Hertfordshire PEEL 2016
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Hertfordshire 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).
Hertfordshire Constabulary and its workforce have a good understanding of the importance of treating people they serve with fairness and respect. The force’s values are set out in a code of practice and they are understood and put into practice by the workforce.
The force seeks feedback using a range of methods, including meetings, surveys and engagement activities, and through its website. We found several examples of the force responding effectively to feedback; for example, it has improved its recording of incidents where members of the public are stopped and searched. However, the force could benefit from more emphasis on analysing feedback to identify areas for improvement.
Although the force is doing some good work on identifying and enforcing standards of behaviour, HMIC has concerns that 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 Cambridgeshire 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 recognises the abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as serious corruption and has taken action to communicate this to its workforce. To reassure the public and other organisations of the robust stance taken by the force, it organised briefings for the media to explain how it is handling a series of nine unconnected misconduct cases involving sexual impropriety and/or abuse of authority by members of the workforce.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. It uses a wide range of methods to identify and understand the issues that affect the workforce, including surveys, regular engagement with staff representative groups and online messaging. The force has an open culture and staff representative groups told us that they felt informed and engaged. It is improving and expanding its workforce wellbeing services, but some people we spoke with expressed concerns that high workloads, combined with a lack of opportunity to take leave, were leading to stress-related conditions.
The force manages individual performance through performance assessments (known as PDRs), which have to be completed every year. Although PDRs were generally completed, the members of the workforce we spoke with did not value the process. In addition, the force does not systematically assess the contents of all PDRs for effectiveness and fairness.
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?
Officers and staff across Hertfordshire Constabulary understand the importance of treating people with fairness and respect. Ethical leadership has been provided by chief officers, who have set out the force’s values in a code of practice, ‘The Herts Way’. This has been effectively promoted and adopted across the workforce.
The force seeks feedback using a range of methods, including surveys and engagement activities. It has set up KINs, and consults the Hertfordshire Equality Council on equality and diversity issues. Neighbourhood teams organise local ‘street meets’ and surgeries.
Hertfordshire Constabulary collects information from victim satisfaction and other surveys, complaints and local news monitoring, but it is not clear how this is acted upon.
Stop and searches are now recorded adequately, after HMIC found in 2015 that the force was not compliant with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. The information gathered in a Victims’ Voice survey has changed the way in which victims are supported. The workforce survey at the end of 2015 led to positive changes in the way the force expects its staff to treat people.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
We found that Hertfordshire 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 and specialist training on areas such as autism. However, HMIC has serious concerns that the force and its alliance partners are not yet in a position to ensure that the workforce behaves ethically and fairly.
We found too few of the recommendations we made in our Police 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 to 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 alliance PSD, which includes the 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 both the PSD and the ACU, who have brought with them 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.
Hertfordshire Constabulary, together with the other forces in the alliance, namely Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary, should:
- review the capacity and capability of its PSD and ACU 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
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
Hertfordshire Constabulary employs a wide range of methods to identify and understand the issues that affect its workforce, including surveys, regular engagement with representative groups and online messaging. Representative groups told us that they felt informed and engaged. The force has also shown that it reacts to information supplied through surveys and other channels. For example, recent training sessions were structured around the results of a staff survey.
Hertfordshire Constabulary understands and values workforce wellbeing. It is providing improved wellbeing services for its workforce. However, some of those to whom we spoke expressed concerns that their workloads, combined with a lack of opportunity to take leave, were leading to stress-related conditions. Figures indicate that a large amount of annual leave is being carried forward each year.
The force has comprehensive arrangements in place to manage individual performance through PDRs. The workforce largely complies with the process, but we found widespread disenchantment with a system that is not seen as inspiring, engaging, rewarding or dynamic. PDRs are not systematically assessed for effectiveness and fairness, and those to whom we spoke perceived the current system as a frustration and a necessity rather than as a route to professional development.
Areas for improvement
- The force should review the arrangements that allow staff and officers to take annual leave to minimise excessive carry-over of leave.