Kent 2016Read more about Kent 2016
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Kent Police. 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 force is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
The extent to which the force is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
The extent to which the force is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime is outstanding.
Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I congratulate Kent Police on its excellent overall performance.
I am particularly pleased with the improvements the force has made in how it keeps vulnerable people safe. The protection of vulnerable people is seen as everyone’s responsibility, not just that of specialist teams.
Our inspectors also found that frontline officers have a good knowledge of how young people might be at risk from child sexual exploitation and its links to missing children. The force is now more consistent in making positive interventions in domestic abuse cases to reduce the risk to victims and hold more offenders to account.
The force has an effective approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and has allocated dedicated resources to neighbourhood policing. It understands the communities it serves and has equipped its officers well to work with local partner organisations to prevent anti-social behaviour from escalating.
Kent Police is also good at tackling serious and organised crime, and it is working hard to improve further its response to newer organised crime threats such as human trafficking, digital crime and child sexual exploitation. Its collaboration with Essex Police allows the forces to combine specialist capabilities to tackle serious and organised crime.
The force’s initial investigation of crime is good, and people with the appropriate skills and experience continue the investigations to a high standard. I am reassured that the force is undertaking analysis to understand why a relatively high proportion of investigations are not proceeding because victims do not support police action. Kent Police is also good at protecting the public from the most prolific, serious and dangerous offenders. It works effectively with partner organisations to manage such offenders, as well as registered sex offenders.
We found the force to be outstanding at understanding and dealing with the wide range of demands it faces. It demonstrates an impressive and detailed understanding of local issues and public expectations.
Its future plans for its workforce are both realistic and sensible. I am also impressed that it has considered areas of growing demand such as internet crime, people trafficking and protecting vulnerable people, including the reporting and management of female genital mutilation.
The force has a good understanding of the skills and capabilities of its workforce, and it uses this understanding to inform training and recruitment.
It is making good use of technology, such as body-worn video cameras, and I will watch with interest the results of the force’s ambitious plans for mobile devices later in the year.
I am impressed by the exceptionally strong ethical culture in the force, which encourages its workforce to act both with integrity and lawfully. Its anti-corruption unit monitors a range of activities and also actively seeks out intelligence on potential abuse of authority for sexual gain (that is, taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime), enabling the force to identify and address inappropriate behaviour early.
The force’s approach to communicating with the public is impressive. It works hard to identify and communicate with those identified as having less trust and confidence in the police. It also deserves praise for the way it speaks to young people – in particular those involved in gangs and other activities that put them at risk – and its engagement with the Gypsy and Roma communities is notable.
Kent Police has invested heavily in improving leadership at all levels, and leadership expectations are well understood across the force. There is a vibrant culture of innovation and improvement, and the whole workforce is encouraged to put forward ideas.
In summary, I commend the force on the service it is providing to the people of Kent.
Kent Police provides policing services to the areas of Kent and Medway. Kent is generally affluent, although there are some areas of deprivation. The force area is home to around 1.8 million people, who mainly live in the city of Canterbury as well as the towns of Maidstone, Gravesend, Ashford, Margate, Dartford, Folkestone and Dover.
The resident population is increased by university students and the very large numbers who visit or travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes 210 miles of motorway and trunk roads, major rail stations, the channel tunnel, and major sea ports.
The proportion of areas in Kent 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 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. The police force area is large, relative to other forces in England and Wales, and it takes a comparatively long time to travel across the area by road, which increases the difficulty of providing police services.
Kent Police collaborates extensively with Essex Police across a range of areas of business.
Kent Police shares a control room with Kent Fire and Rescue Service, which saves on the cost of premises, and makes it easier to share information, particularly during major emergencies.
A new assistant chief constable has been appointed within the past year.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how Kent Police responds to this assessment.
I will be particularly interested to see:
- the outcome of the force’s work to understand why investigations where the victims are not supportive of police action are high in comparison with other forces nationally; and
- how the force uses technology to make continued improvements.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Kent Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force has an effective approach to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, tackling serious and organised crime and protecting vulnerable people, including victims of domestic abuse. However, improvements are required in how it investigates crime. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year, when we judged the force to be good in respect of effectiveness.
