Bedfordshire PEEL 2017
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Bedfordshire Police requires improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Since HMICFRS’ 2016 effectiveness inspection the force has made solid progress in most areas, and HMICFRS is pleased to see that efforts have been made to ensure that improvements have been made throughout the force. However, further action is needed in a number of areas set out below in order to provide the public with an effective service and to continue its recent improvements.
The force does not yet have an effective approach to preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. Although it has made progress since 2016, it needs to resource local policing teams fully and continue to develop staff skills in crime prevention and problem solving. At the time of the inspection the force was ahead of schedule for its resourcing plans. The force is improving its understanding of what matters to local communities and is improving its response to their needs. The force works proactively with other organisations to solve problems and address the underlying causes of crime. It is developing more sophisticated analysis, to focus staff activity and maximise its positive effect.
Bedfordshire Police needs to improve its investigation of crimes. The force needs to improve the timeliness of its initial response to victims, as we found the current model does not always provide victims with a good service when they need it. The force also needs to improve its approach to the examination of digital devices in support of investigations, such as mobile phones and computers, and ensure arrested foreign nationals are subjected to checks for overseas convictions to understand and manage the risk they may pose more effectively. Positively, crimes are generally investigated to a good standard. The force makes good use of intelligence, and victims are regularly updated as investigations progress. The force has some understanding of those who cause the most harm in communities, and has a good approach to reducing re-offending.
The force must improve its ability to protect vulnerable people. It does not consistently identify vulnerable people when they initially contact the police via the force control room. Subsequent risk assessments are also of inconsistent quality. The force investigates most crimes involving vulnerable victims to a good standard. However, officers and staff are dealing with unacceptably high workloads. There are increased sickness absence rates, which compromises the force’s ability to conduct high-quality investigations and provide tailored support to victims.
The force responds well to serious and organised crime. It has improved its understanding of organised crime threats, and works well with partner organisations to tackle organised crime groups, although it should do more to involve local policing teams in disrupting organised criminals. The force also needs to enhance its ability to prevent serious and organised crime, for example by identifying and supporting young people who are at risk of being drawn into gang violence.
Bedfordshire Police has the necessary arrangements in place to fulfil its national policing responsibilities, and to initially respond to an attack requiring an armed response.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Bedfordshire Police’s approach to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour is getting better but still requires improvement in some areas. Examples of good practice include:
- a clear vision for local policing from force leaders, which is understood by most officers and staff;
- an improving understanding of, and response to, what matters to local communities; and
- proactive problem solving with other organisations to address underlying causes of crime.
Although the force has made progress since 2016, it still needs to resource its local policing teams fully and continue to develop staff skills in crime prevention and problem solving. It is developing more sophisticated analysis, to focus workforce activity and maximise its positive effect, but should improve:
- how officers and staff use this analysis and evidence to inform their day-to-day activity;
- the consistency of its approach to recording the use of powers and tactics to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour;
- its understanding of local communities, including those groups less likely to communicate with the police; and
- evaluation and sharing of best practice routinely, both internally and with partner organisations.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that local teams are sufficiently well resourced to prevent crime and tackle anti-social behaviour effectively.
- The force should work with local people and partner organisations to improve its understanding of local communities, including those which are less likely to communicate with the police, such as migrant communities or elderly people.
- The force should adopt a structured and consistent problem-solving process to enable it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour more effectively.
- The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with partners, to continually improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Bedfordshire Police requires improvement in how it investigates crime and reduces reoffending.
Its crime investigations are generally good and effectively supervised. Most positively, the force:
- uses intelligence well, and regularly updates victims as investigations progress;
- has effective processes in place for ensuring that wanted persons are swiftly located and arrested whenever possible; and
- has had some success in reducing re-offending, with several initiatives in place.
However, the current operating model is negatively affecting the ability of response teams to meet demand for their services. This is causing inconsistencies in the quality of service to victims.
