Northumbria PEEL 2015
How well has the force performed in our other inspections?
In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMICFRS 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.
As part of HMIC’s annual all-force inspections into police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) in 2015, HMIC assessed how well led forces are at every rank and grade of the organisation and across all areas inspected in PEEL. We reviewed how well a force understands and is developing its leaders; whether it has set a clear and compelling future direction; and how well it motivates and engages the workforce.
Northumbria Police has a number of areas which would benefit from stronger leadership. The force cannot consistently identify strengths and areas for development among its leaders individually, or as a team, and we found a limited understanding of the workforce’s perception of senior leaders. The force does not have a formal system which transparently identifies talent.
The force demonstrates leadership in its support for neighbourhood policing and its commitment to maintaining and improving support to victims. As a result it has continually high levels of public satisfaction.
How well does the force have a clear understanding of the current state of its leadership at every level?
HMIC examined how well forces understand the strengths and weaknesses of leadership across the force and how well the workforce understands its leadership role. Strong, clear leadership across every rank and grade is vital to the effectiveness and efficiency of a modern and capable police force.
Northumbria Police has only a limited understanding of how its workforce perceives leadership in the force. This understanding is based on focus groups conducted before area performance meetings and from informal conversations. The force has not conducted a staff survey since 2010, and at the time of the inspection, the force had recognised this as an area for improvement. However, the force is prioritising issues around understanding how staff feel about the force, change, leadership and integrity.
Staff and officers as leaders have only a general understanding of what is expected of them. The force could do more to ensure that the expectations it has of its leaders are clear. The force has not formally identified or defined what it means by leadership, and as a result it cannot benchmark workforce capabilities or consistently identify strengths and areas for development among its leaders, individually or as a team.
The force’s lack of understanding of current leadership capability means it only has a limited understanding of the leadership skills that its workforce will require in the future. The force recognises that its core values will continue to be important, and has embedded them within promotion processes, but it has not carried out a comprehensive assessment of further skills and capabilities that its workforce will require.
How well has the force provided a clear and compelling sense of the future direction of the organisation?
HMIC examined the extent to which forces have set out a clear, compelling and realistic sense of future direction because it is important to ensure that the workforce is motivated to build for the future and that the force knows the kinds of skills it is looking to develop. We were also interested in how well leaders are making use of new approaches to enable forces to meet future financial challenges.
The force has not communicated effectively its future plans in a manner that is understood by its workforce, and has a limited understanding of its longer-term strategic plans and priorities. The force aims to improve its quality of service to communities, particularly victims. This aim is ambitious, given the relatively high levels of victim satisfaction the force already achieves, but we found no compelling sense of how this will be achieved in the future.
The majority of police staff and officers HMIC spoke to during the inspection said that they were not clear on the future plans and priorities of the organisation. We found an understanding of the continuing focus on improving service to victims while reducing budgets, however many questioned how realistic the direction was. Many officers and staff did not feel a part of the change programme and some expressed a reluctance to become involved as they were concerned their contribution would not be appreciated.
The force has carried out some work to use new ideas and approaches. It has researched regionally and nationally to identify equipment which will allow officers to receive and update information while they are mobile, and is in the process of rolling this out.
How is the force developing leadership, motivating the workforce and encouraging staff engagement?
HMIC examined how well forces identify and develop leadership, as quality of leadership is key to ensuring forces overcome their challenges of reducing crime and meeting the needs of victims. We were not looking for one particular style of leadership but focused on how well leaders motivate their workforce and improve performance in order to deliver a quality service to the public.
The force could make improvements in workforce performance management and development. Although in principle each individual’s appraisal review has objectives that align with force priorities, completion of appraisals and their use as a performance tool is inconsistent at best. The force is, however, currently changing its performance development review process to make it more effective and less bureaucratic for managers.
The force uses the Code of Ethics and the national development framework as the basis for selecting successful candidates in promotion processes and supporting those who were unsuccessful. Some staff raised concerns about the fairness and transparency of the processes for promotion and selection for specialist roles, and development opportunities in the force.
The force does not have a formal system which transparently identifies talented individuals. The force has encouraged officers to apply for its high potential development and fast track schemes and has supported candidates through mentoring and one-to-one conversations with members of the command team. This approach has had some success as the force now has eight high-potential development scheme officers and one successful applicant for its fast-track scheme to inspector, whereas before this initiative there were none.
To what extent is leadership improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of the force?
As good quality leadership is an important factor of policing performance, HMIC examined how leaders are improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of forces through clear, reasoned and swift actions. This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible for this pillar.
Leadership in Northumbria Police is contributing towards improving the legitimacy of the force in how it keeps people safe and reduces crime, though there are areas where improvements could be made. During the inspection, it was apparent that conflict between senior leaders in the force has affected adversely the morale and wellbeing of the workforce. However, the leadership displayed by the new chief constable has proved positive, and many police staff and officers commented that the open and approachable behaviours he displays have improved trust and confidence in senior leadership. The workforce reported that leaders gave them confidence to challenge wrongdoing, regardless of rank, and felt senior leaders would support them.
The force is planning to conduct its first staff survey since 2010. Senior police officers and staff reported that, in the past, they felt innovation and organisational challenge was not encouraged, leaving some feeling undermined and disempowered. Senior leaders in the force hope that engagement will improve by holding the staff survey. The chief officer team is also providing clear leadership through supporting neighbourhood teams to engage well with local communities. Most police officers and staff support this approach.
Northumbria’s leadership has a strong commitment to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour and we found a clear shift in emphasis to protect the vulnerable. The force continues to enjoy high levels of public satisfaction.