Durham 2014Read more about Durham
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Durham 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, it is outstanding at investigating offending and is outstanding 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 Durham I have taken into account the challenges to policing in the area.
Durham area covers the local authority areas of Darlington Borough Council and Durham County Council. The resident population is ageing. Darlington lies in the south of the force area and is the largest town. In the east is Durham City and the larger industrial and commercial towns, which are a contrast to the west which is predominantly rural and is sparsely populated.
The force is managing ‘Operation Seabrook’, the investigation of a large, historical sexual abuse case.
I have been particularly impressed with the force’s victim-centred approach and how it makes extensive use of outcomes other than prosecution to deliver what the victim wants. The use of restorative justice and community resolution is both widespread and innovative. The force works to a clear set of published priorities to protect neighbourhoods, tackle criminals and solve problems.
The domestic abuse inspection found a strong focus on victim care and safety at each stage in the process.
Durham has achieved its savings ahead of schedule and is in a good position to face future challenges. While the plans for 2016/17 and beyond are less well developed, there is an agreed timeline for developing and refining these plans so it is likely that the savings needed can be achieved.
The force investigates allegations of misconduct and corruption effectively, but improvement is needed in managing intelligence to protect the organisation from corruption.
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 the force that have suggested that Durham’s innovative approaches to problem solving, including the use of restorative justice, are a recurrent theme.
I am interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months. I will be particularly interested to see the following developments:
- more accurate recording of crimes and no-crimes;
- improved dispatch of the most appropriate resource; and
- improved management of intelligence within the professional standards department.
How well the force tackles crime
Durham Constabulary is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is outstanding at investigating offending. It is outstanding at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Durham is effective at preventing and investigating crime. The force provides appropriate support to victims, delivers positive outcomes for victims and engages effectively with its communities.
Durham puts victims and communities at the centre of its activity. Its victim-centred approach makes extensive use of outcomes other than prosecution to deliver what the victim wants. The use of restorative justice and community resolution is both widespread and innovative.
The force has a clear focus on tackling crime and criminals. It works to a clear set of published priorities to protect neighbourhoods, tackle criminals and solve problems.
The chief constable and his senior team lead by example, demonstrating visible leadership.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that the communities of County Durham and Darlington could have confidence that the police provided a good service to victims of domestic abuse and helped keep them safe. The inspection found a strong focus on victim care and safety at each stage in the process. The crime inspection found evidence that Durham continued to provide a good service to victims of domestic abuse and helped keep them safe.
The crime inspection found that the force had strong and effective processes for managing and disrupting organised crime groups through a variety of strategic and tactical meetings.
How well the force delivers value for money
Durham Constabulary has made good progress and is well placed to manage further austerity in the future. It has achieved its savings ahead of schedule and is in a good position to face future challenges.
Durham has already achieved the savings it needed to make by March 2015 – twelve months in advance of the end of the spending review timetable. At this time, the force has clear plans in place to achieve all of the savings needed in 2014/15 and most of those in 2015/16. The plans for 2016/17 and beyond are less well developed, but there is an agreed timeline for developing and refining these plans; it is likely that the savings needed can be achieved. The force is now looking ahead and beginning to develop how it can make further savings, while investing to save in its estate and its use of technology, and also securing the future efficiency and effectiveness of the force. Overall, the force understands the issues facing it. The force uses a problem-solving approach in all of its activities. HMIC was reassured by leaders’ ability and determination to make changes while fighting crime and keeping communities safe.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
There is strong and visible leadership from the chief officer team, promoting high standards of ethical and professional behaviour. Training is provided to staff to encourage a climate in which professional behaviour is encouraged and valued. Members of staff feel supported and have the confidence to challenge inappropriate behaviour. The force investigates allegations of misconduct and corruption effectively but improvement is needed in managing intelligence to protect the organisation from corruption. The force has made good progress on the recommendations from the 2012 HMIC report.
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 that 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 that were satisfied with their experience was greater than the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that a victim-centred approach was at the heart of policing in Durham and was widely understood by officers and staff. The domestic abuse inspection found that staff were trained to collect as much relevant information as possible to establish risk levels before deciding the most appropriate response; however dispatchers were routinely not always sending the nearest and most appropriate resource and attending officers were not being given sufficient background information. Staff working on the front enquiry desk had not received any specific domestic abuse training.
As a result of the crime data integrity inspection, HMIC is concerned that a notable proportion of reports 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): 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.