Cleveland PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
The way Cleveland Police prevents crime, tackles anti-social behaviour and protects vulnerable people is poor. It needs to improve the way it investigates crime, but it is good at tackling serious and organised crime.
Crime prevention isn’t a priority for the force and this is a cause of concern. The force isn’t giving officers and staff the direction they need. It has limited resources assigned to neighbourhood teams and its future plans for policing neighbourhoods are uncertain. The force knows the main threats its communities face, but it doesn’t have a good enough understanding of local concerns. Engagement with the public is poor and, across the force, problem solving is inconsistent. The force relies on its partners to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour. It needs to understand better the effectiveness of any prevention work that does happen.
The force needs to improve how it investigates crime. It doesn’t have the right number of people in the right place to manage investigation demand. It needs to allocate crimes to the right teams for investigation and train its supervisors to oversee investigations properly. The quality of investigations isn’t good enough, particularly telephone investigations and those completed by response officers who have limited available time.
The force needs to provide better support to victims and the wider community. We are concerned that the force is putting the public at risk by not being proactive enough at catching criminals. But it works well with public and private sector partners to manage offenders who have been arrested.
We have serious concerns that the force is leaving vulnerable victims at risk by not protecting them well enough. There are too many examples of the force:
- failing to identify vulnerable victims;
- providing a poor or significantly delayed response;
- failing to provide adequate safeguarding; and
- investigating some cases poorly.
The force’s approach to vulnerability is unclear. Changes it has made to manage demand have created unnecessary risks and intentionally suppressed demand. It doesn’t use its protective powers effectively to safeguard vulnerable victims. There are examples of it working well with its partners to assess, respond to and safeguard victims. But this isn’t the case force-wide.
The force hasn’t done enough to address the recommendations we made in our 2017 national child protection inspection. It is leaving some children at risk of harm.
Cleveland Police understands the serious and organised crime threats across the force area. It has an effective strategy, a detailed strategic assessment and clear priorities. It works well with its partners to gather intelligence and respond to threats, including new and emerging threats, and manages organised crime groups (OCGs) effectively. It is good at deterring people at risk of entering organised crime and proactively works with vulnerable children to prevent this. The force disrupts, dismantles and investigates serious and organised crime well, but it could be better at understanding the effect of its activity on serious and organised crime.
The force understands the threat posed by firearms and responds well through a collaborative approach.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Cause of concern
The force doesn’t appropriately prioritise crime prevention. There is a lack of strategic direction, and the force doesn’t allocate enough resources to prevention work. Staff who carry out prevention work lack an understanding of the priorities they should be tackling.
The force should take immediate steps to:
- provide strategic direction and co-ordination of all prevention activity;
- ensure there are the right resources, in the right place, to carry out structured problem-solving and prevention activity aligned to its priorities;
- ensure officers and staff working within neighbourhood teams understand the needs of local communities, their priorities, and the threats they face; and
- monitor the effectiveness of its crime prevention activity, evaluating and sharing effective practice both internally and with other organisations.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Prioritising crime prevention
Cleveland Police doesn’t prioritise crime prevention. It has a clear strategy, but this isn’t implemented through its neighbourhood model and it has limited resources allocated to neighbourhood policing. The remaining neighbourhood teams lack the necessary direction and leadership from the force. The future for neighbourhood policing is uncertain.
The prevention strategy aligns with the Policing Vision for 2025 and the Modern Crime Prevention Strategy 2016. It communicates the priorities as being:
- tackling crime through crime prevention activities in the neighbourhood policing model;
- a reduction in repeat victimisation through crime prevention; and
- the development of prevention strategies and multi-agency prevention for sexual violence.
The force has kept its neighbourhood ‘3S’ model. This model helps in identifying the different levels of neighbourhood team resources the force allocates to each local area to strengthen, support or sustain its communities. However, the model doesn’t reflect the current force priorities, which means that the force has not sufficiently assessed where it needs to put its resources to prevent crime and solve problems. Its model is informed by data about volume crime and incidents, but it has not considered data about vulnerable people or aligned to priorities within its strategic assessment including repeat victims, missing children or drug offences. These are all areas where problem solving would assist the force in preventing crime and keeping people safe.
In February 2019, the force removed all police constables from its neighbourhood teams (77 officers in total) and placed them in response roles. This resulted in a neighbourhood policing model only resourced by police community support officers (PCSOs), neighbourhood sergeants and inspectors. However, the number of PCSOs is also reducing so that each ward will have just one PCSO dedicated to it (the savings from these posts will pay for additional resources elsewhere in the force). The specific role of the PCSOs is unclear. Most of those we spoke to don’t have a good enough understanding of what is expected of them or how their role contributes to force priorities.
The force has a large community safety team that focuses on prevention activity, but most of the time it works in isolation, away from neighbourhood teams. It consists of a range of policing resources, including crime prevention officers, troubled families officers, hate crime investigators, community co-ordinators and mental health liaison officers. The team concentrates mainly on the jobs that have come in during the past 24 hours. However, its work lacks leadership and prioritisation and it isn’t always clear how its activity aligns to the force’s priorities.
