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Bedfordshire PEEL 2018


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

Last updated 20/01/2020

Bedfordshire Police treats the public and its workforce legitimately.

The force is good at making sure that its staff behave ethically and lawfully. Without exception, every member of the workforce we spoke to was clear about the importance of behaving ethically.

Force leaders are ethical role models. They encourage staff at all levels to talk to them, and to challenge them when this is justified and appropriate. Recently, the force has introduced ways for staff to receive advice about ethical dilemmas.

The force takes its vetting responsibilities seriously. But it needs to make sure that its staff can command the public’s full confidence, and that staff have at least the minimum level of vetting required. It also needs to make sure that its backlogs in vetting are cleared, and that it complies with the national guidelines.

Bedfordshire Police is good at identifying and tackling corruption. The force has counter-corruption plans, and is aware of its main corruption risks. However, it needs to make sure that its counter-corruption unit has the staff and skills available to use more proactive tactics to prevent and detect corruption.

During our fieldwork, staff showed a good awareness of ethics and their duties under the code of ethics. But the force should do more to improve the knowledge of staff, particularly those in high-risk roles, in relation to abuse of position for a sexual purpose. It should improve their recognition of warning signs and encourage them to report incidents.

In 2017, we judged Bedfordshire Police as good at treating both the public and the workforce fairly.

Questions for Legitimacy


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


This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 legitimacy inspection has been carried over.

However, Bedfordshire Police had an area for improvement in the 2017 legitimacy inspection: we said the force should ensure that its data for use of force (including body-worn video footage) is monitored by an internal and external group to provide oversight.

During our inspection fieldwork, we assessed this area for improvement and found that the force has clear plans to establish an internal scrutiny group. This will be comprised of officers from different departments. But the force has no firm plans to implement an external group, which would give greater transparency and varied challenge. We will monitor the force’s activity in this area in the coming year.

Additionally, we reviewed a representative sample of 100 stop and search records to assess the reasonableness of the recorded grounds. We found that 82 percent of those records contained reasonable grounds. Our assessment is based on the grounds recorded by the searching officer, and not the grounds that existed at the time of the search.

In our 2017 legitimacy report, we recommended that all forces should:

  • monitor and analyse comprehensive stop and search data to understand reasons for disparities;
  • take action on those; and
  • publish the analysis and the action by July 2018.

We found that the force has complied with some of this recommendation. But it doesn’t identify the extent to which find rates differ between people from different ethnicities and across different types of searches (including separate identification of find rates for drug possession and supply-type offences). Additionally, it isn’t clear that it monitors enough data to identify the prevalence of possession-only drug searches or the extent to which these align with local or force-level priorities.

We reviewed the force’s website and were pleased to find a report of a review of black, Asian and minority ethnic searches setting out analysis that the force had undertaken in attempting to explain the reason for the disproportionality rate. However, this did not include analysis on find rates, nor was there mention of action the force intended to take. 

Detailed findings for question 1


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


Bedfordshire Police is good at behaving ethically and lawfully. Force leaders show how to make ethical decisions. Officers and staff have a good understanding of how to police ethically. The force has started to encourage the workforce to seek advice about how to respond to individual ethical dilemmas.

The force is making progress with vetting compliance, and it has a credible improvement plan. But it isn’t yet fully compliant, and some staff in high-risk posts aren’t sufficiently vetted.

The force has a plan for preventing and dealing with corruption. But it needs to set out how it intends to respond to each individual area of corruption. It needs to make sure that it addresses current capacity and capability shortages in its counter-corruption unit, so that the unit can use a full range of tactics to prevent and detect corruption.

The force is making good links with groups that work with vulnerable people. This will help it to identify staff who abuse their position for a sexual purpose. But the force needs to make sure that all staff are aware of this corruption risk, and of their duties to report any concerns.

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 ensure that its counter-corruption unit has enough capability and capacity to counter corruption effectively and proactively.
  • The force should take steps to improve workforce knowledge and understanding of the abuse of position for a sexual purpose.

Detailed findings for question 2


To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?


This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 legitimacy inspection has been carried over.

However, Bedfordshire Police had two areas for improvement in the 2017 legitimacy inspection. The first identified a need for the force to ensure that the grievance process complies with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service codes of practice and guidance, particularly relating to timescales, records, audit trail, updates and support to witnesses and staff who have lodged grievances.

We reviewed a selection of grievance files. They showed that the force dealt with all but two of these grievances effectively, giving regular updates to witnesses and staff, and completing the grievances within the recommended timescales. This was partly due to the efforts of the human resources team in monitoring and (when necessary) chasing progress in individual cases, to make sure that the force dealt with them promptly and to the required standard.

The second area for improvement identified that the force should make sure that it develops and supports its supervisors and managers to conduct fair, effective and consistent assessments that support continuing professional development and manage poor performance, including establishing an effective quality assurance process.

The force has made some progress in this respect, but its work isn’t complete. In July 2019, the force was due to introduce its new PDR framework (‘my conversation’). This new framework contains a second line manager’s quality assurance, and emphasises the need to address staff performance, development and wellbeing. We will monitor the implementation of this new approach.

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