Thames Valley PEEL 2016
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Thames Valley 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 people with fairness and respect and it seeks and responds to feedback about the service it provides. Although it has good processes to ensure ethical behaviour, it could be more proactive in how it gathers information about potential corruption. The force supports workforce wellbeing and has an effective individual performance assessment process.
Thames Valley Police is good at treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. It actively seeks feedback and challenge; for example, through its website, independent advisory groups and a complaints integrity and ethics panel that includes members of the public. It also monitors trending issues on social and traditional media and has an analyst within the professional standards department (PSD) who is responsible for identifying and analysing complaints data. The force acts on the feedback it receives and uses lessons learnt to improve the way it treats the public.
The force is improving its engagement with the communities it serves. Good examples include its work with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and awareness training for staff.
Thames Valley Police is committed to the highest standards of behaviour; the workforce is generally aware of acceptable standards of behaviour and reports suspected wrongdoing to the PSD.
Although the force has effective initial vetting processes in place for new staff joining the organisation, it has decided not to complete routine re-vetting and therefore is not complying with current national vetting guidelines.
We have identified that the force needs to improve in some areas this is largely because its systems need to improve; this is not a comment about the force’s overall approach and commitment to tackling corruption or its ethos.
All staff have received specific training in the Code of Ethics, and a professional decision-making course is being run that includes discussion about ethical dilemmas. The workforce are generally aware of acceptable standards of behaviour and report suspected wrongdoing. Gross misconduct hearings are held in public and the results are published, but the force could do more to communicate more regularly with its workforce about actions taken.
The force and its workforce clearly recognise abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as serious corruption. However, the force could be more proactive in identifying potential corruption by monitoring its IT systems and seeking intelligence from outside the organisation.
Thames Valley Police is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. It understands and values the benefits of workforce wellbeing and provides support for both mental and physical wellbeing through its occupational health team. The force makes good use of a staff survey and analyses its data on sickness absence and rest days in lieu outstanding to understand areas of wellbeing concern. The force also takes a preventative approach to workforce wellbeing. For example, firearms officers and those in teams concerned with protecting vulnerable people have regular occupational health, welfare and psychological screening. Officers and staff feel that the force is aware of wellbeing needs and tackles them effectively.
The force has a good process in place for individual performance assessment, although it needs to do more to convince officers and staff of the value of the process.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
Thames Valley Police’s approach to the Code of Ethics is excellent. The workforce is very well aware of the code and its content and it is included in training courses. The force has a proactive approach to dealing with problems such as incivility, and we saw good examples of action taken to tackle the high number of complaints in a specific local policing area.
The force has an independent panel that holds it to account in respect of complaints, ethics and integrity. It has acted on feedback from this group and external reviews to improve the fair and respectful treatment of the public, including people who have been detained by the force and those from groups with less trust and confidence in the police. Misconduct hearings are held in public and the results are published, but the force could do more to communicate more regularly with its workforce about actions taken.
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.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
During our inspection we found that Thames Valley Police is committed to the highest standards of behaviour; the workforce is generally aware of acceptable standards of behaviour and reports suspected wrongdoing to the PSD. While we have identified that the force needs to improve in this area, this is because of its systems that need to improve, as opposed to being a comment about the force’s overall approach, its commitment to tackling corruption or its ethos.
The force has effective initial vetting processes in place for new staff joining the organisation; however, it has taken a conscious decision not to complete routine re-vetting. The force thus does not comply with current national vetting guidelines. The force makes very good use of the opportunities presented by training to reinforce the Code of Ethics and the required standards of acceptable behaviour. Officers and staff are aware of the processes for declaring business interests and notifiable associations and the force intervenes appropriately when corruption is identified. However, the force needs to improve how it gathers information about potential police corruption from external agencies and from its IT systems. It also needs to do more to ensure that its workforce fully understands the lessons identified by the force as results of misconduct cases. The force should also reassure itself that all officers and staff understand the signs that indicate sexually predatory behaviour among their colleagues.
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 improve how its workforce understands the issues identified from lessons learned.
- The force should ensure that it has the capability and capacity to monitor all its computer systems to identify risks to the force’s integrity.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
The force is to be commended for the investment it has made in understanding the workforce perceptions of fair and respectful treatment in a number of ways. The main way is through the staff survey that it has carried out twice in conjunction with the University of Durham to identify issues about fair and respectful treatment of its workforce, and to track the success of subsequent improvements it has made. However the force needs to encourage more of its workforce to value participating in the survey and to publicise its benefits.
The force monitors other data around fair treatment and has an excellent focus on workforce wellbeing, particularly around mental health, with supervisors who are trained to recognise warning signs of potential mental health problems. It responds well to issues raised by its workforce, although HMIC found some people working in high-demand areas who would benefit from more regular communication about how the force was responding to issues related to pressure of work.
The force has made a significant investment in its PDR system, which it links to other human resources processes such as transfers, promotion and work-based assessments. The rate of completion of PDRs is very high, but the force needs to do more to convince officers and staff of the value of the process.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it identifies and understands its workforce’s wellbeing needs.