Northumbria 2016Read more about Northumbria 2016
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Northumbria 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 good.
Michael Cunningham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I am pleased with the overall performance of Northumbria Police. However, the force still needs to improve some aspects of its service.
Northumbria Police is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. The force is committed to neighbourhood policing, with local teams spending most of their time working in the communities they serve.
The force has effective methods of communicating with the public, giving the people of Northumbria an opportunity to influence the force’s priorities.
I am pleased that the force has continued to improve its service to vulnerable victims; some of its practices to support them are excellent. The force is consistently good at identifying vulnerable people at the first point of contact, and it works well with partner organisations to provide effective safeguarding support through the use of restrictive orders such as domestic violence prevention notices.
The force’s initial investigation of crime is good. Most crimes are allocated to officers with the appropriate investigative skills, and they complete investigations to a high standard. I am reassured by the service the force provides to victims in more serious cases, including victims of rape and others who are vulnerable. However, I am concerned that there are very long delays before digital evidence is examined, which can hamper the quality of investigations and cause delays in bringing offenders to justice.
Northumbria Police actively tackles the activities of organised crime groups using an effective combination of disruption and enforcement approaches. These approaches are informed by detailed analysis that includes profiles on child sexual exploitation and sex workers. The force manages existing offenders effectively through the use of ancillary and civil orders.
Since our crime data integrity inspection in 2014, the force has made concerted efforts to improve the accuracy with which it records crimes and has made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of crime-recording decisions. However, I remain concerned about the supervision of crime recording and about inaccuracies in initial crime-recording decisions.
I am pleased that Northumbria Police has a good understanding of current demand for its services and is assessing future demand from emerging and changing crime types, such as internet crime. The force has sound financial plans and allocates its resources well to match current demand. However, the force needs to improve its workforce planning so that it has the appropriate skills and knowledge to meet all its likely future demands. The force has a comprehensive technology strategy, but I am concerned that it may not have sufficient expertise to implement this effectively.
Northumbria Police has a well-considered and coherent approach to leadership development. The force has conducted its first staff survey since 2010, and is addressing the concerns that have been raised. The workforce has a good understanding of the link between displaying strong values and providing a legitimate service to the public.
I am reassured that the force has a good understanding of the factors that can lead to corruption, and it has a dedicated team that monitors police systems and investigates allegations of corruption and complies with national vetting policies.
In summary, I am pleased that the force has built on its performance in many areas, but there are some aspects where I would like to see improvement.
Northumbria Police provides policing services to the counties of Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. Northumbria has a high level of poverty, although there are some affluent areas. The force area is home to around 1.4 million people, who mainly live in the cities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sunderland, as well as some smaller towns on the coast.
The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 151 miles of motorway and trunk roads, major rail stations and air and sea ports.
The proportion of areas in Northumbria that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is broadly in line with 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.
An assistant chief constable has been made responsible for extending Northumbria Police’s collaborative arrangements.
The force is one of three forces that form the North East Regional Special Operations Unit, and it is continuing to explore the possibility of links with Durham Constabulary.
The force is considering joint working opportunities in three areas: geographic community safety, safeguarding, and police-to-police collaboration. The Northumbria Safer Roads initiative is one example of the force working in partnership with local authorities, the Highways Agency, courts services, local university and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how Northumbria Police 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 reduces the time it takes to analyse technological evidence in investigations; and
- the progress of the force’s technology strategy.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northumbria Police has been assessed as good in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our findings this year are the same as last year’s assessment, in which we judged the force to be good in respect of effectiveness. The force has an effective approach to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour and is good at tackling serious and organised crime. Its response to the management of vulnerability is good. Certain areas of the force’s work require improvement, particularly the investigation of crime and reducing re-offending.
Northumbria Police’s overall effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good. The force also has some elements of outstanding practice in the way that it supports vulnerable victims.
The force has an effective approach to preventing crime and keeping people safe. Designated neighbourhood teams provide policing at a community level. The force understands its communities, and it has effective methods of communicating with the public, and of obtaining feedback, and it gives the public an opportunity to influence the force’s priorities.
Northumbria Police has provided training in relevant powers to give its officers and staff the ability to deal with crime and anti-social behaviour effectively. However, the understanding of problem solving at a local level is mixed.
The force’s initial investigation of crime is good. Officers with the appropriate investigative skills are allocated to crimes, and they complete investigations to a high standard. However, the force has an inconsistent approach to investigations of stalking and harassment, resulting in a mixed level in the quality of investigations. There are very long delays before digital evidence is examined.
In more serious cases, such as rape, the force provides an excellent service to victims. It has robust supervisory oversight, good use of risk-assessments and a very good support service to vulnerable victims. This same level of service is also given to victims of domestic abuse, and to vulnerable victims in general.
The force is very good at using a variety of methods to gather intelligence and manage organised criminals at a strategic and local level. It also makes good use of the range of powers which are available to disrupt members of organised crime groups.
Northumbria Police has effective arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northumbria Police has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
Northumbria Police has a good understanding of current demand for its services. It is taking positive steps to identify hidden demand and reduce unnecessary demand. The force has taken steps to assess future demand from emerging and changing crime types, and the implications for the force. It understands the requirement to reallocate resources to cover the greatest area of risk. The force understands the benefits of collaboration. It is actively seeking new arrangements with other forces, partner agencies and other emergency services. It has made sound financial planning assumptions for the short and medium term and has planned its resources to ensure its capability to provide an effective policing service.
