Devon and Cornwall PEEL 2017
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Devon and Cornwall Police requires improvement in how it keeps people safe and reduces crime. While its performance in some areas has deteriorated since 2016, in others it has made positive progress. Overall, the force correctly concentrates its resources both on higher-risk victims and on the most harmful offenders as it tackles crime.
The force has clear priorities to reduce harm and protect the most vulnerable people. These priorities are evident across all aspects of the organisation. However, some of the force’s IT systems and processes do not always work as well as they could and can get in the way of protecting the public. The force recognises the need for change and is making improvements, or has firm plans to do so, in several operational areas. These changes are positive and demonstrate a strategic intention to improve how the force is organised and how it provides services to the public.
The force is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour; the prevention of crime is a priority. Neighbourhood policing arrangements are well established, and the force works effectively with partner organisations. However, the force needs a more structured approach to how it manages and solves community-based problems. It is undertaking a broad review of its approach to crime prevention, community engagement and neighbourhood policing, and is designing a new way of providing these services. We look forward to evaluating their effect, once they are put into operation.
The force requires improvement in some aspects of investigating crime and reducing re-offending. The service that callers receive when they first contact the control room is good. Call handlers are effective at spotting when callers may face harm, and the force determines its response by taking into account their perceived needs. In general, victims of crime continue to receive a good service and are well supported by committed officers and staff. However, in common with the national picture, the force is experiencing rising demand, which is undermining the quality of some subsequent investigations. This is also increasing pressure on the workforce and causing gaps in some aspects of policy adherence. In response, the force is redesigning its crime-recording and crime-management processes. We found delays in the examination of digital devices, and this is affecting the quality of some investigations. Procedures for tracking and arresting wanted criminals also need to improve.
The force requires improvement in some aspects of how it protects vulnerable people. The identification and protection of vulnerable people are priorities for the force. Established procedures provide safeguarding support and protect people from harm. In particular, the force works constructively with other organisations to support people who have mental health problems. Overall, the force maintains a focus on the most harmful offenders and on protecting victims most at risk. However, the force needs to provide better support to officers and staff investigating crimes with vulnerable victims. The force needs to improve its understanding of the way it protects some victims of domestic abuse, including the use of legal powers to protect people at risk. Similarly, body-worn video cameras are not yet used widely by all operational officers, which means that opportunities to gather evidence might be missed.
The force has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Devon and Cornwall Police is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. The force prioritises the prevention of crime and protecting vulnerable people. Its well-established neighbourhood policing arrangements work effectively with partner organisations to keep people safe.
The force generally understands its communities well, and works effectively to understand diverse communities.
Positively, the force is:
- piloting detailed new neighbourhood profiles;
- improving communication with the public through social media and its website; and
- seeking best practice on crime prevention to inform the new approach.
However, the force needs to take a more structured and consistent approach to problem solving to help it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour more effectively.
The force is working hard to make improvements. We look forward to evaluating its work in future inspections.
Areas for improvement
- The force should take a more structured, consistent approach to problem solving to enable it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour more effectively.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Devon and Cornwall Police requires improvement at investigating crime and reducing re-offending. The force’s control room staff respond well to crime victims, assessing risk effectively. Call handlers understand the force’s policies and procedures well.
Positively, the force:
- ensures that officers generally attend incidents promptly;
- is good at safeguarding victims; and
- makes appropriate referrals to other agencies.
- delays in investigations can occur at peak times; and
- officers do not always complete the initial investigative steps, due to insufficient time; experience; or supervision.
The quality of the force’s investigations is affected by:
- an increasing shortfall of qualified detectives;
- absence of standardised guidance for managing some lower-risk investigations;
- adoption of differing localised practices across the force; and
- delays in examining digital devices (though the force has plans to manage this work in a different way).
Encouragingly, the force works well with partner organisations to increase focus upon offenders who cause the most harm rather than just those who commit the most crime. It also uses an innovative scheme to deter offenders from crime.
However, the force needs to improve how it:
- manages wanted suspects on local and national systems;
- prioritises the arrests of medium and low risk suspects; and
- uses information provided by Immigration Enforcementto manage foreign national offenders.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that it completes all investigations to a consistently good standard and in a timely manner.
- The force should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations to improve quality and progress.
- The force should improve its ability to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to ensure that investigations are not delayed.
- The force should ensure that it swiftly locates and arrests those who are circulated as wanted on the Police National Computer, those who fail to appear on police bail, named and outstanding suspects and suspects identified through forensic evidence.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Devon and Cornwall Police requires improvement at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims. The force has a good understanding of vulnerability, with a clear focus on protecting people from harm. Overall, the force correctly concentrates its resources on victims at greater risk and the most harmful offenders.
Positively, the force:
- ensures that officers and staff clearly understand how best to deal with and support vulnerable people;
- is quick to identify and respond to vulnerable people when they contact the police; and
- takes necessary immediate safeguarding actions.
While officers are generally good at identifying vulnerability at incidents, procedures could improve by:
- ensuring initial screening assessments are completed effectively;
- understanding better the reasons for the fall in the arrest rates for domestic abuse suspects, how such suspects are managed and the effect this has on victim safety; and
- speeding up the force-wide introduction of body-worn video cameras.
Support for people with mental health problems is good, and frontline staff have received training on supporting those with poor mental health. Control room staff have 24-hour telephone access to NHS professionals, alongside staff in custody offices with specialist mental health knowledge.
However, the force needs to improve its investigations of crime involving vulnerable people by addressing:
- investigation quality, especially in lower-risk cases;
- management of officer workloads;
- its supervision of investigations involving vulnerable people; and
- its use of some legal powers to protect vulnerable people.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve the quality of investigations involving vulnerable people, ensuring that the workloads of specialist investigators are manageable and that such investigations are subject to regular and active supervision.
- The force should improve its understanding of the reasons for the declining domestic abuse arrest and charge/summons rates and how it uses voluntary attendance in domestic abuse cases, to ensure victims are protected.
- The force should improve its initial investigation of cases involving vulnerable victims, by providing responding officers with access to body-worn video-recording equipment, to record evidence of injuries and crime scenes.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
This question was not inspected in 2017. The grade and findings from last year’s inspection still stand.
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 Dorset Police to respond to national threats;
- tests its skills in training exercises;
- has developed an adequate understanding of the threat to the public from an armed attack; and
- has increased the availability of armed response vehicles as part of a national programme to increase armed policing in England and Wales.
However, the force should:
- make better use of analysis of the time taken for armed officers to attend incidents; and
- consider locations that are attractive targets for terrorists in how it deploys armed officers.