Derbyshire PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
Derbyshire Constabulary needs to improve the way it reduces crime and keeps people safe. This is a decline from the judgment of ‘good’ in our last inspection. It reflects the quality of investigations having fallen and that arrangements to provide safeguarding measures for vulnerable people could be improved.
The volume of the force’s investigations is growing quickly, driven by changes it had to make so that crimes are recorded more accurately. The force is now relying more heavily on resolving investigations by telephone. However, it isn’t following all lines of enquiry in such cases.
Since our last inspection, there has been an increase in the overall proportion of investigations that the force isn’t handling effectively. It needs better supervision of cases and more accurate record keeping.
The force is dealing with more suspects through voluntary attendance at police stations, including for domestic abuse cases. This reduces the options for safeguarding victims and witnesses. The force needs to better analyse the reasons for, and the consequences of, this trend.
The force has enough investigators, and they have manageable workloads. It is good at identifying hidden types of crime, such as modern slavery. And it is effective in dealing with foreign national offenders.
The force should do more to develop its understanding of all types of vulnerability across the local community. We note that new teams offer help and long-term support to people who have mental health conditions.
The force needs to improve its risk assessments and referrals to specialist organisations. It has kept its commitment to multi-agency working at two safeguarding hubs, while other organisations have reduced their presence at them.
In 2016, we judged the force as good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. And, in 2017, we judged the force as outstanding at tackling serious and organised crime.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that it puts in place regular and active supervision consistently and records its appropriately to monitor the quality and progress of investigations.
- The force should improve how it manages people wanted for arrest and circulated on PNC.
- The force should improve the scrutiny of how suspects are managed during investigations, including if decisions to arrest and grant bail are being made in the best interests of the victims and witnesses.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of performance in this area.
Since we last inspected this area in 2016, the quality of Derbyshire Constabulary’s investigations has declined. Specifically:
- the force is handling fewer investigations well;
- its supervision isn’t as effective as it should be;
- it is closing some cases too soon; and
- its records of investigations need to be more accurate.
However, the quality of investigations is a priority for the force. And senior leaders recognise the need for the force to improve. A chief officer leads a new board: achieving excellence in investigations. This board is improving scrutiny about performance (including how the force cares for victims). The board is also introducing better professional development for investigators.
The force is increasing the number of investigators within its workforce. It estimates that, by late 2019, it will have filled 89 percent of its investigator posts. This is slightly above the average of 82 percent for all forces in England and Wales. Most investigators who are in post are fully accredited. Others are in training, including the 22 new investigators who were recruited in early 2019.
During our inspection fieldwork, we spoke to many investigators with different responsibilities and levels of experience. Most of them told us that they had the correct skills for their role. And nearly all said that they had manageable workloads. Some investigators in highly specialised roles felt less well prepared in relation to the technical skills that are needed for the most complex investigations (which don’t occur frequently), and under more pressure.
The force has an investigation management policy. This explains the expectations it has of its investigators. However, the workforce has a limited level of knowledge and understanding of the policy.
When we reviewed investigations before and during our inspection fieldwork, a recurring theme was inconsistent record keeping. There are important factors in resolving cases effectively. These include keeping details about action that has been taken; plans to deal with outstanding lines of enquiry; and scrutiny by supervisors. Some of the investigation plans that we saw (for both complex and other more commonly occurring crimes) lacked enough detail. Others had thorough and comprehensive plans and updates.
Before we did our fieldwork, we reviewed 60 files from the force’s recent investigations. In 44 of the 60 files, the force’s investigation was effective. However, 27 of the 60 files had either weak or no supervision recorded on them. In our 2016 inspection, those figures were 55 and 28 respectively. We expected the figures for both categories to have improved.
During our fieldwork, we reviewed more ongoing investigations. These encompassed a wide range of crime types and complexity. All of them were of an adequate standard. But, generally, the records were lacking in detail and supervisory oversight. Within the force, it is usual practice for investigators to plan and take investigations forward. Usually, supervisors just make endorsements. As a result, there was infrequent evidence of effective supervision. This is needed to make sure that investigators are working at a consistently good standard and focusing on giving victims a satisfactory outcome. The force should consider how to involve supervisors more closely during investigations, to make sure that cases reach the best outcome for victims.
