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West Mercia PEEL 2015

Legitimacy

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

Last updated 11/02/2016
Requires improvement

HMIC found that West Mercia Police is developing an ethical culture. However it has more to do to provide sufficient wellbeing and welfare support for its staff, and to ensure that complaints and misconduct are properly assessed and free of bias.

The force understands the people it serves, but should improve the way it communicates its engagement strategy to staff. The force is not complying with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. HMIC has a number of concerns about how West Mercia Police conducts and records instances of stop and search.

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

HMIC found that West Mercia Police clearly articulates the vision and values of the organisation and these values are having a positive influence on standards of behaviour and helping to develop an ethical culture.

The force acknowledges that it has been slow to put in place adequate provision to support the welfare and wellbeing needs of officers and staff. The force also recognises that existing governance arrangements for complaints and misconduct issues have not provided sufficient oversight to ensure that processes are consistent and free from any bias.

When HMIC looked at how well the force understands and successfully engages with all the people it serves, we found there is effective and in some cases innovative, engagement with the public and an understanding of its importance in maintaining police legitimacy. The force understands the people it serves but should improve the way it communicates its engagement strategy to staff. As a result, HMIC found that people were treated fairly and with respect by West Mercia Police and the force understands and engages well with the people it serves.

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 the force is not complying with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and needs to do more to make the public aware of the changes it has made and the information it has. However, HMIC has a number of concerns about how West Mercia Police conducts and record instances of stop and search. Too many records do not contain sufficient reasonable grounds to stop and search a person and these are not being sufficiently identified or addressed by supervisors. HMIC is satisfied that the majority of Taser use in West Mercia Police is both fair and appropriate.

Questions for Legitimacy

1

To what extent does practice and behaviour reinforce the wellbeing of staff and an ethical culture?

HMIC found that West Mercia Police has clearly articulated the vision and values of ‘protecting the public from harm’, and they are having a positive influence on standards of behaviour and helping develop an ethical culture. Clear and consistent messages are provided by chief officers.

The force has been slow to put in place adequate provision to support the welfare and wellbeing needs of officers and staff. This is something chief officers have acknowledged, and are actively seeking to address. At the time of the inspection, the support that was offered was inconsistent or not available.

Incorporating the Code of Ethics into everyday policing activities forms part of the training being provided across the force. The training uses scenarios to discuss ethical dilemmas, and includes the use of the National Decision Model (the framework by which all policing decisions should be made, examined and challenged) to support effective and ethical everyday decision making.

The force recognises that existing governance arrangements for complaints and misconduct issues have not provided sufficient oversight to ensure that processes are consistent and free from any bias. We are also concerned about the initial assessment of misconduct cases, with too many being classified as gross misconduct, before being subsequently downgraded.

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should actively demonstrate that help and support is available for officers and staff. It should ensure that information on how to access these services is clearly communicated to the workforce.
  • The force should ensure that the governance arrangements for complaints and misconduct provide sufficient oversight to ensure that processes are consistent and free from any bias. In addition, should concerns be identified, it should ensure timely and appropriate actions are taken.
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?

HMIC found that in West Mercia Police there is a strong commitment to the community and good examples of initiatives and engagement, often with harder to reach groups. The alliance (with Warwickshire Police) has a communication and engagement strategy which is a vehicle to ensure that the views of the community are at the forefront of strategic decisions. However, we did find that staff, at a number of levels within the force, were not aware of the strategy.

A network of independent advisory groups (IAG) assists the two-way dialogue between the force and its communities.

West Mercia Police uses a range of methods to engage with the public from traditional public meetings to the use of social media. The force has also taken steps to address barriers to good community engagement such as social exclusion, showing how information technology can be used effectively for people who may not have access and introducing mobile contact centres to serve rural communities.

The force works with the public in a number of watch schemes, which are supported by a well-developed network of volunteers. HMIC found that people were treated fairly and with respect when they came into contact with West Mercia Police and the force understands and engages well with the people it serves.

Good
4

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

HMIC has a number of concerns with how West Mercia Police conducts and record instances of stop and search. Too many records do not contain sufficient reasonable grounds, and these are not being sufficiently identified or addressed by supervisors.

The force’s own administrative arrangements – notably the requirement for an officer to contact an operator in the operational control centre in order to be given a unique reference number, that is then attached to a card and handed to the person who has been stopped, explaining how to get a copy of the search – appear to be directly affecting the use of stop and search powers, including those that are legitimate and necessary.

The force is not complying with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and needs to do more to make the public aware of the changes it has made and the information that it has.
HMIC is satisfied that the majority of Taser use in West Mercia Police is both fair and appropriate.

As West Mercia 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 – West Mercia Police

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure that stop and search records include sufficient reasonable grounds to justify the lawful use of the power, and that officers fully understand the grounds required to stop and search.
  • The force should ensure that adequate supervision takes place to ensure that stop and search records are accurate and contain the required information in respect of reasonable grounds.
  • 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.
  • The force should ensure that its administrative arrangements – notably the requirement for an officer to contact an operator in the operational control centre to be given a unique reference number, that is then attached to a card and handed to the person who has been stopped, explaining how to get a copy of the search – do not have an adverse impact on legitimate and necessary use of stop and search powers.