Kent PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Kent Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force has an effective approach to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, tackling serious and organised crime and protecting vulnerable people, including victims of domestic abuse. However, improvements are required in how it investigates crime. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year, when we judged the force to be good in respect of effectiveness.
Overall, the effectiveness of Kent Police is good. The force needs to improve how some investigations are conducted and overseen, and in particular it needs to understand why so many crimes are not progressing due to the victim not supporting police action or due to difficulties in securing sufficient evidence for a case to proceed. However, beyond these issues many elements of policing in Kent are extremely effective.
The force has an effective approach to preventing crime and keeping people safe and has devoted dedicated resources to policing its communities effectively. It understands the communities it serves and has equipped its officers well to work with other policing organisations and interested parties to promote resolutions that protect communities and victims. It has responded to HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report by improving how it shares among its officers and staff knowledge of what works locally in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour in its communities, so they can all learn from best practice.
The force is good at pursuing and disrupting organised criminal groups and preventing organised crime from taking root in its communities. The force works with Essex Police to tackle the most serious and harmful organised criminals, but combating serious organised crime is increasingly the responsibility of all frontline officers. The force is starting to use its neighbourhood officers to prevent people becoming involved in organised crime, but needs to make better use of the powers available to it to prevent organised criminals causing further harm. Kent Police is also taking steps to provide its specialist officers with better training and equipment to protect the public from threats requiring an armed response.
While the force’s initial investigation of crime is good, and the appropriate people continue the investigations to a high standard, there are still some problems with how well, overall, the force investigates crime. The force is poor at investigating certain types of crimes, for example stalking and harassment, although it is making efforts to improve in these areas. HMIC has serious concerns about the number of investigations which are not progressed because the victim does not support police action. This happens in 21.9 percent of crimes investigated in Kent, which is much higher than the 13.8 per cent figure for England and Wales and one of the highest levels of any force.
Kent Police is good at supporting victims of domestic abuse and is working hard to improve further the way in which it responds to domestic abuse. In particular, it has improved its arrest and charge to summons rates, which means that victims are getting better outcomes and offenders are being held to account for their actions. All frontline staff follow a clear procedure to address risk and vulnerability, and understand the need to take positive action in cases of domestic abuse.
The force’s police online investigation team (POLIT) is highly effective in bringing offenders to justice and safeguarding children, and is active with international colleagues in developing means to hold offenders to account and protect the victims of online abuse.
Kent Police has good plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement and regularly tests its plans to ensure that they are effective. The force is well prepared to respond to an attack which might require an armed response.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Kent Police is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. It understands the threats facing all sections of its community and uses information from across the force and also from other local interested parties to make sure these threats are well understood. Community safety teams are at the core of community work. These teams of officers and PCSOs work closely with the public, gathering information and acting on local priorities. The force has invested in dedicated police officers (community liaison officers) to work with communities which may not traditionally have had a high degree of contact with or trust in the police. We found evidence that these officers are working effectively.
The force works well with other organisations, such as local councils, to promote resolutions that protect communities and victims. It has improved its approach to sharing effective practice and has developed a web-based tool that makes it easier for officers and staff to access tried and tested approaches to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour. The force continues to develop new approaches to partnership working; during our inspection, we saw examples which have been adopted as national best practice. The neighbourhood teams focus on the force priority of keeping people safe. Officers in these teams have particular responsibilities for keeping vulnerable people in their neighbourhoods safe and working with partner organisations to tackle issues such as child sexual exploitation and domestic abuse.
The force continues to develop its evidence base on the most effective ways to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. Not only is it now better able better to learn from its own approaches and make sure that all officers can benefit from the excellent work already being carried out, but it is also contacting other policing forces, partner organisations and the academic community to continue to learn and improve.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Kent Police is good at investigating crime and managing offenders but it needs to understand quickly why so many victims are not supportive of police action and what the evidential difficulties it is experiencing are, and take action to ensure that victims are receiving an appropriate service. The force is good at providing an initial response to reports of crime.
The control room ensures evidence is collected and preserved effectively. The force uses a structured approach to assess whether calls require an officer to attend. While most investigations seem effective, investigations of cases of stalking and harassment are of a lower standard.
The force has worked hard to improve the service it offers victims, in particular being compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and the completion of victims’ personal statement. However, there are worrying overall trends of falling victim satisfaction and more victims not supporting police action compared with other forces. The force needs to understand why it is yet to gain the confidence of victims and what is causing the increased levels of dissatisfaction.
