Thames Valley 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.
Thames Valley Police has clear expectations of leadership, linked to the Code of Ethics. It is quite apparent that there is a well-known style of leadership within the force, which has been reinforced and discussed with officers and staff. The force has a robust performance and development process, which means that police officers in a supervisory rank understand the specific expectations placed on them.
The force has the ability to develop a good mix of skills within local leadership teams and oversees leadership skills across the organisation. The force is aware that it needs to support women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) officers to progress towards, and within, leadership positions, and can point to the developmental work it has done with both of these groups to support such progression.
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 quickly any gaps or problems in leadership.
Thames Valley Police demonstrates a good understanding of leadership, which is aligned to the College of Policing’s Code of Ethics. Leadership in the force is understood in terms of both the skills required for a given role, and the attitudes and behaviours the force expects to see. These expectations are understood by everyone in the force. A particular style of leadership is recognised and promoted throughout the workforce.
The force has involved its workforce in developing these expectations, and the chief constable has engaged personally with senior officers to define the specific skills and abilities required for them to operate effectively.
The force uses its robust performance and development process to assess what officers and staff expect from its leaders. Across the force, training includes elements of leadership, covering areas such as ethical decision-making. This training has been highly effective and staff reported a good understanding about how the Code of Ethics applies to their behaviours and the behaviour of those whom they would recognise as leaders.
The force has a good understanding of its overall leadership, although this is more sophisticated at a senior level, where it uses personality profiling. The technical skills and abilities of all staff, including leaders, are monitored on a local and a force-wide basis. This information is used when constructing and prioritising training programmes.
The force has good systems in place that allow it to identify gaps in its leadership. A senior appointments board looks two years ahead to identify potential gaps in particular skills or experience and this informs posting decisions and allows relevant training to be prioritised. Thames Valley Police has used its staff to fill informal leadership roles such as change champions and mental health liaison officers.
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 that contain 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 currently possess, and are seeking to recruit to address these gaps.
Thames Valley Police has processes in place to identify and develop talent, including an annual talent management programme for thirty officers and staff. The focus for participation is at constable, sergeant and inspector level; and police staff equivalents. The chief constable leads and fosters a culture of support for leadership development. Senior managers we spoke to expressed confidence in speaking directly with chief officers about their personal development.
The force has a range of programmes to support leadership development, which it subjects to ongoing evaluation. Coaching and mentoring are widely available and the force uses psychometric and personality type testing. The force runs annual leadership conferences and supports staff in working with academic institutions and taking part in wider development programmes, such as specialist leadership training and development specifically for female members of staff.
The force recruits externally, particularly for senior posts or when it needs to recruit people with skills that are more technical. Nine recruits were due to begin employment in July 2016 under the Police Now scheme, and the force is also seeking to recruit using the Direct Entry scheme for inspectors and superintendents. In addition, it has plans to use apprenticeships to bring staff into the organisation.
The force is well placed to identify and respond to leadership problems and has the ability to develop a good mix of skills within local leadership teams. The force oversees leadership skills across the organisation and has the ability to move staff when required, such as in response to problems identified through the analysis of complaints data.
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.
Over the past 12 months, Thames Valley Police has demonstrated innovative approaches in a number of areas. Promoting the use of evidence-based policing is part of the force’s learning and development strategy, and local policing area commanders are expected to demonstrate how they have incorporated this at a local level. The force has learned from other forces about using technology to work more efficiently and is now in the process of providing body-worn video cameras and mobile data terminals to staff. There is an appetite from staff for these innovations, although we did encounter a degree of dissatisfaction from some officers not due to receive the new technology, who felt that the force was missing an opportunity to help them become more productive.
The force is working with academic institutions such as Goldsmiths University to deliver evidence-based policing skills at an operational level. In addition, the force is part of a transformative ICT programme with Hampshire Constabulary, which will see the implementation of a new shared command and control system, as well as a customer portal that aims to transform the way services are provided to the public.
Over the past year, the force has completed a priority-based budget approach to review 80 percent of its activity. A significant part of this work involved the use of focus groups, which collected ideas about how things could be done better. As part of the force’s performance regime, “risk meetings” are held to review certain operational functions delivered by the force. This, we were told, provides a route for innovative ideas to be submitted. Despite these initiatives, we heard from some staff that they did not feel there was sufficient information available about how to make suggestions to improve organisational performance. Some cited examples of ideas they had forwarded for which they had not received any feedback or acknowledgement.
The force is challenging itself to develop more diversity in its leadership teams in terms of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) representation, and is taking a broader view of how to increase diversity within management teams. The force recognises that its focus is on the under-representation of BAME officers and leaders, as current levels of diversity do not correspond with those of the communities of Thames Valley. Action that the force has taken includes the use of apprenticeships, Police Now and Fast Track schemes, and awareness-raising in education establishments. The force also works with staff associations to develop programmes to support BAME and female officers.