West Mercia PEEL 2016
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Mercia Police is good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
Treating people with fairness and respect is widely understood across the organisation. The force has improved the way it uses stop and search. It regularly clarifies and reinforces acceptable standards of behaviour. It works well with the public and the workforce in managing the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases. The workforce recognises the force’s clear commitment to health and wellbeing.
The overall judgment of good is an improvement from HMIC’s inspection of 2015 which found the force to require improvement.
The force has entered into a strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police (the alliance), within which all posts below deputy chief constable are shared. Both forces share a single vision and set of values, and work to a harmonised set of policies. As a result it would be expected that practice and procedures would be the same, or at least similar, in both forces. Indeed, in this inspection HMIC found that to be the case. Therefore, apart from specific localised examples, all references to the force can be read as applying equally to the alliance.
The force is good at treating all of the people it serves with fairness and respect. The force’s vision and values, clearly linked to the Code of Ethics, are widely understood across the organisation. The force actively seeks to identify and work with those who may have less trust and confidence in the police.
The force is good at ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. It regularly clarifies and reinforces acceptable standards of behaviour and makes it clear when standards fall short of expectations.
The force has not yet installed software that automatically monitors access to sensitive databases to ensure that officers and staff are not misusing computer records. This delay is due to a major upgrade of the force’s operating systems and it is actively seeking a solution. The force offers and promotes a range of options for staff to report wrongdoing. The force works well with the public and the workforce regarding the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases.
The force is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. We found a clear commitment to health and wellbeing that is recognised by the workforce. The force has made significant progress in reducing absence levels and time off accrued.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
The force is good at treating all the people it serves with fairness and respect. HMIC found that the force’s vision and values are clearly linked to the Code of Ethics and widely understood across the organisation. The force has an effective and diverse range of community networks that have direct access to the senior leadership team to provide challenge and accountability. This is has resulted in changes to force procedures.
Local police commanders can also rely on the support of community networks to help resolve tensions in communities. The force seeks to identify and work with those who may have less trust and confidence in the police. It has a well-established independent advisory group network that scrutinises data on issues such as stop and search and complaints against police. The public is invited to attend these scrutiny panels.
The force has established a victim satisfaction improvement board and makes changes in response to public feedback. These have included changing the policing arrangements in south Shropshire to support people living in fear of crime. The force has also amended how it records and monitors its use of stop and search to improve its record keeping and supervision.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
The force is good at ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. It regularly clarifies and reinforces acceptable standards of behaviour and makes it clear when those standards fall short of expectations. The force identifies and responds to individual and organisational risks. It also has the capability to test staff for drugs and alcohol. It does not use software routinely to monitor unauthorised access to force databases because it is changing to a new ICT operating system. While this is in progress, the force has introduced interim measures to monitor unauthorised access to force systems.
The force does not have a formal anti-corruption strategic assessment to identify risk and threats from corruption. However, the force has developed profiles of vulnerable areas, including abuse of authority for sexual gain and unauthorised use of sensitive data. There are robust plans to control these risks. The majority of staff understand how to report wrongdoing and are confident that the force would support them if they did.
The force communicates well with the public about the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases; the force’s website and media outlets are used frequently. Any lessons learnt from misconduct cases or improvements required are widely circulated among the workforce.
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 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?
The force is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. It uses several methods to identify the areas that have the greatest impact on workforce perceptions of fair and respectful treatment. In response to concerns raised by staff in a recent survey, the force has made changes that include greater flexibility in minimum staffing levels and fewer alterations to duty rosters.
The workforce recognises the force’s commitment to health and wellbeing. The chief constable takes personal responsibility for health and wellbeing and has introduced measures to support healthy lifestyles, including preventative health screening and the refurbishment of gyms. We found a significant focus on mental health, including a peer support network and wellness action plans promoted by the mental health charity, MIND. The force has made good progress in reducing absence levels and time off accrued.
The force recently changed its performance development review (PDR) process to allow staff to opt-out in certain circumstances. We found some resulting confusion with some staff believing the PDR had been removed completely. Frontline staff spoke positively of the frequent and productive dialogue they have with supervisors on performance related matters. However, there is no framework for ensuring that these positive examples are consistently applied across the force.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it manages individual performance.