Durham PEEL 2018
How legitimately does the force treat the public and its workforce?
Durham Constabulary is good in how legitimately it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
There is a strong ethos within Durham Constabulary of ethical decision making. Staff are supported in the decisions they make as long as they can demonstrate good decision making. The constabulary gives all staff an information pack about the Code of Ethics to help them act ethically and fairly.
In 2016 we found that the constabulary was not complying with all aspects of national vetting guidelines. It has now done so, and has up-to-date vetting in place for the whole workforce.
At the time of our inspection the constabulary had no counter-corruption strategy. But it does have plans to rectify this. It also has mechanisms in place to encourage the workforce to report corruption.
In 2017, we judged the constabulary to be good at treating its workforce, and all of the people it serves, with fairness and respect.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 legitimacy inspection has been carried over. However, we reviewed a representative sample of 374 stop and search records to assess the reasonableness of the recorded grounds. We found that 94 percent had reasonable grounds recorded. Our assessment is based on the grounds recorded on the record by the searching officer and not the grounds that existed at the time of the search.
In our 2017 legitimacy report, we recommended that all forces should:
- monitor and analyse comprehensive stop and search data to understand reasons for disparities;
- take action on those; and
- publish the analysis and the action by July 2018.
We found that the constabulary has complied with some of this recommendation. But it doesn’t identify the extent to which find rates differ between people from different ethnicities and across different types of searches (including separate identification of find rates for drug possession and supply-type offences). It also isn’t clear that the constabulary monitors enough data to identify the prevalence of possession-only drug searches or the extent to which these align with local or force-level priorities.
We reviewed the constabulary’s website and found no mention of analysis it had carried out to understand reasons for disparities or explain subsequent action taken.
We will continue to monitor progress in this area.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that its counter-corruption unit has enough capability and capacity to counter corruption effectively and proactively.
- The force should ensure it has a counter-corruption strategic threat assessment and control strategy which enables it to understand and manage the risk corruption poses to the organisation.
- The force should monitor its vetting decisions to identify disparities and disproportionality (e.g. BAME groups), and act to reduce them where appropriate.
Durham Constabulary is good at ensuring that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. It maintains a strong culture of ethical decision making. Officers and staff feel supported in making decisions.
The chief constable, through his code of ethics message, has personally reinforced its importance to all staff and officers. The code of ethics is also a routine part of recruitment for all new entrants. Officers and staff see the professional standards department as approachable. They also believe it does more than enforce standards, and actively prevents poor behaviour.
Supervisors are trained in open communications. The constabulary has internal and external ethics committees, which staff are encouraged to refer issues to. These provide robust oversight and feedback.
The constabulary has cleared in full the vetting backlog for its workforce. It has introduced ‘z’ cards that describe seven behavioural standards, to increase staff awareness of professional behaviour. The constabulary highlights misconduct cases in its quarterly newsletter, The Durham Standard, and in its internal web bulletin, the Midnight Circular.
The constabulary recognises the lack of a counter-corruption strategic assessment as a gap. It has dedicated an analyst to ensure completion of this important document. Its risk matrix approach identifies staff and officers at risk of corruption and is used to assess all the workforce. A confidential reporting system, ‘bad apple’, is being revised and re-introduced.
The constabulary takes abuse of position for a sexual purpose seriously. It has an action plan and a strategy to deal with this. It maintains strong relationships with agencies which support vulnerable victims of crime. This encourages a flow of information about this type of corruption.Detailed findings for question 2
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 legitimacy inspection has been carried over.