Hertfordshire 2016Read more about Hertfordshire 2016
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Hertfordshire Constabulary. PEEL is designed to give the public information about how their local police force is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable both across England and Wales, and year on year. The assessment is updated throughout the year with our inspection findings and reports.
The extent to which the constabulary is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.
The extent to which the constabulary is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
The extent to which the constabulary is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I am satisfied with most aspects of Hertfordshire Constabulary’s overall performance. I was concerned about some areas of the force’s effectiveness, but the force acted swiftly to rectify the issues we identified in our inspections.
In many respects the force works well to protect vulnerable people; frontline staff have received extensive training to help them understand and identify vulnerability, and the force works closely with partner organisations to share information and develop initiatives to protect and support the most vulnerable.
However, I had concerns about Hertfordshire Constabulary’s approach to protecting some vulnerable people due to weaknesses in its approach to assessing risk and supporting some victims. The force was not adequately identifying risks, meaning that too often it was not in a position to provide the appropriate levels of support. It was also potentially missing out on opportunities to collect crucial evidence that a crime had been committed. I raised my concern with the new chief constable following the inspection and I am reassured that the force has already taken effective action to address this.
I am pleased by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s approach to preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. The force works well with communities to understand their concerns and with partner organisations, like local councils, to address those concerns. However, it should routinely evaluate its problem-solving tactics and share effective practice across the force.
I have some concerns about the force’s approach to investigating crime, which has deteriorated since my assessment last year. We found weaknesses in the way the force supervises some investigations. It also needs to do more to improve how it engages with victims, particularly in the way it complies with the victims’ code of practice.
I am pleased by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s approach to tackling serious and organised crime. The force uses a range of techniques to disrupt organised criminality, and it is improving its response to newer organised crime threats such as human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
The force has a track record of careful financial management and achieving savings targets and it is in a strong position to plan well for future demand, once it has increased its understanding of future demand and the skills of its workforce.
I noted that Hertfordshire Constabulary does not yet have a comprehensive understanding of the current and likely future demands for its services, including the so-called hidden demands from, for example, internet crime. This hinders the force’s ability to plan and manage its resources. The force recognises this and it has already started work working with the College of Policing to improve its approach.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has a strong commitment to joint working, which is demonstrated by its mature and well-established collaborative work with Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire forces. While the three forces can demonstrate that joint working is improving services to the public they do not yet have a comprehensive understanding of the financial benefits. The tri-force ‘futures team’ has undertaken research to explore options for effective policing in the future. I look forward to seeing the outcome of this work, and how the workforce will be equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the likely future demands for services.
I am pleased that officers and staff across Hertfordshire Constabulary understand just how important it is to treat people fairly and respectfully. The force uses a variety of methods to seek feedback from the public about their perceptions of fair and respectful treatment.
The force recognises the abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as serious corruption and has taken action to communicate this to its workforce. However, I am concerned about the force’s ability to identify, monitor and understand risks to the integrity of the organisation, including corruption. This is limited by the capacity and capability in the relevant units, which are shared with Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire forces.
The force has an open culture and it is improving and expanding its workforce well-being services, but needs to address some concerns that high workloads, combined with a lack of opportunity to take leave, were leading to stress-related conditions.
In summary, I am generally satisfied with the service that the force provides to the people of Hertfordshire, and I am reassured that it is taking action to address the specific areas of concern that I have described.
Hertfordshire Constabulary provides policing services to the county of Hertfordshire. Hertfordshire is generally highly affluent, although there are some areas of deprivation. The force area is home to around 1.2 million people, who mainly live in the city of St Albans, as well as the towns of Watford and Stevenage.
The resident population is ethnically diverse, with 12 percent from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit or travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes 73 miles of motorway and trunk roads and a major rail station.
The proportion of areas in Hertfordshire that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is lower than the national average. The most challenging areas are generally characterised by a high concentration of people living, working, socialising, or travelling in the area.
Features which both cause and/or indicate a concentration of people include the number of commercial premises, including licensed premises and fast-food premises, public transport, and social deprivation. In some areas, these features are combined.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is in an alliance with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary. Each force has responsibility for providing particular services to all three forces. For example, Hertfordshire is responsible for providing operational support, Cambridgeshire is responsible for providing organisational support, and Bedfordshire is responsible for providing protective services.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has appointed a new chief constable within the past year.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how the force responds to this assessment and to the causes of concern and areas for improvement that HMIC identified last year.
