Skip to content

Merseyside PEEL 2018


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

Last updated 21/01/2020

Merseyside Police is good at treating the public and its workforce fairly.

It has a positive ethical culture and an open learning environment. Its leaders demonstrate this to the workforce. It is active in showing its officers and staff which behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable. But not everyone knows how or where to raise ethical concerns.

Since our 2017 legitimacy inspection the force has taken steps to address the vetting needs for its officers and staff. It is good at managing corruption risks, but it could use more of its data to identify those at risk of corruption.

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

Questions for Legitimacy


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 98 stop and search records to check that they were made on reasonable grounds. We found that 87 percent of those records gave reasonable grounds. This assessment is based only on the grounds recorded by the searching officer, 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 force 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). Additionally, it isn’t clear that it 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 force’s website and found no obvious mention of analysis it had carried out to understand and explain reasons for disparities or any subsequent
action taken.

Summary for question 1

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


Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure the workforce understand how to raise ethical issues with them and that learning outcomes are shared.
  • The force should ensure it monitors all relevant information technology to effectively protect its information.
  • The force should take steps to improve workforce knowledge and understanding of the abuse of position for a sexual purpose, including supervisors.

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

Merseyside Police is good at maintaining and developing an ethical culture.

The code of ethics is conveyed through the force’s ‘Just’ principles:

  • Just listen
  • Just think
  • Just talk
  • Just lead.

These principles are visible throughout the force and are consistently used in force communications. Force policies must have an equality impact assessment and are overseen by senior officers.

The force has clear leadership. The chief constable regularly uses video broadcasts to provide messages and direction to the workforce, and to recognise good work to support and value his workforce. He also leads roadshows to engage with officers and staff. Departmental leaders hold open discussion sessions where officers and staff are encouraged to share their ideas.

The force has revised its equality and ethics board. This is led by the deputy chief constable and focuses on internal and external procedural justice, with a clear focus on learning. It is encouraged to challenge the way the force runs, and provides scrutiny on areas that affect the public, such as hate crime, use of police powers and public complaints.

Below this board sits a tactical ethics meeting. Ethical dilemmas can be raised in this forum, although we found that few in the workforce were aware of this. The force would benefit from making sure its workforce know about this, and from sharing its outcomes.

Issues are raised directly from the staff associations during regular meetings with the leadership of the professional standards department (PSD). Members of the PSD also attend student and leadership courses to discuss topical matters. The head of the PSD produces newsletters to share learning.

The leadership of the PSD wants the department to be open and to learn. This was reflected in the views of the officers and staff we spoke to, who felt the force has a learning culture rather than a blame culture.

Most officers and staff we spoke to told us that they didn’t have formal one-to-one meetings with their supervisor apart from at performance development reviews (PDRs). They did though have regular informal discussions about work and wellbeing and could approach supervisors if needed to discuss specific issues. The new electronic version of the PDR (‘e-PDR’) includes an annual integrity health check.

In 2017 we identified as an area for improvement that the force should comply with national vetting standards. We consider this is improved.

Workforce members whose vetting is due for renewal are thoroughly re-vetted. There is currently no vetting backlog, and the vetting unit has enough people to manage its workload.

The force complies with the National Vetting Code of Practice and Authorised Professional Practice when recruiting. It provided evidence that it is monitoring its vetting decisions to identify disparities. It should consider this data in its recruitment.

Permanent records are created for the barred and advisory lists, and details of these are passed to the College of Policing. This prevents people who have left the service under investigation, or been dismissed, from re-joining or working in law enforcement.

We found that officers and staff who are in roles that require a higher level of vetting are vetted to the correct levels. However, when they move into new roles and require a vetting ‘refresh’, HR are failing to notify the vetting unit about this change. HR and PSD management are aware of this gap in the process and recognise that it needs to be addressed.

Merseyside Police has effective channels for communicating and reinforcing what kinds of behaviour are acceptable and unacceptable. Lessons learned from complaints and misconduct investigations are included in newsletters, intranet updates and weekly orders called People Matters. This includes lessons from national events and incidents.

The force’s health and safety board examines near-misses, and publishes lessons learned from these to the force. There is also a web-based chat forum called Yammer, and ‘back to the floor’ events where senior leaders feed back to the workforce.

Circulars from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) are sent to department leads. The head of the PSD also produces a monthly newsletter.

Gifts and hospitality are recorded. Most officers and staff we spoke to understood that these needed to be reported, but there was some uncertainty about the details of the process, so the force should remind the workforce of the recording procedures for these. The new e-PDR contains a section that reminds members of the workforce to declare business interests and notifiable associations.

