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Bedfordshire 2014

Read more about Bedfordshire 2014

This is the first PEEL Assessment of Bedfordshire Police. In making this assessment I have used my professional judgment to consider the evidence available from inspections undertaken in the past 12 months.

The available evidence indicates that:

in terms of its effectiveness, in general, the force is good at tackling anti-social behaviour. However, it requires improvement in reducing crime and preventing offending, and it requires improvement in the way it investigates offending. I had some specific concerns about its approach to domestic abuse, although there are now very early signs of improvement since the initial inspection;

the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities requires improvement; and

the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in some of the practices that were examined this year.

Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary

Contact Zoë Billingham

HMI's observations

In making this first PEEL Assessment of Bedfordshire Police I have taken into account the considerable challenges in policing an area with such a complex crime profile.

Bedfordshire is a vibrant and diverse county, with Luton being home to one of the most ethnically diverse populations of any town or city outside of London. It is a small force in terms of staff and police officer numbers and it is a very low cost force. However, it faces some complex policing challenges with unusually high levels of serious threats and criminality not normally dealt with by a force of its size.

 

I am concerned that over the last two years police officer numbers have been cut to such a low level that the ability of the force to provide an effective policing service to the public has been put at risk. The new chief constable has recognised this. She is increasing officer numbers and reorganising the force so it is better placed to meet the policing challenges in Bedfordshire. But all this takes time and the changes have yet to take effect.

Currently, I have serious concerns about the force’s ability to reduce crime, investigate offending and provide an effective service to victims. Hardworking frontline police officers and staff are doing their best to keep the public safe but they are very overstretched. There are fundamental weaknesses in the way the force responds to victims of crime, especially those who are the most vulnerable. Staff working in neighbourhoods are often too busy responding to emergencies to be able to do effective preventative work.

I have also had serious concerns about the service to victims of domestic abuse. My team of inspectors has returned to the force to assess progress a number of times this year. Our further inspection in October 2014 identified very early signs of an improved approach, but organisational changes need to translate rapidly into a better service to victims of domestic abuse.

I have concerns about the force’s approach to crime-recording, which is not as accurate as it should be.

Despite all of this, there are a number of positives. The force works well with partners, such as local councils, to identify and support victims of anti-social behaviour. Strong partnership working also helps the force to tackle well those offenders who cause the most crime and disruption to communities. Generally the force is effective in preventing crimes that cause high levels of harm such as gang and gun-related crime, prostitution and other organised criminality. There has been an improvement in victim satisfaction over the last year and the force has invested in a new victim-focused approach that sets clear expectations on how staff should engage with victims.

I have also been impressed by the well-established joint working arrangements with Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Constabularies. The force is working to improve its understanding of the demand it faces, and plans to manage this demand through collaboration with the other forces. The force is now developing ambitious plans for improving policing in Bedfordshire in an affordable way.

Our intention is to examine leadership specifically as part of future PEEL Assessments, once criteria have been established. This will allow us to take account of the College of Policing review of leadership that is currently underway.

Over the past 12 months, there have been a number of inspections made of the force that have suggested recurrent issues. The force does not yet have in place an effective or affordable model for policing Bedfordshire for the longer term. It is currently reacting to a number of pressures, doing what it can with overstretched staff and resources. The force now needs to implement its plans quickly if policing services to the public are to improve.

HMIC will re-visit Bedfordshire Police by April 2015 to undertake a full diagnostic inspection. This will draw on external expertise, with the aim of identifying any further measures to assist the senior leadership of Bedfordshire Police to improve the service it provides to the public.

I am particularly interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement across a range of areas over the next 12 months.

 

 

Effectiveness

How well the force tackles crime

Last updated 12/11/2014
Ungraded

Bedfordshire Police requires improvement in reducing crime and preventing offending. The force requires improvement in investigating crime. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.

Bedfordshire Police is a small, very low cost force. It faces some complex policing challenges, with unusually high levels of serious threats and criminality that are not normally dealt with by a force of its size.

