Bedfordshire PEEL 2016
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 (for instance, our 2016 leadership assessment); 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.
Bedfordshire Police has engaged effectively with its workforce to create a clearly defined set of leadership expectations. However, we found that messages about leadership expectations do not always reach frontline staff and officers.
The force is developing its understanding of the relative strengths of its leadership; this could be made more effective by ensuring its leadership development programme addresses the gaps in leadership capability. The force could also do more to identify systematically the best candidates from the workforce who could become senior leaders in the future.
We welcome the way the force challenges itself to seek out new ideas, approaches and working practices. The force has forged links with local academic institutions and explores innovative practice and new ways of working in other police forces. The workforce perceives the force to be innovative; people in the workforce can suggest ideas and new working practices in a straightforward way.
The force is developing its understanding of diversity beyond protected characteristics, such as age, disability or gender reassignment, to take into account how diversity of background, experience and skills can strengthen teams. This understanding should help the force to create diverse leadership teams and to redeploy staff and officers, having evaluated their wider expertise, experience, background and skills.
How well does the force understand leadership?
A good understanding of leadership capabilities and expectations is critical to the effective functioning of forces. How forces engage with their workforces when setting leadership expectations is vital in ensuring that police staff and officers feel enabled to lead in an ethical way and to challenge the expectations appropriately.
Forces’ understanding should also extend to their leadership strengths and weaknesses across every rank and grade. This includes an understanding of leadership styles and personality types of individuals, and how they affect wider team dynamics. Forces should be able to take this knowledge and use it to identify any gaps or issues in their leaders.
Bedfordshire Police has worked closely and effectively with its workforce to create a clearly defined set of leadership expectations. The chief officer team understands the importance of having strong leaders and the force uses a variety of methods to communicate what it expects from its leaders to the rest of the workforce, including seminars led by chief officers. However, we found that some first line managers who attended these seminars are not then briefing their teams effectively. This means the messages about leadership expectations are not always reaching frontline staff and officers.
The force is developing its understanding of leadership capability at all ranks and grades, in order to identify and prioritise areas that need strengthening. This includes work with the College of Policing, personality profiling and 360-degree feedback for some police staff and officers, but the force would benefit from using a wider range of techniques.
A more sophisticated appraisal of workforce skills, capability and capacity is also being developed for departments working collaboratively with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies, although this is currently more focused on skills and training gaps.
How well does the force develop leadership?
The way in which a force identifies and develops leadership skills is crucial in making sure it performs well now and in the future. Forces should identify leadership development programmes, containing a broad range of approaches, beyond just formal training, to develop leadership.
Forces’ knowledge of their current leadership capability should also mean that they are aware of the leadership skills and experience they do not possess currently, and are seeking to recruit to address this shortage.
Bedfordshire Police is devising a leadership development programme, but recognises that it needs to broaden its range of approaches to address gaps in leadership skills. Nonetheless, the force supports officers and staff in attending senior leadership programmes offered by the College of Policing, and a small number of secondment opportunities are provided. There is some limited 360-degree feedback available on request and the force is developing its mentoring capability. It is also running a pilot scheme which is a weekly course to coach sergeants for the inspectors’ exam.
The force has no formal talent management programme in place to identify officers and staff with the potential to become senior leaders, although initial work to rectify this is underway as part of the leadership development programme. We found no evidence that the force evaluates the impact of its existing leadership development programmes, but we were told that the coaching for sergeants will be evaluated once complete. The recent merger of training and human resources functions provides an opportunity to identify what this process should look like across the force and in its ‘strategic alliance’ with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies.
The force uses a range of opportunities to enhance leadership capability through recruitment and has attracted senior external candidates to fill skills gaps that are a priority in public protection and in the review and inspection team. The force also has a fast-track promotion scheme to identify those suitable for rapid promotion from constable to inspector. However, the force could do more to ensure there is a clearer link between gaps in leadership capability and recruitment plans.
Areas for improvement
- Bedfordshire Police should introduce a way of identifying and managing talented officers and staff across the workforce, ensuring it is communicated effectively to the force.
- Bedfordshire Police, as part of the strategic alliance, needs to develop a clear understanding of its leadership capabilities across the workforce at all levels. This will provide the force and the alliance with a clear understanding of which areas need to be prioritised.
How well does the force display leadership?
Good leadership encourages and develops a wide range of people, embraces change and actively supports the development of new ideas. While it is important for forces to ensure that they are representative of the communities they serve, truly diverse leadership teams are built around the wider experience, background and skills of individuals.
Bedfordshire Police is increasingly challenging itself to seek out new ideas, approaches and working practices from across the police service and further afield, including exploring an apprenticeship programme with Bedfordshire University. The force has taken clearly effective steps to develop a culture in which the challenge of expectations is encouraged and welcomed. Chief officers visibly promote the culture of challenging senior staff though leadership seminars, dropping in to briefings and joining officers and staff on patrol.
Innovation is at the heart of the force’s long-term change programme of working collaboratively with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies. A guiding philosophy for this programme is to identify ‘what works’ in each force or elsewhere, and to adopt these methods in the joint teams and departments.
The force is also represented within regional and national working groups, which helps the force develop its awareness of national issues and new developments, while also contributing its own experience. As part of the alliance with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Constabularies, the force has agreed to recruit a Direct Entry superintendent (one across the three forces) and has two new Fast Track candidates.
The force has achieved some success in developing diverse leadership teams and has a strong focus on recruiting new officers who are black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), including research within BAME communities. Two new female superintendents (one temporary) have also been transferred into the force because of their particular skills and experience. While these are positive steps, the force should consider how it will increase diversity in a broader sense.