South Yorkshire 2014Read more about South Yorkshire 2014
This is the first PEEL Assessment of South Yorkshire Police. In making this assessment I have used my professional judgment to consider the evidence available from inspections undertaken in the last 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 good at tackling anti-social behaviour. However, it requires improvement in the way it investigates offending. I have some specific concerns about its approach to child protection;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities is good; and
the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in a limited number of the practices that were examined this year.
Michael Cunningham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of South Yorkshire I have taken into account the challenges to policing the area.
South Yorkshire is an economically and culturally diverse population covering four metropolitan boroughs: Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. The force has a high student population. It has good strategic transport routes including main arterial motorways, train hubs and an international airport.
The force has been presented with some challenges during the past year. The publication of the Jay Report in August on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has had significant implications.
South Yorkshire continues to manage nationally important legacy issues including Hillsborough and the aforementioned child sexual exploitation issue in Rotherham.
The force has had to manage a number of major events in the past year. In July, along with colleagues in West and North Yorkshire, an excellent policing operation was put in place for the Tour de France Grande Depart. Since November 2013, the force has put in place eight public order operations relating to either the English Defence League or those with opposing views. These operations have had substantial resource implications.
I have been encouraged by the plans the force has in place to meet its savings requirement for 2014/15. The force will meet the overall financial challenge of the spending review. Importantly, the force will implement new structures for providing policing within its four districts. This work will provide a more flexible model in order to cope with the future, and is associated with a clear focus on improving the quality of victim contact.
Of central importance to savings for 2016/17 and beyond is extending existing collaborations with other forces in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Partnership working, early intervention, and the management of offenders are strengths for the force. However, the force’s approach to investigating crime requires some improvement.
I have some concerns about the response and initial action being taken to safeguard victims.
I was pleased that on child protection South Yorkshire has made some good progress, particularly in cases where concerns about children have been clearly identified at the outset. However, there was concern that practice is inconsistent so not all children receive the appropriate standard of treatment. More must be done to improve the care of children in custody.
There was also concern about the lack of understanding of the risk posed by offenders who target vulnerable children, as well as shortcomings in the protection of children in care.
I have serious 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.
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 how the force:
- addresses the recommendations from the crime data integrity inspection report;
- continues to respond to recommendations around public protection, especially child sexual exploitation;
- continues to modernise the policing model under the Diamond Review Programme; and
- ensures that operational performance, with the victim at the centre, has a clear emphasis on crime prevention, reduction and investigation.
How well the force tackles crime
South Yorkshire Police is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force requires improvement in investigating offending. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
South Yorkshire’s effectiveness in its efforts to cut crime varies. Over the past four years, recorded crime has reduced. However, over the past 12 months, recorded crime has remained mainly static. Victim satisfaction is broadly in line with other forces.
Throughout the crime inspection, we found that there had been a number of recent force structural changes with an associated increased focus on improving the quality of victim contact. However, officers are not routinely providing updates to victims of crime and standards of crime investigation are not consistent. Partnership working, early intervention, and the management of offenders are strengths for the force, although at district policing levels there is a lack of understanding of the effectiveness of these measures in preventing and reducing crime and, as a consequence, work in these areas is not prioritised.
The force has a clear focus on the management and reduction of anti-social behaviour with both statutory and other partners. The force understands the need to manage those at risk from being subject to anti-social behaviour. However, in relation to identifying at the first point of contact those who are most vulnerable, the force needs to ensure it is more consistent in this area.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that, although tackling domestic abuse was a clear priority and this was recognised by staff at all levels, there were risks that some victims of domestic abuse may not have been getting the response or the quality of service they needed. The child protection inspection found that South Yorkshire was clearly prioritising child protection, and had made some good progress, particularly in cases where concerns about children have been clearly identified at the outset. However, there was concern that force practice was inconsistent so not all children received the standard of treatment they deserved. The inspection found that more must be done to improve the care of children in custody. There was also concern about the lack of understanding of the risk posed by offenders who target vulnerable children, and shortcomings in the protection of children in care.
The crime inspection found examples of success in relation to the most serious cases of organised crime. An example was Operation Alphabet, which successfully dealt with an organised crime group involved with child sexual exploitation. However, force analysts expressed concern that the management of organised crime groups was not seen as a local priority. This was specifically expressed in relation to locations where individuals connected to organised crime groups resided but did not undertake criminal activity, and so action to disrupt the groups was not given priority.
The previous police and crime commissioner commissioned a child sexual exploitation inspection. Its subsequent revisit found that the evident efforts to improve the force’s response to child sexual exploitation had had mixed success. HMIC considered that the force-level focus and commitment to this were not truly and consistently replicated in all districts. While there were pockets of good and effective practice (most notably in Sheffield), the approach taken to tackling this kind of offending varied significantly across the force’s four districts. Improvements were noted during the revisit but the force acknowledged that there is still work to be done to meet the required standard, particularly for prevention and investigation.
How well the force delivers value for money
South Yorkshire Police is on track to meet its financial challenge for the spending review. It continues to develop plans to address future austerity challenges and central to this will be extending collaboration with other forces.
South Yorkshire has plans in place to meet its savings requirement for 2014/15. It will also meet the overall financial challenge of the spending review. Importantly, the force will implement new structures for providing policing within its four districts, and this work will provide a more flexible model in order to cope with the future. Of central importance to savings for 2016/17, and beyond, is extending existing collaborations with other forces in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Work is underway to develop the detail of this. HMIC welcomes the force’s ambition, but there is a lot to be agreed before this becomes a reality. The force will need to monitor progress closely and might wish to identify back-up plans in the event of delays or other difficulties. The force has seen a reduction in overall crime over the spending review, although this has been at a lower rate than for England and Wales. Overall crime levels remain higher than the figures for England and Wales. It is important that, while South Yorkshire implements further changes, it keeps a strong focus on crime fighting and protecting its communities from harm.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
The chief officers have engaged in effective communication to reinforce and develop a culture within South Yorkshire Police that increases the focus on integrity. Professional standards are understood by the workforce and there is willingness across the force to report wrongdoing.
Although the force has effective systems and a range of policies in place to manage and regulate behaviour to safeguard integrity, some of these need refreshing. The professional standards and counter-corruption units are directed efficiently. Misconduct is effectively investigated and the force has identified innovative areas for analysis but some further audit work, including checking existing systems and records to identify potentially corrupt links, is necessary. When unprofessional behaviour is found, the force is robust but ensures investigations and misconduct proceedings are managed fairly.
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 found that the proportion who agree that the force deals with local concerns was less 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 domestic abuse inspection found some key weaknesses in the response and initial action being taken to safeguard victims. The force did not make best use of the technology it had to locate the nearest officer, and victims were not getting as quick a response as they otherwise might. The force was planning to change its approach to risk. However, HMIC was concerned that there was no comprehensive training plan in place following this.
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): 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.
The child protection inspection found that performance information for child protection was under-developed, and the force needed to do more to understand and record outcomes for children to improve and further develop services.