The force has given officers and staff the skills, guidance and support they need to problem solve. It provided this specialist training in 2017, but it hasn’t given them further training or continuing professional development to maintain these skills. Crime prevention officers have trained the workforce in problem solving because there were no plans to provide any more formal training.
The force has other resources to help prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, including:
- a cybercrime unit to raise awareness and prevent online crime;
- a rural crime officer who works with volunteers and other teams for specific operations;
- a team whose focus is to prevent children from being vulnerable, exploited, missing, and trafficked (VEMT); and
- people working with families and education to address behaviour when a child is abusive to their parent(s).
However, the force’s VEMT team doesn’t have the capacity to do the problem solving it is supposed to do. Also, the work with families and education to address abusive behaviour between children and their parents isn’t a primary function of the police service.
Protecting the public from crime
Cleveland Police isn’t adequately protecting the public from crime and anti-social behaviour. The force has analysed the main threats facing its communities and has identified the priorities for the whole force. However, it hasn’t considered feedback from the public about their concerns in each local area. Neighbourhood teams aren’t sufficiently addressing the force priorities or local concerns.
Local officers don’t know enough about their communities and those who may pose a threat. Most PCSOs don’t know about all the people who are wanted in their local area and are not aware of all the dangerous or priority offenders. They use a briefing system to understand what has happened in their area in the past 24 hours. Despite information being available, there is not sufficient understanding for them to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour from happening.
The force isn’t raising enough awareness in its communities to prevent crime. Prevention messages on its website are hard to find and the force isn’t updating the website because it intends to replace it with a ‘single online home’. Individuals and teams are using Cleveland Connected (a messaging service) and social media to communicate with the public. There are good examples of officers and staff sending out messages about online crime, but there is no co-ordinated approach to this communication.
The force is improving how it prevents children being drawn into crime. There is evidence of this activity in the force’s VEMT team. The force holds a bi-monthly diversionary meeting with other organisations working with children. The organisations use factors such as family history of criminality to identify children who may be more vulnerable to this. They consider these children to be at risk and have put extra support in place. As part of this, the force has a set programme of diversionary activities focused on specific geographical areas.
Across the force, there is no consistent approach to problem solving and, although there are examples of this happening, it isn’t co-ordinated. Plans we viewed didn’t include enough analysis of the problem, or enough supervision and evaluation. The force uses the SARA (scan, analyse, review, assess) problem-solving model, but this isn’t being used consistently and in some cases isn’t being used at all. The force has previously made good use of E-CINS, a web-based case-recording system, to record its problem-solving plans. However, it is no longer using this consistently. Some partners have also withdrawn from using this shared system.
Cleveland Police runs force-wide operations to prevent crime. However, these are generally the same operations the force runs every year or are operations run as part of a national initiative. Most tackle current problems rather than focusing on longer-term problem solving to prevent reoccurrence. The force doesn’t use predictive techniques to inform crime prevention work.
The force continues to work well with partners to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, and makes good use of partner powers. However, the removal of neighbourhood officers means that police powers aren’t available when needed. The force shares relevant information with its partners and gives their analysts access to its systems. There are some good examples of work with partners to prevent anti-social behaviour.
The force isn’t using evidence to inform how it can prevent crime from occurring. It doesn’t do enough evaluation of the prevention work and problem solving that takes place. Previously it communicated what works through flags placed on its electronic iMap (geographical mapping) system, but this is no longer well used. In 2017, we reported that the force had formed an evidence-based practice clinic with Teesside University. It intended this to provide evidence of what works specifically in Cleveland. The force has 45 officers and staff who have been trained and have completed research in evidence-based practice. We were disappointed to find that it hasn’t made good use of this research or the skills that have been developed.Summary for question 1
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it allocates crime, ensuring it allocates investigations to appropriately trained and supported officers, and that it reviews this allocation throughout the investigation.
- The force should ensure that all investigations are completed to a consistently good standard and in a timely manner.
- The force should ensure that staff with the right skills are investigating crimes thoroughly, leading to satisfactory outcomes for victims. It should review its provision of investigative training, development and guidance.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Cleveland Police had a 17.6 percent increase in crime in the 12 months to March 2019 compared with the same period the previous year. The force is the third highest of all forces when this is applied to the level of population in Cleveland (per 1,000 population). This means that the force experiences more crimes within a smaller population, and many of these involve repeat victims.
There were 12 homicides in Cleveland in the 12 months to the end of March 2019, whereas the force usually investigates 1–3 homicides per year. The force’s major investigations team (a collaboration with North Yorkshire Police) investigates these crimes, but the initial response remains with Cleveland officers. This is putting increasing pressure on already overstretched response officers.
