Bedfordshire PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
Bedfordshire Police is effective at reducing crime and keeping people safe. The force continues to experience significant and long-term pressure on its resources. The need to respond to serious incidents quickly means that the force has diverted community officers from prevention work to deal with them. And frequently these incidents occur in its urban centres.
The force is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour, and it has worked hard to increase resources in community hubs. But it should make sure that staff have access to analytical support when they need it, so that the force can achieve a more detailed understanding of problems. The force should also make sure that staff routinely evaluate problem solving, so that they understand what works in given situations and can access this knowledge in the future.
The force is good at investigating crime. It carries out effective investigations. But it needs to make sure that investigations are better supervised. Staff need to be held to account, and also to receive support and guidance. The force is aware of resource shortages in high-risk departments. It should seek to ease the burden on officers who are working in child abuse investigation teams. It should also continue its work to reduce the delays in digital examinations of mobile phones, computers and other devices. This will ensure that evidence is passed quickly to investigators in all cases.
The force is good at protecting vulnerable people, and it works well with partners to do this: for example, officers greatly value the work of the mental health street triage team. Staff know the importance of protecting vulnerable people, and they treat victims well. But the force needs to make sure that body-worn video evidence is available to staff who are investigating domestic abuse incidents. That way, they can secure better evidence, leading to more prosecutions.
In 2017, we judged Bedfordshire Police as good at tackling serious and organised crime.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
The force is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. It gets local communities involved, and agrees priorities with them. The force trains staff well, and its structures support effective crime prevention.
But the force recognises that it needs more staff. Too often, it redeploys some officers in community policing teams to spontaneous incidents in support of response teams. This means that these officers can’t always work on their core duties. The force is committed to increasing staff in this area.
The force understands the threats facing its communities. But it needs to improve the analytical support that it gives to officers in community teams. It has a structured problem-solving approach, which gives community policing officers a standard framework. During our inspection fieldwork, we found many good examples of problem solving. But staff don’t routinely evaluate this activity, and so they don’t always learn from experience or have a local knowledge base of what works.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve its ability to analyse information and intelligence, to provide a better understanding of crime and anti-social behaviour, and to enable it to focus activity effectively.
- The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with other organisations, to improve its prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
The force is good at investigating crime, and it conducts good-quality investigations. But it needs to improve its supervision of crimes. Good supervision supports investigations and holds investigators to account. The force accepts that it isn’t always effective in this respect. During our inspection fieldwork, there was evidence to suggest that Athena (the new crime, custody and intelligence system) may not have helped supervisors in keeping up to date with their workloads.
The force faces a significant challenge in addressing a shortage of detectives. This is particularly urgent in its child and vulnerable adult abuse (CAVAA) unit. The force is using recruitment methods that aim to fast-track recruits into detective posts. But it is yet to fully benefit from this approach.
The force is good at catching criminals. It pursues wanted suspects, and it has effective ways of making sure that arrested foreign nationals are checked and processed. It has adapted to changes in bail legislation, and it has established a clear structure to monitor bail.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure regular and active supervision of the quality and progress of investigations. This supervision should be properly recorded.
- The force should ensure that opportunities to reduce the workload of CAVAA officers are taken. It should review the sustainability of its current remit against its available resources and identify opportunities for tasks not requiring specialist accreditation to be considered for allocation to non-specialist officers.
- The force should improve its ability to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to ensure that medium and low-risk investigations are not delayed.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
The force is good at understanding and identifying vulnerable people. It has worked hard to make sure that officers and staff identify vulnerability when people contact the police. The control centre uses a consistent risk assessment process, as do departments that carry out investigations.
The force is good at supporting vulnerable victims. And it works well with the signpost hub to assess victims’ needs and respond to them. But it needs to further improve compliance rates in relation to officers making their body-worn video footage available to investigators in incidents of domestic abuse. In this way, the force may be able to improve outcomes for victims of domestic abuse.
The force is good at responding to people who have mental health conditions, and it works effectively with partner organisations to do this.
Bedfordshire Police manages sex offenders well. It also carries out effective investigations of people who are suspected of possessing and distributing child abuse images online.
Areas for improvement
- The force should make efforts to improve its domestic abuse charging rate by ensuring that response officers take all opportunities to secure and preserve body-worn video evidence at incidents of domestic abuse.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.
However, Bedfordshire Police had two areas for improvement in the 2017 effectiveness inspection: we said that the force should improve the awareness of organised crime groups among neighbourhood teams, so that it could reliably identify these groups, collect intelligence and disrupt their activity; and that the force should take steps to identify those who were at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime, and make sure that preventative initiatives were put in place with partner organisations to deter offending.
We assessed these areas for improvement, and both have been addressed. Community officers now have an up-to-date knowledge of organised crime groups, having briefed themselves via the Inspire system. They regularly collect intelligence, and liaise with officers from Operation Boson, to investigate serious and organised crime, and work in covert support roles when appropriate in support of specific operations.
When opportunities exist, community officers seek to divert young people from being drawn into serious and organised crime. The force and its partners work together on specific initiatives. One example is Project Amber based in Luton. This partnership is aimed at supporting young people who are identified as being at risk of becoming involved in serious youth violence.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
We have previously inspected how well forces provide armed policing. This formed part of our 2016 and 2017 effectiveness inspections. Subsequent terrorist attacks in the UK and Europe have meant that the police service maintains a focus on armed capability in England and Wales.
It is not just terrorist attacks that place operational demands on armed officers. The threat can include the activity of organised crime groups or armed street gangs and all other crime involving guns. The Code of Practice on the Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons makes forces responsible for implementing national standards of armed policing. The code stipulates that a chief officer be designated to oversee these standards. This requires the chief officer to set out the firearms threat in an armed policing strategic threat and risk assessment (APSTRA). The chief officer must also set out clear rationales for the number of armed officers (armed capacity) and the level to which they are trained (armed capability).Detailed findings for question 5