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 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.Summary for question 1
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.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the constabulary’s performance in this area.
Maintaining an ethical culture
There is a strong ethos within Durham Constabulary of ethical decision making and ‘doing the right thing’. The organisation believes that empowerment and discretion embed good ethical behaviour. This means a culture in which staff are supported in the decisions they make – as long as they can demonstrate good decision making, focused on fairness, integrity, a focus on the victim and doing the right thing. The chief constable has produced a ‘code of ethics’ message for the workforce, introducing an information pack on the subject. This message describes what the code is, identifying what it means for those working in Durham Constabulary and making specific reference to victims, communities and detained people. The packs have been issued to all staff and officers. The constabulary has further embedded the code of ethics throughout the organisation by incorporating it into recruitment processes for new entrants, promotion processes and interviews for lateral transfer to specialist roles – from the initial application process through to the interview.
The constabulary uses the annual staff survey to examine the perceptions of staff and officers of ethical behaviour and values, and their willingness to challenge poor and inappropriate behaviour. It uses this survey to indicate how they are performing. Governance is provided through the ethics and legitimacy board, which the deputy chief constable chairs.
We found a strong belief among staff and officers that the professional standards department proactively prevents poor behaviour rather than just enforcing standards. It was evident from the inspection that the staff believe they all share a responsibility to challenge inappropriate behaviour and lead by example. There is communication throughout the organisation on internal misconduct matters. This highlights what the organisation deems inappropriate behaviour and conduct, and its consequences.
Staff and officers are aware of the requirements for recording business interests and notifiable associations. This has been re-emphasised through integrity health checks that take place as part of the personal development review. The staff and officers we spoke to during the inspection view the professional standards department as approachable. The constabulary’s intranet contains detailed information about policies and procedures on business interests, reportable associations and gifts and hospitality.
The constabulary has invested in developing supervisors through development days, which include inputs on ‘getting to know your staff’. This training incorporates encouraging effective, open communication, holding difficult conversations, and recognising pre-cursor signs of misconduct and corruption. As part of the supportive leadership model within the constabulary, supervisors are encouraged to have regular one-to-one talks with staff and officers.
The constabulary operates both an internal and external ethics committee that provides robust oversight and critical feedback. The external committee is a shared process with Cleveland Police and managed through the Cleveland PCC’s office. It was acknowledged that attendance at the external meeting generally is low. This has prompted a recent drive to increase the level of participation and improve the diversity of the group. There is also an internal ethics committee. Staff and officers are actively encouraged to refer ‘ethical dilemmas’ to it, and issues for consideration through an ethics referral. These describe the topic or event being discussed, indicate the desired outcome and log the issues and considerations made during the meeting. The form records the decision making, recommendations, actions taken and referral to the external ethics group.
Example of issues discussed include charging for missed occupational health appointments, the exit of police officers through voluntary severance and fitness training in duty time. The internal ethics committee may refer issues to the external group. Neither group is a decision-making body; each makes recommendations that will be addressed elsewhere. The issues discussed at the committees are communicated to the wider organisation through an online blog.
The constabulary has achieved our 2016 legitimacy recommendation when it comes to up-to-date vetting of the workforce. At the time of inspection, only 11 outstanding vetting issues were being progressed in a workforce of approximately 2,400. The constabulary has sufficient resources, supported by IT systems, to fully vet the workforce, including high-risk posts and contractors. The vetting manager maintains weekly data sheets to ensure the level of vetting is maintained. We found a system that was sound and designed to ensure that reviews were conducted in a timely fashion. But we also found that the constabulary does not monitor its vetting decisions to identify any disproportionality in decision making, concerning black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, for example. Where appropriate, the relevant notification is sent to the College of Policing to prevent inappropriate candidates from re-entering another law-enforcement organisation.
The constabulary has produced information ‘z’ cards. They aim to increase staff awareness of standards of professional behaviour and sexual harassment in the workplace. The cards describe the seven expected standards of behaviour, including use of authority and use of force. A separate section examines the abuse of position for sexual gain and unmanageable debt. The pocket-sized card is clear and easy to read. Regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, it describes what sexual harassment is, how to recognise it, and what to do. It also provides contact details and numbers of several different options for support.
Professional standards and legal services have produced training material for use at sergeants’ training and inspectors’ and managers’ courses. This focuses on the complaints process and on the role of the supervisor and manager. It covers counter-corruption themes. In particular, it covers the abuse of position for sexual gain, maintaining professional boundaries, the Code of Ethics and the expected standards of professional behaviour. The training discusses the role of the supervisor and manager in dealing with complaints, misconduct, ethics, integrity and corruption. It highlights areas of vulnerability regarding potential corruption.
The constabulary has good systems to promote organisational learning from cases of misconduct. Details of misconduct cases that have been concluded are highlighted in ‘The Durham Standard’, a quarterly newsletter, circulated to all staff. Outcomes are also circulated through the internal web bulletin, ‘Midnight Circular’. This includes learning notes to educate the workforce further on ethical behaviour and on the ramifications of corruption or abuse of power.