The force doesn’t have the right number of people in the right place for it to manage its investigative demand. Response officers can’t progress investigations effectively because of other workloads, and the force’s telephone investigations unit has been clearing a backlog quickly. The quality of investigations has suffered as a result. Most crimes are allocated to the right team, but some high-risk domestic abuse crimes are being investigated by officers in prisoner-handling teams who haven’t been trained to investigate these crimes.
The force allocates crimes by crime category rather than the level of threat, harm and risk that is experienced by the victim. Delays can occur when allocating crimes between some teams, when it is unclear which team should take responsibility for an investigation. This mainly happens at weekends and causes unnecessary delays to the investigations and in supporting the victim. The force has developed new guidance for crime management and proportionate investigation to indicate which crimes will be investigated by which department. It had only recently introduced this at the time of our inspection.
Crimes are investigated by response officers, crime investigations departments and specialist crime teams, with some lower-level crimes being investigated over the phone. The workload of the force’s crime investigations departments is low in comparison with other forces. While the force suggests that this is due to the increased complexity of investigations, it has not developed its reasoning to understand this, therefore there it has no evidence to support this. This means that the force doesn’t always have the right capacity and capability in the right places to carry out investigations.
Some of the force’s investigation teams aren’t aligned to demand to support continuing investigations. Crime investigation teams work a day shift (8.00am–6.00pm) and, although prisoner-handling teams work until 10.00pm, they don’t accept work after 8.00pm. This means that, after these times, response officers deal with all prisoners and continuing investigations. The force is investing an additional £1m in its investigation teams, including those who investigate crimes relating to vulnerable victims. This will enable the force to recruit more investigators and provide additional staffing within its VEMT team.
The quality of investigation requires improvement. In our crime file review, we judged just over half of the force’s investigations to be effective. This review took place six months before the inspection and, despite the feedback we provided, the force hadn’t improved further by the time of our inspection. Most of the investigations by response officers that we reviewed – and all the telephone investigations – were ineffective. Investigations by specialist teams were mostly effective. The force has recently put a ‘crime allocation and management rapid improvement plan’ in place and is monitoring progress through its crime and justice learning and development group, chaired by the head of crime. However, the force has limited information available to help it improve the quality of its investigations.
When the force implemented its operating model in 2017, it didn’t intend to have response officers investigating many crimes. Response officers don’t have enough capacity to undertake investigations because responding to calls for service takes priority. The current shift pattern means that officers aren’t at work for 12–15 days each month. This means that their investigations are taking too long to complete and officers often miss opportunities for the early collection of evidence. All the crimes we reviewed had input from a supervisor, but most didn’t include an investigation plan to provide the necessary direction.
The force doesn’t have enough people with the right training to investigate most crimes effectively. It has trained most frontline officers and investigators to the required level, but only trained 38 percent of supervisors, including those overseeing investigations by frontline officers. Only 23 percent of its child abuse investigators have the relevant accreditation. The force has moved some of its experienced investigators to work on significant enquiries within a historical investigations unit.
Generally, the force supports victims through its investigations and records any contact made, but it needs to have a better understanding of the information it gives them. During our crime file review, we found that 47 of the 60 crime files reviewed showed good victim care.
Cleveland Police isn’t proactive enough at catching criminals. There is no clear process, no force oversight and no one takes overall responsibility.
The force doesn’t have a process to promptly circulate wanted people on the Police National Computer and doesn’t manage this at either a local or a senior level. It reviews the overall number of outstanding suspects, but this data isn’t always accurate and the force doesn’t scrutinise it sufficiently. The force doesn’t have any processes to assure itself that officers and staff are proactively pursuing outstanding suspects. At the force’s daily ‘pacesetter’ meeting, chief inspectors review the details of some, but not all, high-risk domestic abuse offenders to circulate them as wanted. There are delays in outstanding suspects being handed over for other shifts to pursue. Also, neighbourhood sergeants are frustrated about the lack of available resources to execute warrants for wanted people.
The force works well with its partner organisations to catch criminals. There are immigration officers located within the force’s custody team and the force makes appropriate referrals to check previous convictions for foreign national offenders. There is oversight of this process and appropriate controls are in place.
The force manages and monitors the risks associated with suspects who are released under investigation (RUI), and has increased its use of RUI. But it makes limited use of pre-charge bail. There are clearly defined processes in place for both bail and RUI, and supervisors complete reviews at regular intervals. Bail suspect managers, who work for the force’s private provider, monitor the use of RUI and breaches of pre-charge bail. This ensures that the force doesn’t miss statutory limitation periods. Although the force has only provided limited training to officers, it has experts in place. However, the force can’t assure itself that these processes consider the risks to victims and the community, and it doesn’t routinely monitor RUI data for cases of domestic abuse.
The force is fulfilling its disclosure obligations and has effective arrangements in place to manage and ensure the quality of disclosure. It has given training to the workforce. However, most investigators don’t have a good enough understanding of how to apply the disclosure rules to their investigations. Instead, evidence review officers (EROs) make sure that investigations comply with disclosure obligations. EROs work for the force’s private provider and oversee the management of case files. The force’s prosecution team manages performance monthly.