I will be particularly interested to see:
- how the force improves its assessments of risk at the first point that the public makes contact with the force;
- how the force improves the initial stages of its crime investigations;
- how the force improves its understanding of the current and likely future demands for its services; and
- how the force, working with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary, improves its ability to identify, monitor and understand risks to the integrity of the organisation, including corruption.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Hertfordshire Constabulary has been assessed as requires improvement in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgement is a deterioration on last year, when we judged the force to be good. The force’s approach to preventing crime and to tackling anti-social behaviour and serious and organised crime is effective; how it investigates crime and reduces re-offending needs to improve. However, the force’s response to vulnerable people is inadequate because of serious weaknesses in the way the force assesses risk and how it supports some victims.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. It has devoted resources specifically to policing its community. The force works well with the local community and partner organisations to ensure it has a good understanding of the threats to all sections of its community. But the workforce lacks an evidence base to share good practice on the most effective ways to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
The force’s approach to investigating crime and reducing re-offending requires improvement, particularly its initial response, compliance with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, and offender management. While most subsequent investigations are effective, supervisors are not reviewing investigations consistently, and we found weaknesses in how the force investigates stalking and harassment cases. The force needs to do more to improve compliance with the code, especially regarding the completion of victims’ personal statements, victim contracts and victim updates. The force is good at protecting the public from the most harmful offenders, but it needs to increase its focus on violent offenders, understand how effective its approach is and have a clear overall direction.
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s effectiveness at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims, is inadequate. There are serious weaknesses in the way that the force assesses risk at the first point of contact, when the police receive a call. The force implemented the THRIIVES risk assessment process in March this year, but without enough quality assurance or supervision to ensure it is being used effectively. This means that some victims are not getting the support that they need when they need it, and evidence may be lost because officers are not attending incidents in a timely manner. Consequently, the force is not adequately protecting the vulnerable or supporting victims in the way it should.
HMIC also has concerns about how the force supports some of the victims in its area: the victim does not support police action in 41.0 percent of domestic abuse investigations, which is higher than the figure for England and Wales of 35.8 percent. The force is working hard to understand why this is. It has introduced a domestic abuse victim survey and is reviewing its use of the appointment service for domestic abuse victims (which includes scheduled appointments at locations and times that suit the victim, made by officers driving so-called ‘diary’ cars). In the control room we found that in some cases incorrect categorisation of incidents indicated that the right questions had not been asked of the victim. This, together with a lack of searches for additional information and intelligence, means some vulnerable victims may not have been identified and that the provision of safeguarding and investigations delayed. In some instances, we found specialist support should have been provided.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at tackling serious and organised crime. The force works well with national and local partner organisations and agencies, for example housing, the National Crime Agency, immigration enforcement, youth offending teams and probation services, to tackle organised crime. The force has the ability not just to pursue and disrupt organised criminals, but also to prevent organised crime from taking root in communities. The force is starting to use its neighbourhood officers to prevent people from becoming involved in organised crime, but it needs to make better use of its powers to prevent organised criminals causing further harm. The force also needs to improve how it gathers and uses intelligence, particularly that held by partner organisations such as HM Revenue and Customs and UK Visas and Immigration. Frontline officers’ knowledge of local organised crime groups could be improved.
The force’s plans for ensuring that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities are appropriate. The force regularly tests its public order, firearms and civil emergencies response across the region and with partner organisations. It is well prepared to respond to a firearms attack and is increasing its firearms capacity and capability to provide resilience and to support the national response.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Hertfordshire Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force needs to do more to fully understand both current and likely future demand for its services. It is good at using its resources to meet demand, and works well with other forces and organisations to improve efficiency and save money. The force is in a strong financial position to plan for the future. In last year’s efficiency inspection, Hertfordshire Constabulary was judged to be good.
As in HMIC’s 2015 inspection, this year Hertfordshire Constabulary has been assessed as good at working efficiently to keep people safe and reduce crime. However, it requires improvement in its understanding of all the sources of current demand and of likely future demand for its services. It recognises that this understanding requires improvement and that more work is needed to enable it to reduce demand, increase productivity and effectively plan for the future. The force has explored good practice nationally and worked with the College of Policing to improve its approach. It is at an early stage in developing its understanding of likely future demand. In a strategic alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Bedfordshire Police, the tri-force ‘futures team’ has undertaken research to explore options for effective policing in the future.
The force uses its resources to respond to clear priorities; for example, it recognised growth in demand for protecting vulnerable people and has invested extra resources for domestic abuse and sexual offence investigations. However, it makes higher than average use of overtime and significant numbers of police officers are unable to use all their annual leave, suggesting that it is not always accurately matching its resources to the needs of the force. The force is seeking to increase workforce productivity using both external expertise and introducing new software to carry out demand assessment. It is also carefully monitoring the skills and composition of its workforce and has redistributed staff to better match demand following the reduction of custody centres.