Kent Police is good at protecting the public from the most prolific, serious and dangerous offenders. Its integrated offender management scheme is well managed and it now includes domestic abuse and other violent crime offenders. The force has good processes in place and works well with other organisations to manage the most dangerous offenders and registered sex offenders.
Areas for improvement
- The force should take immediate steps to understand the reasons why such a high proportion of crimes (including those related to domestic abuse) fall into the outcome category ‘Evidential difficulties; victim does not support police action’, and rectify this to ensure that it is pursuing justice on behalf of victims. Kent Police is one of several forces that have been asked to review its use of this outcome category. It is recommended that by 1 May 2017 the force should produce and submit to HMIC an action plan that sets out how it will:
- undertake a comprehensive analysis of the use of this outcome across the force area to understand fully why the force is an outlier, and produce an accompanying report for scrutiny by HMIC by 1 June 2017;
- review the extent to which the force’s use of this outcome category is appropriate; and
- take steps to reduce the force’s reliance on this outcome category and improve outcomes for victims.
This action plan and subsequent report will be reviewed by HMIC and may prompt additional inspection re-visits during 2017 in order to assess the force’s progress in adopting a more effective response in pursuing justice on behalf of victims.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Kent Police is good at supporting victims of domestic abuse and is working hard to improve further the way in which it responds to domestic abuse. In particular, it has improved its arrest rate and charge/summons rate, which means that victims are getting better outcomes. However, it needs to understand better why so many victims of domestic abuse apparently lack confidence in the service it provides. The force has a good understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability in its local areas. Staff in the control room are trained to identify risk when someone calls the police, and they do this well. All frontline staff follow a clear procedure to address risk and vulnerability and understand the need to take positive action in cases of domestic abuse. Referrals are discussed quickly and efficiently with partner organisations, and the force contributes effectively to multi-agency work with external partners to safeguard vulnerable victims through the central referral unit.
In Kent Police, keeping people safe is everyone’s responsibility, not just those officers who have specialist responsibilities. Local neighbourhood teams are responsible for managing the safeguarding of all medium-risk domestic abuse victims in their area, and dedicated officers can give bespoke advice to victims. Frontline officers have a good knowledge of how young people might be at risk from child sexual exploitation and of its links to missing children. All frontline staff we spoke to have received training and direction on this subject.
The force’s police online investigation team (POLIT) is highly effective in bringing offenders to justice and safeguarding children and is active with international colleagues in developing means to hold offenders to account and protect the victims of online abuse.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Kent Police is good at tackling serious and organised crime. It is improving its response to newer organised crime threats such as human trafficking, cyber-crime and child sexual exploitation. The force tackles high-level serious and organised crime in collaboration with Essex Police through a joint unit which allows both forces to combine specialist capabilities. This ensures well-managed investigations. It also enables the force to target the most harmful organised crime groups (OCGs) with a range of activity from prosecuting OCG members to making it harder for the OCG to operate.
The force has improved how it gathers and uses intelligence, particularly that held by other relevant partners such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Border Force. Kent Police ensures that it applies the most resources to the OGCs which cause the most harm, and its policy on how it scores these OCGs for the harm they cause and how often it re-visits this scoring is now consistent with national guidance.
Frontline officers have a good knowledge of local OCGs, which should assist the force in preventing organised crime, for example identifying those who are at risk of being drawn into organised crime, and they work well with other policing authorities and organisations.
The force has recently been taking a longer-term approach to OCG management. More needs to be done if the benefits of this approach are to be fully realised. For example, serious crime prevention orders can be used to restrict criminals from associating with certain people and frustrate their attempts at continuing to engage in harmful activities, but the force uses relatively few of these.
Areas for improvement
- The force should develop further its serious and organised crime local profile, in conjunction with other policing authorities and organisations, to enhance its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime and to inform joint activity aimed at reducing this threat.
- The force should enhance its approach to the ‘lifetime management’ of organised criminals to minimise the risk they pose to local communities. This approach should include routine consideration of additional orders (known formally as ancillary orders), of the powers of other policing authorities and organisations, and of other tools to deter organised criminals from continuing to offend.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Kent Police has good plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement. The force regularly tests these plans and makes amendments following the lessons learnt from such tests.
The force has recently reviewed its armed policing strategic threat assessment, which now includes the threats posed by marauding terrorists. In light of this threat, Kent Police plans to increase its firearms capacity and capability, both as part of a national programme to increase the capability and capacity of trained firearms officers and through local initiatives.