Over the last two years, and in response to required budget reductions, police officer numbers have been cut to such a low level that the ability of the force to provide an effective policing service to the public has been put at risk. The new chief constable has recognised this; she is grasping the issue, taking steps to increase officer numbers and to reorganise the force so it is better placed to meet the policing challenges in Bedfordshire. This all takes time, and the changes have yet to take effect.

Currently, HMIC has serious concerns about the force’s ability to reduce crime, investigate offending and provide an effective service to victims.

The lack of effective systems and the right number of appropriately trained police officers and staff in important areas of policing have resulted in fundamental weaknesses in the way the force responds to victims of crime, especially those who are the most vulnerable. Force priorities are not clearly understood by frontline officers. Priorities have a tendency to change when new threats or areas of risk are identified, only compounding the problem. The force’s ability to do preventive work in neighbourhoods is limited; officers and staff are often too stretched to do so – their time is spent reacting to emergencies.

HMIC has had consistent and serious concerns about the service to victims of domestic abuse, and has returned to the force to assess progress a number of times over the last year. The most recent inspection in October 2014 identified very early signs of an improved approach, but these changes need to translate rapidly into an improved service to victims.

Despite all of this, there are a number of positives. The force works well with partners, such as local councils, to identify and support victims of anti-social behaviour. Its strong partnership working also enables the force to tackle those offenders who cause the most crime and disruption to communities. Generally the force is effective in preventing crimes that cause high levels of harm such as gang and gun-related crime, prostitution and other organised criminality. There has been an improvement in victim satisfaction over the last year and the force has invested in a new victim focused approach known as CARE, which sets clear expectations on how staff should engage with victims.

HMIC will revisit Bedfordshire Police by April 2015 to undertake a full diagnostic inspection. This will draw on external expertise, with the aim of identifying any further measures to assist the senior leadership of Bedfordshire Police to improve the service it provides to the public.

Further insights on effectiveness

The domestic abuse inspection found that there were serious failings in the way Bedfordshire responded to victims of domestic abuse. HMIC’s principal concern was the force’s inability to provide a consistently effective response to safeguarding victims. A further domestic abuse inspection in October 2014 found very early signs of an improved approach: there is now a new domestic abuse investigation unit in place, which is responsible for investigating crimes, safeguarding victims and ensuring offenders are brought swiftly to justice; staffing numbers in the unit have increased; and there are now domestic abuse advisors in the force control room to help ensure victims get the right police response from the outset. These organisational changes need to translate rapidly into an improved service to victims.

The custody inspection found that, despite some good individual care for detainees, the lack of improvement in police custody suites in Bedfordshire was disappointing. However, the chief constable immediately put measures in place to address the concerns.

The crime inspection found there was an effective process for identifying and prioritising tackling organised criminal groups operating in the area. There was room for improvement in ensuring that local policing units are involved in strategies to disrupt their activities.

The Strategic Policing Requirement inspection found that Bedfordshire had, or had access to through collaboration with other forces regionally, the necessary capability to tackle terrorism, civil emergency, serious organised crime and public disorder, but not a large-scale cyber incident.

View the six questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

How well the force delivers value for money

Last updated 12/11/2014
Requires improvement

HMIC is encouraged by the progress Bedfordshire Police is making in achieving its required savings. The force has ambitious plans for the future to improve policing in Bedfordshire and achieve good value for money. However, the force faces some significant policing challenges in the short term. The force now needs to implement its ambitious plans for improving policing in Bedfordshire in an affordable way more quickly, and in doing so it must ensure that policing services to the public remain effective.

Bedfordshire is on track to achieve its required savings of £20.8m over the spending review period. The force has faced a difficult challenge and is making progress towards achieving a secure financial position. HMIC is encouraged by the progress made in developing the plans for the alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary. This is a clear signal of the commitment to collaboration and to achieving future savings and improvements in policing across the three forces.

