Cambridgeshire PEEL 2016
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Cambridgeshire 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 respect of legitimacy.
The force treats the people it serves, and its workforce, with fairness and respect. It seeks and acts on feedback to improve the services it provides and listens to the views of its workforce. It does good work on identifying and enforcing standards of behaviour. However, HMIC has concerns about the force’s ability to ensure that its entire workforce behaves ethically and fairly because of limited capacity in its anti-corruption and vetting unit (ACU).
Cambridgeshire Constabulary and its workforce have a good understanding of the importance of treating the people they serve with fairness and respect. The force has a new communications strategy and also records and analyses information about police treatment of the public, so that it can act on feedback and learning to improve how it treats all the people it serves. The force could improve its identification and understanding of the issues that have the greatest effect on public perceptions of fair and respectful treatment and to address this it is developing its independent advisory group.
Although the force is doing some good work on identifying and enforcing standards of behaviour, HMIC has concerns about the force’s ability to ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and fairly. Its ability to identify, monitor and understand risks to the integrity of the organisation is limited by a lack of capacity in the ACU.
The force is in an alliance with Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary. The alliance’s joint professional standards department (PSD), which includes the ACU, is implementing an improvement plan, drawn up after a serious gross misconduct court case collapsed over concerns about the quality of the investigation. The plan affects all three forces in the alliance. The force and alliance need to ensure that there are enough staff with the capability, with additional support, both to implement the new PSD/ACU improvement plan successfully and to handle daily business effectively.
During our inspection we found that the force had implemented too few of the recommendations we made in our police integrity and corruption report in 2014, which included recommendations for improving the capacity and capability of these units.
The force needs to communicate effectively to the whole workforce how serious an offence it is for officers and staff to abuse their position for sexual gain (taking advantage of their position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime). The alliance realises that a proactive approach to gathering intelligence is needed and it is planning to introduce a prevention strategy.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary treats its workforce with fairness and respect. It has an open culture in which the workforce can express their views. The force listens to feedback and consults staff associations and networks to understand the workforce’s needs. It manages individual performance well and supports workforce wellbeing, particularly through its preventative and early action in response to wellbeing concerns. The force needs to ensure that its acting and temporary ranks receive the training and support they need to deal with sickness management effectively. At the time of our inspection, the alliance was aiming to conduct an all-staff survey in June 2016, which should improve the force’s understanding of how the workforce feels it is treated.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
Cambridgeshire Constabulary has a good understanding of the importance of treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. This is an integral part of its mission, vision and values, and most officers and staff have a good understanding of what this means for their day-to-day work.
It has a good corporate communications strategy designed to build confidence and trust across the workforce, partners and the people who live and work in Cambridgeshire. However, the strategy does not specifically address how the force should gather and analyse information on police treatment of the public to improve confidence and trust.
The force uses a broad range of opportunities to record, monitor and analyse information on police treatment of the public and it is good at acting on feedback and learning to improve the way it treats all the people it serves. It demonstrates that it is doing so through its stop and search scrutiny group, its use of the learning from IPCC bulletins and the way it reviews complaints and misconduct trends and patterns. Further development of the independent advisory group should improve its understanding of issues related to treatment that have the greatest effect on diverse groups.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it identifies and understands the issues that have the greatest impact on public perceptions of fair and respectful treatment.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
We found that Cambridgeshire Constabulary and the alliance are doing some positive work on identifying and enforcing standards of behaviour through the PSD publications, leadership briefings, training for new recruits as well as specialist training. However, HMIC has serious concerns that the force, and its alliance partners, are not yet in a position to ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and fairly.
We found that too few of the recommendations we made in our integrity and corruption inspection in 2014 had been implemented. For example, the force still does not have the capacity to vet the workforce adequately and not all officers and staff we spoke with understood why they needed to declare business interests. We found that those recommendations that had been completed had only been completed recently and under the new leadership.
The joint professional standards department (PSD), which includes the anti-corruption unit (ACU) and vetting unit, is currently the subject of an improvement plan, resulting from the collapse of a serious gross misconduct court case due to concerns about the quality of the investigation. The alliance response includes new heads of the PSD and the ACU who have the experience, capability and the commitment to bring about improvements quickly. To implement improvements effectively, the force and alliance must ensure that these units have sufficient capacity, capability and support.
In our 2016 national overview of police legitimacy, we recommended that all forces should have started to implement a plan to achieve the capability and capacity required to seek intelligence on potential abuse of position for sexual gain. In 2017, we reviewed of the plans put in place by all forces to in response to this recommendation.
Cause of concern
The risks that HMIC identified in 2014 and the lack of progress of the recommendations, until recently following the collapse of a court case, is of serious concern.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary, together with the other forces in the alliance (Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary) should:
- review the capacity and capability of its professional standards department and anti-corruption unit to ensure they can manage their work effectively;
- establish and operate effective processes for identifying and managing individuals at risk of corruption;
- ensure it complies with all aspects of the current national guidelines for vetting; and
- improve its workforce’s understanding of all corruption prevention policies.
Areas for improvement
- Annually, the force should produce a local counter-corruption strategic assessment and control strategy, to identify risks to the force’s integrity.
- The force should improve how it clarifies and reinforces standards of behaviour, in particular when dealing with vulnerable people, including victims of domestic abuse.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
Cambridgeshire Constabulary is good at ensuring it treats its workforce with fairness and respect. It demonstrates this in the way it seeks feedback and challenge from its workforce, and in the way it provides for the wellbeing of its workforce, particularly through preventative and early action in response to wellbeing concerns.
The force has a well-established personal development review (PDR) process. Most officers and staff we spoke with agreed that the force’s PDR system is fair. Overall, we found most officers and staff believed that managers are now more likely to challenge underperforming staff, which is a positive development.
At the time of our inspection, the alliance was due to conduct an all-staff survey in June 2016, and this should further improve its understanding of the perceptions and needs of its workforce.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that its supervisors can recognise and provide support with wellbeing issues.