The force has developed strong collaborative working arrangements, through the strategic alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Bedfordshire Police. The forces in this strategic alliance have an ambitious and innovative plan to work collaboratively in all policing functions, except local policing, by 2017. Further partnership working is planned with a total of seven forces, and Hertfordshire is also developing strategic partnerships with other emergency services and local government organisations to share resources and manage future demand together. While Hertfordshire Constabulary can demonstrate how collaboration and joint working is improving outcomes for the public, reducing costs and building resilience, it does not yet have a comprehensive understanding of costed outcomes.
The force is in a strong financial position to plan well for future demand, although the lack of a comprehensive understanding of future demand and workforce capabilities limits its ability to plan for the future. It has a track record of careful financial management and achieving savings targets. The force has large financial reserves, some of which will be used in the next four years to support the revenue budget and ease immediate financial pressures. It will continue to meet savings requirements by increasing efficiency through collaboration and agile working, while also making a broad range of investments, improving ICT capabilities and increasing the size of teams that protect vulnerable people and assist victims of crime.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Hertfordshire Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our findings this year are consistent with last year’s findings, in which we judged the force to be good in respect of legitimacy.
The force treats the people it serves, and its workforce, with fairness and respect. It seeks and acts on feedback to improve the services it provides and listens to the views of its workforce. It does good work on identifying and enforcing standards of behaviour. However, HMIC has concerns about the force’s ability to ensure that its entire workforce behaves ethically and fairly because of limited capacity in its anti-corruption and vetting unit (ACU).
Hertfordshire Constabulary and its workforce have a good understanding of the importance of treating people they serve with fairness and respect. The force’s values are set out in a code of practice and they are understood and put into practice by the workforce.
The force seeks feedback using a range of methods, including meetings, surveys and engagement activities, and through its website. We found several examples of the force responding effectively to feedback; for example, it has improved its recording of incidents where members of the public are stopped and searched. However, the force could benefit from more emphasis on analysing feedback to identify areas for improvement.
Although the force is doing some good work on identifying and enforcing standards of behaviour, HMIC has concerns that about the force’s ability to ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and fairly. Its ability to identify, monitor and understand risks to the integrity of the organisation is limited by a lack of capacity in the ACU.
The force is in an alliance with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary. The alliance’s joint professional standards department (PSD), which includes the ACU, is implementing an improvement plan, drawn up after a serious gross misconduct court case collapsed over concerns about the quality of the investigation. The plan affects all three forces in the alliance. The force and alliance need to ensure that there are enough staff with the capability, with additional support, both to implement the new PSD/ACU improvement plan successfully and to handle daily business effectively.
During our inspection we found that the force had implemented too few of the recommendations we made in our police integrity and corruption report in 2014, which included recommendations for improving the capacity and capability of these units.
The force recognises the abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as serious corruption and has taken action to communicate this to its workforce. To reassure the public and other organisations of the robust stance taken by the force, it organised briefings for the media to explain how it is handling a series of nine unconnected misconduct cases involving sexual impropriety and/or abuse of authority by members of the workforce.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. It uses a wide range of methods to identify and understand the issues that affect the workforce, including surveys, regular engagement with staff representative groups and online messaging. The force has an open culture and staff representative groups told us that they felt informed and engaged. It is improving and expanding its workforce wellbeing services, but some people we spoke with expressed concerns that high workloads, combined with a lack of opportunity to take leave, were leading to stress-related conditions.
The force manages individual performance through performance assessments (known as PDRs), which have to be completed every year. Although PDRs were generally completed, the members of the workforce we spoke with did not value the process. In addition, the force does not systematically assess the contents of all PDRs for effectiveness and fairness.
At the time of our inspection, the alliance was aiming to conduct an all-staff survey in June 2016, which should improve the force’s understanding of how the workforce feels it is treated.
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.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has a good understanding of leadership and communicates the expectations of its leaders clearly throughout the organisation. It involved the whole workforce in developing ‘The Herts Way’ (its statement of how it will police the county), which contains a specific focus on leadership. The force provides officers and staff at all levels with extensive opportunities to develop their leadership skills and looks for new ideas by exchanging information with other forces and by commissioning research.
Although the senior team in Hertfordshire Constabulary has a clear understanding of diversity in the context of protected characteristics, such as age, disability, or gender reassignment, there are not enough black and minority ethnic (BME) people in the workforce, particularly in middle and senior management roles. In contrast, the gender balance at these levels is good. The force would benefit from adopting a wider definition of diversity, to include background, skills, experience, and personality types, to support the creation of more effective leadership teams.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Hertfordshire Constabulary.