Northamptonshire 2015Read more about Northamptonshire
This is HMIC’s second assessment of the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy with which Northamptonshire 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 Northamptonshire Police is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.
The extent to which Northamptonshire Police is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.
The extent to which Northamptonshire 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 Northamptonshire Police’s performance this year, including any exceptional events and where I would like to see improvements next year.
I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Northamptonshire Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime, but there are also areas in need of improvement if the force is to provide a consistently good service.
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement in the way it prevents crime, and tackles anti-social behaviour and serious and organised crime. There are weaknesses in the way the force allocates crime cases for investigation that are causing unacceptable delays. This means that offenders may not be brought to justice quickly enough and victims may lose faith in the system. More positively, I have been monitoring closely the hard work the force has been undertaking with its partner agencies to tackle violent crime and I am encouraged by the progress that has been made.
I am also pleased by the way the force works with partners, such as local councils, to protect vulnerable people. Northamptonshire Police has developed strong relationships with other organisations and shares information well, helping it to keep some of the most vulnerable members of its communities safe through this joint working approach. While investigations of missing and absent people and child sexual exploitation are of a good standard, I have some concerns about how the force safeguards victims of domestic abuse who are at the highest risk of harm.
I am encouraged that the force has balanced its budget and has a good track record of achieving savings. However, the force needs to improve its understanding of the demand on its services and will need to change its structure and processes significantly to meet those demands.
I welcome the leadership shown by the new chief constable. He has set a clear direction for the force and I am reassured by some very encouraging signs that performance is starting to improve. I look forward to seeing continued improvements in the coming year.
Description of force area
Northamptonshire Police provides policing services to the county of Northamptonshire. Although there are some more affluent areas, Northamptonshire has a high level of poverty. Around 0.7 million people mainly live in the urban centres which include the town of Northampton. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit or travel through the county each year.
The proportion of areas in Northamptonshire 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.
Northamptonshire Police works well with other forces within the East Midlands and is part of a successful collaboration that provides policing and support services, such as major crime, special branch and serious and organised crime and forensics.
The force is also part of the East Midlands Operational Support Service, a collaboration between Leicestershire Police, Nottinghamshire Police and Lincolnshire Police that is responsible for managing and deploying resources including firearms, dog sections, search and roads policing units.
The force shares accommodation with Northamptonshire Fire Service. Some senior fire officers have posts that include oversight of some areas of police public safety work, such as integrated offender management.
Cheshire Constabulary provides accounting, purchasing, human resources and payroll services for the force.
There were a number of chief officer changes this year, including the appointment of a new chief constable and deputy chief constable.
In our effectiveness inspection, we judged Northamptonshire Police to require improvement in the way in which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Although the force has a clear commitment to reducing crime and keeping people safe, there is room for improvement in the way it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour. Weaknesses in the assessment and allocation of crime for investigation are causing unacceptable delays. The force has good systems and processes in place to deal with vulnerability and risk at the initial point of contact. However, an improved awareness of vulnerability and empathy for victims by call-handlers is required to ensure that vulnerable victims feel fully engaged from the outset of their contact with police.
The force also needs to work better with partner organisations in its fight against serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so comparison of their year-on-year effectiveness is not possible.
Northamptonshire Police is partly prepared to face its future financial challenges. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the previous spending review period, Northamptonshire was judged to be good. It has balanced the budget and has a good track record of achieving savings. However, future plans beyond 2016 are still in the early stages of development; and the force does not yet have a full understanding of the demand on its services. Because of this, the force cannot be confident that its structure and processes are aligned with its overall demand and budget.
The chief officer team is committed to securing an ethical and inclusive workforce, and allegations against officers and staff are generally dealt with fairly and consistently. It is clear that local teams engage positively with the public, but this approach lacks consistency.The force is complying with most of the features of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and 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.
Northamptonshire Police has a good understanding of its leadership skills, capacity and capability and is taking positive steps to address identified gaps.
We saw some evidence of how the force manages talented and high-performing officers and staff, specifically regarding crime investigation.
Insights from other inspections
HMIC undertakes other inspections in addition to the PEEL programme. Since the last PEEL assessment there have been four reports published on inspections that included Northamptonshire 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 areas for improvement that HMIC has identified in the last year.
I will be particularly interested to see:
- how the force improves its understanding of demands for its services, and how ensures that its operating model puts it in the best possible position to be able to respond well to the public;
- how the force improves the overall quality of investigations;
- how the force makes improvements in keeping vulnerable people safe including missing or absent children and victims of domestic abuse; and
- how the new chief constable’s sound plans for improvement lead to better police services for the people of Northamptonshire.
