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Cheshire PEEL 2018

Effectiveness

How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?

Last updated 27/09/2019
Good

Cheshire Constabulary is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour.

The constabulary is good at investigating crime, and we have seen some improvements since our last inspection. These include a new investigations board and a cyber-crime investigations team.

Cheshire Constabulary is good at protecting vulnerable people, and it has a good grasp of the scale of vulnerability in its area. Since our last inspection, it also has a better understanding of how to support people with mental health issues. This is being achieved through the implementation of a new strategy, effective leadership and training for its staff.

The constabulary is good at tackling serious and organised crime.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?

Good

This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.

2

How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The constabulary should improve its ability to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to ensure that investigations are not delayed.
  • The constabulary needs to better understand the data relating to its crime outcomes and put actions in place to make sure that it is effectively pursuing justice on behalf of victims.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of performance in this area.

Investigation quality

Cheshire Constabulary has retained a generally good standard of investigating crime since our last inspection. But it must improve its digital investigation capabilities and understanding of crime outcomes.

There have been some positive developments since our last inspection. These include a recently introduced investigations board. Led by the assistant chief constable (ACC), it oversees investigations, processes, and developments. There is also a new cyber-crime investigations team.

A new investigations standards procedure gives investigators and their supervisors clearer guidance on processes and decision making. This is positive and should provide a more consistent approach to tackling crime.

The constabulary completed our crime data integrity inspection recommendations for recording crime. Processes improved as a result. This also contributed to a rise in recorded crime of 22.4 percent between October 2017 and September 2018, compared with the previous 12 months. The constabulary now better understands its crime levels, which should lead to better planning.

Just 62 percent of the constabulary’s detectives have Professionalising Investigations Programme (PIP) level two accreditation. This is low compared with other forces. But there are plans to address this shortage of trained detectives, using national guidance in line with our recommendation. There will be more investigator accreditation training courses throughout 2019.

The student detectives on the training programme we spoke to are being supported by tutors. They are now working in public protection (PPD) and criminal investigation (CID) departments as part of their development. Departments have a good understanding of resource levels, and they work well together to make both long and short term posting decisions.

Due to increased demand, the dedicated rape unit now only investigates recent rape cases. This is because they have large workloads and it is difficult to recruit into the unit. To help manage the demand, the historic rape caseload is shared among detectives in other departments. The investigations we examined were effective. The unit’s investigators told us they needed more supervisory support, especially on cases that don’t meet the prosecution threshold.

The constabulary is looking into introducing more detective chief inspector roles. This will offer more support to the detective inspectors, in recognition of their demanding roles.

The constabulary should now focus on matching detective skills across the workforce with expected demand. This includes large historic investigations, increasing paedophile online crime and managing registered sex offenders (RSOs). The constabulary could consider using the many accredited detectives with relevant skills who are currently in non-investigatory roles.

In our 2016 inspection, we identified that the constabulary needed to improve how it retrieves evidence from phones and other electronic devices. The constabulary has bought seven kiosks to examine mobile phones. However, training for these was provided two years ago. According to feedback from investigators, the constabulary is not making the most of the investment. More training and making better use of the kiosks will improve the service it offers.

We visited the high-tech crime unit (HTCU). This is where computers and other devices undergo detailed examinations. During our inspection, the department had resourcing and support issues. It was operating at 50 percent capacity due to vacancies and sickness, and this was creating long delays before devices were examined.

The process did not effectively triage threat, harm and risk. A total of 128 computers were awaiting examination. Some of these related to serious criminal investigations but they had been left waiting for up to a year. For example, we found an offence of indecent images not being examined within reasonable timescales.

The main complaint from investigators during our inspection was the delay to investigations caused by waiting for these digital examinations. The timescales stated for them were misleading and only began when a device was called into the unit to be examined.

We brought this to the attention of the constabulary to review the delayed work, which it did. It then put in place a plan to address this, overseen by a senior officer. It was already aware of some of the problems and had already started to address the HTCU capacity problems. The chief officers will now ask Merseyside Police to carry out a peer review to improve processes.

There is an effective relationship between the paedophile crime team and the HTCU. For example, the HTCU told us that they could get a very quick turnaround on high-risk devices when needed. The HTCU also support vulnerable victims who need to have evidence secured from phones by allowing for a one-day turnaround of devices. This means vulnerable victims are not left without means of communication, which is positive.

