Essex PEEL 2015
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.
To what extent does practice and behaviour reinforce the wellbeing of staff and an ethical culture?
Essex Police has a strong ethical culture that encourages staff to do the right thing and support those that did. The chief officer team has clearly set out Essex Police’s vision and values for the force and a strong ethical culture is evident as a result. The chief constable personally led work to bring about this ethical culture and is well-respected by the workforce.
The force initiated wellbeing days across each of the local policing areas. The Essex support forum enables welfare professionals and managers to discuss the cases of individual members of staff who had pressing welfare concerns. The force responds positively to concerns that the occupational health unit does not have the capacity to support the workforce.
The Code of Ethics is only partially incorporated into the force’s policy and practice and more needs to be done before officers and staff are fully aware and have a good understanding of the code.
Essex Police has a complaints system that is acknowledged as being fair. It deals with complaints and misconduct fairly and consistently and investigations are free from bias. There is ongoing work to improve a perception of inconsistency and unfairness between police officer and police staff outcomes.
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?
In Essex Police there is a clear understanding across the force of the importance of effective engagement with the public. A new corporate communications strategy is being developed to support its current policing plan.
Neighbourhood profiles are available and enable the force to understand the issues which are of concern to local people and the impact of local problems. Locally-based officers have a good understanding of their communities.
The force uses an extensive range of methods to ensure effective engagement with local people. Each neighbourhood policing area has its own dedicated page on the force website providing information about the local policing team responsible for the area.
The force has been successful in recruiting support from volunteers into a number of different roles. The opportunity to use volunteers to extend its reach and improve community engagement is recognised.
Through the training given on the National Decision Model (the framework by which all policing decisions should be made, examined and challenged) the force ensures that officers have the knowledge and skills required to treat members of the public fairly and with respect.
To what extent are decisions taken on the use of stop and search and Taser fair and appropriate?
Essex Police is complying with the majority of elements in the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. Data on stop and search are reviewed and published locally on the force website. Independent oversight and scrutiny of stop and search data is provided by a Youth Panel. Officers use stop and search effectively and fairly.
Complaints are fully investigated and monitored and discussed during scrutiny panel meetings. The dedicated internet page includes information about making a complaint and provides an opportunity for persons stopped to complete an anonymous online survey.
Revised authority levels for Section 60 authorisations (where an officer does not need to have suspicions about a particular individual prior to stopping them) have been implemented and these are reflected in force policy.
Taser-trained officers are trained to the right standard with a good understanding of the National Decision Model and the Code of Ethics, although the code is not always clearly recorded. The use of Taser is monitored at a senior level and reviewed by qualified staff and is reported in accordance with national guidance, although there is a lack of external, independent oversight. Taser is used fairly and appropriately by Essex Police.
As Essex Police was not compliant in one or two aspects of the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme in 2015, HMIC revisited the force in 2016 to assess improvements made since the initial inspection.