime and preventing offending. There are some areas where the force could further improve its approach to prevention.
The force shows a strong commitment to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe, with an emphasis on prevention through early intervention. This commitment is generally well understood throughout the force, and the force ensures appropriate resources are assigned to local policing teams to focus on preventing problems from occurring or from escalating. The force is particularly effective in working with local partner organisations to share information and develop joint solutions to local problems, making effective use of combined resources.
There is one principal area for improvement, which is the systematic monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of its various tactics, so that it can learn from ‘what works’ and improve approaches force-wide. However, the public can feel confident that the force is working well to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and keep people safe.
Areas for improvement
- The force should use evidence of ‘what works’ drawn from other forces, academics and partners to improve continually its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour. There needs to be routine evaluation of tactics and sharing of effective practice.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and managing offenders?
Staffordshire Police’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders requires improvement. The findings are similar to HMIC’s 2014 crime inspection, in which the force was judged as requiring improvement at investigating offending.
There is room for improvement in the initial investigation of some crimes. Workload pressures mean that crimes are sometimes allocated to officers without the necessary level of investigative skill or training. There are also some delays in the allocation of crimes for investigation, and a review of crime files shows a lack of victim contact, low use of investigation plans and a lack of supervision in some cases. This means that the force may be losing opportunities to bring offenders to justice and in some cases not providing victims with the right level of service. The force is aware of these areas for improvement and has taken steps to improve the quality of investigations. More work is needed to ensure that standards are consistently raised.
The force has made good progress in its use of forensic and digital evidence recovery processes to support investigations.
The force works well in managing those offenders causing most harm to communities. It identifies vulnerable offenders and makes efforts to divert them from further offending. Specialist staff work effectively with local policing teams and partner organisations to identify, monitor and manage repeat and dangerous offenders to stop them re-offending.
Areas for improvement
- The force should take steps to ensure that all available evidence is recorded at scenes of crime.
- The force should ensure that all crimes are allocated promptly to investigators with the appropriate skills, accreditation and support to investigate them to a good standard.
- The force should ensure that all investigations are completed to a consistently good standard, and in a timely manner.
- The force should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations to check quality and progress.
How effective is the force at protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims?
HMIC found serious weaknesses in the services being provided by Staffordshire Police to protect and support some victims, most notably victims of domestic abuse. We found that some staff were focused on identifying and protecting vulnerable victims. Where vulnerability is identified and the risk to victims is assessed properly, the force works well with partner agencies to safeguard and support victims who are identified as being at risk. However, we found significant areas where improvement is needed.
In many cases, Staffordshire Police responds well to victims. Local policing teams generally support and protect vulnerable people well, but this is not a consistent activity across the force. We found some officers do not always recognise and respond appropriately to victims’ vulnerability. The force is assessing the risks faced by some domestic abuse victims poorly. Victims’ needs may not be met fully by the police and partner organisations because the risk they face has not been routinely recognised and properly assessed leading to the offer of tailored support.
Action taken by staff to respond to reports of missing children is inconsistent, with little evidence of supervision in the early stages. The force recognises the risks posed to children and young people from sexual exploitation and it has made an encouraging start in ensuring it is prepared to tackle this issue.
As a consequence of the causes of concern and areas for improvement set out in our PEEL: Police effectiveness 2015 (Vulnerability) – Staffordshire Police report, HMIC has revisited the force to assess the progress made since the initial inspection in these areas.
Cause of concern
The force’s response to vulnerable people is a cause of concern to HMIC. We are disappointed to find that some Staffordshire Police officers demonstrated judgmental and unsupportive attitudes towards some vulnerable victims. For example, we heard comments which indicate that some victims’ allegations are being prematurely judged as false before investigations have started. We also found that some victims were discouraged from reporting domestic abuse crimes by some officers.
Despite the force’s provision of training to staff, HMIC found significant weaknesses in a number of areas including the risk assessments at initial point of contact and by response officers. We also observed poor supervision of key processes such as risk assessments, investigation and safeguarding action in relation to vulnerable people.
Cause of concern
Staffordshire’s response to victims of domestic abuse is a cause of concern to HMIC. The force does not require that a formal risk assessment is carried out in all domestic abuse cases. The force specifies that only those incidents that have resulted in a recordable crime should be risk assessed or non-crime cases where in the officer’s professional judgment a risk assessment is required. Despite this restriction, there are sustained, unacceptably high levels of non-completion of risk assessments even among this smaller number that the force requires.
There are processes provided through the multi-agency safeguarding hub, the local vulnerability hubs and neighbourhood officers that provide support for vulnerable victims, however the force can have no confidence that it recognises routinely and assesses properly the risk faced by many persons reporting domestic abuse and, therefore, no confidence that it is properly protecting them with tailored support. Moreover, a significant proportion of domestic abuse cases are investigated by non-specialist staff and the investigation lacked plans, with poor supervision and there were examples of victims not being kept informed of the progress of their case.
To address this cause of concern, Staffordshire Police should immediately take steps to ensure that:
- it reviews its policy in relation to the completion of risk assessments take place especially in relation to discretion which is permitted in non-crime cases;
- it supervises effectively the completion and submission of risk assessments;
- officers and staff with the appropriate professional skills and experience carry out investigations and that processes are put in place to supervise them; and
- officers and staff comply with the duties under the code of practice for victims of crime, specifically in relation to keeping victims of domestic abuse informed of the progress of the case.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve its initial assessment and response to incidents involving vulnerable people. The force should do this by:
- providing training on the identification of vulnerable people and assessment of risk to staff who work in call-handling, control rooms or on the front desk of police stations; and
- using approved force processes designed to support the assessment of risk and with effective supervision of their decision-making.
- The force should improve its response to missing and absent children, so that:
- officers and staff use the missing and absent categories appropriately;
- the force fully understands the factors that escalate the risk of harm to children; and
- the initial stages of an investigation include effective supervision to direct appropriate and timely enquiries and safeguarding action.
- The force should also improve how it works with partners to share information and safeguard vulnerable people. It should adopt minimum standards and consistent working practices within vulnerability hubs, neighbourhood policing teams and investigation units. These improvements should also identify the most suitable system for recording all safeguarding activity.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
Staffordshire Police is good at identifying and tackling serious and organised crime groups in its area. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their effectiveness at tackling serious and organised crime, including a force’s arrangements for ensuring that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
The force is still developing its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime. It works well with partner organisations to provide an effective multi-agency response to it, including work to prevent people from becoming involved in serious and organised criminality. It has access to an extensive range of specialist policing capabilities provided by the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit and there are mutual support arrangements with other forces in the region. It has robust arrangements in place to satisfy itself that it is fulfilling its national policing responsibilities.
The force is making good use of integrated offender management to tackle gang violence. Staffordshire Police could enhance its understanding of the threat from serious and organised crime by developing local profiles for all areas of the county and by increasing the involvement of local policing teams.
Areas for improvement
- The force should produce a serious and organised crime local profile which includes relevant data from partner agencies, and work with those agencies to maintain joint oversight.
- The force needs to improve the awareness of organised crime groups among neighbourhood teams to ensure that they can reliably identify these groups, collect intelligence and disrupt their activity.
- The force needs to develop a better understanding of the impact of its activity on serious and organised crime, and ensure that it learns from experience to maximise its disruptive effect.