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Cheshire PEEL 2016

Legitimacy

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

Last updated 08/12/2016
Good

Cheshire Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Cheshire Constabulary is good in how it treats the people it serves with fairness and respect, its ethical and lawful behaviour, and the way it treats officers and staff internally with fairness and respect. The culture of the organisation reflects this through its fair and respectful treatment of people, and ethical, lawful approaches to integrity. The organisation’s fair and respectful treatment of its workforce and concern for its welfare and wellbeing also demonstrate this. Senior leaders actively promote the constabulary’s values, and staff are positive about the constabulary’s culture. However, it needs to improve some areas of vetting and its approach to managing the risk of abuse of authority for sexual gain by officers and staff. Our findings this year are consistent with last year’s findings, in which we also judged the constabulary to be good in respect of legitimacy.

Cheshire Constabulary has a clear vision and clear values which are consistent with the Code of Ethics. These have been well communicated and are understood throughout the organisation. The constabulary frequently seeks feedback and challenge, using a range of techniques including focus groups, challenge panels and surveys, and has carried out targeted work with communities which historically have had less trust and confidence in the police. The constabulary could do more to demonstrate to the public how it has responded to problems it has identified.

The constabulary understands the importance of vetting potential applicants and contract staff and has a vetting policy for recruits, including volunteers and other non-police staff, which is derived from and is in line with national guidance. The constabulary recognises that further work is needed on managing cases after the initial national security vetting to ensure it complies with national standards. Although there is awareness around the abuse of authority by officers and staff for sexual gain, the constabulary needs to provide further training for officers and staff in this area. It also needs to seek intelligence proactively on potential abuse of authority from a variety of sources, such as sex worker support organisations and victims of domestic abuse, through working with third sector and voluntary organisations such as Women’s Aid.

Staff and officers have a limited understanding of the action the constabulary has taken in response to recent surveys, and there is a perception that there is a lack of communication about the actions taken by the constabulary to improve the issues highlighted by such surveys. The constabulary is developing a comprehensive approach to understanding staff wellbeing; it sees maintaining wellbeing as essential to having a productive, well-engaged workforce. The commitment to wellbeing is demonstrated through the creation of a health and wellbeing centre, a health and wellbeing zone on the intranet, health and wellbeing conferences and road shows, and a newly launched employee assist programme.

The constabulary has recently introduced a new system for performance development review (PDR) following feedback from staff that the previous system was ineffective. While acknowledging that the new system is only three months old, we found much confusion among staff as to what was required. This is having a negative impact on the PDR completion rate, with no systems in place to ensure fair application of the process to assess personal performance across the workforce.

Questions for Legitimacy

1

To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?

HMIC found that Cheshire Constabulary has a good approach to treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. It has a clear vision and clear values that correspond with the Code of Ethics, expressed through a set of ‘We’re here…’ commitments. These have been well communicated and understood throughout the organisation. They are used in order to understand behavioural standards and are seen by the workforce as an important means to ensure that the public is treated fairly and with respect.

The constabulary frequently seeks feedback and challenge through a range of channels, including focus groups, challenge panels and surveys. The constabulary has carried out targeted work with communities who historically have less trust and confidence in the police, such as the LGBT and the Roma, Traveller and Gypsy communities.

Through its website, the constabulary encourages complaints, and it uses a range of approaches to collect feedback from various communities. This feedback is used strategically for planning priorities and organisational changes. The constabulary could do more to demonstrate to the public how it has responded to the issues identified through consultation and feedback.

Good
2

How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?

HMIC judges Cheshire Constabulary good in its approach to ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. The constabulary understands the importance of vetting potential applicants and contract staff and has a vetting policy for recruits, including volunteers and other non-police staff, which is in line with national guidance. The constabulary recognises that further work is need on its management of cases after initial vetting to ensure it complies with national security vetting standards. The constabulary has continued to promote and embed the Code of Ethics through its ‘We’re here…’ commitments. Although the workforce is aware of the abuse of authority by officers and staff for sexual gain through the recent investigation and conviction of a Cheshire officer for misconduct in a public office, the constabulary has further training to do. It also needs to seek intelligence on potential abuse of authority from a variety of sources, such as sex worker support organisations and victims of domestic abuse, through working with third sector and voluntary organisations. The constabulary publicises all misconduct hearings internally and externally. The constabulary could consider including lessons learned in its communications with the workforce, to demonstrate and emphasise expected standards and the consequences of not adhering to them.

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The force should improve how it clarifies and reinforces standards of behaviour to its workforce, in particular when dealing with vulnerable people, including victims of domestic abuse.
  • The force should ensure it complies with all aspects of the current national guidelines for vetting.
3

To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?

Cheshire Constabulary has a good approach to treating its workforce with fairness and respect. The constabulary is currently reviewing its approach to staff surveys and is moving to a national model for measuring and assessing workforce views and opinions. This will allow the constabulary to benchmark itself against other similar organisations and focus on areas essential to a productive workforce. There are several examples where the constabulary has changed its approach to an issue in response to staff feedback. More could be done to feed back to the workforce to demonstrate that the constabulary has listened and responded. The constabulary is developing a comprehensive approach to understanding staff wellbeing, demonstrated through several new initiatives. The constabulary has recently introduced a new system for PDR following feedback from staff that the previous system was ineffective. The new process has been developed in line with the College of Policing guidance. While acknowledging that the new system is only three months old, we found much confusion among staff as to what was required. This is having a negative impact on the PDR completion rate, with no systems in place to ensure fair application of the process to assess personal performance across the workforce.

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The force should improve how it manages individual performance.