Suffolk 2015Read more about Suffolk
This is HMIC’s second assessment of the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy with which Suffolk Constabulary 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 Suffolk Constabulary is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
The extent to which Suffolk Constabulary is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
The extent to which Suffolk Constabulary 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 Suffolk Constabulary’s performance this year, including where I would like to see improvements next year.
I am very pleased with the performance of Suffolk Constabulary in keeping people safe and reducing crime.
The force has a strong focus on preventing crime. It is good at investigating crime and managing offenders, including those involved in serious and organised crime.
I particularly welcome the force’s commitment to a strong local policing presence, and I have seen officers and staff working well with local authorities and other organisations to keep people safe.
Although the force needs to improve its approach to keeping some vulnerable people safe, in particular children, I am reassured that the force is taking steps to address this issue. In particular, I welcome the additional resources that it has devoted to supporting missing and absent people, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
The force has performed well in reducing its costs while maintaining the service to the public. It is working hard to understand fully the future demands for its services and it recognises that its current workforce model needs to be changed so that the force can continue to provide an effective service to the communities of Suffolk. Together with Norfolk Constabulary, the force has joined with academic institutions to carefully review how it provides services to ensure it represents value for money.
I am pleased that there is a strong culture within Suffolk Constabulary of listening to the public and acting on their concerns. Local officers and staff demonstrate an impressive commitment to engaging with their neighbourhoods and generally have a sound understanding of the issues affecting local people.
The chief officer team has undergone significant change in the last 12 months, but it continues to promote an ethical culture and to treat its workforce well. It is also working hard to develop the force’s future plans and priorities.
Description of force area
Suffolk Constabulary provides policing services to the county of Suffolk. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Suffolk is generally affluent. Around 0.7 million people live in a predominantly rural setting. It has a small number of distinct urban areas that include the towns of Ipswich and Lowestoft. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes major sea ports.
The proportion of areas in Suffolk 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’s mature and successful collaboration with Norfolk Constabulary saves money and provides greater resilience in how specialist operational and support services are provided.
In November 2015, the chief constable retired. The new chief constable was appointed in January 2016.
In our effectiveness inspection, we judged Suffolk Constabulary to be good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. It is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. There are some areas for improvement in services to keep vulnerable people, particularly children safe. Generally, the force has a strong focus on preventing crime and keeping people safe with a commitment to visible local policing. It works well with partner organisations to investigate crime and manage offenders, including those involved in 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.
Suffolk Constabulary is adequately prepared to face its future financial challenges. The force is improving its understanding of the demand on its services. It realises that its current workforce model needs to change to ensure that it can continue to provide an effective service to the public – meeting future demands within a reduced budget. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the previous spending review period, Suffolk was judged to be good.
The force promotes an ethical culture and treats its workforce well. It engages well with the public, and listens to and acts on their concerns. There is a comprehensive understanding of the importance of acting legitimately, building the trust of local communities and treating people fairly and with respect. The force complies with the Best Use of Stop Search scheme and uses Taser fairly and appropriately.
This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
The chief officer team has undergone significant change over the past 12 months but it has continued to promote a culture of cohesion, honesty and openness. It also provides a clear and developing sense of the force’s future plans and priorities. The force has set out clear expectations of its workforce, which are understood across the organisation, and has taken some positive steps to develop talent.
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 Suffolk Constabulary. 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 continues to develop its workforce model and how this enables it to continue to provide a good policing service;
- how the changes made in response to our inspection findings improve the service to vulnerable people; and
- how the new chief constable’s plans for improvement lead to better police services for the people of Suffolk.
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?
Suffolk Constabulary is good at reducing crime, keeping people safe and preventing crime and anti-social behaviour.
There are some areas for improvement in services to keep vulnerable people, particularly children safe. Generally, the constabulary has a strong focus on preventing crime and keeping people safe with a commitment to visible local policing. It works well with partner organisations to investigate crime and manage offenders, including those involved in 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.
There is a clear commitment from both the constabulary and the police and crime commissioner to the importance of preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. Suffolk Constabulary works well with partner organisations. Despite financial constraints, the constabulary has retained a strong local policing presence to work alongside local communities and partner organisations to understand and tackle local concerns but it could do more to systematically understand and share what works to ensure it uses its reducing resources in the most effective way.
