Gloucestershire PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Overall Gloucestershire Constabulary is judged to require improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Working closely with partner organisations, the constabulary is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. However, standards of investigation require improvement; expectations of staff are not clear, supervision is poor for some crime types and the service to victims is inconsistent. Improvements are also needed to protect the vulnerable properly, including domestic abuse victims and missing children. Additionally, more needs to be done to understand and respond effectively to serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.
Overall Gloucestershire Constabulary is judged to require improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The service it provides with partner organisations to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour is good. The constabulary understands the public demand for its services and has recently reshaped its operating model; the new model ensures that the commitment to early interventions and the prevention of crime in communities will remain at the fore of the constabulary’s activities. HMIC found a well-motivated and experienced workforce working hard to prevent crime, manage anti-social behaviour and keep people safe.
Despite evidence that significant efforts are being made to raise standards, Gloucestershire Constabulary’s approach to investigating crime requires improvement. Shortcomings in the required service are evident with no clear understanding in the way crimes are allocated and some officers investigating crimes that they believe lie beyond their level of experience and training. Documented supervision and records showing contact with victims need to be more consistent. These areas have been highlighted in previous HMIC inspections and while the constabulary recognises the importance of providing a good service to victims, it needs to maintain its focus in this area.
The constabulary works with partner organisations in a joint safeguarding hub to protect the vulnerable and provide a better service to victims. The constabulary’s contribution to this joint venture is highly regarded by practitioners but some of the constabulary’s internal procedures are sub-standard. Assessments of the risks faced by domestic abuse victims are not completed consistently and there are delays in referring victims to the safeguarding hub. Improvements are required in this area.
The constabulary would also benefit from an improved understanding and ‘whole force’ response to tackling serious and organised crime. It is in the early stages of completing a serious and organised local crime profile, and is currently researching opportunities with partners for multi-agency problem solving and oversight. Successful implementation and increased scrutiny would provide the constabulary with a more complete understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime, and strengthen its ability to limit its proliferation.
If the constabulary continues to improve its understanding of threats from serious and organised crime it will be able to demonstrate that it is well prepared to counter all six of the national threats articulated in The Strategic Policing Requirement. In particular, the constabulary has invested heavily in its ability to understand and respond to cyber-crime putting it in a strong position to tackle this emerging threat.
How effective is the force at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe?
Gloucestershire Constabulary is good at working to prevent crime, anti-social behaviour and keep people safe. The constabulary understands the public demand for its services and has recently reshaped its operating model; the new model ensures that the commitment to early interventions and the prevention of crime can be maintained.
Inspectors found a well-motivated and experienced workforce working hard in support of these aims. Project Solace’s mandate to address anti-social behaviour linked to housing in the private rental sector has been acclaimed nationally. Additionally, the joint working of Great Expectations as part of the government’s ‘troubled families’ strategy makes a positive impact.
In Gloucestershire’s neighbourhoods, community safety partnerships provide a successful platform to address problems that really matter to local people. Additionally, strategic partnerships such as the integrated offender management programme which addresses the threat posed by prolific criminals are also effective.
Examples of ‘evidence-based policing’, an assurance that police tactics have been evaluated as being effective are limited. The identification and dissemination of best practice is an area where more could be done.
Partner organisations are complimentary on the lead the constabulary takes in bringing public services together at all levels. The benefits are meaningful to victims, vulnerable groups and all the communities that Gloucestershire Constabulary serves.
Areas for improvement
- The constabulary should ensure that the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour is a routine part of neighbourhood policing activity.
- The constabulary should use evidence of ‘what works’ drawn from other forces, academics and partners to continually improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour. There needs to be routine evaluation of tactics and sharing of effective practice.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and managing offenders?
Gloucestershire Constabulary’s approach to investigating crime requires improvement. The constabulary has a triage facility (the investigation assessment unit – IAU) to help manage demands upon its services to investigate crime. However, high workloads and delays in reviewing some crimes requiring further assessment in the IAU could present risks for the constabulary and for victims. HMIC also has concerns that some officers are investigating crimes that are beyond their level of accreditation and experience.
While the constabulary can demonstrate that investigations in specialist teams are of a good standard, elsewhere there are a number of shortcomings; investigation plans, which HMIC would expect to be directing investigations, are rarely used and there is little evidence of supervisory activity being endorsed on crime reports. The constabulary has no published policy to explain how crime is allocated to investigators or to set out the minimum standards required for investigations.
There have been marked improvements to the service victims receive although procedures to encourage compliance with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime require improvement. Many of these deficits have been published in successive HMIC inspections over the last two years; the constabulary needs to maintain its focus to successfully address these areas.
