West Mercia PEEL 2017
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Mercia Police is judged as requiring improvement in how legitimately it keeps people safe and reduces crime. For the areas of legitimacy we looked at this year, our overall judgment is less positive than last year when we assessed the force as good. The force requires improvement in some aspects of treating the people it serves with fairness and respect; it requires improvement in ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully; and it requires improvement in some aspects of treating its workforce with fairness and respect.
West Mercia Police is judged as requiring improvement in respect of how legitimately it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Although leaders clearly demonstrate that they understand and value the benefits of procedural justice, they need to provide the workforce with training so the force acts fairly, treats people with respect and communicates effectively. The force scrutinises its use of stop and search powers well, but it must improve its understanding of how its officers and staff use force. Reassuringly, the force encourages external scrutiny from different groups and acts on their feedback, but it would benefit from involving young people more.
West Mercia Police takes steps to ensure that its workforce makes decisions that are ethical. Its internal ethics committee is a new development that will provide officers and staff with opportunities to raise ethical questions and allow for learning to be passed on. The force needs to improve its handling of complaints and misconduct cases, including how it supports and communicates with complainants, witnesses and those subject to investigation. It needs to be consistent in handling cases that involve discrimination and it could do more to promote access to the complaints system for people who need extra assistance.
The force requires improvement in some aspects of treating its workforce with fairness and respect. Although it understands the importance of addressing potential disproportionality in the recruitment, retention and progression of officers and staff with protected characteristics (such as age, gender or sexuality), it does not monitor disproportionality in their treatment if they are subjected to complaint or misconduct investigations. Positively, leaders demonstrate a growing commitment to health and wellbeing, particularly support for mental health, and this is recognised by the workforce. The force is also working to improve how it manages and develops individual performance, but many of its initiatives are recent and their benefits cannot yet be determined. The introduction of continuing professional development provides West Mercia Police with the ability to identify leadership potential throughout its workforce; its leadership selection process is fair and transparent, and the workforce perceives it to be fair.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
West Mercia Police requires improvement in aspects of treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. Positively, its leaders demonstrate that they understand and value the benefits of procedural justice, and the force supports its frontline officers and staff by providing training that helps to ensure they act fairly, treat people with respect and can communicate effectively. The force has reviewed its arrangements to scrutinise its use of stop and search powers and made considerable improvements in this area of policing; however, it still needs to do more. It lacks understanding of its use of force, and needs to remedy this by improving its analysis and scrutiny of data and other information, for example footage from body-worn video.
The force encourages external scrutiny; it has good structures in place and senior leaders provide support to different groups and act on their feedback. The force would benefit from involving young people more to gain a better understanding of what affects the public’s perception of fair and respectful treatment, particularly among those groups who may have less trust and confidence in the police.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all relevant officers have received sufficient, suitable training to enable them to use powers of arrest only when necessary.
- The force should improve its process for regularly and frequently scrutinising a broad range of data and information, including from body-worn video, to understand its use of force and improve how its workforce treats people with fairness and respect. It should also evaluate how stop and search activity reflects its priorities, to provide further reassurance to communities that its use of stop and search is fair and effective.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
West Mercia Police’s leaders consider the ethical implications of their decisions and role model the force’s values. The force’s trust, integrity and ethics (TIE) committee considers ethical matters and reviews policies and procedures in line with the Code of Ethics, and the workforce understand how to consider the ethical implications of their decisions.
The force promotes access to the complaints system, but it needs to do more to update complainants, witnesses and those subject to allegations in a timely way, to support complainants who may need extra assistance and to target communications at communities that trust the police less. West Mercia Police acts to ensure that those who identify, respond to and investigate discrimination understand their responsibilities, but it needs to improve its referral of matters to the IPCC and its standards of investigation into allegations of discrimination.
Areas for improvement
- The force should review the accuracy and timeliness of the information it includes on its website about chief officers’ pay, rewards and business interests.
- The force should review how it promotes access to the complaints system, including the support it is able to offer people who may need additional assistance and those in communities that have less trust and confidence in the police. It should also improve how it keeps complainants, witnesses and those subject to allegations updated about the progress of investigations.
- The force should ensure that all allegations which meet the mandatory criteria for referral to the IPCC are so referred.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
West Mercia Police requires improvement in some aspects of treating its workforce with fairness and respect. The force’s leaders demonstrate that they are open to feedback from the workforce and they involve the workforce in decision making. The force understands the importance of addressing disproportionality in the recruitment, retention and progression of officers and staff with protected characteristics, but it has made limited progress in this area.
Officers and staff told us that senior leaders prioritise their wellbeing and they perceive this commitment to be authentic. However, pressures are evident in frontline policing roles, and the force needs to focus more on mitigating threats to workforce wellbeing, particularly in the light of imminent changes to its operating model. The force’s arrangements to assess and develop the individual performance of officers and staff are ineffective because of a lack of clear objectives, infrequent conversations and limited scrutiny. The force recognises the limitations of its individual performance assessment process (called PDR) and is taking action to address these, including expanding its use of continuous professional development. The force has made changes to its talent selection and promotion processes as a result of feedback arising from previous processes. The workforce generally values these arrangements and perceives them to be fair.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that it has effective systems and processes in place that enable it to understand the underlying causes of threats to its workforce’s wellbeing, and take action to mitigate them.
- The force should ensure that its supervisors can recognise warning signs, intervene early and provide support to officers and staff who may be experiencing problems affecting their wellbeing.
- The force should ensure that it has effective systems, processes and guidance in place to manage individual performance and identify the most talented individuals within its workforce.