The force monitors its investigative outcomes through its performance meetings. They are only discussed when an exception is raised. In 2017, we gave the force a national recommendation highlighting that it needed to improve its use, understanding and monitoring of outcome 16. Although the force put a plan in place, this hasn’t been successful. Senior leaders don’t recognise the importance of progressing a prosecution when the victim doesn’t support it. This means that the victim and wider community may be exposed to risk that the force could have reduced or prevented. Officers within the force’s domestic abuse team have recently raised awareness of the use of outcome 16 with response officers through a presentation that examined six examples of successful evidence-led prosecutions, including the evidence used. We will continue to monitor progress in this area.Summary for question 2
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Cause of concern
Cleveland Police is failing to respond appropriately to vulnerable people, including children. It is missing opportunities to safeguard them and is exposing them to risk.
The force must take immediate action to ensure that:
- officers and staff can identify vulnerable people and repeat victims effectively;
- it promptly attends incidents involving vulnerable people, and any regrading of incidents is based on a structured and recorded risk assessment with supervisory oversight;
- it safeguards all victims of domestic abuse, through the effective completion of a structured risk assessment, adequately supervising any changes to the initial assessment;
- there is sufficient supervision of domestic abuse cases assessed as having a standard level of risk;
- the cumulative effect of numerous incidents involving the same victim or household is properly risk assessed, considered and responded to;
- referrals for ongoing safeguarding are made at the appropriate time;
- there are effective processes in place for catching criminals which are subject to supervision and scrutiny, and it uses the available legal powers to prevent re-offending; and
- it supplies people with the information they need and are entitled to under the provisions of Clare’s Law and Sarah’s Law.
Areas for improvement
- All children managed within VEMT should have a person dossier and a trigger plan in place with appropriate supervisory oversight.
The following AFIs are still outstanding from our previous inspections:
- The force should further improve the way it works with partner organisations in relation to sharing information and safeguarding victims by continuing to work to establish a multi-agency safeguarding hub (for the south of the force area). (Vulnerability 2015)
- The force should ensure that the risks posed by registered sex offenders are managed effectively. (Vulnerability 2016)
- The force should take steps to understand the reasons why a high proportion of crimes related to domestic abuse fall into the category ‘Evidential difficulties; victim does not support police action’, and rectify this to ensure that it is pursuing justice on behalf of victims of domestic abuse. (Vulnerability 2016)
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Understanding and identifying vulnerability
Cleveland Police’s approach to vulnerability is unclear. There is no vulnerability strategy or whole-force approach that the workforce knows about. The force uses a variation of the College of Policing’s vulnerability definition and has trained frontline officers to help improve their understanding of vulnerability. But the language consistently used by officers and staff at all levels within the force is about ‘reducing demand’. There isn’t enough focus on the victim.
The force has a limited understanding of the full breadth of vulnerability. It has individual strategies for domestic abuse and missing persons. The last time it produced its domestic abuse profile was in 2016 and it hasn’t refreshed it since. However, it has done more detailed analysis to understand repeat victims of all types of crime, including victims of domestic abuse. In the 12 months to April 2019, the number of domestic abuse repeat victims increased by 21 percent compared with the previous 12 months. Nearly half of the domestic abuse incidents reported relate to repeat victims and the force has carried out work to understand this. It has also analysed the data on its missing children incidents, which make up most of its missing person reports. In the 12 months to April 2019, 228 children went missing a second or subsequent time, which resulted in the force responding 1,828 times to look for these children. However, the force doesn’t sufficiently use the understanding that it has to inform how it responds to missing children incidents and it hasn’t done a detailed analysis of other types of vulnerability.
The force has trained its workforce and provided guidance to help improve understanding of vulnerability. For frontline officers, this has included training in coercive and controlling behaviour, including stalking and harassment and cyberbullying. Officers value this training and the force has applied for funding so that it can extend it to the rest of the workforce. In 2018 the training was in honour-based abuse and in 2017 it focused on ‘through the eyes of a child’ and adverse childhood experiences. Awareness sessions about vulnerability, which force specialists were providing in 2017, have now stopped. The force provides the workforce with guidance on how to respond to people with mental ill health, learning difficulties and autism. It also gives the workforce guidance about recognising victims of modern-day slavery, including the action that should be taken to safeguard them and investigate these types of crimes.
However, the force isn’t proactive enough in uncovering ‘hidden’ harm. Frontline officers don’t have a good enough knowledge of the signs to look for, such as poor living conditions and social isolation. The force’s VEMT team is also responsible for identifying hidden harm, but its workload means that it has limited capacity to do proactive work. The force is encouraging the public to report incidents involving people being the subject of forced labour through a ‘Safe Car Wash’ app (see ‘Tackling serious and organised crime – understanding threats for further information).
