Cheshire 2016Read more about Cheshire 2016
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Cheshire 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 is good.
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.
Michael Cunningham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I am very pleased with all aspects of the performance of Cheshire Constabulary. The force provides a consistently good service.
Cheshire Constabulary conducts high quality investigations. Crimes are investigated by officers with the appropriate skills, and investigations are actively supervised so that standards are maintained. The force works well with other agencies to reduce reoffending and to identify, investigate and bring to justice repeat and dangerous offenders.
The force is effective at identifying people who may be vulnerable, and officers across the organisation understand their role in applying safeguarding measures. The force supports victims of domestic abuse well and makes good use of powers to place restrictions on perpetrators.
I am impressed by the force’s commitment to neighbourhood policing, which gives it strong links to the people of Cheshire. This enables it to address emerging problems quickly, although the force could do more to adopt a problem-solving approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour at the neighbourhood level. The force works well with other agencies to reduce reoffending and to identify, investigate and bring to justice repeat and dangerous offenders.
Cheshire Constabulary has improved its ability to tackle serious and organised crime since my assessment last year. The force now has a greater understanding of the threat it is facing, informed by data from partner organisations. Neighbourhood officers understand the role they play in disrupting organised criminality.
Cheshire Constabulary’s use of a priority-based budgeting approach has allowed it to develop a sophisticated understanding not only of the primary demands for its services, such as crime and incidents, but also secondary demands, such as internal demand and that from partner organisations. This approach allows the force to make informed choices about the level of resources and of services provided by different departments. The force commissions work to address gaps in its understanding and to improve its assessment of demand. This includes exchanging information with partner organisations and producing joint profiles.
I am pleased that Cheshire Constabulary is exploring new ways of working with partner organisations to reduce demand, pool resources and improve service outcomes. The force aligns its workforce and financial plans with those of partner organisations. It has a comprehensive technology strategy that is aligned with the workforce and service plans. It has an ambitious plan for making more use of digital technology, although it has yet to make full use of mobile devices.
Cheshire Constabulary treats the people it serves and its own officers and staff with fairness and respect. It has a culture of ethical and lawful behaviour. The force frequently seeks feedback, using a range of techniques, and it has carried out targeted work with people who historically have had less trust and confidence in the police.
Senior leaders actively promote Cheshire Constabulary’s values, and staff are positive about the force’s culture. However, the force needs to improve some areas of vetting and the approach to managing the risk of officers and staff abusing their authority for sexual gain (that is, taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime).
Cheshire Constabulary uses several approaches to develop its leaders, including master classes and external coaching for senior leaders, and invests heavily in mentoring its prospective senior leaders.
The force encourages innovation both within and outside the organisation, considering new ideas as part of its priority-based budgeting process. The chief constable and senior officers are visible throughout the organisation, frequently joining different teams on the front line.
In summary, I commend the force on the service it is providing to the people of Cheshire.
Cheshire Constabulary provides policing services to the county of Cheshire. Cheshire is generally poor, although there are some areas of marked affluence. The force area is home to around 1 million people, who mainly live in the city of Chester and the towns of Warrington, Crewe and Macclesfield. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise, or travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes 103 miles of motorway and trunk roads, and major rail stations.
The proportion of areas in Cheshire that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is higher 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 that 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.
Cheshire Constabulary, Nottinghamshire Police, Northamptonshire Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary share human resources, finance and payroll services. Cheshire Constabulary shares a firearms team with North Wales Police.
Cheshire Constabulary and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service are developing plans to join up enabling services and systems, and create a headquarters for both organisations at the current police headquarters in Winsford.
The force is working with Merseyside Police and North Wales Police to improve the sharing of information through joint processes, facilitated by a shared IT platform. It is also finalising agreements with these forces on a shared forensics service.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how Cheshire Constabulary responds to this assessment and to the areas for improvement that HMIC identified last year.
I will be particularly interested to see:
- how the force improves its vetting processes to comply with all aspects of national guidance; and
- how the force uses technology to improve services and drive efficiencies.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Cheshire Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year, when we judged the constabulary to be good in respect of effectiveness.
The constabulary has maintained high standards of investigation and levels of service to vulnerable people, and it has improved its ability to tackle serious and organised crime. The constabulary’s approach to preventing crime remains good.
Cheshire Constabulary is committed to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and making a difference for communities. Neighbourhood policing provides a link between communities and the police, and the constabulary is able to address emerging problems immediately. Preventative work and problem solving at a strategic, constabulary-wide level is effective, but at a neighbourhood level, officers need to understand the full principles of the problem-solving methodology.
Cheshire Constabulary carries out high-quality investigations. Crimes are investigated by officers who have the appropriate skills and supervisors play an active role in ensuring investigations are carried out to the highest standard. The constabulary works well with other agencies to reduce reoffending and to identify, investigate and bring to justice repeat and dangerous offenders.
Cheshire Constabulary is effective at identifying people who may be vulnerable through their age, disability, or because they have been subjected to repeated offences or are at high risk of abuse, and investigates crimes against vulnerable victims thoroughly. Officers across the organisation understand their role in ensuring safeguarding measures are appropriately applied. Greater attention is required when response officers assess risks in relation to vulnerable people. The constabulary can demonstrate a high level of support for victims of domestic abuse and makes good use of powers to place restrictions on perpetrators. The constabulary’s use of charges is among the highest for domestic abuse offences in England and Wales.
Cheshire Constabulary made positive progress towards addressing the areas for improvement in relation to serious and organised crime that were identified in last year’s report. The constabulary now has a greater understanding of the threat it is facing, informed by data from partner organisations. Neighbourhood officers understand the role they play in disrupting organised crime groups.
