West Mercia PEEL 2014
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
West Mercia Police has made limited progress on the areas for improvement identified by HMIC in 2012. There is good understanding of the Code of Ethics across the force. Staff feel confident to challenge wrongdoing and the force responds effectively to such reports, although the audit of investigations, including lessons learned could improve. The force has limited capacity to identify and deal with corruption proactively.
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 of people who agree 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 broadly in line with the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that frontline staff, including call-takers, understood the importance of meeting the needs of the victim when considering crime-recording and investigation. They were polite, professional and helpful. The domestic abuse inspection found that staff in the operations and communication centre were trained to question callers about the likely threat, harm and risk to the victim or anyone else present at the incident. The force provided an enhanced service to the victims of domestic abuse who are assessed as being at the greatest risk of harm.
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?
The chief constable has promoted a culture where staff are expected to take personal responsibility for their ethical and professional conduct. An acceptable culture of challenge exists and most staff feel comfortable and supported when reporting misconduct. The force has a structured plan to introduce the Code of Ethics supported by the use of the National Decision Model. The force has developed policies relating to standards of behaviour and professionalism; however, staff knowledge and understanding of some of these policies needs improvement.
The force professional standards department has a significant backlog of complaints against police from members of the public. Staff from the anti corruption unit are being used to reduce the backlog, limiting the pro-active anti-corruption capability of the force.
The force does not effectively identify staff groups or individuals who may be vulnerable to corruption, and intelligence gathering in this regard is not proactive. (This should improve as an analyst had recently been appointed). While the force responds to reports of poor behaviour or corruption, it needs to improve the capacity to prevent, develop and investigate these issues proactively.
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 its police force: the Crime Survey for England and Wales, and the Victim Satisfaction Survey.
The data for West Mercia Police show that:
Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013)
- 63 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.
- 57 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)
- 84.7 percent (± 1.3 percent) of victims were satisfied with their experience which is broadly in line with 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 West Mercia Police 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 ’emergency’ calls had improved, but had broadly stayed the same for ‘priority’ calls.
The crime data integrity inspection found frontline staff, including call-takers, understood the importance of meeting the needs of the victim when considering crime-recording and investigation; they were polite, professional and helpful.
The domestic abuse inspection found that the force has systems in its operations and communication centre to help identify victims who have previously reported domestic abuse. Staff were trained to question callers to understand the likely threat, harm and risk to the victim or anyone else who may be present. They accessed the force intelligence systems and provided information to the attending officer. The databases were not completely integrated, so operators needed to access two different systems to find the relevant information. The force defined a domestic abuse repeat victim as a victim where there had been a second incident in a twelve-month period, but there was no definition for a vulnerable victim. However, all staff recognised that any previous report of domestic abuse or vulnerability would influence the service provided. Information from previous calls was used to ensure that the most appropriate response is sent. The force provided an enhanced service to victims of domestic abuse who were assessed as being at the greatest risk of harm. The operators usually sent a uniformed officer immediately or within an hour, dependent on the circumstances reported.
To what extent are the data and information provided by the force of a high quality?
The crime data integrity inspection examined 130 incident records and found that 100 crimes should have been recorded. Of the 100 crimes that should have been recorded, 74 were. This indicated a need for significant improvement in the accuracy of crime-recording decisions. Of the 74, three were wrongly classified and one was recorded outside the 72-hour limit allowed under National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) and the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR). This was of serious concern as it meant that some victims’ crimes were not being recorded and that these victims were not receiving the service they deserved (because, for example, certain victim support services are only triggered once a crime is recorded).
The force also had a centralised crime-recording unit through which the force estimated that it recorded approximately eight per cent of the total of its recorded crime. This unit recorded reports of crime directly from members of the public that did not require the creation of an incident record. Our review of this unit (of 11 records) found that of the 11 crimes that should have been recorded, all were recorded correctly. The crime bureau was a new alliance-wide model and early signs were that it was likely to be an effective approach to crime-recording for the two forces.
HMIC examined 77 no-crime records and found 66 records to be compliant with the HOCR and the NCRS. This was a concern as the no-crime decisions HMIC reviewed related to offences of rape, robbery and violence.