When vulnerable victims contact the force, it doesn’t identify or assess them well enough. Call handlers show good basic communication skills and empathy with callers, but the force hasn’t trained them in identifying vulnerable people. Call handling systems automatically identify repeat callers through phone number and address records, but call handlers don’t have access to all relevant force systems and don’t consistently ask the right questions or complete a structured risk assessment.
We found examples of the control room diverting 101 (non-emergency) calls to enquiry desk answerphones as a way for the force to manage its demand. These calls then become the responsibility of enquiry desk staff. However, the force hasn’t properly managed this change to its processes and hasn’t considered the potential risk created. Some calls are being left overnight, and sometimes over weekends and bank holidays, without being responded to because staff aren’t on duty. This means that some vulnerable victims aren’t being identified and responded to quickly enough.
Health and social care partners help the force assess some vulnerable victims, which works well, but they aren’t available all the time. A mental health practitioner works 12.00pm to 12.00am and a domestic abuse worker is available weekends only. They help the force by reviewing incidents to determine the level of response needed.
Responding to incidents
Cleveland Police can’t respond to all incidents involving vulnerable victims promptly enough and leaves over a third of them waiting for a response. It downgrades many of these active incidents to help it meet its response time targets, but it doesn’t base these decisions on any change in the victim’s circumstances or on a reassessment of risk. For example; when an incident is reported and is assessed as requiring an officer to respond as a priority (within an hour), we found many examples of these incidents being inappropriately downgraded to a lesser priority resulting in a significantly longer wait for vulnerable victims. This means that the force is intentionally suppressing demand. Chief officers don’t have a clear view of this because response data reported at force performance meetings is inaccurate: it incorrectly shows that the force had a 90 percent response rate to emergency incidents in April 2019, when its actual response rate was 64 percent. Despite us telling the force this in July 2018, it has continued to report inaccurate data. Its response rate to other incidents, or the level of incidents that are being re-graded, isn’t reported at all.
The force can’t respond to calls about missing persons in a timely way and it can’t manage the volume of calls it receives. It doesn’t have enough officers on duty when it receives these calls, which means the necessary enquiries can’t be completed quickly enough. These enquiries then become the responsibility of the following shift, usually the next day.
Victims of domestic abuse often receive a delayed response, which puts them at risk. The force has a domestic abuse car to help respond to standard-risk domestic abuse victims through scheduled appointments, but some high-risk victims (who need an immediate or priority response) are included. The car only operates when there are enough officers on duty to resource it. The force also doesn’t have enough specialist officers available to respond to victims of sexual offences.
The force isn’t assessing and recording the risk to victims of domestic abuse at initial contact well enough. Response officers complete a structured risk assessment with the victim, but we found a third hadn’t been completed. The force’s telephone investigation unit completes risk assessments without seeing the victim or others in the household. While there is a national pilot project in progress to try this approach, Cleveland Police isn’t part of this, so its own activities aren’t taking place within an appropriately controlled environment. Also, the telephone unit is only completing 50 percent of the risk assessments required.
A secondary review is completed by supervisors, but these reviews are inadequate and don’t consider cumulative risk to victims. The force has changed its process and as a result has introduced unnecessary risk in the way it assesses the level of safeguarding a victim receives. There are examples of frontline supervisors incorrectly downgrading the level of risk assessed by the response officer. The force expects supervisors to research wider information available on force systems for all victims assessed as standard risk. But supervisors often don’t have the time to do thorough research, which means they are making poor decisions based on incomplete information. As a result, some victims don’t receive the right level of safeguarding. This change in process has been made solely to manage demand, not the risk to the victim.
The force isn’t safeguarding victims in a timely way because of delays in the referral process. Referrals for victims assessed as high and medium risk are sent to the force’s protecting vulnerable people support hub for further review. We found 448 risk assessments that hadn’t been progressed. The force told us that this queue had been triaged so that all high-risk cases were dealt with promptly but, in the small sample we reviewed, we immediately found some high-risk cases (the oldest of which was three months old). We referred these cases to the force for immediate action.
The force is putting at risk children who live in, or are associated with, domestic abuse households. It isn’t always recording the details of these children, which means that it isn’t identifying them as being vulnerable. Our 2017 joint national child protection inspection of Cleveland Police recommended that attending officers always record observations of a “child’s behaviour and demeanour” in domestic abuse incidents so that better assessments can be made of the child’s needs. The force has shown no improvement. Its secondary review process, based on wider information, doesn’t always identify these children and the force has no way of assessing the cumulative risk to a child. The force only identifies a child to be vulnerable, and makes the appropriate referrals, if they are already recorded on force systems with a ‘vulnerability marker’. However, there is no referral pathway for children who are vulnerable but don’t have a marker already in place. This means that no strategy discussion or meeting will take place to make sure that these children are safe.
