Essex 2015Read more about Essex
This is HMIC’s second assessment of the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy with which Essex Police keeps people safe and reduces crime. PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) gives you information about how your local police force is performing in several important areas. It does this in a way that is comparable both across England and Wales, and year-on-year.
The extent to which Essex Police is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.
The extent to which Essex Police is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
The extent to which Essex Police is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
Contact Zoë Billingham (e-mail address)
This year, for the first time, we have assessed leadership across the force. The assessment has led to a narrative rather than graded judgment, which is summarised below.
Read more about my assessment of Essex Police’s performance this year, including where I would like to see improvements next year.
I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Essex Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime, but there are some areas of serious concern that need to be improved in order to provide a consistently good service. In view of these findings, I have been in regular contact with the chief constable and I am reassured by the way in which the force has acknowledged and responded to the issues we have raised. However, I do not underestimate how much improvement is needed.
I am particularly concerned by the force’s approach to protecting some of the most vulnerable people. HMIC found a lack of effective and reliable processes to respond to and safeguard victims of domestic abuse; and we also found serious weaknesses in the force’s response to child sexual exploitation. However, I am reassured that the force has immediately set about addressing both of these issues.
I am satisfied that the financial management of the force is sound. The force is developing a good understanding of the demands placed on its services and is reallocating the workforce to the areas of most need. The force’s approach to achieving the future savings involves a very significant reduction in the number of PCSOs. The force will need to satisfy itself that its provision of neighbourhood policing remains effective.
I am impressed by the range of means by which the force engages with the people of Essex. I am also pleased by the strong ethical culture within the force, and the support for staff welfare.
Description of force area
Essex Police provides policing services to the county of Essex. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Essex is generally affluent. Around 1.8 million people mainly live in the urban centres that include the city of Chelmsford, as well as the towns of Clacton-on-Sea, Southend-on-Sea and Harlow. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure also includes a major airport and major sea ports.
The proportion of areas in Essex that are predicted to present a very high challenge to the police is lower than the national average. These are characterised by social deprivation or a concentration of commercial premises (including licensed premises), and in some cases both. Providing services across the entirety of the force area is hindered by the road network.
The force has impressive and effective collaborative arrangements with Kent Police that continue to develop. The collaboration provides continued financial benefits and increased capacity and resilience for both forces.
In April 2015, Essex Police piloted a new information technology system on behalf of seven forces. The implementation of the system initially presented some problems. For example, a large backlog of incident records led to a slower response to calls for service.
The force is continuing to work with the system providers to address these issues, many of which – including the incident backlog – have now been resolved.
In our effectiveness inspection, we judged Essex Police to require improvement in the way in which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force has a strong commitment to preventing crime but anti-social behaviour is not a priority, analysis is not routinely completed and knowledge of wider anti-social behaviour is limited.
The quality of the force’s crime investigation is poor for cases involving some vulnerable people, although investigations are improving generally. The force is successful at disrupting high-level organised crime groups but more could be done to increase the understanding of serious and organised crime among frontline officers.
This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so comparison of their year-on-year progress is not possible.
Essex Police is adequately prepared to face its future financial problems. Through effective financial management and accurate budgeting it is successfully making the savings required of it and is well placed to continue to do so.
Its future ambitious change programme will need to be successful if the force is to realise savings and be in a position to meet changes in demand for its services.
In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the previous spending review period, Essex was judged to be good.
Essex Police has a strong ethical culture that supports and encourages its workforce to make sound decisions. There is effective support for staff welfare and the complaints processes.
The force successfully engages with the public through a variety of methods. The majority of the elements of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme have been implemented, and the use of Taser is fair and appropriate.
This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
Essex Police is a well led force. The chief officer team has a clear and realistic sense of the force’s priorities, though the force could take further action to ensure that its workforce fully understands this. The force has begun a programme to invest in the leadership development of the workforce.
Insights from other inspections
HMIC undertakes other inspections in addition to the PEEL programme. Since the last PEEL assessment there have been three reports published on inspections that included Essex Police. More detail on some of these inspections can be found under the Other inspections section.
Looking ahead to PEEL 2016
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how the force responds to this assessment, and to the causes of concern and areas for improvement that HMIC has identified in the last year.
I will be particularly interested to see:
- how the force continues to address concerns about the way it responds to vulnerable victims, particularly those involved in domestic abuse and children subject to and at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse;
- the outcome of work to improve the overall quality of investigations across the force, and in particular child abuse investigations;
- how the force provides effective neighbourhood policing following planned changes to the workforce; and
- how the implementation of the records management information technology project progresses.
In May 2016, like the majority of forces in England and Wales, the force will see the second elections for its police and crime commissioner.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC judges that Essex Police requires improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force has a strong commitment to preventing crime but anti-social behaviour is not a priority, analysis is not routinely completed and knowledge of wider anti-social behaviour is limited. The quality of the force’s crime investigation is poor for cases involving some vulnerable people, although investigations are improving generally. The force is successful at disrupting high-level organised crime groups but involvement in tackling serious and organised crime at the local policing level is limited. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so comparison of their year-on-year progress is not possible.
