West Midlands PEEL 2016
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Midlands 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 responds to the needs of its communities and the public is encouraged to have a voice. Vetting processes are mostly compliant with national guidance and the force deals effectively with corruption related intelligence. Workforce wellbeing is important to the force and recent changes should help it respond more effectively. The force needs to do more to ensure that performance and development are managed consistently and fairly.
The force treats the people it serves with fairness and respect. The force has adopted a new set of values, which focus on compassion for the vulnerable and helping those in need. The force is responsive to its communities, including groups that are harder to reach, and adjusts its engagement activities to encourage the different communities to have a voice. The force records an adequate range of information from its engagement activity, but would benefit from more systematic analysis and a structured process for responding effectively to public feedback.
The force ensures its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. The force’s initial vetting arrangements are fair to all applicants and ensure it only recruits people with high ethical standards. Officers and staff show awareness of the required standards of behaviour. The force’s counter-corruption unit gathers and acts on information which identifies potential corruption and is reviewing resource levels for this unit as part of its change programme. The force recognises officers and staff abusing their authority for sexual gain as serious corruption. The force could, however, make better use of its community links to restore trust following high profile cases.
The force seeks feedback and challenge from its workforce and takes action to address this. The force is increasing its occupational health support capacity and investing in a new medical IT system to allow it to understand and respond more effectively to the workforce’s wellbeing needs. Its use of performance reviews to manage professional development is, however, inconsistent and it does not have effective scrutiny arrangements in place to ensure performance is being managed fairly and consistently across the force.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
West Midlands Police treats the people it serves with fairness and respect. The force has recently adopted a revised vision and a new set of values, which link directly to the values set out in the Code of Ethics. The new approach focuses on compassion for the vulnerable, and emphasises the importance of helping those in need and being friendly to all. The force is building on its existing comprehensive Code of Ethics. It equips the workforce with the knowledge and understanding it needs to treat the people they serve with fairness and respect.
The force is involved in a broad and innovative range of communication activity, including contact with groups that are harder to reach. It is responsive to its diverse communities and adjusts its engagement approach to encourage the public to communicate with the force.
The force obtains a wide range of information from its engagement activities. It would benefit from more systematic analysis to develop a broader understanding of issues and a structured process to respond effectively to public feedback and challenge. The force also has more work to do to evaluate and communicate the effectiveness of its actions.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
The force has established recruit vetting arrangements. The force has reviewed its processes to ensure that vetting is effective and fair to all applicants, including those with protected characteristics, and is dealing with backlogs.
Officers and staff show awareness of the required standards of ethical behaviour. Relevant policies are easily accessible on the force intranet and the force publishes reminders for the workforce. Senior leaders have taken an active part in developing the ‘leadership promise’, linked to the force’s new vision and values.
The counter-corruption unit has introduced new structures and procedures to improve its capability to gather, respond to and act on information that identifies potential corruption. The unit’s intelligence cell uses its new risk assessment process to assess and prioritise intelligence. Current capacity limits the force’s ability to mount covert corruption investigations, so it is reviewing resource levels as part of its 2020 change programme.
The force recognises officers and staff abusing their authority for sexual gain as serious corruption. The force uses internal messages to raise awareness of the unacceptability of such behaviour, concentrating on units where individuals are at most risk. The force publicises the hearings and outcomes of misconduct cases involving police officers to the public, but could make better use of its community links to help restore trust after high profile cases.
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 review the capacity and capability of its counter-corruption unit (CCU) to ensure the CCU can manage its work effectively.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
The force uses a variety of effective methods to identify the areas that affect the workforce’s perceptions of fair and respectful treatment. The force seeks feedback and challenge from staff associations and networks including a PSD internal scrutiny group. The force also conducts staff surveys, consultation exercises, ‘ask the boss’ online feedback and cultural health checks.
The force has taken action to address feedback, such as changing misconduct processes to increase transparency and providing additional guidance and support to supervisors. This has enabled the force to address grievances and sickness absence more effectively.
West Midlands Police has higher sickness absence levels than the England and Wales average for officers and staff on long-term sickness and police community support officers on short and medium-term sickness. As well as increasing occupational health support capacity, a range of health and wellbeing initiatives are being implemented. The force is investing in a new medical IT system to increase availability of wellbeing data and assist it to understand the highest risks.
Completion of individual performance reviews (eDR) is not mandatory. Although some areas of the force use eDR to manage performance and professional development, this is not consistent. Many supervisors do not complete eDRs or have performance conversations with the workforce, and the force does not have effective scrutiny arrangements to ensure fairness and consistency across the force.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it manages individual performance.