In June 2019, the force changed the way in which it launches and allocates investigations. Now, staff at the contact management centre must generate crime records on initial contact with callers. When possible, they must also resolve investigations by telephone. During our inspection fieldwork, senior leaders regularly circulated data to show a comparison between crimes that had been resolved by telephone and those that could have been resolved that way but weren’t.
The force has guidelines about the types of crime that aren’t suitable for telephone resolution. These include any case where the call handler considers a person to be vulnerable. Stalking is a crime that the force considers to be unsuitable for telephone resolution. Harassment isn’t. The force should confirm that its approach fits within approved professional practice for investigations about stalking and harassment offences, particularly because accurate risk assessments can’t be carried out by telephone.
During our inspection fieldwork, we heard that some staff (such as call handlers) who are involved in the initial stages of investigations, particularly in cases that have few lines of enquiries, are struggling with their new responsibilities. They also feel under pressure to resolve investigations quickly.
The new approach to launching and allocating investigations has led to some adverse consequences. For example, staff at the telephone resolution stage have closed some cases without the appropriate lines of enquiry having been followed. They have also asked victims to complete enquiries themselves (for example, by gathering CCTV footage and identifying potential witnesses). And call handlers haven’t recorded detailed risk assessments.
It is understandable that the force maximises efficiency in terms of managing investigations. But it must be sensitive about:
- the appropriate use of telephone resolution;
- staff perceiving data as a performance target; and
- promoting the fact that investigations must meet victims’ needs.
When we spoke to investigators across the workforce, we drew confidence from the fact that they understand the need to support victims and keep in contact with them. However, in the cases we reviewed, the frequency of updates that officers record is variable. In 47 of the 60 cases that we reviewed before we did our fieldwork, victims received good care. That pattern was reflected in the investigations we looked at during fieldwork. There was greater consistency when the force dealt with vulnerable victims. Also, officers throughout the workforce have advanced skills and familiarity with techniques (such as sensitive use of video recording) to support those victims well.
The force has equipped all frontline officers and staff with body-worn video cameras, to capture footage when dealing with incidents. There were no examples of the force using such footage alone to support prosecutions when victims didn’t support police action.
In the year to 31 March 2019, investigations that were concluded with evidential difficulties (mainly when there isn’t enough evidence to support a prosecution), accounted for 22 percent of all crimes that the force recorded. This figure includes cases where there was an identified suspect, and the victim either did or didn’t support police action. In both cases, that figure was 9 percent, below the England and Wales rates of 10 percent and 18 percent respectively.
It must be noted that the force is in the early stages of its response to the findings of our CDI inspection, published in March 2019. According to that inspection, the force’s weak processes for crime recording were causing more than 30,300 crimes to go unrecorded every year. To give this figure some context, the force had recorded 61,227 crimes in total during the 12 months to the end of March 2019. When the force received our findings, it started a wide-ranging programme of changes to improve its compliance with the National Crime Recording Standard. (This is a standard for recording crimes to ensure that they are recorded consistently and accurately.)
We are concerned that, now the force is recording a greater volume of crimes, the inconsistences we found in how it investigates crimes could worsen. Its senior leaders do understand the complexities that are involved in improving investigative standards while workloads significantly increase. The growth in crime records that the force is now generating will place increasing pressure on its processes for recording, allocating and carrying out investigations.
Senior leaders must make sure that the changes they put in place to compensate for the growth in recorded crime don’t undermine the quality of investigations, or reduce the emphasis on achieving the best outcomes for victims.
Derbyshire Constabulary could improve the way it pursues suspects of crime. It could also improve its understanding of the use of both voluntary attendance and bail during the course of investigations. It is working well with other organisations to deal with foreign national offenders.
The force lists suspects on the police national computer (PNC) promptly. It subjects each case to a review every three, six and nine months, to see whether suspects have been arrested. However, the force can’t determine the exact number of people who are currently wanted, or the offences they have committed, or the degree of risk that these suspects pose to others.
