Bedfordshire PEEL 2015
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
The chief officer team takes seriously the need to be an ethical and inclusive workforce. The force has some good examples of public engagement, but needs to do more to understand and engage with communities across Bedfordshire.
Decision-making by Taser-trained officers is fair and appropriate and the force complies with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme.
This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
The creation of a force-wide ethics committee is encouraging, and the chief officer team is committed to developing and maintaining an ethical culture in Bedfordshire Police. The force has made sufficient effort to establish the Code of Ethics, and has incorporated it into its own statement of visions and values, called ‘Our Force: Our Brand’. These ethical principles are understood by staff. The force effectively promotes the wellbeing of the workforce. However, there was a lack of a consistent approach in the assessment of internal misconduct allegations for police officers and police staff.
When HMIC looked at how well the force understands and successfully engages with all the people it serves, HMIC considers that the force should do more to reflect the good work that it is doing in Luton and ensure that it equally engages and understands other communities across the force area.
The force should take steps to ensure its local teams have sufficient information available to them to improve their understanding of local communities.
Stop and search and Taser are two ways that the police can prevent crime and protect the public. However, they can be intrusive and forceful methods, and it is therefore vital the police use them fairly and appropriately. Officers understand the principles and features of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and the force is complying with it. Taser use is fair and appropriate.
To what extent does practice and behaviour reinforce the wellbeing of staff and an ethical culture?
The creation of a force-wide ethics committee is encouraging, and the chief officer team is committed to developing and maintaining an ethical culture in Bedfordshire Police. Overall, there is an understanding of the main aspects that underpinned the Code of Ethics among staff and this is informing force policy and practice. The integration of the code into the force’s existing values is very positive. The force recognises there is more to do in developing a shared set of values and incorporating the code across collaborated teams.
The force effectively promotes the wellbeing of the workforce and there were positive comments from officers and staff about wellbeing arrangements, although a reduction in funding had made them less accessible.
There are different approaches for police officers and police staff to the initial assessment of serious misconduct allegations. This could lead to police staff being dealt with more harshly than police officers. However, the force’s professional standards department plans to standardise approaches for police staff and police officers.
Most staff felt confident to challenge poor behaviour but at a more senior level there were some concerns expressed about the impact of such challenges on future career development. This is concerning.
The force recognises that it needs to do more to increase the representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff among its workforce, and it is taking a number of positive steps to do so.
To what extent are forces recording crimes in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules?
This question has not been inspected or graded in 2015.
How well does the force understand, engage with and treat fairly the people it serves to maintain and improve its legitimacy?
Bedfordshire Police is committed to engaging and working with the public and it promotes values, including accountability and transparency and fair treatment, which are understood and supported by its staff.
There are some excellent examples of local engagement with people in the culturally and ethnically diverse community of Luton. Most neighbourhood teams are effectively using social media. However, the understanding of local communities is not consistent across the force. Police community support officers are in contact with people locally; they visit schools, and attend a range of different meetings to help address local problems. They are also taking part in some initiatives that provide crime prevention advice and listen to residents’ problems.
However, the force could do more to take steps to make sure that its local teams have sufficient information available to them to improve their understanding of their local communities.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure teams have access to information on force priorities, progress on local anti-social behaviour plans, vulnerable victims and notable wanted or suspected criminals in the area. The force should take steps to ensure its local teams have sufficient information available to them to improve their understanding of local communities.
To what extent are decisions taken on the use of stop and search and Taser fair and appropriate?
Bedfordshire Police is complying with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. However, too many search records do not clearly describe the grounds for the search, and this is something the force should address. There is a robust independent scrutiny process, which includes the review of an officer’s body-worn video record. This process involves members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic community and young people.
Officers mainly understand the need to use the National Decision Model (the framework by which all policing decisions should be made, examined and challenged) and a more intelligence-led approach, when using stop and search powers and Taser, in order to achieve positive outcomes and maintain good community relations.
The force uses Taser more frequently but this reflects aspects of crime and disorder being dealt with by the force and the force applies effective scrutiny of every deployment to check Taser is being used fairly. All operational officers in Bedfordshire are being equipped with body-worn video cameras, which support greater accountability in the use of stop and search and Taser.
Overall, the use of stop and search and Taser by Bedfordshire Police is fair and appropriate.