But the constabulary needs to solve the problems across all its digital investigations. This includes providing clear performance measures of progress, with realistic examination timescales. It needs to prioritise threat, risk, harm and contact offences for all devices.

The constabulary has trialled an initial investigations team (IIT). Its role is to carry out telephone investigations with victims of incidents when it is not necessary for an officer to attend. The trial was successful, and the team will remain in place. Thirty-three police officers will be recruited to this team. Frontline officers we spoke to told us that the IIT had reduced their workloads.

If the IIT staff identify any risk in incidents they can re-allocate them and deploy an officer. We were given an example of this happening. The constabulary needs to consider how the IIT and its occurrence management unit will identify connected crimes. This was raised by some supervisors as sometimes being missed.

Officers we spoke to understand the importance of early evidence capture during the ‘golden hour’ (the initial hour at the scene of an incident for collection of evidence). To improve this, the constabulary introduced body-worn video to secure evidence from scenes. It is policy that this is used at domestic abuse incidents.

Some officers still felt under pressure from the force control centre (FCC) to move onto the next incident, because of the number of calls that were unallocated but still required officer attendance. Some neighbourhood officers were frustrated at being moved to response duties while still trying to investigate problem-solving crimes.

Before our fieldwork, we completed a file review of 60 crimes selected from between January and March 2018. We found an overall positive picture, and 50 of the 60 crimes assessed were effective investigations. In 57 out of 60 cases, the crime was allocated to the correct investigator.

In our 2017 inspection, we identified that the constabulary should make sure consistent plans and supervision are in place for all investigations. This will guide and support officers, especially those managing complex investigations. In this year’s crime file review, we found that 43 out of 60 crimes had an effectively supervised or appropriately unsupervised investigation.

In response, the constabulary has made changes to make the investigation process clearer. It also has a new investigations standards procedure. A new process has been tested to improve the focus of investigations, called ‘what’s the plan?’. It already carries out its own process of quality control by dip sampling of investigations. Dip sampling is a technique that checks processes are being followed without looking at every single case.

We examined a selection of investigations from all departments and saw a generally improved standard since our last inspection. This was especially so with the more complex detective-led investigations, which were more thorough. The constabulary should now focus on its uniformed officers’ investigations. This is where we found the few discrepancies in plans, including supervising vulnerability. But this was generally improving, which the constabulary should continue to build on.

We found that victims of crime were regularly contacted and updated. Our crime file review identified that 51 out of 60 received good victim care. The constabulary showed that specialist officers support vulnerable victims during investigations. Their training includes achieving best evidence interviews and dealing with sexual offences. Some vulnerable victims received support through evidenced-based prosecutions when they were unable to support police action, such as in domestic abuse.

Catching criminals

The constabulary has a procedure for placing ‘wanted’ suspects onto the police national computer (PNC). Most officers understood how to do this. They recognised that there must be both approval by a sergeant and then authorisation by an inspector, with a file prepared before circulation. Our crime file review identified five cases that were suitable for PNC circulation. All five had been correctly circulated.

Offenders not found are shown on a ‘wanted persons’ dashboard on the intranet. We accessed this and it was easy to use and provided clear information on:

  • PNC wanted;
  • recall to prison; and
  • wanted on warrant.

Daily briefings focus on offenders who have not yet been caught. And serious cases are highlighted at the daily management meetings in local areas and at constabulary level. During our pre-inspection work, we saw evidence of neighbourhood officers, police community support officers (PCSOs) and housing departments working well together. This helped when finding suspects. Using local authority CCTV also helped and ‘wanted’ boards, showing local information about suspects who were being sought, were displayed in the police stations we visited.

For local offenders not circulated on the PNC, sergeants provide supervision and support. This information can be viewed at a local policing management level and we saw this demonstrated.

There is an effective process to make sure referrals are made to the criminal records for arrested foreign national offenders. This is to highlight overseas convictions. This process was well-managed and monitored.

There are good working relationships with the immigration service. And the constabulary showed joint working and operations, such as tackling human trafficking into Cheshire via motorway service stations. A Border Force officer is based in the constabulary’s intelligence bureau one day a week. This helps facilitate information sharing.

We examined how the constabulary uses bail, following recent changes to legislation. There was evidence of data being readily available for those released under investigation (RUI). It is monitored but slightly differently in each area. This would benefit from being standardised. Inspectors and superintendents carry out 30- and 60-day reviews of RUI and receive reminders when these are due.