The force relies on officers tracking down suspects as part of their workload, in addition to attending incidents and following other investigations. There is no force-wide operation that combines other resources to locate and arrest suspects. As a result, the force has no information available to show how effective or efficient it is at bringing fugitives to justice.
The force should develop a better approach, with more accurate data about the number of wanted suspects and the threat they pose to the public. It should also create more force-wide coherence as to how it locates and arrests suspects.
The force manages foreign national offenders very well. According to force figures, arresting officers refer approximately 70 percent of arrested foreign nationals to ACRO immediately, the remainder being referred during the course of investigations. The Project Advenus team is responsible for monitoring how foreign nationals who come to the attention of the police are dealt with, increasing the likelihood of fugitives from other countries being brought to justice. The team checks also the records of people who are interviewed by voluntary attendance at a police station to confirm that referrals to ACRO are not missed. In June 2019, force figures showed that 129 foreign national offenders were arrested, and the number of ACRO referrals was 217.
A representative from border force immigration works with the Project Advenus team one day every week. This means that foreign national offenders who are identified as being suitable for deportation are processed quickly.
The Project Advenus team includes two police officers from Romania. They provide language skills and cultural awareness. They also share intelligence from Romanian police forces to support investigations in Derbyshire.
The force needs to do more to understand its use of voluntary attendance to interview suspects at police stations during investigations. Investigating officers can elect to either arrest a suspect or arrange a voluntary interview. If they arrange the latter, they can’t place the suspect on bail or impose conditions on them while an investigation continues.
In the year to 31 March 2019, the force used voluntary attendance in 31 percent of investigations. This figure compares with 14 percent for all forces in England and Wales. Senior leaders offer no scrutiny to understand why the force uses voluntary attendance, or the types of crime involved.
In some cases, the use of bail and attached conditions is a means to keep victims and witnesses safe. Bail also places a legal duty on suspects to return to police custody. Suspects who are released from custody without bail are termed as being released under investigation (RUI). The force uses some scrutiny about the decisions to use RUI, but not about the use of bail and compliance with the terms associated with it.
The force should consider what steps it can take to make sure that it manages suspects properly throughout investigations, and that investigating officers make decisions about arrest and bail in the best interests of victims and witnesses.
When we spoke to investigators, they were confident about dealing with the rules for disclosure. The force is working with other professional bodies to make sure that it follows good practice guidelines in this respect. Force-wide, there are 20 disclosure ‘champions’ who give advice and support to colleagues. And there will be more training for officers and staff later in 2019. The champions have received enhanced training, including detailed guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service.
The force has consistently achieved outcomes from investigations that are in line with other forces in England and Wales. In some cases, its outcomes are better.
In the year to 31 March 2019, the force concluded 19 percent of investigations with action being taken against a suspect. This compares with a figure of 13 percent across England and Wales.
It must be noted that the force has an unusually high volume of crimes that have been investigated but haven’t yet been assigned an outcome. In the year to 31 March 2019, this applies to just under 8,000 (or 12 percent) of all crimes. The equivalent average figure in England and Wales is 7 percent. Because the cases are closed, this delay isn’t holding up investigations. But the scale has implications for how the force compares with other forces. Put simply, if all those cases led to the force taking no action against a suspect, then the overall percentage of cases with action taken would decrease significantly. It would benefit the force to quickly reduce the number of cases that are awaiting filing, and to develop a more robust understanding of how it has concluded those investigations.
The force’s anticipated increase in investigations, based on our projections, is significant. It is too soon for the force to understand the full effect of the changes it has made following our CDI inspection. Senior leaders must remain vigilant for warning signs about fewer suspects being brought to justice, and a fall in victim satisfaction. To this end, the force has developed a new and more comprehensive performance framework. This will be available from autumn 2019. It is hosted on a more powerful and sophisticated computer application than the force has used previously. It will give much richer analysis by bringing together, in real time, several sources of data linked to crime investigations that are already held by
the force. The application will help the force to quickly identify trends related to crime investigations; the exact composition of investigation workloads; and how it is progressing and resolving cases.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Areas for improvement
- The force should continue to enhance its strategic understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability within its local area through the use of partner data.