The constabulary has appropriate arrangements in place to ensure that it can respond to national threats.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Cheshire Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
The constabulary has a good understanding of demand for its services and has processes in place to make informed choices about the level of resources and levels of service across departments. At a strategic level, workforce plans and financial plans are aligned, and the constabulary has some well-developed and ambitious plans for the future, centred on increased use of digital technology and ICT development.
Cheshire Constabulary has a comprehensive strategic planning framework, centred on its understanding of demand. It has used a priority-based budgeting approach for the last two financial years. This process has allowed the constabulary to develop a more sophisticated understanding of traditional demand, such as crime and incidents, as well as helping it to understand secondary demand, such as internal demand and demand from partner agencies.
The constabulary has a good understanding of the skills and capabilities of its workforce. The constabulary moved to a new operating model in July 2015, and there are concerns among the workforce about the resulting level of staffing and the high number of probationary officers in some teams. Some teams lack officers with specific skills, such as police drivers, needed to respond efficiently to daily demand. The constabulary is learning from the implementation of the new operating model. It is making changes in several areas, including creating a bank of people ready to apply to the constabulary to cover any potential high demand for more officers, prioritising training, and increasing the numbers of officers with specialist skills.
The constabulary has a comprehensive information and communications technology (ICT) strategy that is aligned with the workforce and service plans. It has an ambitious plan for making more use of digital technology, supported through the constabulary IT strategy. However, the constabulary has yet to make full use of mobile devices. The constabulary’s medium-term financial strategy sets the constabulary budget until 2019/20 and is based on credible and sensible assumptions. The strategy includes a summary of potential high-level savings, expected funding and use of reserves. The constabulary plans for the number of police officers, police staff and police community support officers to remain constant until 2019/20 and this is reflected in the medium-term financial strategy.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Cheshire Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Cheshire Constabulary is good in how it treats the people it serves with fairness and respect, its ethical and lawful behaviour, and the way it treats officers and staff internally with fairness and respect. The culture of the organisation reflects this through its fair and respectful treatment of people, and ethical, lawful approaches to integrity. The organisation’s fair and respectful treatment of its workforce and concern for its welfare and wellbeing also demonstrate this. Senior leaders actively promote the constabulary’s values, and staff are positive about the constabulary’s culture. However, it needs to improve some areas of vetting and its approach to managing the risk of abuse of authority for sexual gain by officers and staff. Our findings this year are consistent with last year’s findings, in which we also judged the constabulary to be good in respect of legitimacy.
Cheshire Constabulary has a clear vision and clear values which are consistent with the Code of Ethics. These have been well communicated and are understood throughout the organisation. The constabulary frequently seeks feedback and challenge, using a range of techniques including focus groups, challenge panels and surveys, and has carried out targeted work with communities which historically have had less trust and confidence in the police. The constabulary could do more to demonstrate to the public how it has responded to problems it has identified.
The constabulary understands the importance of vetting potential applicants and contract staff and has a vetting policy for recruits, including volunteers and other non-police staff, which is derived from and is in line with national guidance. The constabulary recognises that further work is needed on managing cases after the initial national security vetting to ensure it complies with national standards. Although there is awareness around the abuse of authority by officers and staff for sexual gain, the constabulary needs to provide further training for officers and staff in this area. It also needs to seek intelligence proactively on potential abuse of authority from a variety of sources, such as sex worker support organisations and victims of domestic abuse, through working with third sector and voluntary organisations such as Women’s Aid.
Staff and officers have a limited understanding of the action the constabulary has taken in response to recent surveys, and there is a perception that there is a lack of communication about the actions taken by the constabulary to improve the issues highlighted by such surveys. The constabulary is developing a comprehensive approach to understanding staff wellbeing; it sees maintaining wellbeing as essential to having a productive, well-engaged workforce. The commitment to wellbeing is demonstrated through the creation of a health and wellbeing centre, a health and wellbeing zone on the intranet, health and wellbeing conferences and road shows, and a newly launched employee assist programme.
The constabulary has recently introduced a new system for performance development review (PDR) following feedback from staff that the previous system was ineffective. While acknowledging that the new system is only three months old, we found much confusion among staff as to what was required. This is having a negative impact on the PDR completion rate, with no systems in place to ensure fair application of the process to assess personal performance across the workforce.
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.
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.
Cheshire Constabulary has a good understanding of the capacity and capability of its leadership at all levels. The chief officer team has a strong commitment to leadership development. Over the last 18 months, the constabulary began to establish commonly understood leadership expectations. This resulted in the Leading the Way document, which sets out the constabulary’s leadership expectations. The constabulary uses a number of tools to review the impact of its leadership work. It was an early adopter of a new Investors in People wellbeing and leadership award, for which it was awarded silver in early 2016.
The constabulary collects a variety of intelligence to help it to identify leadership concerns and uses a number of approaches to develop its leaders, including master classes and external coaching for senior leaders. The constabulary is using various recruitment opportunities to increase the diversity of its workforce and its leadership. It also invests heavily in mentoring for prospective senior leaders, which it sees as an effective method for developing people to achieve their full potential and is a beneficial technique at certain stages of a person’s career.
The constabulary is keen to include external contributions in its thinking. Its leadership conferences always include external participation with a focus on bringing in learning from an outside perspective. The constabulary is also thinking more broadly about diversity, covering the more familiar concept of protected characteristics such as race, gender and sexuality, but also background and skills, for example.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Cheshire Constabulary.