Bedfordshire PEEL 2017
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Bedfordshire Police is judged to require improvement in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our overall judgment this year is consistent with last year. The force’s understanding of demand is judged to require improvement; it is judged to be good for its use of resources to manage demand; and its planning for future demand is judged to require improvement.
Bedfordshire Police is developing its understanding of demand for its services, although the force acknowledges that this still requires improvement in some important areas. Since 2016 it has been doing good work with the College of Policing, other forces and organisations such as the local authority and the health service to improve its assessment of current, complex and future demand. The force continues to work to improve its understanding of how demand may change. It demonstrates a good commitment to managing and prioritising how it responds to demand to increase its efficiency. However, it could improve its understanding of and response to anti-social behaviour as well as how it assures itself that its response to emergency incidents that require immediate police attendance is effective and timely.
The force generally uses and allocates its resources well and has been increasing the resourcing of its policing model since June 2015, although the model is still not fully staffed. It has prioritised vulnerability and increased significantly resources in its public protection teams. However, it still does not have enough officers and staff within community policing to deal efficiently with demand, including crime and anti-social behaviour prevention. Progress is being made to increase local police constable and police community support officer numbers, including a new rural crime team, but the community teams will not be fully staffed until 2018.
We recognise that Bedfordshire Police continues to face significant financial challenges. The force does not currently have any clear plans beyond 2019/20 for how it will continue to provide the level of policing needed, within the resources that are likely to be available. Despite this fundamental issue, the force has done several positive things to improve its position. The force invests well and works constructively with others to manage demand for its services. It has some understanding of its current workforce’s operational skills and capabilities, and it is identifying and making plans for future skills requirements appropriately. Leaders are being trained for the future. Building on Bedfordshire Police’s pioneering methods to increase minority ethnic diversity in its workforce, joint work through the alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary is expected to increase opportunities to improve diversity for under-represented groups and to identify and nurture talent.
HMICFRS is concerned that the force’s future plans remain uncertain. The new policing model that was developed some years ago is not expected to be fully staffed until 2018. The force recognises that beyond 2019/20 even this level of resourcing will be unlikely to meet growing demand for services without further organisational change, plans for which have not yet been developed. The chief constable and the police and crime commissioner are working closely with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary and with local partner agencies to achieve greater efficiencies in an attempt to bridge the gap.
How well does the force understand demand?
Bedfordshire Police does not yet have a full understanding of current reactive demand. Its understanding of demand is developing and it recognises that it still has more to do. The force has made positive progress since 2016 in developing a new system for assessing demand. It has increased its analytical capacity, identified intelligence gaps and commissioned work to improve its assessment of current, complex and future demand. The force is working on internal demand and inefficiencies to identify improvements including the number of meetings attended. Bedfordshire continues to record high levels of anti-social behaviour compared with other forces, but the force is not clear as to the reasons why. The force is developing how it records and categorises anti-social behaviour and further work is being done on its understanding of hidden demand and emerging crime, but these areas of work are incomplete and so its understanding of demand can only be partial.
Bedfordshire Police’s approach to prioritising and filtering demand requires improvement although it has improved since our last inspection. Officers and staff have received additional training and fewer missing children are being identified as absent. However, it still does not have sufficient resources in place to respond effectively.
The force has taken positive steps to strengthen how it ensures it achieves all the benefits possible from its change projects. Members of the workforce are encouraged to make suggestions and put forward their ideas, and they are listened to by leaders.
Areas for improvement
- The force should develop its understanding of demand, ensuring that it has analysed appropriate information and intelligence from wider sources.
How well does the force use its resources?
Bedfordshire Police has a good understanding of its current workforce’s operational skills and capabilities. It understands future requirements and has plans to allocate resources appropriately. The force could benefit from a more formal understanding of the softer skills held by the workforce and from a better understanding of leadership skills, particularly below the rank of chief inspector and police staff equivalent.
The force is prioritising demand effectively and is putting the resources it has in the right place to manage the threats identified, but this is not sufficient to deal with all the demand it faces. It is developing its understanding of the cost and quality of current service levels to meet demand. The force has prioritised its resources to deal with the high level of vulnerability, but this has been at the cost of not resourcing its community policing function adequately, which affects its ability to deal with current demand efficiently. It is building its PCSO and PC community policing strength.
Bedfordshire Police has good investment plans and it is working well with other agencies to manage demand for services. It continues to develop the strong and well-established alliance, regional and seven-force collaborations. It is able to demonstrate that its collaboration with other agencies reduces cost, and increases resilience and capacity.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that it has sufficient officers and staff available to fulfil its resourcing model and meet the demand on its services, while also taking into account the wellbeing of its workforce.
- The force should extend its skills and capability audit to allow it to understand leadership capacity and capability below the rank of chief inspector and police staff equivalent, including special constables and volunteers.
How well is the force planning for demand in the future?
Bedfordshire Police has made some good progress in its assessment of emerging and likely demand for its services. It has improved its strategic assessment and recently developed a new strategic demand assessment; both of these steps are promising. However, it needs to improve the way it categorises incidents to enable better analysis of current demand and future trends. It is working hard to understand local community demand better and it is increasing resources to develop effective preventative work but recognises it has more work to do.
Leaders are being developed for the future. The collaborative approach within the alliance to recruiting and developing officers and staff should ensure greater opportunities to increase the diversity of teams and to recruit talented individuals from outside the force. Bedfordshire Police continues to face significant financial challenges, there are currently no clear plans beyond 2019/20 for how the force will continue to provide the level of policing needed, within the resources that are likely to be available.
The force has yet to be able to fully staff its new policing model, as it lacks the resources to do so. It has developed a detailed plan of how it intends to implement change up to 2019/20, but it recognises that to be viable beyond this date it will need to review its operating model again. HMICFRS remains concerned at the level of uncertainty in Bedfordshire’s plans beyond 2019/20. The chief constable and the police and crime commissioner are working closely with their counterparts in the alliance and with local partner agencies to achieve greater efficiencies. The force invests well in ICT and technology; there is good commitment for invest-to-save projects, which should increase its capacity and capability.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that its assessment of emerging and likely demand for its services is fully developed and regularly updated.
- The force should ensure that the control room is correctly categorising anti-social behaviour and other incidents to enable it to understand current and future demand.
- The force should ensure that it fully resources and trains its community policing teams to identify demand at a local level and prevent crime.
- The force and the strategic alliance need to ensure that performance development reviews are quality assured and line managers supported to develop the skills and capability of their officers and staff effectively.
- The force should ensure it has adequate plans in place to show it can provide services, while also making necessary cost savings.