- The force should improve its understanding for the reasons for the declining domestic abuse arrest rate and take appropriate actions to address it.
- The force needs to ensure that there is sufficient capacity and capability to process the quantity of referrals made into the referral unit to ensure people are appropriately safeguarded.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of performance in this area.
Understanding and identifying vulnerability
Derbyshire Constabulary needs to improve how it understands the nature and scale of vulnerability. It has made dealing with vulnerability a priority. Recently, it realigned its resources to help identify and support vulnerable people. The workforce has a good understanding of what can cause a person to be considered vulnerable and the need to look for signs that are often hidden. For example, neighbourhood officers seek to recognise signs of potential modern slavery among people who work in the local community.
The force has a clear vulnerability strategy. A chief officer co-ordinates senior leadership through the vulnerability governance board. The board is structured so that a senior leader is responsible for each of the following areas:
- early intervention and prevention;
- protecting, supporting, safeguarding and managing risk;
- information, intelligence, data collection and management information;
- effective investigation and leadership;
- learning and development; and
During our inspection fieldwork, we spoke to officers and staff across the force. They have a good understanding of the signs that indicate a person might be vulnerable – all officers and staff could confidently list the signs. Staff are submitting more referrals for people who appear to be vulnerable and who may need additional support. According to the force’s figures, its referrals increased by 111 percent for adults and 84 percent for children in the 12 months between May 2018 and 2019.
The force would improve its understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability within the local community by working more closely with partner organisations, such as local authorities and healthcare providers. Currently, the exchange of information between the force and other organisations appears to be limited. There is some co-operative working, such as joint approaches to specific cases. But there is less activity at organisational level.
During our inspection fieldwork, there was no sign of the force actively seeking data from external parties to help it develop a rounded assessment of vulnerability in the local community. This makes it difficult for the force to fully understand the true scale of vulnerability and associated demand.
Chief officers have recognised that gaps are emerging between partner organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors. This is thought to be because of the effects of austerity measures. Recently, a new joint team comprising the force and Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service has started work to review and reinvigorate partnership activity, with an emphasis on preventing people from coming to harm.
During our CDI inspection, we found the force’s own data about vulnerable people being the victims of crime to be weak. For example, the force hadn’t recorded 228 crimes out of a potential 494 linked to domestic abuse incidents. We also estimated that the force didn’t record more than 540 sexual offences in the year covered by the inspection.
The force must find better ways to work with other organisations. It must also be sure to identify vulnerable people who report crimes, and give them the support they need.
The workforce understands less obvious forms of vulnerability, such as human trafficking and forced labour. There is clear evidence of the force identifying cases, supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice. A team of specialist officers has robust working relationships with other forces, as well as government agencies, foreign police services and organisations that provide cultural and emotional support to those who are affected. Frontline officers and staff are also familiar with other forms of hidden vulnerability, such as cuckooing, fraud and cyber crime. They are confident about how to access support for potential victims.
The force is making improvements to the way that staff recognise and understand whether a person is vulnerable when they first make contact. Recently, all call handlers have completed training so they can make accurate and consistent assessments about vulnerability. The training included re-emphasising the importance of using the THRIVE risk assessment tool, and then recording the basis of their assessment in enough detail. Call handlers must now treat all calls in this way, except for those about emergency incidents. (Initially, call handlers record fewer details about emergencies. This in the interests of sending help as quickly as possible.)
The call handlers’ training coincided with the force changing its policy so that call handlers must now generate crime records during their initial contact with victims. The training and accompanying policy change gave a new emphasis to the role of call handlers, and increased their level of responsibility. This was a necessary and pragmatic step by the force. However, not all call handlers are following the training. Also, some staff who work at police station public enquiry offices weren’t given the training. These staff carry out very similar duties to those of call handlers, but they are effectively operating with fewer skills. They aren’t aware of the force’s new expectations about vulnerability and crime records. The force should address this matter as soon as possible.
During our inspection fieldwork, we looked at incident records and spent time with call handlers. The computer system for recording incidents automatically indicates when a caller has called the force before. It also links with other computer systems to determine whether the caller has been a victim of crime in the past (specifically, domestic abuse or hate crime), or is known to have mental health conditions.