There is a good understanding that pre-charge bail should be used if there are certain risks involved. This protects vulnerable victims. In cases of domestic abuse, pre-charge bail was the expectation. But at times, custody sergeants appeared to make this difficult for some officers to apply for. This is something for the constabulary to be aware of, especially for its newer officers.

The constabulary had audited domestic abuse offences where RUI had been used to monitor its suitability. In the 21 cases audited in January 2019, just three were deemed to be missed opportunities for bail. There have been more audits for those charged with domestic violence with injury; out of 98 audited, 95 had bail conditions attached. This is positive monitoring.

Senior officers we spoke to recognise the risks associated with bail and they plan to improve bail processes. This includes a trial in Warrington to improve the flagging and visibility of bail dates to supervisors. The constabulary will benefit from these changes.

The disclosure process in criminal investigations ensures fairness within the system. Police investigations must follow all reasonable lines of enquiry, even if they point away from the suspect. And prosecutors must provide the defence with any material that undermines the case for the prosecution or helps the case for the accused.

In Cheshire Constabulary, there is a good understanding of disclosure. The constabulary has a disclosure improvement plan, developed in partnership with Merseyside Police. Investigators we spoke to were confident with the processes.

A disclosure training plan is well under way. The face-to-face training is one day for PIP 1 investigators and two days for PIP 2 investigators. We heard positive feedback on the content of the training and its usefulness, and there are plans for further improvements.

Following the changes to the criminal justice unit, the intention is to have a team of 12 sergeants to improve quality control. Our crime file review was positive in terms of disclosure. In 45 cases that required disclosure, we found that 42 of them had enough documented for disclosure compliance.

Investigators told us that IT problems made it difficult for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to view body-worn video footage. Yet this footage needs to be seen when making decisions on prosecutions. This is a national issue that is being progressed between the Service and CPS.

Cheshire Constabulary has an ‘action taken’ rate of 17.7 percent (2017/18). This is in line with the England and Wales rate. Its ‘charge outcome’ rate has fallen from 17.8 percent in 2016/17 to 13.0 percent in 2017/18. This remains higher than the England and Wales rate of 9.6 percent.

The outcome 16 rate (where a victim does not wish to pursue the case) is increasing faster than in England and Wales as a whole. While there has been some local evaluation, the constabulary didn’t show a level of understanding of this that we would have expected to see. It would benefit from having a more sophisticated understanding of crime outcome data.

Summary for question 2
3

How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The constabulary needs to record the initial assessments of risk more consistently. This is so risk and vulnerability are visible from the outset, ensure it is used to re-assess when delays in deployment occur, and it informs the subsequent attendance and investigation.
  • The constabulary needs to review its vulnerability marking processes entirely to make sure there is consistent process, and it is used to inform safeguarding considerations for victims.
  • The constabulary should review the resilience of its sex offender management units to allow for effective visit and workload management. Staff must understand the process of recording and planning visits in line with guidelines, and that accurate performance data is visible.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of performance in this area.

Understanding and identifying vulnerability

Cheshire Constabulary has a good understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability in its area. But it must improve some processes within its control room and the clarity of vulnerability in investigations.

The constabulary produces a range of analytical products such as problem profiles on crime types and threats that are then used to direct policing activity. It needs to update some of these profiles and the constabulary is aware of this.

It has established relationships with local partners, such as the local authority, domestic violence workers, and its co-location and multi-agency work in supporting vulnerable people in its referral units. It works very well with mental health services and has a serious and organised crime partnership, with a focus on vulnerability.

There is now a vulnerability board to oversee developments, led by an ACC. Recent updates include a new mental health strategy, training and an integrated anti-stalking unit to work with local authorities and the health trust. Vulnerability is also a priority in training.

The constabulary uses the College of Policing definition of vulnerability. Staff we spoke to were able to explain vulnerability and its wider meaning. But the constabulary would benefit from refreshing the awareness of the definition of vulnerability as we found very few who could reference it. Despite this, all staff clearly understood it was a priority for the constabulary. Officers we spoke to demonstrated a good awareness of the voice of a child.

We attended a daily ‘pacesetter’ meeting. This is where senior managers review current incidents. There was good data to show the number of incidents, and there was information available to help make effective resourcing decisions.