Tackling corruption

The force is generally good at managing the risk of corruption within the organisation. But some areas could be dealt with better.

The force has a strategic counter-corruption threat assessment which meets its needs. It also has a related control strategy which is based on intelligence, enforcement and prevention, and clearly lays out priorities. However, this was dated 2017/18 and we didn’t see a delivery plan or progress update. The force needs to address this.

The force could be more effective at identifying organisational risks. It does not appear to use all the information it has at its disposal to identify members of the workforce who are at risk of becoming a corruption threat. It holds data such as complaints, vetting, finance, sickness, performance, grievances, business interests and anti-corruption intelligence, which could be used to identify people at risk of corruption. It is missing opportunities to put interventions in place to protect the individual and the organisation. The anti-corruption unit (ACU) meets regularly with the PSD, HR and legal services to discuss corruption, but this meeting discusses current cases rather than identifying possible future risks.

The ACU does check the force’s phone numbers against those of vulnerable people and organised crime members to try to identify inappropriate contact and potential corruption.

The force makes use of its integrity register for business interests, gifts and hospitality and notifiable associations. But it doesn’t check that decisions made in these areas follow the rules. The register included the chief constable’s declarations, and these were included in the published register, but we couldn’t find them on the PCC website. The gifts and gratuities policy is the responsibility of the PSD, but the version we saw needed to be updated.

The force doesn’t routinely use early interventions as part of its intelligence work to support those at risk of engaging in corrupt practices. However, the ACU does use integrity interviews if they think it is necessary. We examined some ACU files and found no evidence of integrity interviews being used inappropriately to curtail criminal investigations, which is positive.

The ACU is self-sufficient. It has the capability for covert tactics such as surveillance and use of technical equipment. We examined files about the development of 60 items of intelligence. We considered that 11 had missed opportunities to develop or investigate further. Despite this, the files were of a good standard and there was a good use of tactics when required.

The initial grading and assessment of the intelligence followed approved professional guidance. However, we found three cases that were incorrectly categorised against the national corruption categories.

Intelligence about corruption is held locally on the force’s iBase system. This is firewalled and only accessible on computers within the ACU. This was found to be up to date and well managed, and the data was fully searchable.

In 2017 we identified as an area for improvement that all allegations that meet the criteria for referral to the IOPC should be referred. We found that this has improved. All the cases we reviewed that met the criteria for being referred to the IOPC were correctly referred.

The force has invested in new software which can be used to fully monitor all its IT systems. However, this is not yet fully deployed due to a technical problem. When this is resolved it will be able to protect the data held within its systems and identify any misuse.

Merseyside Police has effective links with external organisations that protect vulnerable people. This helps in gathering intelligence about potential corruption and the abuse of position for a sexual purpose. During our file review we saw examples which showed partner agencies providing intelligence to the ACU.

The ACU also has an established point of contact with a sex worker liaison officer for all referrals from sex workers. This appears to be effective, and we saw referrals in our file review.

The force uses Safecall, which provides a confidential way for its workforce to report wrongdoing or concerns. This is trusted and used by the workforce. It will soon introduce a new web-based system at a cost of £30,000, which it hopes will improve confidence in the confidentiality of the process. Most of the workforce we asked felt they would be supported if they reported wrongdoing, although not all of them did. The force has learnt lessons from previous cases and developed action plans overseen by the head of the PSD.

The force recognises that the abuse of position for a sexual purpose is serious corruption. This is reflected in the force’s local counter-corruption strategic threat assessment. The force provides briefings to its workforce to ensure they are aware of the subject. Supervisors have been given guidance as to what are the warning signs to look out for.

The force created an abuse of position action plan to address our 2016 national recommendation regarding the abuse of position for a sexual purpose. The one outstanding item from this is the ability to monitor all devices, but as previously stated, there is a plan in place to address this.

The force’s action plan includes communication to ensure the force and external partners know this type of behaviour will not be tolerated. It has published newsletters and seven-minute briefings in relation to abuse of position.

We discovered some inconsistencies in knowledge of abuse of position among the workforce. Most had seen some information from the force. But some had not, including those in safeguarding roles and a minority of supervisors and investigators. The force should address this.

We saw evidence that the force publishes the outcomes of gross misconduct hearings, including abuse of position for a sexual purpose. It does this to build trust and confidence in communities. Outcomes of cases are also published on internal communications.

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.

In 2017 we identified two areas for improvement.

  1. The force should ensure its supervisors can recognise and support wellbeing.
    We consider this is now improved.
  2. The force should improve how it manages individual performance.
    The force has made progress with a new talent management programme and introduced a new e-PDR process. However, its PDR completion rate is low. We will revisit this in subsequent inspections.
Summary for question 3