The force’s call handlers are inconsistent in how much detail they record. We heard call handlers asking pertinent questions to identify signs of risk and vulnerability, but they didn’t always follow up or clarify their questions. Occasionally, they only recorded very brief details according to the THRIVE format. In some cases, we didn’t sense that call handlers understood the implications of what they were recording, or how their notes would determine the actions of frontline colleagues. Other staff appeared to be continuing with their own approach to determining vulnerability, rather than adhering to the THRIVE model.
Not all calls to the force result in an incident or crime record being created. The computer system is configured to generate a record of contact (known as a ‘ROC’). Usually this a way of passing on a message. However, we saw ROCs that contained enough information to support the creation of a crime record. As such, call handlers should have dealt with them as outlined above.
This two-tier method for handling information means that crime and vulnerability can go unrecorded. It isn’t clear how the force monitors the content of ROCs. It should act to determine whether staff are missing issues relating to vulnerability, or bypassing crime recording standards.
Responding to incidents
Derbyshire Constabulary attends incidents promptly when it has identified vulnerability. It prioritises attendance at incidents of domestic abuse. Officers who attend domestic abuse incidents carry out risk assessments and consider immediate safeguarding actions. They use the domestic abuse, stalking and harassment (DASH) risk assessment process, in common with other forces, and submit their assessments immediately on mobile devices. Within the workforce, these assessments are known as ‘public protection notifications’ (PPNs). A supervisor must check all PPNs. During our inspection fieldwork, we reviewed several of them. Each was fully completed. Often, they included an expression of professional judgment. This is a positive indication that officers are considering how each factor is affecting the person involved. However, some assessments that had been made for domestic abuse incidents didn’t have details about children who were present at the time. This is in contrast to our last PEEL police effectiveness inspection, published in March 2018, when the force’s officers were routinely seeing and recording details about children. The force should remind officers to record actions they have taken to check on the welfare of children at such incidents. A training programme for all frontline officers and staff, ‘Domestic abuse matters’, was scheduled to start in September 2019. This training includes how to conduct accurate risk assessments.
The force’s use of protective powers to safeguard victims of domestic abuse is inconsistent. In the year to 31 March 2019, the force made arrests in around 53 percent of domestic abuse incidents. This figure marks a reduction compared with our last inspection. Then, the force arrested 65.3 percent of suspects.
However, in the year to 31 March 2019, the force was using voluntary attendance rather than arrest in 35 percent of cases. That figure is 9 percent across England and Wales. It marks a considerable increase compared with our last inspection when voluntary attendance applied to 13 percent of the force’s cases. If officers aren’t using their powers of arrest, then they aren’t exercising some safeguarding options (such as immediate removal of a suspect from the scene and the setting of bail conditions). The force doesn’t gather information about why its officers are making such decisions. It should find a way to confirm that decisions about using the power of arrest are appropriate, and that it is carrying out effective safeguarding.
The proportion of offenders who were charged or summonsed for domestic abuse crimes in 2017/18 was 28 percent. This figure is higher than the proportion for all forces in England and Wales.
The force is steadily growing its range of services, and its partnership activity with other organisations, to offer help and support to people who have mental health conditions. It has a clear commitment to continue to improve its services in this respect, and a chief officer is responsible for this work. In early 2019, the force created two new roles specifically to work on matters related to mental health conditions. These officers work closely with partner organisations to identify and introduce national best practice.
Frontline officers and staff have a good understanding of the impact of mental health conditions. They described to us how they can access specialist advice and support to help them deal with incidents at certain times of day. At the time of our last PEEL police effectiveness inspection in 2018, skilled mental health practitioners worked alongside call handlers every weekday from 4.00pm to midnight. Now, they also work weekends, between 9.00am and midnight. This increased availability is a positive step. The force needs to evaluate its triage service in line with our national recommendation, to understand the benefits this service brings and how it can develop it further.
The force has a formal agreement in place with other organisations that support people who have mental health conditions. This agreement is called the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat, and it is the basis for how the organisations work together.
