Cumbria 2014Read more about Cumbria 2014
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Cumbria Constabulary. In making this assessment I have used my professional judgment to consider the evidence available from inspections undertaken in the past 12 months.
The available evidence indicates that:
in terms of its effectiveness, in general, the force is good at reducing crime and preventing offending, good at investigating offending and good at tackling anti-social behaviour;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities is good; and
the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in most of the practices that were examined this year.
Michael Cunningham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of Cumbria I have taken into account the challenges to policing the area.
Cumbria is predominantly rural and contains the Lake District National Park. Much of Cumbria is mountainous. The topography of Cumbria means that communities are dispersed throughout the county and it has a low population density. Cumbria’s largest settlement, and only city, is Carlisle, in the north of the county. The largest town, Barrow-in-Furness, in the south, is slightly smaller. The largest and most widespread industry in Cumbria is tourism.
I have been impressed with the force’s strong focus on victims and vulnerability, and how it works well with partners to prevent crime and reduce reoffending. Neighbourhood policing and anti-social behaviour are central priorities for the force. The force has expanded and further developed its capability in responding to online criminality which targets children and vulnerable people.
The force is achieving its required level of savings and protecting the front line. It is now developing plans to achieve the savings required over the next four years.
The professional standards department has a good level of capability and has put efficient and effective processes in place to manage investigations. However, its ability proactively to identify and minimise threats to the force is limited.
There were good systems to identify repeat victims of domestic abuse but, while all officers in 24/7 response and neighbourhood policing teams had received training in domestic abuse, stalking and harassment, many did not fully understand why certain questions were being asked of victims to complete the risk assessment forms.
I have concerns about the force’s approach to crime-recording, which is not as accurate as it should be.
Our intention is to examine leadership specifically as part of future PEEL Assessments, once criteria have been established. This will allow us to take account of the College of Policing review of leadership that is currently underway.
In common with other forces, there is a need to develop a better understanding of the changing demands for police services.
Over the past 12 months, there have been a number of inspections made of Cumbria that have suggested a number of recurrent issues. These have included the need to develop services around integrated offender management to ensure more resources are involved in monitoring those offenders who present the biggest risks of reoffending. There is also the need to ensure that all crime is recorded promptly, particularly those offences brought to notice by partner agencies working with vulnerable victims to ensure that there is a clearly auditable investigation undertaken by police from the point that each possible offence is disclosed.
I am interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months; in particular, how the force builds on progress around problem solving initiatives with partner agencies that reduce anti-social behaviour and divert young offenders away from the criminal justice process using community resolutions.
How well the force tackles crime
Cumbria Constabulary is good reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is good at investigating offending. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Cumbria experiences a lower level of crime than other areas of the country. The police work well with partners to prevent crime and reduce re-offending.
Neighbourhood policing and anti-social behaviour are central priorities for the force. Neighbourhood policing teams communicate well with communities, and understand their concerns and priorities.
HMIC found that there is a strong focus on the victim and vulnerability, and that victims generally receive a good service, but that contact with victims by officers is occasionally inconsistent. However, victim satisfaction with policing services is higher in Cumbria than the average for England and Wales.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that, although much effective work was being done to tackle domestic abuse in Cumbria, there were several areas for improvement for the force to address before it could be confident that a consistently good service was provided to victims of domestic abuse across the whole force area.
The crime inspection found that the force had expanded and further developed its capability in responding to the challenge of tackling online criminality which targets children and vulnerable people. The force was also working at a regional level to understand the level of risk and impact associated with cyber-crime.
The value for money inspection found that Cumbria, as part of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit collaboration, had a collective capability to tackle serious organised crime that crosses county borders within the region.
How well the force delivers value for money
Cumbria Constabulary is achieving the savings required today while planning for the future. The force has performed well in the first three years of the spending review – achieving savings, protecting the front line and maintaining high levels of satisfaction.
Cumbria has clear plans not only to meet its financial challenge for the spending review period but also for the year after (2015/16). Importantly, the force is already looking beyond this period and has developed plans, which it will refine, to achieve the savings required over the next four years. Although the force has access to a healthy level of reserves, it has identified a significant risk in the future from potential changes to central funding; this risk is reflected in the level of the reserves it plans to retain over this period.
Overall, the force has performed well in the first three years of the spending review. It has achieved savings while increasing the proportion of the workforce allocated to frontline roles, and maintaining high levels of victim satisfaction in the services it provides.
The investment that the force has made to improve its understanding of demand gives it the opportunity to become more efficient. The continuous improvements made through its robust change programme mean the force is well placed to develop further a sustainable and affordable way of providing community policing in Cumbria. HMIC was reassured by Cumbria’s coherent business plan, and by the leadership’s determination to make further improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of the force’s workforce and assets.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Cumbria Constabulary has made good progress since HMIC’s 2012 progress report, Revisiting Police Relationships, and the chief constable, supported by the chief officer team, demonstrates strong leadership with standards of professional behaviour understood by all staff. The professional standards department has a good level of ability and has put efficient and effective processes in place to manage investigations. However, its ability proactively to identify and minimise threats to the force is limited.
Further insights on legitimacy
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013) found that the proportion of respondents who that think that the force does an excellent/good job was greater than the figure across England and Wales. The same survey over the same period also found that the proportion that agrees the force deals with local concerns was greater than the figure for England and Wales. The force’s own victim satisfaction survey (12 months to June 2014) found that the proportion of victims that were satisfied with their experience was greater than the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that operators answering calls from the public were empathetic, polite and helpful in almost all of the incidents that were listened to during the audit. The domestic abuse inspection found that there were good systems to identify repeat callers. All officers in 24/7 response and neighbourhood policing teams had received training in the domestic abuse, stalking and harassment risk assessment process, but many lacked understanding regarding the reasons for certain questions being asked of the victim.
As a result of the crime data integrity inspection, HMIC is 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.