Thames Valley 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.
Thames Valley Police is well led and its chief officer team provides clear expectations of leaders. Some members of the senior team have been in place for a number of years so there is consistency in the team’s leadership, and it has successfully defined and communicated their expectations while continuing to build their understanding of the workforce’s perceptions of leadership.
We found an effective approach to leadership development, including a force-wide programme to identify talented individuals and provide development opportunities to 30 officers and staff each year, although the force could do more to ensure that its whole workforce is aware of the scheme.
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.
Thames Valley Police is well led and has successfully defined its expectation of an approachable and ethical style of leadership by police staff and officers being open, professionally competent and approachable. During our inspection, HMIC found evidence that this has resulted in line managers being more open and responsive to those they manage. The force is building on its understanding of workforce perceptions of senior leadership, having completed a comprehensive staff survey and using focus groups in some parts of the force. There is also an ‘ask the chief’ process which allows members of the workforce to raise an issue with and receive a reply from the chief constable.
Thames Valley Police has a good understanding of its leadership capacity at a senior level. The force records the career preferences and capabilities of officers at chief inspector rank and above in order to monitor their development and match them to future roles. The force encourages those qualifying for the ranks of sergeant and inspector to join the core leadership development programme. This gives the force some appreciation of leadership capability among more junior ranks, but the force could improve this understanding.
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 articulated its future plans and priorities to its workforce, which understands that the core of the force’s future direction is policing ethically, with a focus on protecting vulnerable people. The workforce is also aware that the force needs to make further savings and of the role of priority-based budgeting (PBB) in this.
This process involves examining all areas of spending and analysing how much value each area provides to helping the force achieve its priority objectives. The force will then use the analysis to ensure that in the future, it aligns resources more closely with priority areas.
However, we did not find that the workforce understands consistently what PBB aims to achieve, especially in relation to proposed reductions in officer numbers and the use of new technologies to support more efficient working. The force is currently developing more detailed plans for what the PBB process will achieve. This includes involving managers and practioners in the planning, however the force is not yet in a position to provide detailed information to the workforce.
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.
We found an effective approach to leadership development, which is supported through action learning sets and by members of the chief officer group sharing good practice throughout the force. The force has a network of mentors to support development across the force, and uses the College of Policing core leadership programme to develop the skills of sergeants and inspectors.
The force expects its managers to identify talented individuals, and it operates a programme to develop talented individuals towards promotion. The programme has an annual cohort of 30, and is open to the whole workforce. The force publicises the programme on the force intranet and managers recommend suitable individuals, though participants can also self-nominate. However, HMIC found that the workforce is not universally aware of the scheme, which is an area that the force could improve.
The workforce is aware what the performance review system means for their own development. While some we spoke to felt the system was bureaucratic, others were more positive having received development opportunities as a result of its effective use. Performance reviews are generally up to date, which is good for the workforce and provides the force with information on capabilities and capacity.
To what extent is leadership improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of the force?
As good quality leadership is an important factor of policing performance, HMIC examined how leaders are improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of forces through clear, reasoned and swift actions. This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible for this pillar.
Leadership in Thames Valley Police has resulted in a stronger focus on improving their legitimacy, in terms of how it keeps people safe and reduces crime.. During the inspection, HMIC found that many frontline staff and officers feel that morale in the force is improving, and that this is due to an open style of leadership. Some staff and officers reported that the force displays strong leadership by listening to the workforce and reducing bureaucracy to lighten their workload. However, this viewpoint was not universal, as officers working in busy areas and departments expressed concern that working conditions are difficult because staffing levels were insufficient.
Leadership has also resulted in a stronger focus on improving their effectiveness, and this can be seen prominently in the work the force does to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour. Senior leaders have prioritised this in the police and crime plan and ensure that the force performs well in this area by working closely with other organisations. The leadership it shows in this area means that it effectively tackles crime, anti-social behaviour and community concerns.
Finally, leadership in Thames Valley Police has resulted in a stronger focus on improving the efficiency of the force. The force has located its chief finance officer within the senior leadership team, ensuring a rigorous approach to financial management. The force has gained a greater understanding of its finances, which has allowed it to develop a priority-based budgeting system to identify future service improvements.