Outcomes from the concordat include:
- a mental health hub to accommodate police and mental health specialists working together;
- a new joint engagement team that identifies people who frequently access police and other public services and who have mental health conditions, with the aim of giving them appropriate support; and
- regular meetings to review the use of section 136 of the Mental Health Act; these meetings consider whether this power was used appropriately and whether the person in question was taken to the most suitable location to receive help.
Supporting vulnerable victims
The force’s senior leadership shows a clear commitment to supporting vulnerable victims. Recently, they reorganised the workforce and enhanced the neighbourhood safeguarding teams. These teams offer long-term support to vulnerable people who have been assessed as being less likely to come to harm. They are distinct from the teams that offer community policing services. Other specialists within the force offer support to people who are at greater risk of harm.
The development of these teams helps local staff to better understand the nature of vulnerability in their community, and to carry out meaningful safeguarding for victims. During our inspection fieldwork, it was apparent that each team works differently. Senior leaders must make sure that the different ways of working don’t affect the quality of support that the force gives to vulnerable people.
The force has also combined its specialist investigations teams for child abuse and domestic abuse. This change will lead to more effective ways of working by sharing workloads and skills.
The force makes use of the domestic violence disclosure scheme known as ‘Clare’s Law’. In the year to 31 March 2019, the force made 63 disclosures under the ‘right to ask’ following 138 applications; it made 67 disclosures under the ‘right to know’ following 97 applications. Each figure represents an increase compared with 2017. Disclosure rates for both the ‘right to ask’ and the ‘right to know’ are broadly similar to those for all forces in England and Wales.
The force is also making more use of other preventative legislation in the form of domestic violence protection notices and orders (DVPN/Os). In the year to 31 March 2019, the force authorised 224 DVPNs and the courts granted 207 DVPOs. The force has made more use of this legislation than in both our previous inspections. This is encouraging, and it means that the force is protecting more victims.
The force’s use of pre-charge bail is relatively low in domestic abuse cases. During our inspection fieldwork, there were some cases where the force had applied pre-charge bail and managed it effectively. But in other cases it hadn’t followed up breaches of bail conditions. The force has tried to improve its use of bail (by nominating certain officers as ‘champions’ who give advice and support to colleagues). However, it would be timely for the force to consider how to better exploit the advantages offered by bail across all investigations, and to develop better systems to monitor its use of bail.
The force is fully committed to working in partnership with other organisations to best meet the needs of vulnerable people. Two MASHs are in operation. One is for Derby City and the other for Derbyshire County. During our last inspection, the force prioritised cases effectively and there was very good information sharing between partner organisations. However, during our most recent inspection, all parties had reduced their presence to the extent that meaningful early intervention and shared approaches were difficult to action.
The value of a MASH is gained when all relevant organisations make meaningful contributions. We encourage the force to continue with its commitment to working in partnership to protect the most vulnerable people. This includes making sure that senior managers are actively negotiating with partner organisations to improve working practices for the benefit of all, and finding new ways to keep in close contact with other organisations.
In early 2019, the force restructured how it manages risk assessments and safeguarding referrals. Officers and staff are now based in a new risk referral unit at force headquarters. During our inspection fieldwork, we spoke to people in the unit. Demand from new referrals and the existing caseload was very high. This demand was causing staff to feel increasingly under pressure. In that context, we were surprised that staff who usually carry out administration tasks also answer telephone calls about incidents that should have been allocated to frontline officers. They were also making safeguarding referral decisions in cases where officers had missed information early in the referral process.
During our last inspection, the central referral unit, which was in place at the time, was swift and effective in managing risk assessments and making referrals to other organisations. Given the importance of this team’s function, the force should reflect on whether the current arrangements are the best configuration of resources to deal with demand that relates to vulnerability.
The force is an active participant in the multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs). From the information we reviewed, these meetings appear to be effective. But they have lengthy agendas, which is possibly because they only take place fortnightly. All cases that are assessed as being high risk are referred to the MARAC. But fewer cases are referred than would be expected: in 2017/18, the figure was 29 per 10,000 adult females in the local population. This compares with the SafeLives guidelines of 40.
