Thames Valley PEEL 2015
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
The chief officer team has set out a clear vision of an ethical culture and inclusive workforce within Thames Valley Police. Neighbourhood officers and staff engage well with their communities and display a good understanding of local needs. The force is complying with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. The use of Taser by authorised officers is fair and appropriate.
This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
The chief constable has led activity and set expectations about ethical behaviour in Thames Valley Police. Communication about the Code of Ethics is effective and varied. The code sets out the standards and behaviour that the public can expect from officers and staff. The comprehensive and proactive approach that the force has taken to implementing the code is encouraging. Staff in some areas of the force told us about difficult working environments caused by volume of work. However, there are a range of methods in place to support staff and they generally hold a positive view about how the force cares about their wellbeing.
When HMIC looked at how well the force understands and engages with all the people it serves, we found that the force undertakes wide-ranging activity at force and local levels to understand the views of the different communities it serves. As a result, we found that neighbourhood officers engage with the community through a wide range of channels to share information with different community groups.
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. Officers, generally, have a good understanding of the importance of exercising stop and search powers in a lawful, transparent and respectful manner. All officers trained to use Taser understand their responsibility to exercise good judgment when considering its use, and recording that rationale to allow public scrutiny of actions taken. The force is complying with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme and Taser is used fairly and appropriately.
To what extent does practice and behaviour reinforce the wellbeing of staff and an ethical culture?
The adoption of an ethical culture within Thames Valley Police has been led by the chief constable and communication about the Code of Ethics has been effective. There is a comprehensive and proactive approach taken to implementing the code.
There are ways for staff to identify organisational learning and improvement opportunities; the force is also undertaking survey work to develop a greater understanding of staff views.
Staff are generally comfortable challenging managers and appropriate arrangements are in place for the reporting of misconduct.
Staff in some areas of the force reported that there are difficult working environments caused by volume of work. However, there are a range of methods in place to support staff and they generally hold a positive view about how the force cares about their wellbeing.
The force deals with complaints and misconduct fairly and consistently and investigations are free from bias. However, the initial assessment decision in relation to public complaints is taken by a person of insufficient seniority to comply with regulations. There is some potential for inconsistency between police officer and police staff misconduct cases, in respect of decision-making and final 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?
Officers in Thames Valley Police understand the importance of dealing with the public in a fair, polite and professional way and how this supports public confidence in the police. The force undertakes a wide range of activity to understand the views of the different communities it serves. Neighbourhood officers actively engage with the community and partners through a wide range of channels. Neighbourhood officers and PCSOs engage well with the community, for example, at community ‘Have Your Say’ meetings, which are held either on a regular monthly basis or in response to a community incident. Local policing areas make good use of Twitter or other social media.
The force has made a significant commitment to ensuring that the workforce understands the National Decision Model (the framework by which all policing decisions should be made, examined and challenged), and properly apply it. A wide range of officers are very familiar with the model and often describe it as being ‘at the heart of what we do’. They clearly understand the importance of having a reasonable rationale for the decisions they make while serving the public.
To what extent are decisions taken on the use of stop and search and Taser fair and appropriate?
Officers generally have a good understanding of the importance of exercising stop and search powers in a lawful manner that is transparent and conducted with respect, although staff knowledge of the existence of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme is limited. The force needs to improve staff awareness and supervision of the recording of reasonable grounds. Stop and search data is reviewed at both local and senior management levels, as well as being made available to the dedicated strategic independent advisory group.
All officers trained to use Taser are very familiar with the NDM. They understand their responsibility to exercise good judgment when considering the use of Taser. They also understand the importance of recording their rationale to allow public scrutiny of actions taken.
Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary operate a joint Taser working group which assesses data on use and reviews individual incidents if appropriate. The working group then reports its findings to the strategic firearms board. The force has conducted a review within the last year, linked to the firearms strategic assessment, which concludes that the force has the right number of Taser-trained officers available to meet its level of risk.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that stop and search records include sufficient reasonable grounds to justify the lawful use of the power, and that officers and supervisors fully understand the grounds required to use stop and search powers.