Promoting improvements in policing and fire & rescue services to make everyone safer
For over 160 years, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary independently assessed and reported on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and policing, in the public interest.
In summer 2017, HMIC took on inspections of England’s fire & rescue services, assessing and reporting on their efficiency, effectiveness and leadership. To reflect this new role, our name changed to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
In preparing our reports, we ask the questions that citizens would ask, and publish the answers in accessible form, using our expertise to interpret the evidence and make recommendations for improvement.
We provide authoritative information to allow the public to compare the performance of their police force – and, in future, their fire & rescue service – against others. Our evidence is used to drive improvements in the services they provide to the public.
HMICFRS is independent of government, the police and fire & rescue authorities:
- HM Inspectors are appointed by the Crown. They are not employees of the police service, the fire & rescue service or the government.
- In the dual role of HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and HM Chief Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services, the Chief Inspector reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police services in England and Wales, and on the efficiency and effectiveness of fire & rescue services in England.
- HM Inspectors may be called to give evidence before committees of Parliament, and must also account for their actions to the public through the media. As is the case with all public bodies, HM Inspectors are also susceptible to judicial review.
- Although HMICFRS’s budget is set by the government, and the inspection programmes require the Home Secretary’s approval, no Minister, police and crime commissioner or fire authority can interfere with the contents of an HMICFRS report or the judgment of HM Inspectors.
HMICFRS’s annual inspection programme for police forces in England and Wales is subject to the approval of the Home Secretary under the Police Act 1996.
The Home Secretary may also require HMICFRS to carry out further inspections of police forces, beyond the terms of the annual inspection programme. Police and crime commissioners may commission HMICFRS to do inspections in their force areas, although HMICFRS is not required to accept any such commission.
In devising its policing inspection programme for the Home Secretary’s approval, HMICFRS considers the risks to the public, service quality, public concerns, the operating environment, the effect which inspection may have on a force, and the benefits to the public of improvements which may follow inspection.
HMICFRS may also carry out inspections of police forces on its own initiative if it considers that the performance or circumstances of a force merit it.
Fire & rescue service inspections
The Policing and Crime Act 2017 sets out that HMICFRS will inspect and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of fire & rescue authorities in England.
HMICFRS’s inspection programme for fire & rescue authorities in England is subject to the approval of the Home Secretary.
The Home Secretary may also require HMICFRS, at any time, to carry out further inspections of any or all fire & rescues services in England.
In its inspections, HMICFRS focuses on the efficiency, effectiveness and leadership of all English fire & rescue services. HMICFRS may also carry out an inspection not set out in its inspection programme following consultation with the Home Secretary.
HMICFRS is an inspectorate, not a regulator. Regulators have powers of intervention, direction and enforcement. Inspectorates have powers to secure information, but no powers to give orders for change. Recommendations are not orders.
It is for chief constables (whose operational independence is a cornerstone of British policing), police and crime commissioners (with powers to set local priorities and budgets) and, in extreme cases, the Home Secretary (who has ultimate democratic responsibility for policing) to take action as a result of HMICFRS’s recommendations. The same applies to the fire & rescue service itself, and the fire & rescue authorities.
Police and crime commissioners are required to publish their comments on each HMICFRS report within 56 days of its publication, and must include an explanation of the steps to be taken in response to each HMICFRS recommendation or an explanation of why no action has been or is to be taken in that respect.
On the 150th anniversary of HMIC in July 2006, a book charting the organisation’s history was produced.