The force needs to improve the risk-assessment process for calls that require a prompt response and improve the timeliness of its initial response to victims.
The force should also work to:
- improve its initial investigation of fraud reported by members of the public, and provide more support to investigators in the community crime team;
- improve its ability to quickly retrieve evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices, so investigations are not delayed; and
- ensure that checks are routinely conducted on foreign nationals, to verify their identity, nationality and any convictions.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that it assesses incidents thoroughly and provides an appropriate response which keeps victims safe.
- The force should improve its ability to retrieve evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to ensure that investigations are not delayed.
- The force should ensure that checks are routinely conducted to verify the identity, nationality and overseas convictions of arrested foreign nationals.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Bedfordshire Police requires improvement in how it protects vulnerable people. The force investigates most crimes involving vulnerable victims to a good standard. It:
- has a good understanding of vulnerability in its area and works closely with partner agencies to analyse available data;
- is training officers and staff to better identify vulnerability, particularly in relation to hidden harm;
- has made progress in its risk assessment of, and response to, children who are reported missing or absent;
- has enhanced its partnership arrangements and support for frontline officers, in order to provide a more effective service for people suffering from mental health conditions; and
- is good at managing sex offenders.
However, officers and staff are dealing with unacceptably high workloads. This increases sickness absence rates and compromises the force’s ability to conduct high-quality investigations or provide tailored support and safeguarding for victims. This needs to be addressed.
The force should also:
- improve its risk assessment and flagging process in the control room, as vulnerabilities are not always being correctly identified;
- ensure frontline officers submit high-quality domestic abuse, stalking, harassment and honour-based violence risk assessments; and
- make better use of legal powers to protect victims of domestic abuse.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that call-handling staff are appropriately trained, understand and complete assessments of threat, risk and harm to appropriate standards, consistently record them on force systems and are supervised effectively.
- The force should ensure that frontline officers become more proficient in completing DASH risk assessments at initial response, and that there is sufficient supervisory oversight to ensure opportunities to safeguard vulnerable victims are not missed.
- The force should ensure that it increases the number of qualified detectives within its high-risk departments, and should ensure workloads are manageable.
- The force should review its use of domestic violence protection orders/domestic violence protection notices and Clare’s Law, to ensure that it is making best use of these powers to safeguard victims of domestic abuse.
- The force should ensure it improves its response to incidents involving all vulnerable people, but particularly victims of domestic abuse in relation to cases where police have been unable to attend or attendance is delayed, so that it reassesses risks and takes appropriate safeguarding action in a timely manner.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Bedfordshire Police responds well to serious and organised crime. It has improved its understanding of organised crime threats, and works well with partner organisations to tackle organised crime groups (OCGs).
- uses structured methods to assess threats from organised crime and shares data with partner organisations;
- takes proactive steps to search for organised criminal activity, providing local officers and staff with training and online support to develop their knowledge and understanding;
- is systematic in its approach to targeting OCGs for intervention; and
- has improved the way it makes use of the intelligence and powers of partner organisations.
However, the force should do more to involve local policing teams in disrupting organised criminal activity. The force also needs to enhance its ability to prevent serious and organised crime, for example by identifying and supporting young people who are at risk of being drawn into gang violence.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve the awareness of organised crime groups among neighbourhood teams to ensure that they can reliably identify these groups, collect intelligence and disrupt their activity.
- The force should take steps to identify those at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime, and ensure that preventative initiatives are put in place with partner organisations to deter them from offending.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
National threats often require forces to work together, across force boundaries. These threats include terrorism, large-scale disorder and civil emergencies. We examined the capabilities in place to respond to these threats, in particular a firearms attack.
Most positively, the force:
- works with other forces to ensure enough trained staff and officers are available to respond to national threats;
- tests its skills in training exercises; and
- has developed a good understanding of the threat to the public from an armed attack.
However, the force should:
- improve its understanding of the time taken for armed officers to attend incidents.