HMIC judges that overall Essex Police requires improvement in the way that it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
Essex Police’s overall plan for reducing crime demonstrates a commitment to prevention and supporting victims, working with partners, and keeping people safe from crime and anti-social behaviour. However there is confusion among officers and partners as to who should manage some anti-social behaviour incidents.
The force struggles to provide consistent high-quality investigations of crimes. While its investigations of volume crimes are improving, the poor standard of some child protection investigations remains a significant concern. The force has worked hard to improve its detective capacity and capability but it remains short of accredited detectives with some detective posts being filled by unqualified officers.
HMIC has significant concerns about the capability of Essex Police to protect vulnerable people from harm and support victims. There are serious weaknesses in the force’s arrangements to safeguard and investigate cases involving vulnerable people.
The force has established methods to manage repeat and dangerous offenders to stop them re-offending. However, the large number of identified offenders awaiting arrest and forensic backlogs means that the force is not dealing with many offenders expeditiously or effectively.
The force has a good understanding of the threat posed by high-level serious and organised crime, and it is good at disrupting organised crime groups. However, neighbourhood officers have limited knowledge and understanding of serious and organised crime and undertake very little work designed to disrupt this type of dangerous criminality. The leadership has oversight of the force’s ability to respond to national threats, such as terrorism, serious cyber-crime incidents and child sexual abuse. Its own arrangements for ensuring if can meet its national obligations in this regard (such as planning, testing and exercising) are good.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that Essex Police is adequately prepared to face its future financial problems. Through effective financial management and accurate budgeting it is successfully making the savings required of it and is well placed to continue to do so. Its future ambitious change programme will need to be successful if the force is to realise savings and be in a position to meet changes in demand for its services. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, Essex was judged to be good.
HMIC judges Essex Police to be good. The force’s workforce model by which it provides its services is broadly aligned to meeting its current requirements. The force is developing a good understanding of the demands placed on its services and is reallocating the workforce to the areas of most need. The force intends to increase the number of police staff as a proportion of its workforce, on the basis that it believes this will improve resilience. Its change programme sets out step-by-step changes through to 2020.
The force has an established track record of successful collaboration with Kent Police and ambitious, far-reaching plans to improve services. The force has pioneered the Athena integrated IT solution.
Essex Police has identified savings through to 2018/19. It is set on a firm programme of major change based on improved digital working, the rationalisation of buildings and modernising the workforce. The force has made realistic assumptions on the levels of savings required, which is estimated at £53.8m to 2018/19. While these plans are well developed, they are ambitious and are yet to be tested in reality. More work is necessary to manage the response to calls for service from the public in the control room where there is an unacceptable backlog of unresolved open incidents awaiting action. The numbers of these unresolved open incidents mean that control room staff are unable to manage risk effectively, and this may mean that victims are not receiving the service they need and they may lose confidence in Essex Police. This has been a recurring issue for the force over the last few years and has yet to be resolved effectively and is a cause for concern.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Essex Police has a strong ethical culture that supports and encourages staff to do the right thing. There is effective support for staff welfare and the complaints processes. The force successfully engages with the public through a variety of methods. The majority of the Best Use of Stop and scheme elements have been implemented, and Essex Police’s use of Taser is fair and appropriate.
This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
Essex Police has a strong ethical culture that supports staff to do the right thing. The chief constable is the driving force behind the work to instil this ethical culture. The force has initiated wellbeing days across each of the local policing areas. Despite two separate processes, operated by different departments, the complaints system is viewed as fair by all staff and the force is striving to eradicate any inconsistencies.
When HMIC looked at how well the force understands and successfully engages with all the people it serves, we found that the force uses an extensive range of methods to ensure it engages effectively with local people, and is able to demonstrate that outcomes or solutions are achieved. The force demonstrates an understanding of its local communities and it is able to provide effective means by which priorities and concerns can be raised and addressed. 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 that the police use them fairly and appropriately. Many of the elements of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme have been implemented and there is effective independent oversight. Use of Taser is subject to monitoring at a number of levels within the force although there is a lack of independent oversight. There is effective oversight of stop and search in Essex, and Taser is used fairly and appropriately.
How well has the force performed in our other inspections?
In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMICFRS carries out inspections of a wide range of policing activity throughout the year. Some of these are conducted alongside the PEEL inspections; others are joint inspections.
Findings from these inspections are published separately to the main PEEL reports, but are taken into account when producing the rounded assessment of each force's performance.
As part of HMIC’s annual all-force inspections into police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) in 2015, HMIC assessed how well led forces are at every rank and grade of the organisation and across all areas inspected in PEEL. We reviewed how well a force understands and is developing its leaders; whether it has set a clear and compelling future direction; and how well it motivates and engages the workforce.
Essex Police is a well led force. It understands what is expected of leaders at every level and communicates this across the organisation. The chief officer team has a clear and realistic sense of the force’s priorities, though the force could take further action to ensure that its workforce fully understands this.
The force has begun a programme to invest in the leadership development of the workforce, and has updated its annual performance review process, but work is still required for the whole workforce to be fully involved in and supportive of the process.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Essex Police.