Cleveland Police doesn’t take enough action to protect vulnerable victims. In too many cases, it isn’t proactively pursuing domestic abuse offenders who are wanted. This is at a time when the force is experiencing an increase in the number of incidents of repeat victimisation. Officers have access to body-worn video cameras to help progress evidence-led prosecutions, but they aren’t always using them. The force’s overall arrest rate is 25 percent, a decrease of 9.9 percent compared with the previous year. This is still slightly lower than the England and Wales average of 28 percent for the period ending March 2019. The force’s use of voluntary attendance is in line with the England and Wales rate of 8.4 percent.
The force works well with its partners to respond to victims who have mental health problems. It has a mental health street triage service – to provide advice and support for people experiencing mental health crisis – run by nurses. This means that people with mental health problems receive a better response, including getting appropriate care more quickly, and police officers are less likely to respond to incidents where they aren’t required. It also reduces the number of instances where officers detain a person under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
Supporting vulnerable victims
Cleveland Police has a clear approach to continuing safeguarding but doesn’t implement it effectively. Neighbourhood teams aren’t routinely involved in the continuing safeguarding of vulnerable people in their communities through activities such as providing crime prevention advice and reassurance visits. The force’s crime prevention team does the target hardening required for victims of domestic abuse.
The force doesn’t make effective and consistent use of its protective powers and measures to safeguard vulnerable victims. In 2017, we reported that the force’s use of domestic abuse notices had more than halved. The force intended putting a dedicated officer in place to support the use of domestic abuse protection notices, but this didn’t happen. Its use of protection notices and protection orders for domestic abuse offenders hasn’t improved, despite an increase in reports of domestic abuse and repeat victims. We also found no evidence that the force is monitoring the orders for breaches. The force isn’t always using pre-charge bail for cases of domestic abuse and instead releases some suspects under investigation. It doesn’t oversee its data for RUI in cases of domestic abuse.
The force isn’t giving people the information they need to protect themselves. It isn’t making disclosures under Clare’s Law promptly enough and we found a backlog of 58 Clare’s Law applications, one of which had been outstanding for two and a half months. The delay in Sarah’s Law disclosures is shorter. While the force makes good use of these schemes, there is an unknown level of risk within the backlogs and delays because people need the information to help keep them safe.
Cleveland Police works well with partners in the north of the force area to support longer-term safeguarding. It contributes to the effectiveness of the multi-agency children’s hub, which has been in place since 2017 to provide early and effective intervention. The hub is well managed and has no backlogs. It takes all the referrals from the force and deals with them as a multi-agency team to address children’s safeguarding. The force had intended to have a second multi-agency hub in the south of its area, with a ‘go live’ date of June 2019, but this has been delayed. This has been an area for improvement for the force since 2015. In the meantime, the force’s protecting vulnerable people support hub sends referrals in this area directly to children’s services and adult social care.
Operation Encompass had led to improvements in how the force notified schools of any children affected by domestic abuse. This scheme supports those children who are of school age by notifying the school if an incident has taken place the previous day. However, the force hasn’t allocated enough resources to manage the level of work: it should have two police staff, but only one is in post. Also, officers don’t always record the details of children who are involved, or connected with, domestic abuse incidents.
The force’s VEMT team co-ordinates a joint-agency approach to support vulnerable children. This is to minimise repeat episodes of missing children while also reducing potential harm. When a child goes missing three or more times within 90 days, children’s care services hold a strategy meeting or risk management meeting. However, there is no assurance that these meetings are happening promptly. Officers spend a lot of time preparing for and attending these meetings and, if further crimes are identified, they are responsible for recording these crimes and on occasions progressing the investigations, which creates more work. The workload in the unit is high across all its functions of preventing, problem solving and investigating cases. The team doesn’t record enough information and doesn’t have enough resources or effective processes to adequately do the role it was set up to do.
All high-risk cases of domestic abuse are referred to a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC), with a strategic meeting held every two weeks. The MARAC partner agencies screen these referrals and only take on the ‘really high-risk’ cases, based on an assessment of multi-agency information available. An independent chair now oversees this process.
The force seeks feedback from vulnerable victims. It surveys all victims monthly about the quality of service they receive. This includes domestic abuse victims who don’t support police taking action. The force completes high-level analysis of victim satisfaction. It reports the results through its performance meetings. The office of the police and crime commissioner (OPCC) has formed a quarterly domestic abuse working group to scrutinise the force’s approach to domestic abuse victims. This is made up of external representatives from the four local authorities, support agencies, voluntary organisations and the Crown Prosecution Service. The group reviews individual cases end to end to identify learning. Force representatives are present at the meeting so that the force will understand any improvements it has identified.
The force is managing registered sex offenders (RSOs) who may pose a risk to vulnerable people. However, the workload within the unit is at the high end of what is considered reasonable. There is an increasing demand for assessments and visits to be undertaken by this unit, alongside a steadily increasing number of sex offenders, but the force has no plan to address this. Officers manage their workload through prioritising high-risk visits, with most visits being unannounced. It is managing the workload it has by prioritising high-risk visits. There is a small backlog of risk assessments and visits to lower-risk offenders.
