South Wales PEEL 2017
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
South Wales 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 and at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. It is judged to be requiring improvement in the extent to which it ensures its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully.
South Wales Police is judged to be good overall in respect of how legitimate it is at keeping people safe and reducing crime. HMICFRS is pleased to see that the force has acted on previous areas for improvement and that its leaders demonstrate a real commitment to ensuring the workforce understand the importance of treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. The force has a range of monitoring and scrutiny functions, although some of these would benefit from greater independence.
The force continues to demonstrate that it has a good ethical culture, with officers and staff throughout the organisation taking an ethical approach to decision making. It provides easy channels through which the public can complain about the force, but needs to improve the extent to which complainants are kept informed of the progress of their complaint. South Wales Police provides its workforce with the skills needed to identify and investigate discrimination; however, the force needs to ensure that it refers cases to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) where appropriate, and that all investigations are carried out to a satisfactory level, including providing an acceptable service to complainants.
The force’s leaders are fully committed to the wellbeing of the workforce; the force is building on the excellent foundations that we noted last year, introducing new initiatives that actively promote healthy lifestyles, and providing support to those who need it. However, it needs to do more to encourage black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation across the workforce, and more to ensure that the new appraisal process is understood and valued by everyone. The force has worked hard to develop a fair approach to the selection for leadership roles of officers and staff at all levels, and is considered by the workforce to be open and fair.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
The force’s vision and values remain aligned to the Code of Ethics and are well understood by staff. This is further underpinned by the fact that all frontline officers have received an input on unconscious bias as part of the stop and search awareness training. However, the force was unable to provide details of which other police officers and staff had received the training, and it was evident that some staff had not received the training as they were unfamiliar with the term ‘unconscious bias’. The force recognises this limitation and is developing a training package on unconscious bias for all staff to complete. The force is good at understanding the importance of effective communication and has several courses that are specifically designed to improve the communication skills of its staff to meet the needs of their role.
The force complies with the national recording standards on the use of force and is good at recording and scrutinising use of force data to ensure people are treated with fairness and respect. The force has recently revised the way it is held to account and scrutinised externally at a force and local level through the police accountability and legitimacy group, and locally through local community cohesion groups, including young BAME groups. The force is good at monitoring the use of stop and search powers to improve treatment, however this could be further improved with more prominent use and engagement of young people. The force is good at understanding and applying national guidance relating to the use of stop and search and applying the powers fairly and respectfully.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all members of its workforce receive training in, and understand, all aspects of unconscious bias.
- The force should improve its monitoring of stop and search to ensure it identifies any disproportionality relating to ethnicity and takes action to address this at an early stage.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
South Wales Police has an effective system in place for considering ethical decision making and provides comprehensive training for all staff. The force has both an internal and external ethics committee, and has established a confidence and legitimacy group that examines areas of the force’s work that have the potential to affect public confidence. Chief officer pay, expenses and hospitality are posted on the force’s website. Force vetting is in a much improved position and the backlog has been significantly reduced from its position last year. The force provides comprehensive information about how to make a complaint on the force website, and an IPCC leaflet is available at some police station front counters. However, it does not produce, or have on display, force-specific information.
Officers and staff handling or investigating complaints appeared to understand their responsibilities, but our case file review found that the force does not routinely keep complainants, witnesses or those people subject to complaints updated about progress or provide sufficient information to complaints in line with legal requirements. The officers and staff we spoke to demonstrated a good understanding of what discrimination is and could identify it appropriately, however, some investigations were not as thorough as we would expect. The force needs to review the way it identifies cases that meet the IPCC mandatory referral criteria and improve the quality of its investigations, including the quality of service it provides to complainants, in line with IPCC guidelines.
Areas for improvement
- The force needs to improve the level of information and detail it provides to complainants regarding complaint investigations and the frequency with which people who make complaints against the force are updated in line with IPCC statutory guidance.
- The force needs to review the way it identifies cases that meet the mandatory IPCC referral criteria.
- The force should ensure that all allegations which meet the mandatory criteria for referral to the IPCC are so referred.
- The force should review and improve the manner in which it identifies and investigates complaints related to discrimination.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
South Wales Police is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. The force has systems to ensure leaders seek and receive feedback from the workforce, including direct access to chief officers. The force identifies workforce concerns and is good at acting on feedback to matters highlighted. The workforce has confidence in these processes, but has less confidence in the force’s grievance procedure.
The force continues to promote and improve physical and psychological wellbeing across the organisation via its health and wellbeing strategy, and has a good understanding of the risks and threats to the wellbeing of its workforce and takes early action in response to wellbeing problems. The force’s policy of supporting staff members in the workplace has led to reductions in short and medium-term sickness and other absences; however, long-term sickness remains high.
The force needs to improve how it manages and develops the individual performance and continual professional development of its officers and staff, as the process is not yet fully effective. The force has worked hard to develop a fair approach for the selection of leadership roles of officers and staff at all levels, and most people considered the process to be transparent and fair.
Areas for improvement
- The force needs to develop a clear structure to ensure that officers and staff who are subjects of complaint/misconduct investigations are kept routinely and effectively updated.