Avon and Somerset PEEL 2014
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has made some progress in communicating the need for ethical and professional behaviour and has made good progress in relation to the areas for improvement identified by HMIC in 2012. It has an effective approach to the management of misconduct matters: however, the force does not manage the threat, risk, and harm from corruption as effectively as it should.
Further insights on legitimacy
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013) found that the proportion of respondents who think that the force does an excellent/good job was broadly in line with the figure across England and Wales. The same survey over the same period also found that the proportion which agrees that the force deals with local concerns was broadly in line with the figure for England and Wales. The force’s own victim satisfaction survey (12 months to June 2014) found that the proportion of victims who were satisfied with their experience was greater than the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that call-handlers were polite, helpful and professional. The domestic abuse inspection found that there was room for improvement in the way the force identified domestic abuse victims. HMIC was concerned to find that, in practice, there were serious inconsistencies in the way domestic abuse incidents were responded to initially. There was insufficient supervision of the risk assessment process by patrol sergeants, leading to a lack of compliance with procedures at the first attendance.
As a result of the crime data integrity inspection, HMIC is seriously concerned that a notable proportion of reports of crime are not being recorded, and this means that victims of crime are not receiving the service they should when they first report a crime. HMIC is also concerned with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime) as too many of these are incorrect. The force needs to take action to improve, serve the victims of these crimes and provide the public with confidence in the force’s crime data.
To what extent does the force ensure that the workforce acts with integrity?
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has started to make progress in communicating ethical and professional behaviour across the force. There is evidence of leadership from the temporary chief constable, demonstrated by his personal video message which introduced the Code of Ethics in order to encourage ethical behaviour and empower staff to challenge unprofessional behaviour. Officers and staff are aware of the boundaries of unprofessional and professional behaviour, and understand how this behaviour affects both the public and their colleagues.
The force had eight areas for improvement from the HMIC 2012 inspection and has responded well to these. HMIC found that policies and working practices were in place to ensure integrity through officers’ declarations of business interests and notifiable associations.
The force publishes data and information on the freedom of information section of its website in relation to the gifts and hospitality register. This covers all chief officers, including accepted and rejected offers.
The force needs to do more to understand and manage the threat, risk, and harm from corruption effectively. However, the head of the counter-corruption unit has completed an integrity action plan, based on the national and regional counter-corruption threat assessments, and has identified some measures to be completed. A lack of capacity has meant that this has not been progressed. The intelligence function within the unit has little capacity proactively to identify vulnerable individuals and groups.
What are the public perceptions of the force?
HMIC considers that there are two sources of data that give an insight into the public’s perceptions of their police force: the Crime Survey for England and Wales, and the Victim Satisfaction Survey.
The data for Avon and Somerset Constabulary show that:
Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013)
- 60 percent of adults surveyed think that the police do an excellent/good job, which is broadly in line with the figure across England and Wales of 61 percent.
- 58 percent of adults surveyed agree that the police deal with local concerns, which is broadly in line with the England and Wales proportion of 60 percent.
Victim Satisfaction Survey (12 months to June 2014)
- 88.9 percent (± 1.1 percent) of victims were satisfied with their experience which is greater than the figure across England and Wales of 85.0 percent (± 0.2 percent).
To what extent does the force respond to calls for service appropriately?
The value for money inspection found the force had set a clear performance standard for response times, and this had remained the same since 2010. The inspection found that during this time, the proportion of calls attended within these standards for both ’emergency’ and ‘priority’ calls had declined.
The crime data integrity inspection found that there was a strong drive from the leadership of the force to promote and display a victim-centred approach; and that call-handlers were polite, helpful and professional.
The domestic abuse inspection found that staff had an understanding of the definition of domestic abuse, but knowledge of stalking and harassment was inconsistent. There was room for improvement in the way the force identified domestic abuse victims. Staff were, in some cases, not always getting the full picture of risk from the victim or the police databases, and previous incidents may not have been picked up at the first point of contact. Information was provided to officers attending to victims except at times of high demand, although they may not have had all the information available to them. The training of response officers and force control room staff was of a good standard but now needs to develop, by introducing a greater understanding of the impact of actions taken by the officer. HMIC was concerned to find that, in practice, there were serious inconsistencies in the way domestic abuse incidents were responded to initially. There was insufficient supervision of the risk assessment process by patrol sergeants, leading to a lack of compliance with procedures at the first attendance. This meant that risk may not have been properly assessed, and immediate safeguarding actions needed may not have been put in place for some victims.
To what extent are the data and information provided by the force of a high quality?
The crime data integrity inspection examined 154 incident records and found that 134 crimes should have been recorded. Of the 134 crimes that should have been, 90 were recorded. Of the 90, all were correctly classified and 3 were recorded outside the 72-hour limit allowed by the Home Office Counting Rules This was of serious concern as it meant that some victims’ crimes were not being recorded and they were not getting the service they deserved (because, for example, certain victim support services are only triggered when a crime is recorded).
The force also had a centralised crime-recording unit through which HMIC estimated that the force recorded approximately 12 percent of the total of its recorded crime. This unit recorded reports of crime directly from members of the public which did not require the creation of an incident record. Our inspection of this unit (a review of 25 calls from the public) found that of the 25 crimes that should have been recorded, 22 were recorded correctly.
The inspection also examined 90 no-crime records and found 61 records to be compliant with Home Office Counting Rules and the National Crime Recording Standard. As the no-crime records reviewed related to offences of rape, robbery and violence, this is a matter of serious concern.