Suffolk PEEL 2016
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.
Suffolk Constabulary has made good progress in addressing the issues we identified in HMIC’s 2015 Leadership inspection. The force has sought the views of its workforce in setting clear expectations of what it requires from its leaders and now needs to ensure that these are understood and adopted throughout the workforce.
The force, together with Norfolk Constabulary, has revised and recently relaunched its leadership and development programme. This aims to ensure annual staff appraisals are consistent and fair, and to ensure the force has strong leadership, identifies talent and develops its employees to be the best they can be.
Suffolk Constabulary has a strong focus on establishing what works through its evidence-based policing programme and learns from the experience of other forces. Most, though not all, staff we spoke with felt that new ideas were listened to and implemented quickly at the local level.
The chief officer team within Suffolk Constabulary understands that diversity in leadership teams concerns more than protected characteristics in the context of age, disability, or gender reassignment, and considers the experience, skills and development needs of senior leaders when deciding the composition of senior leadership teams. The force intends to use the newly revised leadership and development programme to assess the leadership capability throughout the organisation.
How well does the force understand leadership?
A good understanding of leadership capabilities and expectations is critical to the effective functioning of forces. How forces engage with their workforces when setting leadership expectations is vital in ensuring that police staff and officers feel enabled to lead in an ethical way and to challenge the expectations appropriately.
Forces’ understanding should also extend to their leadership strengths and weaknesses at every rank and grade. This includes an understanding of leadership styles and personality types of individuals, and how they affect wider team dynamics. Forces should use this knowledge to identify any gaps or problems in leadership.
Suffolk Constabulary’s chief officer team understands the importance of having strong leaders and has worked effectively with its workforce to create clearly defined leadership expectations. The force used a number of techniques to consult with the workforce about what makes a good leader, including an exercise called ‘The Big Listen’ (which sought views from 120 Suffolk and Norfolk police sergeants), focus groups chaired by a chief officer, and informal staff feedback. Officers and staff we spoke to felt able to challenge inappropriate behaviour and to question supervisors and leaders about their decisions.
In May 2016, the force (working collaboratively with Norfolk Constabulary) revised its leadership programme, known as ‘The Best I Can Be’. The programme is intended to provide clear leadership expectations, identify talented members of staff and help all employees to reach their full potential. Given that the programme had been revised so recently, it is perhaps not surprising that officers and staff we spoke to during our inspection had a limited and inconsistent understanding of it. The force recognises that it will take time for its workforce to become familiar with the new programme. It is continuing to publicise the programme and plans to conduct a staff survey in September 2016 to assess its impact.
Chief officers in Suffolk Constabulary have a good understanding of the skills, experience and developmental needs of senior leaders. However, the force recognises that it needs to do more to understand the strengths of its current leadership in different ranks, grades, roles and teams throughout the organisation.
In HMIC’s 2015 Leadership inspection, we found that staff appraisal completion was inconsistent. The force revised the way it conducts appraisals with its staff and work is underway on a new leadership and development programme with Norfolk Constabulary, which places the revised staff appraisal process at the centre of identifying talent and developing future leaders.
How well does the force develop leadership?
The way in which a force identifies and develops leadership skills is crucial in making sure it performs well now and in the future. Forces should identify leadership development programmes that contain a broad range of approaches, beyond just formal training, to develop leadership skills.
Forces’ knowledge of their current leadership capability should also mean that they are aware of the leadership skills and experience they do not currently possess, and are seeking to recruit to address this.
Suffolk Constabulary has systems in place to identify and develop talent among its workforce. The force uses a fast-track promotion scheme to identify people with the right skills to be rapidly promoted from constable to inspector. Five officers have been promoted to inspector under this scheme so far. The force is consulting with its workforce and staff associations about broadening its existing talent management scheme to include people seeking to develop at the same rank or grade, as well as those seeking promotion.
The force uses a broad range of approaches to support and improve leadership including 360-degree feedback; personality and leadership assessments; coaching and mentoring; secondments; and a range of courses up to master’s degree level. However, these approaches are not used consistently throughout the organisation.
In order to address this, the force, together with Norfolk Constabulary, has relaunched its leadership and development programme with a computer-based portal, which provides innovative multi-media learning resources. At present, the force does not routinely assess the impact of its existing leadership development programmes. Although at an early stage, the force’s plans for its new leadership development programme look impressive and the force needs to ensure that it can assess the impact of the programme.
Suffolk Constabulary looks beyond its current workforce to develop its leadership capability. Examples of external recruitment include the recent appointment of a deputy chief constable and an assistant chief constable from different constabularies and who have widely different backgrounds. The force has also subscribed to the national Direct Entry scheme for police superintendents and has supported two candidates through the national selection process. Through this, the force is demonstrating its commitment to bringing new skills and experiences into the organisation.
How well does the force display leadership?
Good leadership encourages and develops a wide range of people, embraces change and actively supports the development of new ideas. While it is important for forces to ensure that they are representative of the communities they serve, truly diverse leadership teams are built around the wider experience, background and skills of individuals.
Suffolk Constabulary has a strong culture of working with other organisations, including other police forces, to seek new ideas and understand what works. The force uses its Evidence Based Policing programme, a multi-disciplined consortium led by the University of Nottingham and including the universities of Birmingham, Suffolk, Liverpool and Manchester, Skills for Justice and Crest Analysis, to evaluate options for new ways of working. This programme uses a range of approaches, including academic evaluation of existing research. Subsequent learning is made available to the College of Policing to enable other forces to benefit from it.
Examples of new ideas that have been successfully implemented include the Genie search engine from Lincolnshire Police, which allows staff to search for information across a range of force IT systems and the Metropolitan Police Service’s method of monitoring social media during large public events.
Although the force does not have a formal suggestion scheme, most (although not all) staff felt that new ideas were listened to and that innovations were implemented quickly at local level. The force should consider how it will ensure that all ideas from officers and staff are recorded and considered.
The force works with a wide range of groups and staff networks, such as the National Black Police Association, the force’s Lesbian Gay and Bi-Sexual Association and the Christian Police Association, to support leadership and improve diversity. The force also supports positive action recruitment seminars.
In 2016, Suffolk Constabulary was ranked in 15th place in the Workplace Equality Index of the Top 100 Employers. The index, developed by Stonewall, an equality charity, challenges Britain’s leading employers to create an inclusive working environment for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees. The force has improved its ranking by 58 positions to become the highest ranking police force included in the list of employers.