Overall, the effectiveness of Kent Police is good. The force needs to improve how some investigations are conducted and overseen, and in particular it needs to understand why so many crimes are not progressing due to the victim not supporting police action or due to difficulties in securing sufficient evidence for a case to proceed. However, beyond these issues many elements of policing in Kent are extremely effective.
The force has an effective approach to preventing crime and keeping people safe and has devoted dedicated resources to policing its communities effectively. It understands the communities it serves and has equipped its officers well to work with other policing organisations and interested parties to promote resolutions that protect communities and victims. It has responded to HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report by improving how it shares among its officers and staff knowledge of what works locally in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour in its communities, so they can all learn from best practice.
The force is good at pursuing and disrupting organised criminal groups and preventing organised crime from taking root in its communities. The force works with Essex Police to tackle the most serious and harmful organised criminals, but combating serious organised crime is increasingly the responsibility of all frontline officers. The force is starting to use its neighbourhood officers to prevent people becoming involved in organised crime, but needs to make better use of the powers available to it to prevent organised criminals causing further harm. Kent Police is also taking steps to provide its specialist officers with better training and equipment to protect the public from threats requiring an armed response.
While the force’s initial investigation of crime is good, and the appropriate people continue the investigations to a high standard, there are still some problems with how well, overall, the force investigates crime. The force is poor at investigating certain types of crimes, for example stalking and harassment, although it is making efforts to improve in these areas. HMIC has serious concerns about the number of investigations which are not progressed because the victim does not support police action. This happens in 21.9 percent of crimes investigated in Kent, which is much higher than the 13.8 per cent figure for England and Wales and one of the highest levels of any force.
Kent Police is good at supporting victims of domestic abuse and is working hard to improve further the way in which it responds to domestic abuse. In particular, it has improved its arrest and charge to summons rates, which means that victims are getting better outcomes and offenders are being held to account for their actions. All frontline staff follow a clear procedure to address risk and vulnerability, and understand the need to take positive action in cases of domestic abuse.
The force’s police online investigation team (POLIT) is highly effective in bringing offenders to justice and safeguarding children, and is active with international colleagues in developing means to hold offenders to account and protect the victims of online abuse.
Kent Police has good plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement and regularly tests its plans to ensure that they are effective. The force is well prepared to respond to an attack which might require an armed response.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Kent Police has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force’s understanding of current demand for its services is outstanding, and it is doing considerable work to evaluate future demand. It is good at using its resources to manage current demand and works well with other forces in the region, particularly Essex Police, to improve efficiency and make savings. The force continues to manage its finances successfully and meet its saving requirements. Future investment plans are based on realistic and prudent assumptions and are designed to achieve greater efficiency and service improvement. In last year’s efficiency inspection, Kent Police was judged to be good.
Since HMIC’s 2015 inspection, Kent Police has continued to be efficient in how it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Its detailed understanding of current demand, local priorities, national requirements and public expectations is outstanding, and it is making good progress in evaluating future demand. It uses a comprehensive range of management information to understand current demand across geographical areas and time frames. It has held workshops with those who are less likely to report crime, including transgender, black and minority ethnic (BME) and women’s groups. The force has done work to help identify and improve understanding of demand that is under-reported, such as cyber-crime, crimes against vulnerable people, gang activity and child sexual exploitation, and has drawn up specific plans to guide improvements in service in these areas. The force is aligning its change programme to meet likely future demand and has identified a number of areas of growing demand, including counter terrorism, cyber-crime, people trafficking and vulnerability. It continues to improve its analytical capability to help it to understand emerging crime types and demographic changes.