Recently, the force made more explicit its guidance to supervisors that risk assessments must only be downgraded in very specific circumstances. This guidance followed a review by the force, after it had found that some inaccurate downgrading was taking place.
During our inspection fieldwork, we reviewed a very small number of recent assessments. We considered their basis to be reasonable, but the force could have recorded more information to support its rationale in each case. The force isn’t capturing data about the frequency or causes of downgrading. This leaves senior leaders unaware of the frequency and rationale for the downgrading that is still taking place.
We also reviewed other domestic abuse cases. The force didn’t treat some cases as high risk, but it should have. In this respect, the force’s errors included not re-referring victims of domestic abuse who had been discussed at the MARAC in the past 12 months, and not automatically treating as high risk people who had repeatedly been victims of domestic abuse.
During its scheduled training, the force must take the opportunity to reinforce its guidance for officers and supervisors who are involved in making domestic abuse risk assessments. It must also confirm that its guidance reflects best practice, including the guidelines given by SafeLives.
The force gathers the views of victims of domestic abuse through telephone surveys. It discusses these results at quarterly performance meetings, to learn how it can improve the services it offers. Criminal justice organisations also regularly give feedback about the force. This feedback draws on the views expressed by victims and witnesses in cases heard at the magistrates’ court.
The force manages well the risk posed by offenders towards vulnerable people.
Specialists make good use of risk assessment processes to effectively monitor violent and sexual offenders. There is no backlog of cases waiting to be assessed, and the records we saw were all up to date. The teams involved in this work are relatively small, but cover large areas. For that reason, they make few unannounced visits to offenders. If the force better resourced these teams, they could carry out more unannounced visits.
The force has applied ancillary orders (such as sexual risk orders) and followed them up effectively to ensure compliance by offenders.
Similarly, the force manages well the risk presented by paedophiles who operate online, and others who share indecent images of children.
An investigations team makes good use of technology. The team works hard to keep backlogs to a minimum, and to give reliable information to support arrests and subsequent investigations. Demand on this team is increasing, and workloads have grown significantly since our last inspection. Investigators also work shifts to support other teams. Given the rate at which demand is growing, senior leaders might consider whether it remains a viable approach to take investigators away from their specialist role.
When we spoke to neighbourhood officers, generally they knew which people in the local community presented a sexual or violent offending risk. Some officers had paid visits to them, with specialist colleagues. All were confident about how to access relevant records within the force’s systems.Summary for question 3
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
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 accompanied by a register of risks and other observations. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently.
There are two areas where the APSTRA could be improved:
- It would benefit from stronger analysis and intelligence of how organised crime groups or street gangs affect the local area. This was identified as an area for improvement in our 2017 effectiveness report and has still not been addressed.
- It should include a review of its register of risks to ensure that it accurately reflects their severity to the force. Supporting this with a robust plan would enable the force to prioritise and make necessary identified improvements.
Last year, we identified that the force’s APSTRA could be improved if it included analysis of the locations, such as crowded places, that are attractive targets for terrorists. The most recent APSTRA includes this detail.
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 Derbyshire Constabulary are attended by officers trained to an armed response vehicle (ARV) standard.
Incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and specialist capabilities of more highly trained officers. Derbyshire Constabulary retains its own specialist capabilities and can mobilise specialist officers should their skills be required.
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.
While the force retains the ability to deploy officers with specialist capabilities in line with the threats set out in the APSTRA, we believe that developing joint arrangements with neighbouring forces in the East Midlands region would be of benefit. This would provide greater assurance that officers with the right skills are on hand to manage the highest threats anywhere in the region.
We examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Derbyshire Constabulary 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 made for the future.
We found that Derbyshire Constabulary regularly debriefs incidents attended by armed officers. However, it does not identify best practice and areas for improvement on every occasion the deployment of armed officers is considered. The force should review operational learning procedures. This will help ensure that opportunities to improve are not overlooked.
It is important that, at the start of each shift, ARV officers are provided with up-to-date information that is relevant to their role. They can have a positive effect in disrupting the activity of organised crime groups and other armed criminals. In Derbyshire Constabulary, we found that opportunities are being missed to give this information to ARV officers and use their patrols to good effect.Summary for question 5