While not on the agenda, items of vulnerability were raised that included domestic abuse, missing from homes, and serious crimes. It was positive to see support allocated to vulnerable victims of domestic abuse following DVPO/Ns.

Most officers we spoke to showed a good awareness of looking for hidden harm. Some could show specific incidents. For example, an officer who attended a domestic abuse incident saw the poor living and health conditions for a child living in the house. They then contacted the PPD and submitted a referral.

The constabulary has a positive approach to vulnerability from county lines drug activity. It has carried out proactive operations that focused on child sexual and criminal exploitation.

The constabulary records a very low number of high-risk missing children. This inspection didn’t check reports of missing people, but we did find an emphasis on the importance of missing persons. Supervisors and senior officers were confident about gradings. But the constabulary would benefit from examining its grading data as part of its missing person review.

In 2018, the constabulary introduced a new command and control system within its FCC. This has caused the constabulary several problems, both from an IT and resourcing aspect. The system is now bedding in. Repeat callers are now identified automatically through the telephone number used but call handlers must still do manual searches of other systems for more information. It is important that the constabulary checks this happens. There is a plan to recruit additional call handlers to build extra resilience through 2019/20, which is positive.

We were pleased to see that the constabulary had acted on our 2017 feedback; call handlers are now given more information to help them identify vulnerability. Our crime file review found that out of 23 vulnerable victims, their vulnerability was identified in 19 cases, either at first contact or during the investigation. While this is a positive step forward, it still means four victims may not have received the service they should have done.

Cheshire Constabulary uses the THRIVE model for its initial assessment of risk. Our crime file review and inspection found inconsistent THRIVE recording standards in the FCC. However, calls were graded appropriately, most response times were appropriate, and victims were not put at risk by a delayed response.

Some switchboard operators didn’t engage well with victims. This appeared to have a negative effect on some victims of rape offences. We gave specific feedback on our findings. The constabulary has since completed quality assurance checks and audits. But the recording of THRIVE remains inconsistent.

We found some incidents where there was a delay in responding, and the THRIVE assessments were missing. Yet they were correctly graded and awaiting deployment. Several supervisors told us that some THRIVE assessments could miss linked offences and vulnerability detail.

The recording of the initial assessment of risk must be made more consistent. This will mean the assessment of risk, and vulnerability, is clear from the outset. It will help to re-assess the situation when deployment is delayed and give the information needed to those who attend and investigate.

It was good to see that staff working in public enquiry offices and those taking reports of incidents from the public had received THRIVE training. However, a minority hadn’t received this face-to-face training. The constabulary needs to make sure all enquiry office and call takers receive it.

Our crime file review highlighted inconsistencies in the marking, identification of, and use of vulnerability information in investigations. The constabulary recognises that this hasn’t been resolved.

Officers could often explain how to add information using the VPA process, which is positive. But the constabulary needs to review its processes for identification and flagging of vulnerability. There must be a consistent process, which will help when considering safeguarding for victims.

Responding to incidents

Our crime file review showed that of the 45 incidents that required a response, the attendance time taken was appropriate in 40 cases.

The ACC now holds bi-weekly governance meetings to monitor performance. This includes call handling and response times. We found that the constabulary was very aware of its 101 call abandonment rate of 18.1 percent. It is considering resourcing options within the FCC to improve this. This is important, as one third of its emergency deployments come from 101 calls.

The constabulary has good data to understand and track its performance using its new analysis technology. The new control system has information on resourcing levels and incident demand. This helps staff make effective and efficient deployment decisions.

Data provided by the constabulary for between 1 and 27 March 2019 shows its average grade one emergency response time was ten minutes. The average grade two priority response time was 59 minutes. For grade two incidents, the target time was met in only 54 percent of cases. This emphasises how important it is to record the initial assessment of risk and vulnerability, as this allows for more evaluation and prioritisation when there are delays.

In our 2017 inspection, we concluded that processes for scheduling appointments needed reviewing. We were assured that this had been done. We found that appointments for domestic abuse should not be made unless authorised by a control room sergeant. Also, that the IIT should not be allocated domestic abuse incidents. More dip sampling is now carried out to ensure compliance.

The quality of officers’ VPAs needed improving. This year, we found that standards have improved. A new video, circulated to officers, raised awareness of the importance of their VPA referrals. This included an emphasis on adverse childhood experiences. Audits identified weaknesses in VPAs and THRIVE is now incorporated into the VPA template to give it more structure.

