West Mercia PEEL 2017
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Mercia Police has been assessed as requiring improvement in respect of how effective it is at keeping people safe and reducing crime. This contrasts with last year’s assessment, when we judged the force to be good.
The workforce understands the force’s vision to protect the most vulnerable and there are well-established channels of communication in place with different communities. However, the use of structured problem-solving techniques to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour is not widespread within neighbourhood teams and the force’s understanding of its communities is insufficiently developed. This means its response to problems is not always based on local feedback and it does not evaluate its use of tactics and interventions to improve its service to the public. In addition, response officers do not currently contribute to the community policing model and neighbourhood officers are sometimes reassigned to other duties; collectively this is likely to undermine the force’s commitment to local people.
The workforce displays a strong understanding of the signs of vulnerability. However, the force needs to improve its initial response to incidents involving vulnerable people, particularly victims of domestic abuse. Although the force generally investigates crimes involving vulnerable people to a good standard, it needs to ensure that investigators’ workloads are manageable and effectively supervised. The scheduled replacement of outdated ICT systems in the control room is anticipated to improve how the force recognises and responds to the needs of vulnerable people.
The force’s approach to serious and organised crime is a cause of concern. There are weaknesses in the way it assesses the risks posed by organised crime groups (OCGs), and its processes for scrutinising the use of tactics and interventions are under development. It is failing to assess the impact of its efforts to disrupt OCG activities in accordance with national guidelines. The force needs to ensure that the prevention of serious and organised crime is based on a comprehensive understanding of the threats posed. It also needs to work more closely with its partner organisations (such as local authorities, or health and education services) to understand and prevent this type of criminality.
West Mercia Police has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities, and to respond to an attack requiring an armed response.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
West Mercia Police requires improvement in preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe.
Neighbourhood teams are not trained to use structured problem-solving techniques to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.
Response officers do not contribute to the local community policing model, and neighbourhood officers are sometimes redeployed elsewhere. This is likely to undermine the force’s commitment to local communities.
The force also does not:
- fully understand its communities, particularly new residents, vulnerable people and communities with less trust and confidence in the police;
- always respond to problems based on feedback from local communities; or
- evaluate its use of tactics and interventions to improve its service to the public.
More positively, the workforce understands the force’s vision to protect the most vulnerable. The force has well-established communication channels with different communities.
We found some effective problem solving in partnerships with local organisations, which should be extended across the force.
The force uses its powers and tactics well to reduce offending. The introduction of a new ICT system should enable it to properly evaluate the use and effect of these powers.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that local policing teams routinely engage with local communities and undertake structured problem solving with partner organisations to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.
- The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with partner organisations, to improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
- The force should work with local people and partner organisations to improve its understanding of local communities, to understand their needs. It should supplement this with focused analysis to inform activity and prioritisation.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
This question was not inspected in 2017. The grade and findings from last year’s inspection still stand.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
West Mercia Police requires improvement in protecting vulnerable people and supporting victims.
The force should review its control room processes for assessing and reassessing vulnerability. The force needs to improve its:
- understanding of why a high proportion of domestic abuse victims do not support police action; and
- initial response to incidents involving vulnerable people, particularly domestic abuse victims.
It should also ensure that:
- response officers are more proficient at completing domestic abuse risk assessments; and
- investigators have manageable workloads and are effectively supervised, particularly for those working with vulnerable people.
However, the workforce has a strong understanding of the signs of vulnerability and is now identifying more vulnerable victims. It understands the importance of taking immediate, appropriate action to protect people with poor mental health. The force has good systems to support officers dealing with these incidents.
The force generally investigates crimes involving vulnerable people well. Outdated control room ICT systems are due to be replaced, which the force anticipates will improve its recognition of and response to the needs of vulnerable people.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve its service to vulnerable people, particularly domestic abuse victims, when officers have been unable to attend or attendance is delayed. This should include a re-assessment of the risks that victims face so that safeguarding support can be prioritised.
- The force should ensure that frontline officers become more proficient in completing DASH risk assessments at initial response and there is sufficient supervisory oversight to ensure opportunities to safeguard vulnerable victims are not missed.
- The force should take steps to understand the reasons why a high proportion of crimes related to domestic abuse fall into the category ‘Evidential difficulties; victim does not support police action’, and rectify this to ensure that it is pursuing justice on behalf of victims of domestic abuse.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
West Mercia Police’s approach to tackling serious and organised crime (SOC) is inadequate. The force needs to engage routinely with partner agencies at a senior level to improve intelligence sharing and promote an effective, multi-agency response to SOC.
The force has a limited understanding of the threat from SOC:
- it assesses the risks from organised crime groups (OCGs) poorly, due to a lack of capacity to handle intelligence reports and limited mapping of the potential harm OCGs can cause;
- it does not routinely involve local officers in fighting SOC, so this activity focuses more on national threats than local ones; and
- it does not evaluate efforts to disrupt OCG activity, although scrutiny processes are under development.
The force needs to improve local intelligence gathering and sharing, ensuring that SOC prevention is based on a full understanding of the threat from this type of criminality.
It should also communicate better with the public about SOC, including successful operations and advice on crime prevention.
Cause of concern
The force’s approach to tackling serious and organised crime lacks the essential features expected of an effective force and is putting the public at risk of harm.
The force should immediately take steps to:
- engage routinely with partner agencies at a senior level to establish intelligence sharing arrangements and an effective, multi-agency response to serious and organised crime. This should include the creation of a local profile for serious and organised crime which provides the force and its partners with a single, comprehensive picture of the threat;
- ensure that it maps all organised crime groups promptly following identification and re-assesses them at regular intervals in line with national standards. All mapped organised crime groups should be subject to regular scrutiny and oversight, enabling the force to routinely identify and pursue opportunities for disruption and investigation;
- assign capable lead responsible officers to all active organised crime groups as part of a long-term, multi-agency approach to dismantling them. These officers should have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, and adopt a 4Ps (pursue, prevent, protect, prepare) approach to tackling serious and organised crime;
- 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 offending; and
- begin to measure its activity on serious and organised crime across the 4Ps, and ensure that it learns from experience to maximise the disruptive effect of this activity.
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 it has enough trained staff and officers to respond to national threats;
- tests its skills in training exercises;
- uses a national risk assessment tool to prioritise its response to national threats; and
- has developed an adequate understanding of the threat to the public from an armed attack.
However, the force:
- was unable to provide data about the time taken for armed officers to attend incidents; and
- should consider potential locations that are attractive targets for terrorists in planning how it deploys armed officers.