Gloucestershire PEEL 2016
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Gloucestershire Constabulary has been assessed as requiring improvement in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our findings this year are not consistent with last year’s findings, in which we judged the force to be good in respect of legitimacy. The force has a well embedded ethical culture and identifies corruption risks from its own staff. However it could improve the audits of its IT systems and the way it addresses the risks of its workforce abusing their position for sexual gain. The force could improve how it learns lessons from previous incidents and the performance assessment process for officers and staff.
The force has well-embedded, clearly defined and well-understood values and behaviours that link to the Code of Ethics. Officers and staff clearly understand the expectation of treating people with fairness and respect, and the force has seen an improvement in public satisfaction over the past 12 months.
The force ensures that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. It abides by national guidelines in relation to vetting, which is done to a good standard. Officers and staff show awareness of the required standards of behaviour. However, the force does not do anything beyond or different from its normal processes proactively to identify officers and staff potentially abusing their powers for sexual gain. The force’s anti-corruption unit acts on information that identifies potential corruption. Governance meetings between the professional standards department, the anti-corruption unit and the force’s appropriate authority have not been held recently, which poses a risk to the force.
The force works with communities in a variety of ways about outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases, and gross misconduct cases are publicised on the force website. However, we found no systematic analysis of the feedback received from communities.
The force seeks feedback and challenge from the workforce. The force has a process in place to undertake both annual and quarterly staff surveys. Although the results appear on the intranet, there are concerns about the communication of the survey results, the lessons learned and what actions have been taken as a result of the survey.
Staff spoken to generally had confidence in ‘fairness at work’ and grievance policies. However, the force acknowledges that confidence in the process has been eroded and that not all staff perceive the process as being fair and effective. The force needs to do more to be open and transparent in the decision-making process, allowing the workforce to see clearly that force policies are being followed and that there is consistency in the decisions made.
The force has a wellbeing board that is chaired by the chief constable. Wellbeing of staff is a key element of the force’s ‘people’ strategic objective within the strategic business plan, and it has been a topic of recent leadership days.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
The force has well-embedded, clearly defined and well-understood values and behaviours. These values and behaviours link to the values and behaviours set out in the Code of Ethics.
The chief constable has invested a considerable amount of effort into developing and maintaining an ethical culture across the organisation.
HMIC found evidence that the workforce have a good understanding of the force’s values and ethics. The Code of Ethics is well known and understood throughout the organisation. Staff surveys are carried out regularly, allowing the force to understand how the workforce views public service, fairness and respect.
The force strives to seek feedback and identify those issues and areas that have the greatest impact on people’s perceptions of fair and respectful treatment. However, the force does not have an engagement and communications strategy. The Channel Management Project began in January 2016 and is in the early stages of development.
The force publishes and publicises the learning from serious case reviews, domestic homicide reviews and IPCC investigations.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it seeks feedback from the people it serves about their experiences (or perceptions) of how the police have treated them.
- 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?
The force requires improvement in the way it ensures staff behave ethically and lawfully. It has well-developed processes for maintaining an ethical culture and complies with the national police vetting policy, which it does to a good standard.
The force clarifies and continues to reinforce acceptable and unacceptable standards of behaviour. For example, weekly communications from the chief constable include the force values and a link to the Code of Ethics.
The force identifies and monitors the risks to the organisation from its own staff, but could improve the way it audits systems for signs of suspicious behaviour. The force was developing a counter-corruption strategy to provide a more structured framework for identifying and prioritising risk at the time of the inspection. However, the force does not have any specific process, other than its standard practices, to address the abuse of power for sexual gain.
There is no overall governance structure in place and no central co-ordination of lessons learned. Oversight meetings between the professional standards department, the anti-corruption unit and the force’s appropriate authority have not been held recently. This poses a risk to the force.
Gross misconduct cases are publicised on the website, as are details of misconduct hearings involving officers, but cases involving police staff are not automatically publicised. The website also holds information on gifts and hospitality offered to officers, including chief officers, and staff.
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
- 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 ensure that it has the capability to monitor all its computer systems to identify risks to the force’s integrity.
- The force should improve how it identifies and understands issues for organisational learning.
- The force should improve the governance structures between the chief officer team and the professional standards department and the anti-corruption unit.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
The force requires improvement in respect of fair and respectful treatment of its workforce. While it undertakes both annual and quarterly staff surveys, staff we spoke to remain unclear of the lessons learned and what actions have been taken as a result.
The anonymous section of the force-wide online staff forum on which staff can voice opinions has been closed and the live chat facility stopped, resulting in a significant drop-off in posts and concerns expressed by some of the workforce regarding transparency.
The force has a ‘fairness at work’ process to manage grievances and has seen a considerable increase in such issues being registered in the past 12 months. While, in general, those we spoke to had confidence in the process, the force acknowledges that not all the workforce perceive it as being fair and effective.
The force has a wellbeing board, and wellbeing is a key element of the force’s ‘people’ objective within their strategic business plan. There is a regular reporting process, which provides an opportunity to identify issues early, and a range of options for welfare support, which managers understand well.
The force’s performance assessment process for officers and staff could be more effective. An internal force assessment identified that it is not used consistently for staff development or at all as part of the promotion process, and it is regarded as adding little value in terms of promotion, appraisal or development.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it manages individual performance.