Feedback will now recognise very good VPAs and highlight where there is room for improvement. VPA rates have increased and domestic abuse incidents should not be closed off until a VPA is submitted.

There is the expectation that domestic abuse, stalking and harassment (DASH) referrals are completed face to face. The officers we spoke to understood this. For cases where victims don’t co-operate to help complete DASH, it is important that officers must still use professional judgment and incident history to complete these assessments. Officers understood the importance of their VPAs, and their responsibility in submitting them.

We examined a selection of VPAs and found that they had generally improved. The small minority of detail omissions we saw were about children, and linking them to constabulary systems. There was feedback from the initial reviewing officers (IROs) that the VPAs about missing children could be better and some referral unit supervisors highlighted that there were still some inconsistencies.

The constabulary should now continue this monitoring and continue with these improvements. It should use the wealth of experience the IROs and supervisors have to achieve this, as they see all referrals made and the faults.

There have been improvements since our last inspection in how staff work with people with mental health issues. A new strategy and leadership are in place and there is a mental health training plan. Part of this plan is to provide specific face-to-face training to all responding officers during 2019. This is a significant investment in officers’ skills.

When we spoke to staff in the mental health agencies the constabulary works with, they talked positively about officers having a good understanding of the issues.

Some hospitals have a named officer to advise and deal with incidents. It was raised that at hospitals without this support, assaults on staff might not be dealt with as effectively. There is a well-established mental health street triage service. This involves trained police officers working with mental health nurses to provide an initial response to incidents. Officers told us that the triage service needs to extend its availability and operating hours. There are plans to evaluate this service when the mental health training programme finishes in 2019.

When called to incidents, officers use their judgment to decide whether to arrest suspects of domestic abuse or arrange voluntary attendance if circumstances allow.

The domestic abuse arrest rate for the constabulary to 30 September 2018 was 30 percent. This is just below the England and Wales average of 32 percent for the same period. The domestic abuse charge/summons rate for the same period was 14.4 percent. This was ahead of the England and Wales average of 12.5 percent.

Our crime file review confirmed that victims of domestic abuse are supported effectively. Prompts within systems make sure that officers take appropriate action when dealing with domestic abuse. An example is when officers pursued a prosecution involving a high-risk victim of domestic abuse, even though the victim didn’t support it.

Independent domestic violence advocates visit and support domestic abuse victims. This support was consistently offered and used, even when victims didn’t support police investigations, which is good.

Supporting vulnerable victims

Uniformed teams routinely safeguard vulnerable victims. Responding officers take safeguarding actions at scenes, and we saw these actions recorded on VPA referrals. They understand that if they are allocated the crime to investigate, then safeguarding responsibility remains with them. They also help other teams within the constabulary in their safeguarding duties. And there was evidence of safeguarding people at risk of vulnerability through exploitation. Uniformed teams carry out follow-up visits to domestic abuse victims who have been granted protection through the DVPO/Ns. This is a positive approach.

The constabulary consistently uses its legal powers to protect domestic abuse victims with DVPO/Ns and Clare’s Law disclosures. And it monitors the use of these powers. For example, a victim of domestic abuse declined to support police action after an assault. The CPS didn’t proceed. The offender was issued with a DVPN by the constabulary. When the DVPN was breached, the offender was re-arrested. The victim then supported the police action and the offender was charged with the original assault and breach of the DVPN.

In cases involving domestic abuse, we found an expectation that pre-charge bail would be used. The constabulary carried out audits to check bail use was being used appropriately. This included RUI suspects and suspects charged, and that bail conditions were applied when appropriate.

Cheshire Constabulary has four established integrated front doors (IFDs). This is where police and the agencies they work with – such as social services, health and education – are co-located and share information. This gives each service a better picture of vulnerability.

Teams carry out secondary assessments of the VPA referrals. We visited some of these units and found that the workloads appeared to be well-managed. Levels of supervision and individual support to the IROs, who have a high level of responsibility, were inconsistent. This was due to a vacancy which had an impact on supervision and support.

The constabulary takes part in multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs). This is where partner organisations who are involved in safeguarding and supporting victims discuss high-risk domestic abuse cases.

The constabulary expects that those involved will refer all high-risk cases to them. Teams also work with the Safe Lives charity, which works to end domestic abuse. This includes trialling in one area a mini MARAC three times a week. All high-risk cases are still referred to MARAC, but this trial should allow quicker interventions.

