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Avon and Somerset PEEL 2018

Legitimacy

How legitimately does the force treat the public and its workforce?

Last updated 20/01/2020
Good

The constabulary is good at treating the public fairly. Its leaders understand the value of policing by consent, and of treating the public with fairness and respect. The workforce knows about these values and understands them.

The constabulary consults with the public before setting priorities. Crucially, the public can let the constabulary know about their concerns, which it then considers for action. This approach has led to improvements in practice.

The constabulary uses its communications team well to reach communities that might not otherwise make contact. We note its positive outreach efforts with members of the Muslim community.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s supervision of use of force could be more challenging. Currently, it can’t always be sure that force is being used fairly and appropriately.

The constabulary has more of an understanding of its use of stop and search powers. Nonetheless, it should carry out a rigorous review to understand the high levels of disproportionality relating to stop and search that are continuing to occur in Somerset.

The constabulary is good at maintaining an ethical culture. And it is working towards a comprehensive assessment of its corruption risks. The workforce has a good appreciation of the harm caused by those who abuse their position within the constabulary.

In 2017, we judged Avon and Somerset Constabulary to be good at treating its workforce fairly.

Questions for Legitimacy

1

To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?

Good

The constabulary is good at treating the public fairly. Its chief officers communicate the importance of fairness and inclusivity regularly. Importantly, the constabulary seeks to strengthen relationships with those who may be mistrustful of the police.

The constabulary works with a refreshing range of IAGs. Neighbourhood teams have well-developed plans for working with communities.

The constabulary uses its communications team well to reach communities that might not otherwise make contact, with tangible results. We note its outreach efforts with members of the Muslim community, for example.

The constabulary gives training and guidance on the lawful use of force.

But supervision of the use of force could be more challenging. Currently, officers don’t routinely receive feedback about their use of force. And the constabulary doesn’t have a dedicated meeting to monitor data on this subject. As a result, Avon and Somerset Constabulary can’t always be sure that force is being used fairly and appropriately. It can, however, give comprehensive information on how force is used.

The constabulary has more of an understanding of the workforce’s use of stop and search powers. But supervisors and staff don’t necessarily know if they are using their powers (or recording grounds) correctly. As with use of force, there is no regular meeting to monitor stop and search-related data. Recent publications lack information about the constabulary’s find rates. The constabulary needs to carry out another review to understand the high levels of disproportionality relating to stop and search that are continuing to occur in Somerset.

Areas for improvement

  • The constabulary should continue with its plans to ensure effective monitoring of a comprehensive dataset on the use of force.
  • The constabulary should continue with its plans to ensure effective monitoring of a comprehensive dataset on stop and search.

Detailed findings for question 1

2

How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?

Good

The constabulary’s vision is to offer outstanding policing for everyone. The constabulary’s leaders consistently promote its values and Code of Ethics. As a result, the workforce understands the values and Code of Ethics well. The chief constable and other chief officers reinforce the importance of high standards of ethical behaviour. Senior leaders serve as positive role models.

Supervisors and staff gave us good examples of ethical decision making. They also knew how to report inappropriate behaviour. And they told us that the constabulary has improved the support it gives to those who are subject to misconduct allegations.

The workforce can refer challenging ethical issues to the constabulary. To date, the ethics committee has debated some 90 different dilemmas. The constabulary responds well to feedback from the ethics committee. And it routinely shares the committee’s feedback with the workforce.

Learning is one of the constabulary’s core values, and leaders encourage the workforce to learn through experiences. Supervisors have daily discussions to support ethical decision making.
The constabulary identifies and manages its corruption risks sufficiently well. However, it should ensure that its counter-corruption strategy is current and that all staff are vetted to the correct levels to better understand and manage the risks posed. It is acting to improve its response, for example, exploring ways to monitor all ICT systems, and improve vetting processes through additional staffing and updated IT systems.

The constabulary promotes its whistleblowing policies and anonymous reporting systems. It has also adopted the strategy of the National Police Chiefs’ Council to respond to the problem of abuse of a position for a sexual purpose. The constabulary acts robustly on this matter. Officers and staff understand the severe consequences of such behaviour, and the chief constable reinforces the high standards of behaviour that are expected of the workforce.

Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure all staff have received at least the lowest level of vetting clearance for their roles and clear any backlogs, ensuring it is fully compliant with the national vetting guidelines.
  • The force should monitor vetting decisions to identify disparities and disproportionality (e.g. BAME groups) and act to reduce them where appropriate.
  • The force should ensure it has a counter-corruption strategic threat assessment and control strategy that meets the force’s needs to help it understand and manage the risk corruption poses to the organisation.
  • The force should ensure it has enough capability and capacity in its counter-corruption unit to be effective in its proactive approach to counter corruption; has full information technology (IT) monitoring to effectively protect the information contained within its systems; and build effective relationships with the individuals and organisations that support and work with vulnerable persons.

Detailed findings for question 2