More positively, the constabulary works closely with partner organisations to manage prolific and dangerous offenders. HMIC is also complimentary of the constabulary’s efforts to examine forensically an increasing number of Smartphones and other devices in support of investigations.
Areas for improvement
- The constabulary should ensure that all crimes are allocated promptly to investigators with the appropriate skills, accreditation and support to investigate them to a good standard.
- The constabulary should ensure that all investigations are completed to a consistently good standard, and in a timely manner.
- The constabulary should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations to check quality and progress.
How effective is the force at protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims?
Gloucestershire Constabulary generally provides a good service in identifying vulnerable people and responding to protect them from harm. However, there are several areas where improvement is needed to ensure that service is consistent and the most vulnerable people are kept safe. Given the risk that is posed to some of the most vulnerable people, overall HMIC judges that the constabulary requires improvement.
The constabulary effectively identifies repeat and vulnerable victims and responds to them well. It has improved its response to missing and absent children with the introduction of new procedures, but risk assessment and management of missing and absent investigations is not consistent.
Work between professionals in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) is effective in keeping people safe, but there were delays in high risk domestic abuse cases being referred to them for action. Domestic abuse risk assessments are inconsistent and completion rates are below 70 percent.
The constabulary has made its response to child sexual exploitation investigations a priority and the investment of resources into operations to investigate such offences is evident across the constabulary. This inspection only considered how well prepared the constabulary is to tackle child sexual exploitation.
Cause of concern
The constabulary’s response to victims of domestic abuse is a cause of concern to HMIC. The risk assessments of victims of domestic abuse were of inconsistent quality with supervisors not ensuring all assessments were completed.
Investigations that the constabulary has assessed as requiring a specialist response do not always get one and we found a general lack of supervision of investigations. A lack of capacity within the central referral unit results in relevant checks not being conducted in a timely manner and delays in referrals of high risk cases to the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) for further safeguarding consideration. We found that some staff are reluctant to consider the use of domestic violence protection orders.
To address this cause for concern, HMIC recommends the constabulary should immediately take steps to ensure that:
- officers and staff with the appropriate professional skills and experience investigate cases and are supervised effectively;
- risk assessments are carried out to appropriate standard and processes introduced to ensure they are properly supervised and submitted;
- appropriate checks are being conducted within the central referral unit and referrals to MASH and other organisations are being made in a timely manner; and
- officers’ and staff’s understanding of the process of obtaining domestic violence protection orders is increased to promote their use.
Areas for improvement
- The constabulary should improve its initial assessment of risk to vulnerable people by ensuring staff who work at front counters of police stations are appropriately trained and have access to the constabulary’s set processes to identify and assess risk and vulnerability.
- The constabulary should improve its compliance with its duties under the code of practice for victims of crime specifically in relation to the assessment of victim needs, keeping the victim informed and victim personal statements.
- The constabulary should improve its response to children who go missing, specifically in relation to the assessment of risk, quality of investigation and how it uses subsequently information from ‘safe and well’ checks.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
Gloucestershire Constabulary requires improvement in how it tackles serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their effectiveness at tackling serious and organised crime, including a force’s arrangements for ensuring that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
The constabulary’s strategic understanding of the threat presented by serious and organised crime and its impact in communities could be improved. To achieve this, the constabulary needs to engage meaningfully with partner organisations to share information and deepen understanding.
Firm leadership from the top of the organisation is needed to place the management of organised crime groups in line with national best practice; most importantly the expectations of individuals assigned as ‘responsible officers’ need to be made clear. Working practices within the serious and organised crime team need to be more inclusive. More thought needs to be given to how it works with partners and the impact this might have. Furthermore the relationship it has with the regional organised crime unit needs to be more clearly defined.
As the constabulary improves its understanding of the threats from serious and organised crime it will be able to demonstrate that it is well prepared and has satisfactory arrangements in place to meet the national policing responsibilities and address the high-level national threats articulated in The Strategic Policing Requirement. In particular, the constabulary’s state of readiness to manage a cyber-crime attack is well developed.
Cause of concern
It is a cause of concern to HMIC that essential processes are not in place in Gloucestershire to understand the threat from serious and organised crime or to provide an effective multi-agency response to this type of offending.
The constabulary should immediately take steps to:
- establish a structured approach to threat assessment at a strategic level;
- develop a serious and organised crime local profile in conjunction with partner organisations, and maintain joint oversight through a multi-agency board;
- embed an approach to tackling serious and organised crime based on the ‘four Ps’ as set out in the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy;
- ensure that all mapped OCGs are subject to regular scrutiny and oversight, enabling it to routinely identify and pursue opportunities for disruption and investigation; and
- engage routinely with partner organisations in order to disrupt and investigate serious and organised crime.