West Midlands PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Overall West Midlands Police is judged to be good at keeping people safe and reducing crime.
In terms of preventing crime the force operates effectively and standards of investigation are generally high. Furthermore the force works well with partners to manage the most harmful offenders. The force is clearly committed to protecting the vulnerable; however improvements are needed in its understanding of the risks faced by vulnerable people, particularly missing children. Good arrangements are in place to tackle serious and organised crime in Birmingham East but elsewhere more consistency is needed. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.
Force priorities demonstrate a strong commitment to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe, with a shift of emphasis from a reactive style to more preventative policing. This commitment is well understood throughout the force, which works effectively with partner organisations at both force and neighbourhood level.
The force generally conducts effective investigations but officers do not consistently take opportunities to maximise the gathering of evidence during initial investigations. The force works well with partners to manage offenders and divert them from further criminality. Effective arrangements are in place with partners to manage offenders and successful elements of offender management are being increasingly used throughout the force. The force has good processes to identify and manage dangerous and sexual offenders. However issues of capacity within dedicated teams are limiting effectiveness.
West Midlands Police generally provides a good service to vulnerable victims. The force identifies vulnerable people at the earliest opportunity and responds well to them. However, further improvement is needed to ensure the service is consistent, and vulnerable people, particularly children, are kept safe.
HMIC found that the overall response to tackling organised crime groups in the West Midlands is good but there are some areas for improvement. These can be summarised as follows: neighbourhood officers could be more involved in this type of criminality; an assessment of organised crime activity exists for some but not all of the force area; and the force has yet to have a full understanding of the impact of its interventions against organised crime groups.
Investigations are well managed and supervised with a range of overt and covert tactics used. A prevent team has been set up to act on prevention opportunities. The force has mapped its capability against each of the six national policing threats. In addition to exercises the force’s involvement in real life operations enables it to test its preparedness to respond.
How effective is the force at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe?
West Midlands Police is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. This is consistent with HMIC’s 2014 crime inspection where the force was judged to be good at reducing crime and preventing offending. This inspection did identify some areas where the force could further improve in order to deliver an outstanding service.
Force priorities demonstrate a strong commitment to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe, with a shift of emphasis from a reactive style to more preventative policing. This commitment is generally well understood throughout the force, and the force ensures appropriate resources are assigned to local policing teams to focus on preventing problems from occurring or from escalating.
The force works effectively with partner organisations at force and neighbourhood level, and uses a range of powers and tactics to tackle anti-social behaviour and keep people safe.
There are areas for improvement identified, for instance more robust and timely arrangements to ensure officers have access to information about ‘what works’ and developing an IT solution to assist with information sharing. However, the public can feel confident that the force is working well to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and keep people safe.
Areas for improvement
- The force 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?
The force generally conducts effective investigations and works well with partners to manage offenders and divert them from further criminality.
Most frontline staff have a good understanding of initial safeguarding measures but some do not consistently maximise the gathering of evidence during initial investigations.
The force has a clear and effective process for allocating complex and non-complex crime to dedicated teams of investigators, which is widely understood and consistently applied.
Officers consistently use investigation plans setting out the lines of enquiry, with the victim at the centre of policing activity and reviews within appropriate timeframes.
A 24-hour a day service by forensic scene investigators, supported by a forensic science contact desk, has assisted with marked improvements in the success rate for forensic identifications.
The force has also been successful in reducing delays in the process of interrogating and gathering evidence from mobile phones.
A variety of initiatives underpinned by effective partnership work are being used consistently to divert offenders from committing crime.
Comprehensive integrated offender management arrangements are in place with locally based teams of specialist officers actively engaging with partners to manage offenders. Successful elements of offender management are being increasingly used throughout the force.
The force has good processes to identify and manage dangerous and sexual offenders, although capacity issues within dedicated teams are limiting effectiveness.
Areas for improvement
- The force should take steps to ensure that all available evidence is recorded at scenes of crime.
How effective is the force at protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims?
West Midlands Police generally provides a good service to vulnerable victims. The force has a clear commitment to protecting vulnerable people and is working to improve its performance in this area. It has increased the number of officers and staff in public protection teams, widening their remit to provide a better service for victims.
Officers and staff believe safeguarding vulnerable people and pursuing those who commit crimes against them is part of everyone’s day to day work. However some activity undermines this commitment. Most victims receive a good service, but there are some gaps in the way the force assesses risk. Some officers are not following force policy and it was not always clear to us how the force assesses the risk to the victim. In some domestic abuse cases officers are not locating and dealing with suspects as quickly as they should.
