Northamptonshire PEEL 2015
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.
How well does the force have a clear understanding of the current state of its leadership at every level?
HMIC examined how well forces understand the strengths and weaknesses of leadership across the force and how well the workforce understands its leadership role. Strong, clear leadership across every rank and grade is vital to the effectiveness and efficiency of a modern and capable police force.
Northamptonshire Police has elements of strong leadership, and demonstrates a good understanding of its leadership capability and workforce skills. The chief officer team is involved personally in all selections and promotions of chief inspectors (and their police staff equivalents) and above and therefore has a detailed understanding of the capabilities and skills of its senior leaders. The force has carried out a leadership audit at this level. This audit assessed competence and confidence around employee engagement, change management and performance management and enabled the force to identify that it lacked capability in change management skills at a senior level. The force has responded positively to this assessment by recruiting externally and has made several appointments.
The force is good at providing opportunities for its workforce to have their views heard which helps the force to better understand what is important to its workforce. ‘Ask the chief’ is a forum on the force intranet which allows the workforce to ask the chief constable questions, and the annual staff survey enables the force to gauge the views of the entire workforce on matters such as the workforce’s perception of senior leadership.
How well has the force provided a clear and compelling sense of the future direction of the organisation?
HMIC examined the extent to which forces have set out a clear, compelling and realistic sense of future direction because it is important to ensure that the workforce is motivated to build for the future and that the force knows the kinds of skills it is looking to develop. We were also interested in how well leaders are making use of new approaches to enable forces to meet future financial challenges.
At the time of this leadership inspection, the force was led by the former chief constable. During this time many officers and staff were aware of the ‘three Vs’ which outlined his vision, values and vocation, and also that the force strove to make Northamptonshire the safest place in the country. Since July 2015 the force has been led by a new chief constable who has given a clear and focused vision to the organisation to ‘protect people from harm’.
However, HMIC found that much of the workforce are unclear on the future direction of the force. For example, many employees believed that recruiting more special constables is ‘only a cost saving exercise’ and the reason for this recruitment drive has not been clearly articulated.
The force is open to new technologies and has invested in body-worn cameras. We found a good system for the management of CCTV which the force uses effectively to support court cases or to obtain domestic violence prevention orders where victims do not wish to proceed.
How is the force developing leadership, motivating the workforce and encouraging staff engagement?
HMIC examined how well forces identify and develop leadership, as quality of leadership is key to ensuring forces overcome their challenges of reducing crime and meeting the needs of victims. We were not looking for one particular style of leadership but were focusing on how well leaders motivate their workforce and improve performance in order to deliver a quality service to the public.
Although the force has an annual performance review system, it is not used consistently to set expectations of officers and staff and to monitor performance. Staff feel the system is complicated and difficult to navigate and was only necessary for the purposes of promotion. A more consistent use of the system would ensure that individual performance was linked to force objectives and would help the force understand the potential of its staff.
Northamptonshire has recruited recently a large number of special constables. The force has adapted its induction training and its vetting arrangements are good, but the force appears to have given little consideration to the impact on performance of recruiting such a large number in a short period of time and placing them in frontline roles.
Many officers and staff told us that the force cannot identify and develop its most talented people, and although the force has recognised this and provides mentoring and coaching arrangements, these arrangements are not yet fully developed.
To what extent is leadership improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of the force?
As good quality leadership is an important factor of policing performance, HMIC examined how leaders are improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of forces through clear, reasoned and swift actions. This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible for this pillar.
Leadership in Northamptonshire Police is improving the legitimacy of the force in how it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Many senior leaders are perceived by the workforce to be approachable, which helps improve force morale. For example, during our inspection HMIC found that in the professional standards department, as well as being perceived as being approachable, leaders were viewed as being responsible for providing a disciplinary process that is transparent, consistent and fair. In the department, swift action is taken when required and encouragingly, there is no apparent difference in approach to cases involving police officers or police staff.
Leadership has also helped with the introduction of the Code of Ethics, with chief officers promoting effectively the code through a variety of means. HMIC found that the workforce generally understands the code, and that it was being used to inform day-to-day decisions. Staff and officers we spoke to also reported that they have been empowered to act as ethical leaders, and felt supported in making decisions, even if there was an unfavourable outcome. Training programmes for the code are well-developed, and those who had completed it described it as comprehensive. The force should consider providing all its officers and staff with this training, so that understanding of the code is consistent across the force.