Kent Police is good at using its resources to manage current demand. The force assesses thematic areas of the organisation in order to identify priorities based on risk and vulnerability. It has a development programme that draws together demand management with resourcing and service delivery, for example, which enables effective resource prioritisation. The force has worked hard to understand the costs of its services and to ensure services provide value for money. It has a comprehensive understanding of workforce skills and their effect on capacity and capability. Using an IT profiling tool, the force can identify workforce skills capabilities, gaps and potential gaps, such as from people retiring. It uses this information to plan training and recruitment. Good use is being made of technology such as body-worn cameras, and it has ambitious plans for mobile devices later in 2016. The force has a strong commitment to joint working to manage demand efficiently and it works well with other emergency services, particularly Kent Fire and Rescue Service. It has collaborated with Essex Police extensively for a number of years and is also part of the seven-force strategic collaboration programme.
The force is good at planning for future demand. It continues to manage its finances successfully and to meet its saving requirements. It is exploiting many opportunities to drive down costs and make savings so that it can invest in its change programmes. Future plans and investments are based on realistic and prudent assumptions about future income, costs and benefits and link directly to the workforce plan. The force has well-developed plans that identify future workforce capabilities aligned to current priorities. Ambitious plans to roll out mobile devices are well advanced. The use of technology to produce further efficiencies and meet the digital challenges is a fundamental part of the force’s plans, and should enable it to continue to improve the services it provides.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Kent Police has been assessed as outstanding in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our findings this year are consistent with last year’s assessment, in which we judged the force to be outstanding in respect of legitimacy.
The force’s approach to treating the people it serves with fairness and respect is outstanding. It is good at ensuring that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. Kent Police has an exceptionally strong ethical culture; the range of ways it effectively communicates with the public underpins its legitimacy. The force also has an outstanding approach to workforce wellbeing and fair treatment.
Kent Police is outstanding at treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. The force seeks feedback and challenge from the public frequently, including from those who may have less trust and confidence in the police or who are less likely to complain or take part in traditional forms of engagement. For example, it holds public meetings, undertakes surveys and uses social media, and works with independent advisory groups. The force responds to feedback and ensures that the workforce are made aware of any lessons that should be learnt.
The force is good at ensuring that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. It has an exceptionally strong ethical culture in which it reinforces acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. The force vets all people applying to be officers, staff or volunteers, and contractors. It has a proactive approach to risks to the integrity of the organisation and uses a range of techniques to gather and assess intelligence relating to potential corruption.
Officers and staff understand the seriousness of the abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) and the force treats it as serious corruption. The force is proactive in seeking intelligence on potential abuse of authority from a range of sources, including women’s refuges, prostitutes, ethnic minority groups, and from monitoring its IT systems. It publishes full details of misconduct cases on its website for the public and on the intranet for its workforce.
The force is outstanding at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. Its use of culture and ethical boards alongside open challenge forums, such as ‘Ask the Chief’, have allowed it to identify and act quickly to improve the workforce’s perceptions of fair and respectful treatment. The workforce is involved in decision-making about wellbeing and ethical matters. Supervisors across the force have a comprehensive understanding of their wellbeing responsibilities, and are well prepared and supported to implement them. The force’s personal performance management arrangements are well established and effective, and are supported by 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.
Kent Police is a well-led force. It has invested heavily in improving leadership at all levels. The chief officer team has worked extensively with its workforce in developing its leadership expectations. Consequently, these expectations are well understood at all ranks and grades across the force. The workforce is encouraged to challenge its leaders appropriately and is confident to do so via established formal routes, including cultural and ethics boards.
Gaps and areas for improvement in leadership are identified proactively; this includes considering future requirements of the force. There is a vibrant culture of proposing new ideas and the whole workforce is encouraged to put forward suggestions for innovation and improvement. A well-considered and coherent approach to leadership development is in place, with a range of development opportunities for officers and staff to help them realise their full potential.
Kent Police is highly proactive in seeking out, both externally and internally, new opportunities for improving services. The workforce is encouraged to put forward suggestions for innovation and improvement. The senior team has a clear understanding of diversity in the context of protected characteristics set out on the Equality Act 2010, and it is committed to doing more to ensure that the workforce better represents the diversity of the communities it serves. The force has adopted 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 Kent Police.