Dorset PEEL 2016
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Dorset Police has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. This compares favourably with the 2015 efficiency assessment, in which Dorset Police was judged to require improvement.
Dorset Police has a comprehensive understanding of the full range of the current demand for its services and the force’s evaluation of likely future demand is extensive. It has identified a number of areas of growing demand including child sexual exploitation, and paedophile and online investigation. A specialist unit to investigate cyber-crime has been set up. The force regularly surveys local residents to assess their level of satisfaction with policing services. Staffing levels are monitored and the number of officers who specifically investigate domestic abuse has increased. Dorset Police is continuing to collaborate with Devon and Cornwall Police, sharing services and reducing costs. This should continue to make its services more efficient. The force has improved the management of its finances since 2015 and future investment plans are designed to achieve greater efficiency and service improvement.
Dorset Police has a comprehensive understanding of current demand and local priorities, and the force’s evaluation of likely future demand is extensive. The force predicts an increase in reported offences, such as child sexual exploitation, paedophile and online investigation, and missing person reports. These predictions inform the force’s assessments of whether it has the capacity and capability to meet this demand, and influence workforce planning and investments in priority areas such as domestic abuse investigation.
The force gauges public expectations through surveys questioning residents, and the results enable the force to clarify what aspects of its service the public are happy with, what concerns they have and how it should provide policing services. Staffing levels are regularly monitored. However some difficulties exist. An incident resolution team (IRT) has been established and the number of officers who specifically investigate domestic abuse has increased. There is an innovative plan to include responding to the top ten individuals or organisations that generate demand. Calls handled by the control room are prioritised but there is a risk that vulnerable people may not be given priority at times of high demand. The force has set up a dedicated unit to address the issue of cyber-crime and is taking measures to give more support to frontline officers and staff who are experiencing pressure. It is working with local mental health services to meet the needs of vulnerable people more effectively by avoiding the use of custody units as places of safety.
In our 2015 inspection, we noted that Dorset Police did not have clear plans in place to meet the spending cuts required. This situation has now improved because the force is building on its collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Police in a ‘strategic alliance’. This is a formal agreement to share certain services and thereby reduce costs, rather than a merger, and the collaborative work is an emerging strength, with effective systems already in place. The alliance is projected to produce savings of up to £15m. Dorset Police has made investments in information and communications technology (ICT), which will bring efficiency benefits, and the two forces have a joint strategy to converge ICT. This is mostly proving effective. However, some mobile technology has not been introduced in an efficient way by Dorset Police and this has reduced the confidence of some of the workforce in future ICT developments.
The force’s financial position has improved since the 2015 inspection and this will allow it to meet future requirements. It is reliant on realising savings from its strategic alliance. Savings are currently being exceeded. These efficiencies should enable the force to continue to provide improving services. Dorset Police adopts a traditional approach to assessing crime levels, outcomes and victim satisfaction. However, it also examines quality of service. We look forward to learning what effect this will have on the quality of its services and the demands faced by the force’s frontline officers and staff.
How well does the force understand the current and likely future demand?
Dorset Police has a good understanding of current and likely future demand. It understands and prioritises demands for its services well. It uses a wide range of information to obtain a comprehensive understanding of different types of demand and public expectations of its service. Importantly, this analysis is informing the force’s assessment of its capability, which in turn is influencing workforce planning and investments in priority areas such as tackling domestic abuse. Across Dorset, different methods are used to identify changes in public expectations and to gauge opinions. Overall, HMIC found that Dorset Police’s evaluation of likely future demand is extensive and means that the force is well-prepared to respond to future demands, but it could do more to assess the extra demand for police services that is likely to be presented as a consequence of partner agencies reducing their resources and the current level of services they provide.
How well does the force use its resources to manage current demand?
Dorset Police prioritises resources to meet demands for service well and it has structured plans in place. However, pressures are being experienced in some areas by frontline officers and staff. The force’s future workforce plan is aligned to its current and likely future demand, and it has a real opportunity to develop its operating model to reflect priorities that include risk to vulnerable people. In setting service levels, the force considers the value services may bring to victims and communities.
We found evidence of the force working with partner agencies to manage demand more efficiently. A positive example is the reduction of people detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act. The force has made investments in ICT and it is reacting to feedback by helping users become more conversant with its records management system. The force’s performance management system is also changing so that it increasingly looks at qualitative outcomes. Its collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Police is an emerging strength. However, Dorset Police may wish to review how consistently it assesses the impact of change across its workforce in business areas that fall outside the alliance’s scope.
Areas for improvement
- Within six months, Dorset Police should review how it assesses the impact of change across its workforce in critical business areas that fall outside the scope of its alliance with Devon and Cornwall Police.
How well is the force planning for demand in the future?
Dorset Police has clear plans, based on sound analysis, allowing it to determine changes to how it operates and provides services in the future. It demonstrates an understanding of how likely future environmental changes will affect demand and how those changes will influence its target operating model. HMIC found evidence of the force working with other organisations to improve future efficiency. Its principal arrangements are with its strategic alliance partner, Devon and Cornwall Police. We were reassured by the degree of governance in place for alliance projects.
It has actively considered developments in ICT or digital working in its multi-year plans. The two alliance forces have a joint strategy to converge ICT and it is proving mostly effective. However, mobile technology has not been introduced in an efficient way by Dorset Police and the situation is reducing the confidence of some of the workforce in future ICT developments.
The force has projected the savings it expects to achieve from the alliance on a conservative basis. Dorset Police adheres to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)’s best-practice guidelines for the maintenance of its reserves. The force experiences a low central grant but high council tax contributions. It is reliant on realising its alliance savings and is currently exceeding its predictions.