Dorset 2014Read more about Dorset 2014
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Dorset Police. 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 and is good at tackling anti-social behaviour. However, it requires improvement in the way it investigates offending;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities is good; and
the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in some of the practices that were examined this year.
Dru Sharpling, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of Dorset Police I have taken into account the challenges to policing the area.
Dorset is a largely rural county with approximately half designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. There are three major ports on the 170 mile coastline handling passenger and freight traffic. Approximately one-third of the resident population is aged 60 or over and the population is swelled by the millions of tourists visiting Dorset each year. The generally affluent area does include pockets of marked deprivation.
I have been impressed by the evidence-based policing approach it uses to evaluate new ideas and to understand what works in practice. The force works well with partners to prevent crime and reduce offending and has a strong focus on victims’ needs. Staff understand the importance of identifying repeat victims.
Tackling anti-social behaviour is a priority for the force and dedicated safer neighbourhood teams work with communities on what local people consider important.
I am encouraged by a strong focus on tackling and dismantling organised crime groups, and the way the force has been able to redeploy investigative resources to target the emerging threats of cyber-crime and child sexual exploitation.
However, I am concerned by a backlog of cases in the safeguarding referral unit, meaning potentially vulnerable victims were either waiting an unacceptable time for services or were missed altogether.
I also have serious concerns about the force’s approach to crime-recording, which is not as accurate as it should be.
The force has made good progress in making savings but there is some risk that it will struggle to find savings in the future. Even though the number of officers on the front line has fallen, the force has increased the proportion of police officers working on the front line.
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.
I am particularly interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months.
How well the force tackles crime
Dorset Police is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force requires improvement in investigating crime. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Dorset Police has achieved relatively large reductions in crime and in particular, victim-based crime. The force works well with partners to prevent crime and reduce offending. HMIC found that the force has a strong focus on the needs of victims and increasing public satisfaction with the services it provides. The force is committed to delivering neighbourhood policing and has made reducing anti-social behaviour a strategic priority. Investigations are generally carried out to a good standard. The force has used investigative resources effectively by re-aligning staff to where they are needed most, and by creating specialist teams to deal with emerging threats. It has invested in an evidence-based policing approach in order to understand what works in practice. It evaluates new ideas effectively.
The force operates a good threat, risk and harm assessment process linked to effective force and local level tasking arrangements that holds local commanders to account for performance. However, there is a backlog of cases in the Safeguarding Referral Unit. This means that potentially vulnerable victims have either been waiting an unacceptable time for services, or have been missed altogether.
The force works well with partners and has achieved particular success in joint actions to dismantle and disrupt organised crime groups.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that the public in Dorset could have confidence that, generally, the police provided a good service to victims of domestic abuse and helped keep them safe. The force had a well-developed and effective response to high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and staff worked well with partners.
The crime inspection found that the force had a strong focus on tackling and dismantling organised crime groups. The force has been able to redeploy investigative resources to target the emerging threats of cyber-crime and child sexual exploitation by setting up separate cyber-crime and police on line investigation teams.
How well the force delivers value for money
Dorset Police has made good progress in making savings and continuing to fight crime, in spite of a difficult challenge. There is some risk that it will struggle to find savings in the future.
Dorset Police is on track to meet its financial challenge of the spending review period. It also has plans in place to find nearly all of the savings it needs for the following financial year of 2015/16.
The force is also looking beyond this period and is developing plans through to 2018, including an ambitious alliance with neighbouring Devon and Cornwall Police. There is some risk to savings plans beyond 2016, as it already has one of the largest percentage cuts to officer numbers. The level of reserves the force has access to is one of the lowest in England and Wales and could only support a budget shortfall for a limited time period.
Overall, the force understands the issues facing it, and has made good progress in making sure that its reducing workforce is being used as effectively as possible. HMIC was reassured that the force is working hard to find ways of making further savings through collaboration that will protect frontline policing and crime fighting.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Dorset Police has made some progress in managing professional and personal relationships since the HMIC revisit inspection in 2012, and has continued to publicise and embed ethical and professional behaviour. Chief officer leadership is clear, and there is a climate of professionalism where wrongdoing is challenged. The risk of corruption and challenges to professional conduct are identified but work is required to develop the professional standards department’s policies and improve the active monitoring of vulnerability to corruption.
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 greater than 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 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 who were satisfied with their experience was broadly in line with the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that in all cases examined, operators and call-takers were very polite and helpful, but in terms of detail, greater accuracy was required when transcribing information from callers. The inspection on domestic abuse found that staff understood the importance of identifying repeat victims and there were good systems within the control room.
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 by the force. This means that victims of crime are not receiving the service they should when they first report a crime. However, HMIC is impressed with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime), nearly all of which are correct.