Avon and Somerset PEEL 2016
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.
Police leadership is crucial in enabling a force to be effective, efficient and legitimate. This inspection focused on how a force understands, develops and displays leadership through its organisational development.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary demonstrates a good understanding of leadership expectations across all ranks and grades. Its recently introduced leadership strategy includes the College of Policing leadership review’s approach and recommendations. There is some understanding of how the force is led across most ranks and grades. The force has introduced a new promotion process whereby all candidates receive feedback to support career development. It has responded to gaps in leadership capability by developing a new leadership course. The force is working to improve diversity in its leadership, with more women now in senior leadership teams.
The force has a consistent approach to leadership development. It was an early adopter of the Direct Entry and Fast Track schemes, and works with local universities to improve its approach to police recruitment. In order to identify and nurture talented individuals consistently, the force could develop a more in-depth understanding of its leadership skills.
How well does the force understand leadership?
A good understanding of leadership capabilities and expectations is critical to the effective functioning of forces. How forces engage with their workforces when setting leadership expectations is vital in ensuring that police staff and officers feel enabled to lead in an ethical way and to challenge the expectations appropriately.
Forces’ understanding should also extend to their leadership strengths and weaknesses across every rank and grade. This includes an understanding of leadership styles and personality types of individuals, and how they affect wider team dynamics. Forces should be able to take this knowledge and use it to identify any gaps or issues in leadership
Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s leadership strategy includes recommendations from the College of Policing leadership review and its own ‘Shine’ leadership programme. The ‘Shine’ leadership framework was developed in 2012 for Avon and Somerset Constabulary and identifies three principal leadership qualities expected of all staff which are: being ‘authentic’, ‘adapting to change’ and ‘engaging’. Leadership training is available to all managers, and newly promoted sergeants and inspectors must comply with the National Police Promotion Framework (NPPF). The NPPF is a four-step promotion process for police officers seeking promotion to the rank of sergeant or inspector. Promotion is only attained once a candidate has successfully completed all four steps.
All ranks and grades in the force understand what chief officers expect of them as leaders. The chief constable personally communicates his leadership expectations via road shows, staff forums, blog posts and regular force visits. Staff understand the ‘Shine’ leadership principles and feel confident about discussing concerns with senior leadership teams. The force has a culture of openness where challenges from officers and staff are welcomed.
A new promotion process to encourage career progression has been developed, and a new leadership capability course for all supervisors and line managers (sergeants and inspectors) has been introduced. Coaching and mentoring programmes, as well as 360-degree feedback (a process in which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from the people who work with them) are all available, although low staff awareness of training opportunities has limited their effectiveness. With no formal performance review process, the annual staff appraisal system is inconsistent, although at the time of inspection a new system was due to be launched in September 2016. This aims to improve the appraisal process and leadership understanding across the organisation.
Recruitment of officers and staff is focused on meeting future needs, for example, the ability to investigate cyber-crime. The force is looking to use the Police Now graduate leadership development programme for recruiting staff, as well as repeating its successful management exchange pilot scheme with the University of the West of England. The force has a coherent approach to leadership development but does not fully understand its leadership capability across the workforce, limiting its ability to identify gaps and issues. Also, it focuses on police officer leadership roles rather than police staff leadership roles.
How well does the force develop leadership?
The way in which a force identifies and develops leadership skills is crucial in making sure it performs well now and in the future. Forces should identify leadership development programmes, containing a broad range of approaches, beyond just formal training, to develop leadership.
Forces’ knowledge of their current leadership capability should also mean that they are aware of the leadership skills and experience they do not possess currently, and are seeking to recruit to address this.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has improved its leadership capabilities by responding quickly to any problems and concerns. For example, in response to the results of the 2016 staff survey, workloads have been reviewed and the senior leadership team is more accessible to officers and staff. The force has tried to address gaps in its leadership teams and is committed to leadership development, but as training opportunities are only publicised on the force intranet, staff awareness is low. The force should consider how it can promote these opportunities more widely.
All newly promoted sergeants and inspectors take a formal leadership qualification, but similar training is not available to police staff. They are, however, encouraged to complete the College of Policing and Prince’s Trust leadership training. The force is improving its leadership capabilities through recruitment and was an early adopter of the Direct Entry and constable to inspector Fast Track schemes. In addition, opportunities are available for constables to develop and train to be detectives, and the force has recruited 40 constables who have transferred from other forces, with specific skills, to fill organisational gaps.
As set out earlier, the force was an early adopter of the Direct Entry and Fast Track schemes. At the time of our inspection, the force had 11 internal candidates on the constable to inspector Fast Track scheme, providing the opportunity for internal candidates who demonstrate leadership attributes to progress through the ranks more quickly than through standard promotion processes. It has also joined the Police Now programme, and the success of the force’s apprenticeship scheme has resulted in some candidates staying on with the force. The representative workforce team, which looks for talented individuals to join the workforce, provides bespoke mentoring through the recruitment process. Profiling programmes to identify individual and team talent are sometimes used, and leaders with potential are able to gain experience in other organisations through a public sector leadership programme.
Outside newly promoted sergeant and inspector training, leadership development is provided locally at the discretion of heads of department. This works well in some areas of the organisation, but a more formal, force-wide leadership training process would make training opportunities more widely available. In addition, the absence of a recognised talent management scheme or clear career structures could restrict the development of potential future leaders.
Areas for improvement
- Avon and Somerset Constabulary should introduce a system to identify, manage and promote talented officers and staff (including leadership training and development) across the workforce.
How well does the force display leadership?
Good leadership encourages and develops a wide range of people, embraces change and actively supports the development of new ideas. While it is important for forces to ensure that they are representative of the communities they serve, truly diverse leadership teams are built around the wider experience, background and skills of individuals.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is committed to staff training and development. It has adopted the College of Policing structured de-briefing programme, which is used for high-profile events, such as Glastonbury Festival, to identify best practice. The results are shared with local forces. The force has strong and well-developed links with local universities, and works collaboratively to improve police recruitment and workforce diversity, and to look at responses to policing concerns that are based on evidence about what works well in other forces.
The force welcomes ideas from staff but has no recognised suggestion scheme in place. Better communication, together with the introduction of a formal suggestion scheme, would encourage more workforce participation and innovation.
The force is working to develop diverse leadership through its representative workforce team and other initiatives, but its process for monitoring staff capability and skills is limited. This makes it difficult to build teams that are diverse in terms of experience, background and skills and that represent the communities they serve. The force is, however, due to host a regional women in policing event and is committed to career progression for women. It is also working with the Black Police Association to address the identified under-representation by encouraging more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff to come forward. HMIC found that, although the force’s activities support wider understanding of diversity, the development of more diverse teams on the basis of experience, background and skills could be given greater consideration.