West Midlands PEEL 2017
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Midlands Police is judged to be good in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our overall judgment this year is not consistent with last year when the force was judged as outstanding. The force’s understanding of demand is judged to require improvement; its use of resources to manage demand is assessed as good; and its planning for future demand is judged to be outstanding.
This year, the force is assessed as good rather than its 2016 grade of outstanding for a number of reasons. The overall grade reflects the balance between some excellent areas of performance and other areas where we had some concerns. For example, the force’s understanding of the total demand for its services may not be accurate because its analysis is not adequately supported by reliable crime data. Also the volume of 999 and 101 calls is outstripping the force’s capacity to answer them all.
Although the force’s overall judgment has been downgraded, there are still many outstanding elements of performance. The force continues to have a good understanding of prioritisation and costs; this takes into account the public’s changing expectations and national trends such as the increased threat to the public from firearms. The force has a strong record of reducing costs while improving the quality of its services. It also has a structured system to determine where best to invest and to ensure that benefits are realised. West Midlands Police continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to joint working with a range of public and private sector agencies to provide a better service to the public. The force will also seek to innovate if there is a solid argument that this will lead to sustained improvement in services.
The force has a thorough understanding of how technology can improve policing, and many aspects of its change programme focus on developing the force’s digital capability to enable it to operate more efficiently. The force has substantial plans to enable it to handle both the challenges and benefits of technological advancements in the context of law enforcement.
The force’s plans are ambitious and wide-ranging and are underpinned by effective governance arrangements. However, the force should ensure that these plans are supported by a more accurate understanding of the current and likely future demands placed on it by the public.
How well does the force understand demand?
West Midlands Police has many effective ways of understanding the demand for its services. However, some errors in crime recording practices cast doubt on the accuracy of crime data and too many calls from the public are not being answered. The combined effect is that the force’s understanding of demand may not be fully accurate because some incidents are not being recorded properly and others are not being recorded at all.
Each project in the force’s change programme has a detailed business case with the intended benefits and any disadvantages fully identified. However, despite the force’s considered approach, HMICFRS found that not all the consequences of change were properly considered; in particular the reduction of audit activity in the high-risk area of domestic abuse should have been thought through more carefully. Also, despite the efforts to involve staff in all aspects of the change programme, we spoke to a small number of frontline workers who did not feel they had the proper opportunity to exert influence over the force’s future.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that it has sufficient resources available in the control room to fulfil its resourcing model, and so to meet its demand, while also taking into account the wellbeing of its workforce.
How well does the force use its resources?
West Midlands Police is good at using its resources to manage demand. It has an adequate understanding of the current skills and capabilities of the workforce and those that will be required in the future. However, this position could be improved upon if the scope of its skills audit was extended to cover police staff competencies further. This would enable it to consider recruitment and training more effectively to develop a more productive workforce. Similarly, the force’s understanding of leadership skills and capabilities is limited in scope. Its focus is primarily on the operational skills and qualifications of police officers. The force recognises that it needs to develop a broader understanding to enable it to recruit and train future leaders in a more systematic and focused way. The force has allocated £2m to introduce and implement fully a new comprehensive leadership development programme.
The force continues to have a good understanding of prioritisation and costs; this takes into account the public’s changing expectations and national policing requirements. The force uses this understanding to vary service levels intelligently across the force to reduce costs and to meet changes in demand. The force has a strong record of reducing costs while improving the quality of its services, and there is a structured system to advise on, decide on and control investment. Comprehensive governance arrangements provide effective controls to assess the benefits of the force’s investment decisions. The force continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to joint working with a range of public and private sector agencies, in particular to support its drive to engage in early intervention and prevention.
The force is clear about the benefits from joint working, including arrangements with organisations outside law enforcement, such as the NHS. The force also ensures that all joint working arrangements are designed to improve the service to the communities of the West Midlands. The force is proactive in seeking out opportunities for service improvement and leaders show a willingness to experiment with new approaches. The force can demonstrate its commitment to innovation and this often results in an improvement to working practices.
How well is the force planning for demand in the future?
Although there are areas where the force’s understanding of demand can be improved, overall the force is outstanding at planning for the future.
The force pays careful attention to public expectations and how they are changing in the development of its change programme and the training of its officers to be 21st century public servants. The force has a thorough understanding of the benefits that technology can offer policing and many aspects of the change programme focus on developing the force’s digital capability to enable it to operate more efficiently. The force has substantial plans to enable it to meet the problems and opportunities presented by technological advancements; it is planning to invest £31.7m over three years. The force works closely with other organisations in the West Midlands to improve outcomes for the public, reduce costs and build resilience.
The force’s plans are ambitious, wide-ranging and underpinned by effective governance arrangements. The next phase of the change programme is intended to focus more on how the force secures the envisaged benefits from its new operating model. The force works closely with its innovation and integration partner to ensure its change programme remains on track and that improvements to services are smoothly implemented.
There are some areas that require a greater focus. Staff development should be made more available throughout the workforce and the volume of calls received into the force’s contact centre needs to be managed better. Nevertheless, the strength of the force’s future plans and careful budgetary control leave the force in a very strong position to meet the challenges of the future.