Avon and Somerset PEEL 2017
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is judged to be good at how legitimately it keeps people safe and reduces crime. For the areas of legitimacy we looked at this year, our overall judgment is the same as last year. The force is judged to be outstanding at treating all of the people it serves with fairness and respect. It is judged as good at ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully and at treating its workforce with fairness and respect.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is judged to be good in the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force is outstanding at treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. It consults with communities to understand expectations of the service they receive from the police. It uses a range of methods to seek feedback and challenge from the public and promotes accountability through publishing comprehensive information, particularly regarding use of police powers, on the force website. The force actively monitors its use of coercive powers, including stop and search data; this information is shared with external advisory groups to explain the use of this tactic and seek feedback from community leaders.
The force promotes an ethical culture and there is positive role modelling by leaders and an ethical approach to decision making. The innovative use of body-worn video footage to role model communication skills when dealing with the public effectively demonstrates the standards the force requires of its workforce. Officers and staff have been provided with training and guidance on unconscious bias and the force is developing awareness further by providing personal bias profiling. The force is good at raising public awareness of how to make a complaint, including providing complainants with additional support where required.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is working to improve areas that affect workforce perceptions of fair and respectful treatment. The force needs to improve how it investigates concerns, problems or complaints raised formally by officers or staff, and has plans in place to do so. There are direct lines of communication between leaders and the workforce and a culture where feedback and challenge are encouraged. We found a number of good initiatives to address wellbeing and processes to support the development and progression of officers and staff, including a new leadership programme developed together with the workforce, which represents an excellent example of leaders listening to officers and staff.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is outstanding in treating all the people it serves with fairness and respect. Leaders in the force clearly understand procedural justice principles. Through their visible leadership style they show their commitment to improve the extent to which officers and staff treat the public with fairness and respect. The workforce has been provided with comprehensive training and guidance on unconscious bias and the force is taking an innovative approach to developing awareness further by providing the workforce with personal bias profiling. The workforce has a good understanding of the importance of effective communication skills, particularly the importance of different communication techniques and styles when speaking with members of the community who are vulnerable through mental ill health or in crisis. The use of body-worn video footage to role model the communication skills of officers and staff when dealing with the public is innovative and sends out a strong message about the standards the force requires of its workforce. The force should ensure that body-worn video is used in all stop and search encounters to provide additional reassurance to the force and its communities.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has established governance structures and scrutiny processes in place to monitor the use of coercive powers by its officers and staff. The force has a number of well-established geographically-located independent panels that review force use of stop and search powers. We found comprehensive, open and accessible information sharing and a clear commitment by senior officers to seek and respond to feedback from scrutiny panel members. In addition, there are separate independent panels that review the force use of Taser and the use of force against detainees in police custody. The office of the police and crime commissioner (OPCC) has plans to develop monitoring and external scrutiny further by merging all current panels into one independent panel with responsibility for reviewing all force-wide use of coercive powers. There is a clear investment made by Avon and Somerset Constabulary in seeking external scrutiny and challenge. The IAG consultation system is well used and is integrated into force governance structures. Independent challenge, together with internal scrutiny and oversight, means the force can demonstrate that the workforce treats people with fairness and respect.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
Ethics and values are well established in the force and they guide leaders in their decision making. Policies and procedures support this way of thinking and the chief officer team reinforces these through regular communications and leadership events by setting out their expectations on how the workforce and leaders must act ethically and lawfully. The force has an established and well-used ethics committee which enables officers and staff to consider the ethical implications of decisions in an open and accessible way. There is a culture of continuous improvement in Avon and Somerset Constabulary, where workforce feedback and challenge are actively sought and frequently provided by officers and staff.
The professional standards department (PSD) has made progress in identifying and proactively seeking out those members of the workforce who are not acting lawfully or ethically. The force is good at raising public awareness and accessibility on how to make a complaint, including providing complainants with additional support where required. Complaints are investigated well, including where discrimination is identified, but the force requires improvement on how complainants are kept updated on the progress of investigations in a timely way.
Areas for improvement
- The force should take steps to assure itself that all complainants, and officers and staff subject of investigation, are provided with regular updates.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is good at treating its workforce fairly and with respect. Leaders are committed to seeking feedback and challenge from the workforce and this is evidenced through many initiatives including weekly blogs, leadership events and focus groups. Avon and Somerset Constabulary has open and accessible promotion processes and career pathways to support the development of current and future leaders. We were particularly impressed with the way in which the force has developed a new leadership programme together with the workforce, which represents an excellent example of leaders listening to officers and staff. There is a clear focus on wellbeing, encouraged and led by the chief officer team, and we found a number of new initiatives to support the welfare of officers and staff, though we found knowledge among the workforce to be limited.
Overall, we found that Avon and Somerset Constabulary makes determined efforts to manage grievances effectively and to identify opportunities for early resolution. However, we found that more could be done to ensure that officers and staff who are the subject of such complaints are appropriately supported and updated throughout the investigation. We were pleased to see that the force has introduced a new annual appraisal process that focuses on the continuing professional development of officers and staff which was an area identified for improvement during our 2016 inspection. However, leaders need to do more to ensure that the workforce fully understands the new process so the benefits of continuing professional development can be understood.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that officers and staff who are the subject of complaints are appropriately supported and updated throughout the investigation.
- The force should review how the provision of wellbeing services is communicated to the workforce.
- The force should improve how it investigates concerns, problems or complaints raised formally by the workforce.