Bedfordshire PEEL 2017
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Bedfordshire Police 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 good at treating all of the people it serves with fairness and respect. It is also judged to be good at ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully and good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect.
The force has improved the extent to which all officers and staff treat the public with fairness and respect. The workforce understands the importance of effective communication skills and has some understanding of how personal bias can affect decision making. In Bedfordshire police, independent challenge and advice, together with internal scrutiny and oversight, improve how the workforce treats members of the public. In particular, the force carefully monitors the use of coercive powers, such as stop and search, which demonstrates its strong commitment to improving how it treats the people it serves with fairness and respect. However, the force could do more to monitor the way its officers use force when dealing with the public.
The force promotes an ethical culture and an ethical approach to decision making, with its leaders acting as positive role models. There is an improved force-wide system for discussing and resolving ethical dilemmas to aid learning across the organisation, but this needs to be communicated more effectively. Additionally the force needs to ensure that it complies with the national vetting policy by December 2018. Allegations of discrimination are generally identified, responded to and investigated well and the force makes it easy for people to make a complaint, including offering additional support to those who need it. However, for internal complaints, improvements need to be made in the extent to which complainants, witnesses and staff are updated on progress, when cases are referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the way that grievances are managed.
The force is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. It takes early action in support of wellbeing, but more needs to be done to support supervisors to identify and access support. Leaders encourage feedback and challenge from the workforce, and officers and staff generally feel able to challenge, admit mistakes and provide feedback. The workforce also consider their wellbeing to be adequately supported. The force is developing fair and effective performance assessment procedures with more open and independent selection and consistent promotion processes implemented across the strategic alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary. However, the force could do more to guide and support supervisors in the process, and to review the quality of assessment.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
Bedfordshire Police has a good understanding of the importance of treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. It has put in place training and support for officers and staff on communication skills, unconscious bias and the appropriate use of coercive powers, and workforce understanding was good. There is very positive and effective external scrutiny of stop and search and coercive powers more widely, although the force needs to improve how it monitors the use of force, both internally and externally, including evidence from body-worn video equipment.
Areas for improvement
- The force needs to ensure that its data for use of force (including body-worn video footage) is monitored by both an internal and an external group to provide oversight.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
The force has well-established values that guide the workforce in their decision making and the workforce feel able to raise ethical matters with the chief officer team. The force develops and reviews policies and procedures in line with the Code of Ethics, and the chief officer team reinforces the importance of ethical decision making during supervisor and senior leadership briefings. There is an internal ethics board and a new ethics panel with external representation that considers ethical dilemmas and provides support and guidance, although this needs to be communicated more effectively. It is easy to make a complaint on the force’s website, with language options and support for people who are visually or hearing impaired. However, front counters have limited information about making complaints. Public complaints of discrimination are generally identified and investigated well, and complainants are usually given updates on the progress of the investigation in a timely way. However, the force should ensure that it refers to the Independent Police Complaints Commission all cases of discrimination that meet the mandatory referral criteria. Further, for cases of misconduct, it needs to improve the extent to which it updates witnesses and victims regularly. The force is making good progress to achieve compliance with the national vetting policy, although this is unlikely to be achieved by the deadline set in our 2016 nationwide recommendation.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that it has a credible plan to comply with all aspects of the national vetting standards by December 2018, in line with HMICFRS’ nationwide recommendation in 2016.
- The force should ensure that all allegations which meet the mandatory criteria for referral to the IPCC are so referred, and that it updates witnesses and subjects regularly.
- The force should improve the quality and distribution of its printed information about how to make a complaint, in line with IPCC statutory guidance.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
Bedfordshire Police is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. Good progress has been made in listening to the workforce through recent surveys to understand workforce perceptions of fairness and respect with officers and staff feeling able to challenge, provide feedback and freely admit mistakes. They consider their wellbeing to be adequately supported by senior managers. Some positive schemes are promoting a preventative approach to enhancing the wellbeing of the workforce, and the force is undertaking analysis to understand the risks and threats to the organisation. The way that grievances are dealt with could be improved. Through its work in the strategic alliance, Bedfordshire Police is able to demonstrate that it is developing fair and effective performance assessment, and working on improving how it identifies potential senior leaders. However, the force could do more to support supervisors in performance assessment and to ensure the quality and fairness of the process. It has made a good start in developing an effective mentoring scheme. It has improved its selection and promotion processes and most of the workforce perceive these as open and fair.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that the grievance process complies with the Acas codes of practice and guidance, particularly relating to timescales, records, audit trail, and updates and support to witnesses and staff who have lodged the grievance.
- The force should ensure it develops and supports its supervisors and managers to conduct fair, effective and consistent assessments that support continuous professional development and manage poor performance, including establishing an effective quality assurance process.