At the time of the inspection, no counter-corruption strategic threat assessment was in place. The constabulary recognises this as a gap and plans to rectify this. To address this problem, the constabulary is to have a dedicated analyst within the unit. This will ensure completion of the document by the end of the year. Currently, no analytical products identifying counter-corruption trends are produced regularly. The unit head has prioritised the development of the counter-corruption risk matrix. The constabulary adopted a risk matrix approach earlier this year to identify members of the workforce who may be at risk of corruption. This considers a range of data and indicators. An algorithm has been developed that draws on data from a range of sources including notifiable associations, business interests, expense claims, complaints, leave and abstractions. All police officers and staff have been assessed through the matrix. Action has been taken about those who pose the greatest risk. The use of the matrix has enabled the counter-corruption unit to become more focused in its work, allowing it to prioritise its activity. The data is refreshed monthly.
The constabulary’s confidential reporting mechanism, ‘bad apple’, is being revised. It was to be re-launched in October 2018. A retrospective analysis of a single quarter (three months) of bad apple referrals will be completed to identify a benchmark. All future referrals will be compared against this to identify trends in reporting and behaviour. The new system, ‘integrity link’, will be supported by a monthly analysis report. The force management statement contains a limited amount of detail about identified misconduct and corruption trends. The constabulary has produced a counter-corruption and vetting unit strategy. This document covers vetting, abuse of position, gifts and hospitality, standards of behaviour, notifiable associations, force information systems, alcohol and drug misuse and secondary employment (business interests). It outlines principal objectives and a series of actions for prevention, intelligence and enforcement. Actions are assigned ownership and given timescales. The intention is to develop a front-facing performance page, covering all data in relation to misconduct and countering corruption. This is still in the planning stage.
The constabulary makes good use of the integrity registers involving notifiable associations, business interests, and gifts and gratuities. It is good at monitoring compliance with decisions made about notifiable associations and business interests.
The constabulary uses early interventions appropriately. All criminal allegations were investigated fully. Of the 50 items of intelligence reviewed, we found no cases where we considered that early interventions were used inappropriately. We found very few intelligence reports relating to corruption. Most cases the counter-corruption unit investigated were reactive conduct issues. The low rate of reports of corruption has been questioned. The constabulary has responded to this by stating that it now has the ability to monitor all ICT systems. This is new to the constabulary since our last legitimacy inspection. Its use has not been fully implemented yet. There is some proactive use of ICT systems, as all incidents reported to the police are checked against force mobiles monthly in order to identify any issues that may suggest corruption. Over two years, this has not yielded any evidence of corruption. The constabulary says it has a good relationship with the regional confidential unit, which proposes to check constabulary telephone numbers with the known contacts of live investigations. At present, no analytical product has examined reports of corruption. The constabulary is addressing this, and is conducting an analysis of corruption-related information. It maintains good control over notifiable associations, business interests and gifts and gratuities.
The constabulary has effective links with external agencies that support vulnerable victims of crime. It has provided training to staff with domestic abuse groups and care homes. The constabulary believes that this programme, called ‘blurred lines’, has been effective in building strong links with partner organisations. The constabulary and agencies can exchange information about the sexual abuse of vulnerable victims by police officers and staff, so they can take appropriate action to prevent and detect abuse.
Corruption intelligence is held locally on a system called ‘iBase’. We found this to be up-to-date, well managed and the data fully searchable. The cases themselves were managed on separate folders, which all members of the counter-corruption unit could access. The iBase system directed staff to the relevant records, so no data was unobtainable.
Of the 50 items of corruption intelligence we reviewed, one investigation involved children. The local authority-designated officer brought this case to the constabulary, so no referral was necessary. Of the 50 cases reviewed, apart from one, all those that required referring to the Independent Office for Police Conduct were referred appropriately.
The constabulary relies on an informed workforce to identify corruption. This is achieved through training inputs/annual appraisals, a confidential reporting system, links with the regional confidential unit and links with partner agencies. Identified improvements that are in the process of being implemented include the proactive investigation into the use of all ICT systems, rebranding and training in respect of integrity link – the confidential reporting system, more proactive use of the data sets within the regional confidential units, telephone database and analysis of the information relating to corruption. These actions are expected to improve the constabulary’s understanding of corruption.
The counter-corruption unit is small. It comprises a detective inspector, a detective sergeant, a detective constable, an investigator and a researcher. The unit has no specialist proactive capability. We found limited proactive intelligence development during the inspection. However, the resources available enable it to deal effectively with the reports of corruption that are submitted. These cases are few and most of those that the team dealt with are reactive conduct issues. The management and monitoring of business interests, notifiable associations and staff who have been identified as being a potential risk is effective. The unit is also involved in workforce training and in awareness sessions.
The constabulary views the abuse of position for a sexual purpose as a serious form of corruption. This is reflected in the constabulary’s local counter-corruption and vetting strategy. The constabulary submitted a plan in 2017 to address our 2016 legitimacy national recommendation regarding the abuse of position for a sexual purpose. This has not been fully implemented yet. The constabulary maintains an action plan on abuse of position. This could be enhanced if timescales were added to the actions recorded. The constabulary uses the National Policing Counter-Corruption Advisory Group strategy to address abuse of position for a sexual purpose. It provides its employees with material and briefings, to ensure they are aware of the issue of abuse of position for a sexual purpose. Supervisors within the organisation are trained to look out for warning signs that suggest an individual is abusing their position for a sexual purpose.
The constabulary has trained all staff on abuse of position. This has been extended to partner organisations. While few in number, cases relating to the abuse of position were dealt with appropriately.Summary 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 2017 legitimacy inspection has been carried over.