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Hertfordshire PEEL 2018

Legitimacy

How legitimately does the force treat the public and its workforce?

Last updated 09/09/2019
Good

Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at behaving ethically and lawfully.

Officers and staff understand that ethics underpin everything they do. The force emphasises the Code of Ethics, which is a feature in all force training events. A regional ethics board is responsible for governance, but matters addressed don’t yet sufficiently involve the views of the workforce.

The force doesn’t yet fully comply with all elements of national vetting standards. It does take its vetting responsibilities seriously, however.

It is good at identifying and tackling corruption. While its current staffing levels can deal only reactively with incoming intelligence, it does have enough capacity and capability within specialist teams that seek out and tackle corruption.

At the time of our inspection, the force was re-prioritising part of its corruption prevention work to focus on supporting victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

In 2017, we judged Hertfordshire Constabulary to be good at treating both the public and its workforce fairly.

Questions for Legitimacy

1

To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?

Good

This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 legitimacy inspection has been carried over.

2

How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The force should take steps to involve its officers and staff in raising ethical issues and evaluate the effectiveness of the process.
  • The force should ensure all staff have received at least the lowest level of vetting clearance for their roles and clear any backlogs ensuring it is fully compliant with the national vetting guidelines.
  • The force should ensure that its counter-corruption unit has enough capability and capacity to counter corruption effectively and proactively.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.

Maintaining an ethical culture

During fieldwork, we spoke to many officers and staff in different ranks, roles and parts of the force. Every member of the workforce we spoke to was clear that ethics are at the forefront of everything they do. They showed a practical understanding of their responsibility to act ethically and challenge instances of unprofessional conduct among their colleagues. Force guidance is framed by the Code of Ethics. It includes the aforementioned Valuing our Leaders workshops, which the chief constable presents. Every supervisor in the force attends these workshops, including those in acting posts. They each commit to a signed contract with the chief constable to uphold and carry out the standards set.

The force has rebranded its confidential reporting line to remove any negative bias. We saw evidence that officers are self-aware, and consulted professional standards when they considered their integrity may have been compromised. They knew of force publications communicating outcomes of misconduct cases. Professional standards investigators use frequent training days to present learning and discuss consequences.

Hertfordshire Constabulary has supported two of its master’s students through the Cambridge Police executive programme. Both pieces of academic work are contributing to evidence-based approaches and a learning culture within the force. One study seeks to identify the profile of officers who are more likely to abuse their position. The second argues that good performance management processes by local supervisors are more effective at keeping personnel engaged and in the workplace than more traditional investigation methods.

Ethics are well understood and accepted across the force. Its work involving a series of videos designed to raise awareness of ethical dilemmas, including the abuse of position for a sexual purpose, is noteworthy and has been shared with other forces. Hertfordshire Constabulary has taken the bold step of giving guidance to staff about matters that may not be strictly illegal, but could compromise reputation. This includes their use of public sex environments.

A regional ethics board is responsible for governance, which means that learning is maximised across the tri-force collaboration.

Despite the extensive promotion and availability of feedback forums such as Yammer (an online platform that facilitates social-networking communication within organisations), there was no evidence of material suggested by the workforce. The force could do more to evaluate the methods it uses to work with its workforce and reflect their concerns.

Hertfordshire Constabulary does not yet fully comply with all elements of national vetting standards. Workforce vetting checks take place through a collaborative tri-force department. Despite substantial investment in resources last year, capacity has gone into vetting new recruits. Senior leaders have recently responded by investing in an additional four posts specifically to service lapsed vetting checks. This additional investment has reduced outstanding vetting lists from 18 percent to 16 percent in just 12 weeks. Nevertheless, achieving full compliance may still take two years. The force does take its vetting responsibilities seriously, however; it has routinely carried out more extensive pre-employment checks than required, including drug testing new recruits and viewing their social media accounts.

By the nature of their work, those in designated posts need the highest level of vetting. They are suitably vetted. We are satisfied that chief officers frequently monitor plans and will act to ensure full compliance.

The force has trained officers to create Flagstone records. It complies with its obligations to give details to the College of Policing for the barred and advisory lists. These lists prevent those who have left the service under investigation, or who have been dismissed, from re-joining or working in law enforcement.

All forces need to understand if people’s ethnic background disproportionately affects the results of vetting checks. Hertfordshire Constabulary monitors and scrutinises these, which are checked by senior officers for any bias and to extract any learning. Vetting officers also routinely attend recruitment events to give the best advice and guidance to potential applicants.

Tackling corruption

Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at identifying and tackling corruption. It has assessed the threat of corruption and developed a counter-corruption control strategy. It uses information it holds about officers and staff well to identify those who are potentially at risk of being corrupted and is effective at intervention.

During fieldwork, we noted that the force carries out integrity checks during annual performance reviews. This way, personnel have a clear understanding of their obligation to declare a business interest. Recent force communications have also reinforced awareness of notifiable associations and the abuse of position for a sexual purpose.

Hertfordshire Constabulary knows that current staffing levels can only deal reactively with incoming intelligence and there is limited capacity for proactivity. However, departmental leaders are in the process of applying for additional personnel to proactively monitor the broad infrastructure of systems. We saw that the force uses effective techniques to follow up intelligence and investigate cases. It also routinely monitors its workforce’s use of data, including on mobile devices, for evidence of misuse. We reviewed a sample of intelligence reports and investigations linked to corruption and found that the force took appropriate action in all cases.

As well as its own confidential reporting line, Hertfordshire Constabulary makes use of the Crimestoppers reporting line to deal with anonymous reports made by the public. These reports are handled appropriately. The force makes mandatory referrals to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). When necessary, it seeks the IOPC’s guidance on less clear cases.

It has appointed a corruption prevention officer, who has given more than 50 presentations to train partner agencies, including victim services, to look for signs of officers and staff potentially abusing their position for a sexual purpose. At the time of our inspection, the force was reprioritising this work to focus on more organisations that support victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. We reviewed a sample of investigations into this type of behaviour and found each was dealt with appropriately.

Summary for question 2
3

To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?

Good

This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 legitimacy inspection has been carried over.