The force makes good use of technology to monitor the conditions given to dangerous and sexual offenders. It places software on the mobile devices of some RSOs (with their consent) to monitor their online activity. The software notifies the officer when the RSO makes specific searches online. The force makes good use of ‘Buddi’ tags – a tracking device that ensures offenders are complying with their conditions – and intends to enforce these by using sexual harm prevention orders. It makes good use of these orders and monitors for breaches, although more recently there has been a decline in their use.
Neighbourhood teams don’t have enough knowledge of dangerous offenders and sex offenders living in their local area. Occasionally, they are given enquiries to carry out relating to these offenders but they don’t have an overall awareness. Previously, officers and PCSOs kept themselves informed by using the force’s iMap system, but this no longer takes place as standard practice. Awareness briefings, which staff found useful, only happened in the north of the force. Officers have completed work with a local mental health facility to build knowledge and confidence of the staff dealing with RSOs. This included awareness of escorted and unescorted leave, and how to manage people who fail to return and potentially dangerous persons.Summary for question 3
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Areas for improvement
- The force needs to develop a better understanding of the effect of its activity on serious and organised crime across the four Ps, and make sure it learns from experience to maximise its disruptive effect.
During our pre-inspection in December 2018, we found that the management of serious and organised crime lacked leadership and direction. There was limited prevention activity and no accountability for those responsible for disrupting organised crime. Some good work was taking place, but this was as a result of individuals rather than force direction or a co-ordinated force approach. We gave our findings to the force five months ahead of the inspection because of the deterioration in this area. The force listened and made improvements ahead of the inspection taking place.
Cleveland Police understands the serious and organised crime threats across the force area. It has a thorough strategic assessment process to identify and assess the threats. This includes new threats such as child exploitation, modern-day slavery and cybercrime. The force uses MoRiLE to assess risk and identify priorities.
The force has aligned its strategy and governance for serious and organised crime to the national strategy and follows the 4P framework (pursue, prevent, protect, prepare). It manages this through a strategic board, which is informed by a local partnership board and a serious and organised crime local profile (SOCLP). The SOCLP guides partnership activity. It includes partner data and information and is updated bi-annually. Force and partnership analysts were completing the work to support this at the time of our inspection.
The force takes positive steps to understand newer threats such as modern-day slavery, child sexual exploitation and county lines, and continues to identify OCGs. Emerging threats are discussed at the force’s tasking and co-ordinating meeting. The force recognises county lines activity as a threat, but has previously referred to it as ‘child exploitation’. In January 2019, it held a county lines ‘intensification week’ with partners. It is starting to question why its child sexual exploitation crime levels are decreasing, while its intelligence submissions are increasing. It has support from partner organisations and other agencies in dealing with modern-day slavery through an anti-slavery network.
The force seeks intelligence to develop its understanding of the threat from serious and organised crime. It understands the gaps in its knowledge and co-ordinates activity to fill these gaps. It has communicated the intelligence it is seeking to both staff and partners, and it tasks and collects intelligence from a range of sources, including external partners. It exchanges intelligence with other forces, the regional organised crime unit and partner organisations.
The force acts on the intelligence it receives from a range of sources. A recent example is when intelligence from Crimestoppers resulted in the force identifying and mapping a new OCG. Investigators review suspicious activity reports that help to determine unusual financial activity. This then informs how the force can disrupt organised crime activity using partner powers. The Safe Car Wash app provides the force with local intelligence when a member of the public suspects modern-day slavery.
The force has 25 OCGs. It properly assesses new OCGs as soon as it identifies them. This is done immediately and before any operational activity takes place, unless urgent activity is required. The majority of these OCGs are reviewed and re-scored at regular intervals. Scanning and trigger processes are in place for OCGs assessed as lower risk. The force is archiving OCGs correctly.
The force doesn’t identify urban street gangs, although it has started to look for county lines criminal networks. It does identify anti-social behaviour gangs and other people who would fall into the category of county lines, but it doesn’t define them by this name. The force is doing work with partners to raise awareness of county lines but it could also do this through its school’s liaison officers.
Serious and organised crime prevention
Cleveland Police is good at deterring people at risk of being drawn into organised crime. This is one of the approaches in the force’s serious and organised crime strategy. It works with young children through youth engagement meetings and activities. It holds bi-monthly meetings with partner organisations and has a set programme of diversionary activity focused on specific areas.
The force proactively identifies those at risk of being drawn into crime and gang violence in order to safeguard them. For example, it has worked with partners and other agencies to protect children from being criminally exploited. These vulnerable children were being drawn into shoplifting by an organised gang, and the force co-ordinated a multi-agency approach to safeguard them. Long-term interventions were put in place to prevent them from becoming lifetime offenders.
The force doesn’t use gang injunctions to tackle gang crime. Gang activity in Cleveland mainly focuses on anti-social behaviour and the force deals with this by using anti-social behaviour powers with partners.