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?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement in the way it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
Although the force has a clear commitment to reducing crime and keeping people safe, there is room for improvement in the way it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour; levels of violent crime in the county remain too high. Weaknesses in the assessment and allocation of crime for investigation are causing unacceptable delays; this needs to improve, and more needs to be done to improve how the force identifies and responds to vulnerable people. The force also needs to work better with partner organisations in its fight against serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so comparison of their year-on-year effectiveness is not possible.
The force is committed to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and has an aspiration for Northamptonshire to become the safest place in England. It is trying to improve the service it provides in identifying vulnerable people and responding to them, but more needs to be done. While most officers understand the need to focus on protecting people from harm, poor direction and assigning of tasks means they are often not aligning their activities with force priorities.
HMIC is concerned that the way in which crime is allocated for investigation is causing unacceptable delays, which puts at risk the force’s ability to properly investigate, gather the best evidence and ensure timely support for victims. We found that many crime investigations lack effective initial supervision and some cases are being investigated by officers without the appropriate skills or experience. There are also backlogs in the force’s forensic examination of digital evidence from mobile phones and computers, which is causing delays in the investigation of high-tech crimes.
The force is working well with the fire and rescue service in a range of areas including the management of repeat and dangerous offenders and there are effective programmes in place to reduce some re-offending.
It has a partial understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime. In this area the force has highly-skilled staff and an excellent working relationship with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, which provides additional capacity to fight organised crime; but the force could do more to involve local partner agencies in understanding and tackling organised crime groups.
The leadership has strong 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 are good for ensuring it can meet its national obligations in this regard (such as planning, testing and exercising).
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that Northamptonshire Police is partly prepared to face its future financial challenges. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, Northamptonshire was judged to be good. It has balanced the budget and has a good track record of achieving savings, although future plans beyond 2016 are still in the early stages of development. The force needs to improve its understanding of the demand on its services and will need significantly to change its structure and processes to meet demand and address this deficit. For this reason it cannot be judged as good.
HMIC judges Northamptonshire Police to require improvement. The force has started to analyse demand but does not yet have a clear picture of all the areas of demand that it faces; nor has it sufficiently assessed future demand. The force needs to develop how demand analysis is used to allocate resources and consider how to encourage joint working across Northamptonshire. While the force has started to assess the impact of demand from other public sector organisations, it has yet to work closely with them to jointly reduce this demand.
Due to its lack of understanding of demand, the force cannot be certain that its workforce model is designed efficiently or being developed to meet current and future requirements. The force faces a significant challenge in ensuring it can develop a more efficient and modernised workforce, while also sustaining police officer numbers at 1,220 and creating an establishment of 900 special constables. It will also have to consider carefully the skills of the different elements of its workforce so that in the future the force can ensure it meets the requirements of the public.
The force has a good track record of delivering savings. The force has achieved the savings it needed with an annual under-spend, which has enabled the force to establish a fund to support the cost of future change. The force also collaborates well with other forces in the region and beyond, as well as with non-police partners such as the fire and rescue service. This collaboration is helping the force to work more efficiently and to provide a more resilient service. However, the force’s plans for savings beyond 2016 are still at an early stage of development.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
The chief officer team takes seriously the need for an ethical and inclusive workforce, and allegations against officers and staff are generally dealt with fairly and consistently. It is clear that local teams engage positively with the public, but this approach lacks consistency.
The force is complying with most of the features of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, and 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.
Individuals at all levels in Northamptonshire Police consistently demonstrate that they seek to develop and maintain an ethical culture and that the Code of Ethics had been made part of the force’s training and development opportunities wherever possible. However, many staff hold a perception that promotion processes lack transparency and, in some cases, are seen as unfair. The force demonstrates a proportionate, fair and consistent response to complaints and misconduct.
When HMIC looked at how well the force understands and successfully engages with all the people it serves, we found there is a good understanding of the need to build trust and confidence in the communities it serves.
There are some very clearly documented assessments of local communities and their policing needs, although this is not yet a consistent feature throughout the organisation. Local teams do not have sufficient information available to them to improve their understanding of local communities.
There is an effective system in place to identify and manage community tensions as they emerge through the use of community tension assessments.
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. HMIC found that Northamptonshire Police shows a commitment to implement the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. Many of the aspects of the scheme are already being applied, and officers are now significantly better at recording the grounds leading to any stop and search. Taser is used fairly and appropriately by the force.
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.
Northamptonshire Police demonstrates a good grasp of the state of its leadership across the force, including strengths and weaknesses at most levels, and has an understanding of its leadership skills, capacity and capability. It is using this information in a positive way to bring in additional officers and staff with the necessary skills to address identified capability gaps.
However, the force could do more to analyse future workforce capability requirements and provide development opportunities accordingly. The force provides leadership training at different levels, which includes both operational and senior leadership training, though it would be a positive step to further develop and improve this training. We saw some evidence of talent management in the force, specifically regarding crime investigation.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Northamptonshire Police.