Northumbria Police has a good understanding of current demand for its services and has taken active steps to reduce front-end demand. The force is taking steps to identify hidden demand and is achieving this through established processes involving minority communities. The force encourages staff to find ways of reducing unnecessary demand through innovation. ‘Change in a day’ and ‘Quick wins’ are just two of the initiatives that the force has implemented. Northumbria Police has taken steps to assess future demand from emerging and changing crime types, and the implications of this for the force.
The force has worked with partner agencies to explore ways to make working arrangements more efficient and effective. But HMIC believes the force could do more to understand the impact of reduced budgets on partner agencies and the likely implications for demand on the force.
The force understands the requirement to reallocate resources to cover the greatest area of risk. It has potentially made savings of 205 officers from frontline policing by introducing a resolution without deployment team and changing its approach to shoplifting, making off without payment (bilking) and to people who are absent – not at a place where they are supposed to be. This has enabled investment in a safeguarding department to allow the force to get ahead of demand. Workforce planning does, however, need to be more advanced. The force has a good understanding of workforce gaps and how to tackle them, but it now needs to ensure that it has the capability and capacity to address the emerging threat of cyber-crime.
The force understands the benefits of collaboration and is actively seeking new arrangements with other forces, partner agencies and other emergency services. It has made sound financial planning assumptions for the short and medium term and has planned its resources to ensure its capability to provide an effective policing service. The force can also raise considerable funds through the sale of redundant estate and the rise in the council tax precept. It had made plans to reduce its workforce in anticipation of a negative spending review in November 2015. The positive result enabled the force to continue with the planned changes while realigning resources to the areas of greatest risk.
The force has invested in technology such as body-worn cameras and ‘phablets’ (hand-held remote access devices), which has enabled frontline officers to be more visible. While each of the force’s successful bids for Home Office funding has a built-in evaluation process as part of its business case, HMIC believes that the force could do more to evaluate the whole of the change programme to ensure that initiatives are beneficial.
The force has a comprehensive information and communication technology strategy and sufficient funds to see the programme through to completion. There are, however, some concerns that the force does not have sufficient expertise to ensure that the strategy is implemented.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northumbria Police has been assessed as good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
HMIC found that Northumbria Police’s vision of providing a good service to the public of Northumbria is a routine part of the force’s culture.
The force actively seeks feedback from the community it serves. There are a number of well-established independent advisory groups (IAGs) that represent minority groups and provides the opportunity to challenge the force and give feedback on positive and negative perceptions.
Northumbria Police seeks to identify learning opportunities that arise from feedback provided by the public. It formed the Code of Ethics committee to address and resolve issues relating to both positive and negative perceptions from within the community. The group assesses both good and poor working practices and devises new methods of working to address such perceptions.
Northumbria Police vets all new recruits, volunteers and contractors according to current national guidelines. However, there are concerns that as a result of the planned recruitment drive, there will be limited capacity to ensure that vetting procedures are completed in an acceptable timescale.
Northumbria Police understands corruptive influences and has a counter-corruption control strategy to mitigate any threat posed. The counter-corruption unit has a dedicated team that monitors police systems and investigates allegations of corruption. Northumbria Police is able to assess all intelligence relating to possible corruptive practices, and to review it in a timely manner.
Northumbria Police recognises the importance of supporting the wellbeing of its staff and it has signed up to the Workplace Wellbeing Charter. It is also in the process of recruiting a lead for wellbeing. Investments in the mental health charity MIND blue-light programme have enabled supervisors to identify mental health warning signs early so that they can offer appropriate guidance.
Assessment as to how the new performance development review (PDR) process will be adopted and subsequently influence individuals’ development is not possible at this stage, because the new process is not fully established.
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.
Chief officers from Northumbria Police are developing their leadership expectations with the workforce as part of a ‘Proud to Protect’ programme, which launched in 2016. HMIC found most people across all ranks and grades in the force had a good understanding of this work. The force is also developing a more sophisticated appraisal of skills and capacity. It has a growing understanding of the gaps and areas for improvement in its leadership capability.
The force has a well-considered and coherent approach to leadership development. While the force has several methods to identify and address gaps in leadership capability, these are yet to be evaluated as they have only recently been introduced. Future leadership requirements are clear, and there is some evidence that the force is using recruitment to support the development of leadership and meet future requirements. The force has effective methods of supporting potential senior leaders to develop a range of professional and leadership skills.
The force can demonstrate an active search for new ideas and working practices from other police forces and organisations. New methods are adopted swiftly and flexibly. The force is developing a culture of continuous improvement, and innovation is becoming part of the force ethos. Members of the workforce are encouraged to submit suggestions to accessible and straightforward systems, and are given credit for their suggestions. The ‘Change in a day’ programme is seen as an opportunity for all officers and staff to play a significant part in developing an efficient and effective police service.
The understanding of diversity extends beyond protected characteristics such as race, gender and sexuality, and considers how diversity of background, experience and skills can strengthen teams. The force is aware of the gaps in these areas, and can demonstrate how it is planning to improve its understanding. The force has achieved some success in developing diverse leadership teams. It can demonstrate clear and positive processes for creating diversity within teams. It is considering how posting decisions can help develop experience, background and skills; and is making some use of recruitment opportunities as well as wider opportunities such as secondments and Direct Entry.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Northumbria Police.