Recorded crime levels had been falling in Bedfordshire over recent years, but in the 12 months to March 2014, overall recorded crime went up in the force area. The force previously reduced its police officer numbers to a level that put at risk its ability to provide effective policing and this had a serious impact on performance. The force recognised this. Under the leadership of the new chief constable, with oversight from the police and crime commissioner it is now taking steps to increase its police strength to safer levels through the recruitment of 60 police officers.

HMIC is encouraged that the force leadership has a good grasp and understanding of the issues and areas that need to improve. HMIC found that the force is moving in the right direction and the pace of change is now increasing. Success depends on developing the required plans in detail and speeding up the pace in order to address HMIC’s concerns and to secure a more certain future.

Our reinspection found that the immediate areas of risk were being addressed as a matter of urgency by the force and plans were in place to develop and implement the longer term approach to policing Bedfordshire. The next steps are for the force move to more detailed plans and provide assurance on how these are delivered.

View the three questions for efficiency

Legitimacy

Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?

Last updated 12/11/2014
Ungraded

Bedfordshire Police, working with both Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary, has developed a joint professional standards department that has been in place for 18 months. The three forces are continuing to develop their joint policies and procedures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how they jointly, manage and respond to, incidents of unprofessional behaviour, misconduct and corruption. However, there is currently insufficient capacity to prevent, reduce and investigate corruption matters effectively.

 

Further insights on legitimacy

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013) found that the proportion of respondents who think that the force does an excellent/good job was broadly in line with the figure across England and Wales. The same survey over the same period also found that the proportion that agrees that the force deals with local concerns was broadly in line with the figure for England and Wales. The force’s own victim satisfaction survey (12 months to June 2014) found that the proportion of victims that were satisfied with their experience was less than the figure across England and Wales.

The crime data integrity inspection found that frontline staff, including call-takers, understood the importance of meeting the needs of the victim when considering crime-recording and investigation. The domestic abuse inspection found that there were risks and significant room for improvement in the way Bedfordshire identified victims of domestic violence. There was an inconsistent and sometimes limited approach to establishing risk, safeguarding and vulnerability of the victim at the first point of contact. Following HMIC’s reinspection, training had been given to control room staff to address this. A further domestic abuse inspection in October 2014 found that there are now domestic abuse advisors in the force control room to help ensure victims get the right police response from the outset.

As a result of the crime data integrity inspection, HMIC is concerned that a notable proportion of reports of crime are not being recorded, and this means that victims of crime are not receiving the service they should when they first report a crime.

HMIC is also concerned with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime) as too many of these are incorrect. The force needs to take action to improve, serve the victims of these crimes and provide the public with confidence in the force’s crime data.

View the four questions for legitimacy

Key facts

Force Area

477 square miles

Population

0.64m people 11% local 10 yr change

Workforce

76% frontline 78% national level
3.2 per 1000 population 3.6 national level
8% change in local workforce since 2010 15% national change since 2010

Victim-based crimes

0.06 per person 0.06 national level
Local 5 year trend (no change) National 5 year trend (no change)

Cost

43p per person per day local 55p per person per day national

Points of context provided by the force

An extremely vibrant and diverse county force with high population density and challenges much like other forces with city and metropolitan areas.

As well as 2 large towns and sparsely populated rural communities.  The force has responsibility for one of the UK’s busiest international airports.

Police and crime plan priorities

My ambition is to build a safer Bedfordshire by increasing the protection of the public and partnership working, thereby creating confident communities.  My plan aims to prevent crime by tackling the underlying causes, reducing the number of victims and breaking the cycle of reoffending.

Read More

We all want Bedfordshire to be free from crime and the fear of crime. I have recalibrated the police focus on not only cutting serious and acquisitive crime, but hate crimes and domestic abuse. Police visibility has been maintained by recruiting police officers, PCSOs and Special Constables with officers receiving the latest mobile data technology and tablets. I fund a caseworker working towards early prevention, intervention and reduction of crimes against the vulnerable. I support the Integrated Offender Management programme, concentrating on the small number of offenders that commit the highest level of crime and campaign for GPS offender tagging.