Avon and Somerset 2016Read more about Avon and Somerset
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Avon and Somerset Constabulary. PEEL is designed to give the public information about how their local police force is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable both across England and Wales, and year on year. The assessment is updated throughout the year with our inspection findings and reports.
The extent to which the constabulary is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
The extent to which the constabulary is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
The extent to which the constabulary is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I am very pleased with the overall performance of Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
I am particularly impressed by the force’s comprehensive understanding of the existing demand for its services, which is based on a wide range of information and a sophisticated appreciation of the capacity of the workforce and the workload it carries. The force is able to identify and assess new and emerging demands for services, and its analysis is informed by tracking changes in public expectations and by its understanding of technological advances.
The force is adept at restructuring and modernising its workforce to equip it with the skills to meet future needs. It has achieved this through close alignment of the force’s financial and workforce planning, which has, for example, increased the force’s capacity to investigate child abuse and serious sexual offences.
I am pleased with the improved effectiveness with which the force keeps the people of Avon and Somerset safe and reduces crime. In particular, the force has improved its response to missing children and domestic abuse, and the quality of its investigations. The needs of victims are considered throughout the force’s processes. This is reflected in its work with partner organisations and in the improvement in how it shares information to assess risks and make safeguarding arrangements. While the force has good processes to assess the threat of serious and organised crime, it should do more to involve neighbourhood teams in disrupting organised criminality.
Since our inspection in 2014, the force has made concerted efforts to improve the accuracy with which it records crimes, and it has made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of crime-recording decisions. I remain concerned about the supervision of crime recording, and by inaccuracies in initial crime-recording decisions.
I welcome the progress the force has made in addressing some of the concerns that were raised by our inspection of police custody. Further work is needed if detainees are to receive consistently good care.
The force uses several different methods to seek feedback from the people of Avon and Somerset and to understand their expectations of the service they receive from the police. This feedback has been used to design its framework for providing a professional service.
I am reassured that the force is good at identifying, understanding and managing risks to the integrity of the organisation, and has well-established vetting procedures. It encourages feedback from the workforce through surveys, exit interviews and chief constable roadshows. However, our inspection found a lack of consistency in the arrangements for managing and improving the performance of staff and officers.
In summary, the force provides a good level of service to the people of Avon and Somerset. I commend the force for having maintained, and in some respects improved, its performance since my previous assessment.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary provides policing services to the areas of Bristol, Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Avon and Somerset is generally affluent, although there are some areas of deprivation. The force area is home to around 1.7 million people, who mainly live in the cities of Bristol and Bath, and the towns of Weston-super-Mare, Taunton and Yeovil. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, commute into, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 164 miles of motorway and trunk roads and major rail stations and an airport.
The proportion of areas in Avon and Somerset that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is broadly in line with the national average. The most challenging areas are generally characterised by a high concentration of people living, working, socialising, or travelling in the area.
Features which both cause and/or indicate a concentration of people include the number of commercial premises, including licensed premises and fast-food premises, public transport, and social deprivation. In some areas, these features are combined. The police force area is large, relative to other forces in England and Wales, and it takes a comparatively long time to travel across the area by road, which increases the difficulty of providing police services.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary collaborates with Gloucestershire Constabulary and Wiltshire Police on services including road network patrols, armed policing and dog support. The three forces have obtained a Police Innovation Fund grant from the Home Office to introduce a single information and communications technology infrastructure.
Avon and Somerset has extended its work with the NHS to manage demand more effectively and improve services, particularly those relating to mental health. The force is planning to work more closely with Avon Fire and Rescue Service with a view to sharing operational resources.
Looking ahead to 2017
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 identified last year.
I will be particularly interested to see:
- how the force improves its approach to tackling organised crime groups;
- how the force improves the accuracy of its crime-recording; and
- how the force continues improving its custody arrangements.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our findings this year are an improvement on last year’s findings assessment, in which we judged the force to require improvement in respect of effectiveness.
The force has a good understanding of the threat and risk of harm facing its communities, and has improved the quality of its investigations. It has effective processes to tackle serious and organised crime, and has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its responsibilities under the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR) (PDF document).
Overall Avon and Somerset Constabulary is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. It understands the threat and risk of harm facing its communities and has dedicated teams working with partner agencies and communities to solve problems in a structured way and use intelligence effectively to direct patrols to take place in areas to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.
