Police forces performing well in three quarters of areas inspected

In his State of Policing report for 2015, published today, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary says that police forces in England and Wales have met the standards of ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ in almost three-quarters of the measures applied by the Inspectorate.

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State of Policing: the annual assessment of policing in England and Wales 2015

Today’s report is the first produced under HMIC’s full programme of PEEL – police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy – annual all-force inspections, commissioned by the Home Secretary in 2013.

The report emphasises the strong dedication, professionalism and bravery of the vast majority of police officers and police staff in England and Wales, who work hard and in some of the toughest and most hazardous conditions, achieving public protection and the apprehension of offenders despite, rather than with, the assistance of advanced and reliable technology, which in too many respects is still poor.

The report also recognises that the police service has met many of the expectations of the public over the last year while achieving spending reductions, which have meant lost jobs.

The report criticises the police service for contributing to an indefensible mosaic of inconsistent practices and standards – by refusing to learn from one another, or to adopt the practices of the best-performing forces. This wastes money and imperils public safety

There is no reason why people in one police area should receive an inferior service for reasons only of geography.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor, said:

“Police forces are not in competition with one another; they must learn from each other and always adopt good practice. Just doing enough is not sufficient; they must always do the best they can, irrespective of who devised the optimum way of doing it.”

The failure of the police to develop sound and reliable systems for assessing future demand for police services is also criticised.

Sir Thomas Winsor said:

“In respect of future demand measurement and the state of police assets – which predominantly means the police workforce – too much of the stewardship of policing is being carried out in low light, and sometimes in darkness. This must change.”

The report stresses that the failures of other public agencies contribute unduly to the demand on the police. It is clear that some cases which result in police intervention, – particularly those involving a victim or an offender with mental health problems – should have and could have been prevented from escalating, had those agencies intervened at an earlier stage.

In respect of the police response to and protection of vulnerable people, the report says that 31 out of 43 forces fell below the line of acceptability (27 forces require improvement; 4 were inadequate). None was rated outstanding. This means that three quarters of forces are failing adequately to protect the most vulnerable in our society. HMIC considers this to be so serious that we are recommending the amendment of the police promotion system to ensure that in all but exceptional cases police officers preparing for advancement should spend an appreciable amount of time working in units which support vulnerable people, including children.

In the field of information and communications technology, the police must catch up and then get ahead of developments. If the present rate of improvement in police technology continues, the police in 2020 will be even further behind offenders and the needs of the public. The raw power of the web as an agency of fear as well as freedom is immense and will only increase significantly. The public can neither tolerate nor afford law enforcement lagging ever farther behind.

The report comments on the police service taking too short-term an approach in coping with the budget cuts of the last four years. It emphasises that the need for improvements in efficiency and effectiveness did not disappear when the Government announced that the cuts to policing would not be of the scale anticipated. Forces have concentrated too much on capacity (police numbers) and not on capability (to meet new types of crime and new ways of committing crimes).

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State of Policing: the annual assessment of policing in England and Wales 2015


  1. In November 2013, the Home Secretary asked HMIC to develop and implement a new programme of annual all-force inspections with a view to assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of policing in England and Wales. HMIC has developed these – called PEEL police (effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessments.
  2. On effectiveness, one force (Durham) is outstanding, 24 are good, 18 require improvement and none is inadequate.
  3. On efficiency, five forces (Cheshire, Durham, Lancashire, Norfolk and West Midlands) are rated as outstanding, 29 are good, 8 require improvement and one (Humberside) is inadequate.
  4. On legitimacy – principally how well the force treats people – one force (Kent) is rated as outstanding, 37 as good, five as requiring improvement and none as inadequate.
  5. These figures come from 430 individual assessments – ten in respect of each force.
  6. Overall, in 73 per cent of the PEEL inspection areas, forces were good or outstanding (8 per cent outstanding; 65 per cent good). In 26 per cent, forces were judged as requiring improvement; in 1.4 per cent, forces were inadequate. The overall statistics are on pages 12-13 and 54-55 of the report. The statistics for effectiveness are on pages 38-39; those for efficiency are on pages 44-45; and those for legitimacy are on pages 48-49. The individual force judgments are on pages 8-11.
  7. The report explains how HMIC is working with police forces in developing better tools for the police to use in these respects – called force management statements – modelled on the same instruments used in other safety-critical public services. The section of the report on Force Management Statements is at pages 16-18 and 64-69.
  8. HMIC is also working with the London School of Economics in the development of a sophisticated model for predicting demand on the police in 181,000 individual areas of England and Wales.
  9. The section of the report on the work with the LSE is at pages 20-21.
  10. The section of the report dealing with ICT is at page 46.
  11. The section of the report dealing with the ‘mosaic of inconsistent practices and standards’ is at pages 30-31.
  12. The section of the report on the impact of mental health on policing is at page 17.
  13. During the reporting period November 2014 – December 2015, HMIC published 566 reports, all of which are available from the publications section of our website.
  14. The Police Act 1996 requires Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary to report each year on his assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in England and Wales. This report is formally laid in Parliament.
  15. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies.
  16. For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 0203 513 0600.
  17. HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.