Victims are kept updated throughout the course of their investigation and can choose how they receive these updates. The supervision of investigations and safeguarding is generally to a good standard.
HMIC found that in some cases the assessment of risk for children who go missing from home was inappropriate. We found some instances where children were classed as absent when they should have been recorded as missing, and risk levels for missing children were sometimes incorrectly assessed at a lower grade. This could expose children to even more risk of grooming for child sexual abuse.
The force has made an impressive start in its preparedness for tackling child sexual exploitation. It now has a force-wide team to investigate complex and organised child sexual exploitation. Local officers help tackle the problem at a local level and the force is good at analysing of the victims, offenders and locations.
Cause of concern
The force’s response to domestic abuse is a cause of concern to HMIC. The force policy allowing an officer discretion to complete a domestic abuse, stalking, harassment and honour-based violence (DASH) risk assessment in some crimes and incidents does not provide confidence that risk is always assessed appropriately. This relates to one of the recommendations from HMIC’s report on its domestic abuse inspection in 2014 that still needs to be implemented. In cases where a DASH risk assessment is not completed the officer should record their assessment on the crime management system. HMIC found inconsistency in the recording and a lack of effective supervision to ensure this takes place. There are examples of inappropriate downgrading of risk, even when the DASH assessment was used.
At the time of our inspection, 750 named suspects for domestic abuse crimes had not been dealt with, and a further 650 suspects were still to be dealt with for other public protection type offences. Although the force seeks to put in place plans to address this, HMIC is concerned that a sustainable solution needs to be established to manage outstanding perpetrators and safeguard victims.
To address this cause of concern, HMIC recommends the force should immediately take steps to ensure that:
- there is effective supervision of the initial risk assessment process, specifically on recording on the crime management system; and
- a process is established to manage outstanding perpetrators of domestic abuse so that action is taken to arrest at the earliest opportunity.
Cause of concern
The force’s response to missing and absent children is a cause of concern to HMIC. HMIC found that the assessment of risk for children who go missing from home was inappropriate in some cases. We found some instances where children were classed as ‘absent’ when they should have been recorded as ‘missing’, and risk levels for missing children were sometimes incorrectly assessed at a lower grade. We also found incidents where the risk had not been identified, even where good information was available on the police database. In some cases there was information to indicate children were at risk of sexual exploitation, but this did not influence the assigned risk and categorisation. Children were incorrectly graded at a lower level and could have been exposed to an increased risk of harm.
To address this cause of concern the force should immediately review its approach to reports of missing children and take steps to ensure that:
- frontline staff understand and appropriately use the missing and absent categories;
- frontline staff have the necessary knowledge to identify risk factors associated with child sexual exploitation and how to respond to such cases; and
- supervisors provide the correct oversight of missing person enquiries and direct appropriate and timely investigative and safeguarding action.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
West Midlands Police’s overall response to tackling organised crime groups is good; however, there are areas where improvements need to be made. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their effectiveness at tackling serious and organised crime, including a force’s arrangements for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
A local organised crime profile for Birmingham East has provided an enriched picture and enabled effective disruption of local organised criminals. However, the force has not yet created similar profiles for other areas. Additionally, the force’s understanding of the threats and risks posed by serious and organised crime could be improved and it could make better use of local officers.
The ‘4Ps’ approach of pursue, prevent, protect and prepare is not being considered in all areas with some alternative problem-solving plans being used. The force has recently reinvigorated strategic oversight at a force level to provide a more structured governance framework.
Investigations are well managed and supervised with a range of overt and covert tactics used. Closing reports allow the force to assess the impact of investigations.
A prevent team has been set up to identify and act on prevention opportunities, and dedicated teams disrupt and dismantle ‘urban street gangs’ using a range of tactics with partner organisations.
The force has mapped its capability against each of the national policing responsibilities. The force tests its preparedness to respond through exercises and real life operations.
Areas for improvement
- The force should complete its serious and organised crime local profile including relevant data from partner agencies, and ensure that it has a local partnership structure in place with responsibility for tackling serious and organised crime.
- The force should improve the awareness of organised crime groups among neighbourhood teams to ensure that they can reliably identify these groups, proactively collect intelligence and disrupt their activity.
- The force should ensure that it is exploiting the full range of intelligence sources to provide the best possible understanding of serious and organised crime.
- The force should improve its understanding of the impact of its activity on serious and organised crime, and ensure that it learns from experience to maximise the force’s disruptive effect on this activity.