PEEL: police effectiveness 2017 – West Midlands Police (8930)

Causes of concern

The force is failing to attend incidents promptly, putting some vulnerable victims at risk of harm.


The force should immediately take steps to: • fully understand the risk contained within the backlog of open incidents logged by the control room, and prioritise these cases for action; and • ensure that victims – particularly those who are vulnerable – receive an appropriate response when they contact the force for safety reasons.

[on]22nd March 2018 [status]awaiting-review[/status][/on][on]8th May 2018 [comment]

The force has introduced a new process and governance structure to manage HMICFRS recommendations. An initial meeting to discuss recommendations was held with WMD Force Liaison Officer Steve Barley and Sharanjit Dhillon on 26 April 2018. There is now a nominated owner (senior officer) for each recommendation, an action tracker system on Sharepoint where activity undertaken to address the recommendation is recorded and a scrutiny/sign off process that is led by chief officers.

The force has begun collating information from different sources about activity and actions taken to address recommendations and the process to summarise the force position for each one is underway. The HMICFRS Force Liaison Lead will work with the force to review activity to date, assess the current position for each recommendation and monitor progress through the new process. Recommendations will be submitted to the HMICFRS regional chief of staff for sign off when appropriate.

The nominated owner of this action is: Ch Supt Sally Bourner.

[/comment][/on][on]8th May 2018 [status]being-progressed[/status][/on][on]9th July 2018 [comment]

8930 – Owner: CS Sally Bourner (incident attendance – vulnerability)

Since the findings of the Effectiveness 2017 inspection were communicated to the force there has been considerable work undertaken within the control room function to address this cause of concern. Specifically:

• Strategic focus and governance from chief officers, including specific direction to prioritise service delivery to the most vulnerable within the Force Contact Ambition Plan.• Review of control room working practices, including clarification of responsibility and accountability in key roles.• Changes to operating practices to reduce the number of open incidents each operator must manage.• Introduction of new guidance doctrine for the escalation of vulnerability, management of demand and incident closure.• The reintroduction of scheduled appointments for appropriate incidents. • The introduction of a Resolution Team within the control room function to identify opportunities to manage demand more effectively.

The priority attached to this work by the force was reiterated by CS Sally Bourner and ACC Chris Johnson at a meeting to discuss the management of demand and control room functions on 21st June 2018.

Reality testing in the force control room is planned for 21st September 2018 as part of the IPA inspection process. Further testing will also take place during the November IPA fieldwork window.

[/comment][/on][on]14th January 2019 [comment]

In 2017 a specific problem was found in the control room during the effectiveness inspection, namely that some emergency incidents were not being effectively risk assessed/resourced with inadequate follow up checks in place.

In response to the subsequent HMICFRS cause of concern that generated this recommendation the force commenced a programme of improvement work (outlined in the entry dated 9th July). Despite the improvement work undertaken, the force experienced high demand through its control room in summer 2018, and whilst HMICFRS did not conduct any formal inspection work during this period, the force recognised that the volume of demand and an increasing backlog of incidents awaiting the allocation of resources was an unsustainable position. The position was exacerbated by the use of force resources on national policing commitments such as the Trump visit and the World Cup.

As part of the force response Operation Even Keel was initiated. On three occasions between July and October short bursts of intense activity (2-3 days) meant that all available officers and staff who normally perform roles not involved in first line response were diverted to respond to incidents contained within the backlog held by the control room. The impact of Even Keel, coupled with the reduction in demand levels after the summer peak, and an emphasis by senior leaders to improve control room performance meant that incident backlogs showed a steadily reducing (improving) volume in autumn 2018.

Additionally, the appointment of a new leadership team within the Contact function has meant a revised approach to long-term planning as well as short-term problem solving. There are a number of initiatives in place to reduce long-term demand (and shift it to automated/online processes) through the New Ways of Public Contact project as well as dealing with nearer term issues such as staff training and process reviews. There was extensive contact between the force Contact leadership team and the HMICFRS force liaison lead during this period and the benefits of the revised and focused approach are apparent in improving levels of performance in the control room.

HMCFRS insight work in September and additional work during the IPA inspection in November was conducted in the control room to explore the specific problems found in 2017 and see whether they persisted. A number of areas for improvement were found in the September insight visit and these were identified to the force as needing to be addressed.

In November two HMICFRS inspectors spent a number of days reviewing control room performance as part of the IPA inspection. After reviewing a large number of incident logs, backlogs and queues, and speaking to a number of staff they were able to establish that the specific problems highlighted in 2017, that formed the basis of this recommendation, were no longer evident.

Notwithstanding the ongoing work in the control room to address a number of different performance issues, it has been established that the cause of concern from 2017 has been addressed, namely:

  1. New business processes mean that the backlog of incidents has been reduced to manageable levels. The backlog is subject to regular review to establish the risk contained therein with appropriate prioritisation processes in place.
  2. Vulnerable victims contacting the force receive an appropriate response when they contact the force for safety reasons, ie their immediate safety is considered and action taken to protect them if necessary.

[/comment][/on][on]7th February 2019 [comment]

This recommendation has been met and can be closed.

[/comment][/on][on]20th February 2019 [status]complete[/status][/on][on]20th February 2019 [comment]

Recommendation confirmed as met based on the findings of recent, thorough inspection activity.