We assessed evidence that medium-risk cases could be elevated to high-risk based on professional judgment to then get the support of MARAC. But we found in one IFD that some high-risk cases could be filtered out of MARAC attendance. We brought this to the attention of the constabulary who assured us this no longer happens.

The constabulary should satisfy itself that all processes are standardised, and all high-risk cases referred.

In line with our feedback from 2017, the constabulary now surveys victims of domestic abuse who didn’t support police action. A newly introduced domestic abuse operational meeting will consider the victim journey and feedback from these surveys should help to improve services. The constabulary also uses the pan-Cheshire safety partnership to share what is done well and lessons learned.

The constabulary has a paedophile crime investigation team (PCIT). It tackles offenders using and sharing indecent images of children. We visited the PCIT and found it to be an effective unit. Specialist internet child protection software is used daily. We found it was up to date, with only one case waiting to be assessed, and enough people were trained to use it to provide resilience.

The force intelligence bureau assesses suspected offenders and a recognised risk assessment process helps prioritise activity. The PCIT had actioned 48 cases in the past six months to March 2019. The officers’ workloads were an average of 13 cases. While this was manageable, this is likely to grow. PCIT officers considered that they needed more specialist training. The constabulary needs to consider this, together with the predicted growth. All PCIT cases charged to court have sexual harm prevention order applications made.

At the time of our inspection, the constabulary was managing 1,002 RSOs within the community. The average workload for an offender manager is 67 cases. To manage RSOs, the constabulary uses risk management 2000 and active risk management (ARMS) processes.

Data showed that there were 43 ARMS assessments outstanding, and 33 more were outstanding from the probation service. While most visits to RSOs were up to date, 106 were overdue. This figure wasn’t easy to find due to inconsistencies in recording processes, which makes it difficult to get an overview of performance. Of the overdue visits, a minority were high-risk, with 15 outstanding. There was an awareness of this and a plan to address these. There is RSO data available, an improvement plan, and governance of RSO management.

Supervisors expect numbers of RSOs to grow. This, combined with workloads and outstanding visits, suggests the constabulary should review its staffing resilience, procedures and timing of visits. Staff must also understand the process of recording and planning visits in line with guidelines.

We found that more could be done to involve, and generate awareness among, uniformed teams of RSOs. Information is included in briefings, and there is some involvement of uniformed officers when needed. But officers and PCSOs we spoke to wanted better communication with RSO managers. They were keen to have more information for intelligence gathering and awareness.

Summary for question 3
4

How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?

Good

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

5

How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?

Ungraded

Understanding the threat and responding to it

The force has an adequate understanding of the potential harm facing the public. Its APSTRA conforms to the requirements of the code and the College of Policing guidance. The APSTRA is published annually and is accompanied by a register of risks and other observations. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently to maintain the right levels of armed capability and capacity.

The force had not published its own APSTRA and was reliant on an assessment of threats and risks affecting some forces in the region. Although this remains the case the force plans to rectify this in 2020. We will monitor this development closely.

All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. There are different standards for each role that armed officers perform. Most armed incidents in Cheshire Constabulary are attended by officers trained to an armed response vehicle standard. However, incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and specialist capabilities of more highly trained officers.

We found Cheshire Constabulary has good arrangements in place to mobilise officers with specialist skills should these be required. On these occasions, agreements are in place for the capabilities to be provided by Merseyside Police.

Working with others

It is important that effective joint working arrangements are in place between neighbouring forces. Armed criminals and terrorists have no respect for county boundaries. As a consequence, armed officers must be prepared to deploy flexibly in the knowledge that they can work seamlessly with officers in other forces. It is also important that any one force can call on support from surrounding forces in times of heightened threat.

Cheshire Constabulary has effective arrangements with North Wales Police to provide armed policing. This means that the standards of training, armed deployments and command of armed operations are assured in both forces.

We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Cheshire Constabulary are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. Also Cheshire Constabulary has an important role in designing training exercises with other organisations that simulate these types of attack. We found that these training exercises are reviewed carefully so that learning points are identified, and improvements are made for the future.

In addition to debriefing training exercises, we also found that Cheshire Constabulary reviews the outcome of all firearms incidents that officers attend. This helps ensure that best practice or areas for improvement are identified. We also found that this knowledge is used to improve training and operational procedures.

Summary for question 5