Dorset PEEL 2018
How legitimately does the force treat the public and its workforce?
We judge Dorset Police to be good in terms of its legitimacy, and how it treats the public and its workforce.
The force is good at treating the public fairly. Officers and staff make fair and ethical decisions, and the leadership monitors all incidents in which force is used and gives feedback to the officers involved.
Dorset Police stops and searches a disproportionately high number of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, when compared with other forces in England and Wales. It has improved its internal monitoring of stop and search, but it should make sure that all officers and staff recognise unconscious bias.
The force’s approach to tackling corruption is mostly reactive. Its counter-corruption unit (CCU) does not have the capacity to do much proactive work, and it is held back by its outdated IT systems.
It also needs to make sure that all staff, particularly those in specialist teams, understand the abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
Dorset Police is good at treating its workforce fairly. Staff told us that they saw the leadership as open and approachable. There can be some delay in handling grievances, but the force is trying to address this.
The force could take a more focused approach to increasing workforce diversity.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
Leaders in Dorset Police create a positive working environment by acting as role models. The force bases its training and policies on the Code of Ethics, which defines the exemplary standards of behaviour for everyone who works in policing, and the national decision model, which helps forces make fair decisions.
Neighbourhood policing teams engage well with the public through social media, street-corner meetings and regular visits to places of worship, food banks and refuges. Dorset Police works with several local organisations to improve relations with communities that have less confidence in the police.
Supervisors give officers feedback and guidance on their use of force, to make sure it is fair, and any incidents in which force is used are scrutinised by a panel. Officers and staff are obliged to attend one day of personal safety refresher training every year.
During 2017, the force trained all frontline officers in the use of stop and search powers. However, many of the officers and staff that we spoke to during our inspection had limited knowledge of unconscious bias. Dorset Police stops and searches a disproportionately high number of people from BAME backgrounds when compared with other forces in England and Wales. The force has adopted a range of measures to try and improve its performance in this area.
In 2017, we recommended that the force should evaluate how its stop and search activity helped it to meet its policing priorities. We are now satisfied that the force thoroughly monitors stop and search. We also recommended that the force should improve its external monitoring and this, too, has been implemented.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all members of the workforce have a sufficient understanding of unconscious bias.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
Dorset Police maintains an ethical culture. Its leaders promote the force’s values and the Code of Ethics. Staff told us that they saw the leadership team as accessible and receptive to ideas and challenge.
There is an established ethics committee, shared with Devon and Cornwall Police. We saw good examples of ethical decision-making in relation to critical cases, the allocation of time off, conflicts of interest, and gifts made by bereaved families. We also saw compelling examples of officers reporting inappropriate behaviour.
The force’s approach to tackling corruption is mostly reactive. Once a concern has been raised, the force investigates it to an acceptable standard. But its CCU does not have the capacity to do much proactive work, and it is held back by its outdated IT systems.
Previously, the force has worked with agencies who support vulnerable people, to make sure that officers and staff are behaving appropriately. This is no longer happening, which presents a corruption risk.
The force could do more to tackle the abuse of position for sexual purpose. The CCU does not currently have the capacity to handle intelligence on this type of corruption. Not all staff in specialist investigation teams are aware of it, including those that deal with serious and sexual offenders and their victims.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that its counter-corruption unit:
- has enough capability and capacity to counter corruption effectively and proactively;
- can fully monitor all of its computer systems, including mobile data, to proactively identify data breaches, protect the force’s data and identify computer misuse; and
- builds effective relationships with individuals and organisations that support and work with vulnerable people.
- The force should improve the knowledge and understanding of the abuse of position for a sexual purpose within its specialist teams.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
Leaders in Dorset Police are focused on providing fairness at work. They promote an open and approachable culture, and there are direct lines of communication between the chief officer’s team and the workforce.
The force has not been dealing with grievance cases within the target timescales, but it has revised its procedures to deal with this. Most of the officers and staff that we spoke to were aware of the new procedure. The PSD reviews misconduct investigations to make sure they are not unfairly targeting staff from BAME groups.
Although Dorset Police does some good work to encourage workforce diversity, its strategic plans lack clarity. The force should make sure that it has adequate structures in place to promote diversity.
Workforce wellbeing is a priority for Dorset Police, and it places equal importance on both physical and mental wellbeing. There is a caring culture in the force, and staff told us that they felt their welfare was a priority for the leadership. However, morale is low in some teams with high workloads or long-term vacancies.
In our 2017 inspection, we found that the force needed to improve the management of its performance development review (PDR) process. The force has made progress in this area. Newly-promoted sergeants demonstrated a good understanding of performance management. The workforce generally has a positive view of management in the force.
Even though the force reviews its promotion processes regularly, some people still felt promotion was dependent on professional relationships.Detailed findings for question 3