The force is managing organised criminals through a lifetime offender management approach. It has introduced a new process, informed by the regional approach to lifetime offender management. This process is used for both prioritised individuals and other organised criminals.
The force has capable lead responsible officers to oversee OCGs. They are responsible for knowing what is happening with these groups and for disrupting their activity. The force monitors the activity of organised criminals while in prison. It works well with prisons, probation and the regional prison liaison unit to actively monitor and manage them. It manages their movements between prisons and prepares for their release.
Cleveland Police makes good use of serious crime prevention orders (SCPOs) to prevent organised criminals from offending while in custody or on release from prison. The force’s integrated offender management team has three dedicated SCPO managers who manage and enforce ancillary orders.
The force publicises successful operations through social media. This is to reassure communities about what has happened and why. There are good examples of individual teams promoting awareness about modern-day slavery and cybercrime. The force has developed a booklet, which it has circulated to partners to raise awareness about organised crime. However, the force could do more to communicate prevention messages to deter people from engaging in organised crime and protect them from being victims. The force doesn’t have a corporate communications strategy to manage its communication campaigns.
Disruption and investigation
A senior force leader is responsible for driving a whole-force approach to tackling serious and organised crime, and has taken steps towards holding staff to account through a new governance structure. The force has a strategic serious and organised crime delivery board, and an active serious and organised local partnership board. These meet regularly and have recently revised the terms of reference and increased membership. The force has a clear method for prioritising OCGs for investigation. It assigns capable local responsible officers to all active OCGs to manage them over their active lifespan. They have the support and advice they need from specialists in the force and within the region. The force regularly scrutinises activity and holds local responsible officers and senior investigating officers to account.
The force considers a broad range of tactics to disrupt and dismantle OCGs. There are 4P plans in place for each OCG. Local responsible officers are confident in using a range of tactics, including both covert and overt tactics. They have received training on the range of tactics available and which to consider for what purpose. The force uses financial investigations and asset recovery to dismantle and disrupt OCGs.
Cleveland Police disrupts, dismantles and investigates serious and organised crime well with other forces, agencies and partner organisations. The force’s approach to serious and organised crime activity includes a regional and three-force approach under Operation Sentinel with Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police. As well as the force’s specialist teams, it draws on support from regional specialist units. It is also supported by British Transport Police, Harbour Police and Nuclear Policing teams. It makes good use of the Government Agency Intelligence Network to access partner intelligence and disruptive powers. It also uses an extended network of partners, including trading standards, local authorities and social services. However, we saw signs that the removal of neighbourhood officers was starting to have a negative effect because they weren’t available to carry out lower-level disruption activity.
The force manages threats to life well by responding to dynamic intelligence – intelligence that is constantly being refreshed as new information comes in. There is 24/7 cover with decisions about intelligence being made by the receiving officer and the necessary support identified. Threats to life are reviewed and allocated for immediate action.
The force is starting to identify county lines networks, but we can’t yet assess how well it tackles or dismantles them. When children are identified, the force’s VEMT team manages them and works with partners to put appropriate measures in place to divert them away from this activity and safeguard them.
The force has limited understanding of the long-term effect it is having on serious and organised crime. During 2018 and 2019, the force made an average of 2.2 disruptions per OCG. This is slightly lower than the England and Wales average. The force’s analysis in preparing its local serious and organised crime profile is intended to show the impact of its activity. However, the force told us that this is proving difficult because of the complexity of collating the required information and the complex nature of organised criminality.Summary for question 4
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Understanding the threat and responding to it
Cleveland Police operates joint arrangements with Durham Constabulary to provide armed policing. This ensures that the standards of training, armed deployments and command of armed operations are the same in both forces.
The force has a good 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 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.
All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. These standards relate to the role they perform. Most armed incidents in Cleveland are attended to by officers trained to an armed response vehicle (ARV) standard. However, incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and capabilities of more highly trained officers.
Some ARV officers expressed concerns that specialist officers aren’t always available to attend incidents when these additional skills are needed. On these occasions, we were told that ARV officers sometimes resolve the incidents as an expedient method of reducing the danger and protecting the public. However, it is important that, for the safety of all concerned, the skills and capabilities of armed officers match the threats they face.
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.
The joint operational arrangements with Durham Constabulary mean that ARV officers can deploy quickly and efficiently in both force areas. This is undoubtedly a strength. However, we believe that extending collaborative arrangements to other forces in the north east would be of benefit. In particular, consideration should be given to developing a SFO capability with other forces in the region. This would provide greater assurance that officers with the right skills are on hand to manage the threats presented by the most dangerous criminals.
We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Cleveland are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. Also, the force 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 the force reviews the outcome of all firearms incidents that officers attend. This helps ensure that best practice or areas for improvement are identified. However, officers told us that some suggestions they have put forward – for example, how control room procedures could be improved – haven’t been followed through to a logical conclusion.Summary for question 5