Suffolk Constabulary generally provides a good service in identifying and supporting vulnerable people and responds well to them. However, there are several areas where improvement is needed to ensure the service is consistent and that vulnerable people, particularly children, are kept safe. It now needs to build on the good work it is doing to ensure that it results in a consistently high quality service.
Suffolk Constabulary’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders is good. The constabulary investigates crimes effectively, ensuring it has the right people with the right skills to fight crime and bring offenders to justice but needs to do more to ensure that staff are appropriately trained to continue providing an adequate level of service to victims. There is a focus on diverting offenders away from crime and there are good examples of partnership working.
The constabulary has a good understanding of serious and organised crime and is working well to tackle it. The leadership has strong oversight of the constabulary’s ability to respond to national threats, such as serious cyber-crime incidents and child sexual abuse. Its own arrangements for ensuring it can meet its national obligations in this regard (such as planning, testing and exercising) are effective.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that Suffolk Constabulary is adequately prepared to face its future financial challenges. The constabulary is improving its understanding of the demand on its services. It realises that its current workforce model needs to change to ensure that it can continue to provide an effective service to the public – meeting future demands within a reduced budget. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, Suffolk was judged to be good.
HMIC judges Suffolk Constabulary to be good. The constabulary is continuing to improve its understanding of the current demand for policing services across the county.
However, it needs to do more to gain a sufficiently comprehensive picture of current and likely future demand, so that it can plan effectively.
Suffolk Constabulary’s current workforce model matches demand, organisational and financial requirements well. However, the constabulary recognises that this model will become unsustainable given the need to reduce spending still further, which will result in reduced workforce numbers.
HMIC is encouraged to see that the constabulary is currently undertaking more detailed analysis to support the case for change so that the impact of any further reductions in staff can be fully evaluated.
The constabulary works well in collaboration with Norfolk Constabulary. It has been able not only to save money but also provide greater resilience by joining forces to provide specialist services. HMIC found many examples of constructive work with local partner organisations to work together to prevent crime and improve services.
Overall, Suffolk Constabulary has a good track record of achieving the required savings; it has successfully reduced its spending by £18.8m from 2011/12 to 2014/15.
The constabulary’s control of its expenditure is good with clear leadership and accountability processes in place. Its plans do reflect the police and crime commissioner (PCC) priorities with shared understanding and assumptions when planning for the future.
It has outline plans already in place to achieve most of the anticipated further reductions in spending through to 2020.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
The constabulary promotes an ethical culture and treats its staff well. The constabulary engages with the public, and listens to and acts on their concerns. However, there could be more consistency in its understanding of different communities and a more effective way to update them on local issues. There is a comprehensive understanding within the constabulary of the link between communicating effectively with those they serve and how its staff treat members of the public. There is effective oversight and scrutiny of the use of stop and search powers and the constabulary complies with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme and uses Taser fairly and appropriately.
This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
Suffolk Constabulary has strong leadership from the chief officer team in developing and maintaining an ethical culture within the constabulary. The Code of Ethics, which defines the standards of behaviour for everyone who works in policing, is widely understood. The health and wellbeing of its staff is important to the organisation and staff have access to a range of support programmes.
When HMIC looked at how well the constabulary understands and engages with all the people it serves, Suffolk Constabulary consults widely with its communities to understand and respond to their concerns. Overall, Suffolk Constabulary is aware of the policing needs of its communities and responds effectively.
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. Suffolk Constabulary complies with the requirements of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, which aims to achieve greater transparency and community involvement in the police use of stop and search powers. There is a more limited understanding of the disproportionate number of stops and searches of members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups in the community. Taser officers are well trained and their use is closely scrutinised by the constabulary. The use of Taser by Suffolk Constabulary is fair and appropriate.
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.
The leadership of Suffolk Constabulary’s chief officer team has made a positive difference despite undergoing significant change over the past 12 months. The team has provided a clear and developing sense of the constabulary’s future plans and priorities and promotes a culture of cohesion, honesty and openness.
The constabulary has set out clear expectations of its staff which are understood across the organisation and has taken some positive steps to develop talent. The constabulary needs to do more to gain a clearer understanding of the current status of leadership at every level to ensure it is prepared for the future.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Suffolk Constabulary.