Essex PEEL 2016
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Essex Police 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 understands the importance of treating the public and its workforce with fairness and respect. It is good at identifying, understanding and responding to issues that might undermine public confidence and satisfaction. The force has a clear focus on the wellbeing of its workforce.
Essex Police is good at treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. It has clear and well-established vision and values, which are in line with the Code of Ethics, and understood across the workforce. The force seeks feedback and challenge, especially from those who have less trust and confidence in the police or who may be less likely to express their views, and works hard to make improvements. It uses a wide variety of methods to communicate with the public, including through its website and meetings with the community, independent advisory groups and the organisation Victim Support, and makes good use of social media.
The force is determined to understand the issues that are important to its communities. Lessons learned are shared widely across the force and are used to inform training. Victim satisfaction with overall treatment by the force is lower than the England and Wales average, but the force is striving to improve. The force’s stop and search process is scrutinised by independent panels, including a youth panel.
Workforce vetting processes are good. Although there is a vetting backlog, the force has a reasonable plan to deal with this, based on minimising risk. The force provides up-to-date details of disapproved officers to the College of Policing. Acceptable and unacceptable behaviours are emphasised and clarified for the workforce regularly, underpinned by training that includes ethical dilemmas. While the force has the ability to review and manage many risks to the integrity of the organisation, it needs to do more work, including updating its control strategy, before it can be satisfied that it can manage all such risks.
Essex Police and its workforce have a good understanding of abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) and it is treated as serious corruption. The force ensures that it publicises the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases.
The force is good at seeking the views of the workforce, including volunteers, using suggestions schemes, face-to-face meetings and staff surveys. However, it is slow to publicise the actions taken in response to surveys. Officers and staff can obtain advice and guidance around issues of unfairness.
With a clear focus on wellbeing, that is perceived to be authentic by the workforce; the force uses a variety of measures to support workforce wellbeing, including both mental and emotional wellbeing, and to prevent problems escalating. For example, wellbeing training aims to develop individual resilience by equipping staff with strategies and tools to deal with the everyday pressures of life and work. The force has effective personal performance arrangements in place, but the use and quality of these is mixed and could be improved. The performance improvement unit, however, provides an excellent support service for performance and attendance issues.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
Essex Police has a clear and well-established vision and values which are in line with the Code of Ethics and which help to ensure fairness and respect are understood across the workforce. The force is good at identifying and understanding issues that might undermine confidence and satisfaction, including encouraging those identified as having less trust and confidence in the police to express their views and works hard to improve as a consequence. The force uses a wide variety of media to communicate with the public about those issues that have an impact on negative and positive perceptions and experiences. Its use of social media is particularly strong. Lessons learned are shared widely and are used to inform training. Despite these arrangements, the victim satisfaction rate with overall treatment for the force remains lower than the England and Wales average. However, the force continues to strive to improve. A scrutiny of its stop and search process by independent panels, including a youth panel is mature and provides evidence of the force’s determination to gain a good understanding of issues that are of concern to its communities.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
Vetting processes are good and proactive work is taking place. While there is a vetting backlog, the force has a reasonable plan to deal with the issue, including an escalation process to minimise risk. The force provides up-to-date details of disapproved officers to the College of Policing on a regular basis. Acceptable and unacceptable behaviours are continually emphasised and clarified for the workforce, underpinned by training that includes ethical dilemmas. While the force has a corruption control strategy it requires further development to be effective but nonetheless the force is effective at identifying threats to the integrity of the organisation. However, although the force has the ability to review and manage organisational risks it has more work to complete before it can satisfactorily review and manage all such risks. The force has a good understanding of the scale and source of the problem of abuse of authority for sexual gain and is proactive and determined in its approach to dealing with this issue. The force engages positively with the public and its own workforce regarding the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases.
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.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that it has the capability and/or capacity to monitor all its computer systems to identify risks to the force’s integrity.
- Annually, the force should produce a local counter-corruption strategic assessment and control strategy, to identify risks to the force’s integrity.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
Essex Police seeks regularly the views of and challenge from its workforce, including volunteers by staff surveys, although the actions taken in response to surveys could be publicised more swiftly. Ideas are welcomed from the workforce and fair play advisers are available to support officers and staff who need advice and guidance around issues of unfairness. The force has a clear focus on wellbeing that is perceived to be authentic by the workforce, including good plans and governance arrangement. The force has a demonstrably open and positive approach to supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff and officers within the workforce.
The chief constable and police and crime commissioner have signed the mental health charity MIND’s ‘Blue Light, Time to Change’ pledge by which the force will seek to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. The provision of wellbeing training such as ‘Feel well, Live well’ is very positive.
The force has a personal performance arrangement in place but the use and quality of these is mixed. The performance improvement unit provides an excellent support service on performance and attendance issues.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it communicates the action it has taken in response to issues identified by the workforce.
- The force should improve how it manages individual performance.