The force has improved the quality of its investigations, particularly those involving vulnerable victims, and addressed both causes of concern HMIC identified during last year’s inspection by improving how it responds to missing children and domestic abuse. It is good at sharing information with partner agencies (such as local authorities, or health and education services) to assess risks and ensure safeguarding arrangements are made. The force’s processes to identify vulnerable people and allocate investigations to the most appropriately trained officers work well. Victims’ needs are considered throughout these processes and they are supported through effective partnership arrangements.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has good processes in place to assess the threat posed by serious and organised crime, which encompasses drug activity, modern slavery, organised immigration crime, child sexual exploitation and cyber-crime. It investigates organised crime groups effectively, and has initiatives that aim to prevent people from being drawn into this type of offending. However, the force could do more to implement a whole-force approach to tackling organised crime groups, for example by involving neighbourhood teams in local disruption.
The force is able to meet its responsibilities under the SPR, and it regularly tests plans for such emergencies. There are well-embedded collaborations with neighbouring forces that contribute to the response to threats posed by firearms attacks. These have been reviewed in light of recent terrorist attacks.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force has a comprehensive understanding of a full range of current demand and a good understanding of future demand. It makes decisions based on prioritisation of current and projected demand and has robust governance structures in place to manage how it operates. The force continues to seek savings by working with other forces and agencies across the south west region.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has a comprehensive understanding of its existing demand, based on a wide range of management information. Through new programmes, such as the Qlik Sense data visualisation app, the force is taking this understanding well beyond an analysis of the calls which the contact centre receives. The force is quick to identify and assess new and emerging demand and has restructured its workforce to provide the skills base and capacity which will meet future needs. It makes decisions based on prioritisation of current and projected demand and it has robust governance structures in place to manage the way it operates.
The force’s financial and workforce planning are closely aligned to deal with areas of high demand. For example, the force has increased its capacity to investigate child abuse and serious sexual offences. The force continues to exploit all methods of reducing costs. Its digital services programme will transform policing over the next four years, and will include remote working and real-time intelligence about current and trending demand. In addition, the force has a good track record of making savings by working closely with both neighbouring forces and other public services across the entire south west region.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our findings this year are consistent with last year’s findings, in which we judged the force to be good in this respect. The force has consulted with the communities it works with to understand their expectations and with its workforce to develop standards of service. It has systems in place to ensure its workforce behaves ethically and works hard to understand the views of its staff.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is good at treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. The force consults with the communities it works with to understand their expectations of the service they receive from the police. It uses a number of methods to seek feedback and challenge from the public and has strategies to support this. The force engages with the public about the outcome of serious misconduct cases for officers only.
In 2015 we found that the force had made good progress in introducing the Code of Ethics and on this inspection we found that officers and staff had a good understanding of the Code and the need to treat people with fairness and respect. The force is good at identifying, understanding and managing risks to the integrity of the organisation and has a well established vetting process that complies with national guidance. It has developed a counter-corruption strategy and a process to assist it in identifying, understanding and managing risks to integrity. However, preventative work around identifying the risk of officers and staff abusing their authority for sexual gain is less developed.
The force works to improve areas that affect workforce perceptions of fair and respectful treatment. We identified a number of good initiatives to address workforce wellbeing. The force needs to improve its performance assessment process and has plans in place to do so.
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.
Police leadership is crucial in enabling a force to be effective, efficient and legitimate. This inspection focused on how a force understands, develops and displays leadership through its organisational development.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary demonstrates a good understanding of leadership expectations across all ranks and grades. Its recently introduced leadership strategy includes the College of Policing leadership review’s approach and recommendations. There is some understanding of how the force is led across most ranks and grades. The force has introduced a new promotion process whereby all candidates receive feedback to support career development. It has responded to gaps in leadership capability by developing a new leadership course. The force is working to improve diversity in its leadership, with more women now in senior leadership teams.
The force has a consistent approach to leadership development. It was an early adopter of the Direct Entry and Fast Track schemes, and works with local universities to improve its approach to police recruitment. In order to identify and nurture talented individuals consistently, the force could develop a more in-depth understanding of its leadership skills.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Avon and Somerset Constabulary.