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North Yorkshire PEEL 2018

Legitimacy

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

Last updated 27/09/2019
Requires improvement

The force needs to improve its understanding of how fairly its officers treat the public. A complete picture is needed of how both use of force and stop and search powers are being used in the community.

The force needs a better understanding of how officers are using force. Officers electronically record when force has been used, but their actions aren’t being reviewed often enough by supervisors.

It is a similar picture for stop and search powers. Training needs to be delivered consistently, and supervisors should fulfil their role so that the public can be confident about the way the force is operating.

It is positive that four external community review groups are being set up. However, it is too soon to know what influence these groups may have, as only one of them had met when we inspected the force and independent chairs hadn’t been appointed.

Ethics are important and well understood in the culture of working within the force. However, officers and staff should have the option of speaking to someone independent of their day-to-day work if they want to raise a concern about unethical behaviour.

The force needs to make sure that those tackling counter-corruption can monitor all computer data so that any potential problems are brought to light and investigated. More training is needed so that all officers and staff fully understand the issue of abuse of position for a sexual purpose.

Questions for Legitimacy

1

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

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • In respect of the use of force, North Yorkshire Police should:
    • ensure there is effective supervision and proper external scrutiny.
  • In respect of the use of stop and search powers, the force should:
    • ensure officers who use stop and search powers understand what constitutes reasonable grounds and supervisors understand their responsibilities to supervise the use of these powers;
    • ensure effective internal monitoring of a comprehensive dataset on stop and search; and
    • ensure effective external scrutiny of stop and search.

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

Treating people fairly and respectfully

North Yorkshire Police fosters a culture that values engagement with communities and fair treatment. Members of the workforce we spoke to understood and applied the Code of Ethics in their work. They understand the issue of unconscious bias, and the majority had completed mandatory training on this subject. We found good examples of fair and respectful treatment of the public. These included objectives, given to all staff working in custody, that emphasise a professional approach to detainees and others attending custody suites. Operation Kingfisher, which is North Yorkshire Police’s response to anti-fracking protests, demonstrated a focus on procedural justice to make sure affected communities are treated fairly.

The force website clearly directs the public to its social media pages. There is local ownership of more than 100 neighbourhood pages. The force has recently changed its messaging system to improve community contact and conducts force surveys to gather views about policing. The impending launch of digital PCSO roles will build the potential to work with virtual communities and increase the confidence of those accessing online policing services. These roles provide online groups with reassurance and a form of ‘virtual patrol’ on the internet.

We found an excellent example of a PCSO who developed a scheme with partner agencies to help people with learning difficulties. The PCSO received the NPCC PCSO of the Year award for this work, and this approach will be extended across the force. We also found that the force is engaging those communities who are less likely to contact the police, including rural communities and rough sleepers.

The force website contains some details of neighbourhood priorities and subsequent action taken to address them. However, the process for deciding and agreeing these priorities isn’t clear. And it isn’t possible to understand when they were agreed nor how long any response has taken. Some neighbourhood surgeries are advertised locally, but this isn’t consistent across all neighbourhoods. The force may wish to consider how it publicises its priorities and activity so that the public can clearly see how community concerns are being addressed.

Some feedback to communities is delivered by attending community events, including neighbourhood and local council meetings. Following the PFCC’s rural crime survey, North Yorkshire Police has established a rural crime task force, providing rural communities with the opportunity to raise concerns. This team uses a WhatsApp group to improve communication and staff told us that communities view this positively.

The force actively uses volunteers to support local activity. There are 327 volunteers in roles across the organisation, including police cadets and providing front-counter advice services and on-line support for victims. With plans to take on a volunteer recruitment officer, the force will be well placed to recognise and use volunteers’ skills in its problem-solving activity. 

Using force

We found that North Yorkshire Police gives training in the fair and appropriate use of force to those officers and staff who need it. It also complies with NPCC national recording requirements. The force told us that supervisors are expected to review use of force forms submitted by their staff. But the electronic form that is completed after an incident involving the use of force is submitted directly to force systems, rather than via a supervisor. This means that supervisors may not always know how force has been applied by their team. As a result, early intervention and learning can’t be provided consistently. North Yorkshire Police should consider providing guidance to line managers about how to effectively supervise the use of force. Identified staff across the force dip-sample the use of force forms and custody records. The force is currently developing a use of force information dashboard, but this isn’t yet active. We understand that the dashboard will record data that can drill down to individual level, but it may not be able to identify themes or trends.

A quarterly working group carries out further internal monitoring and considers use of force data. This includes analysis of potential disparities or difference in treatment. However, we were informed that officers from the professional standards department, although present at the meeting, don’t discuss complaint cases or necessarily make links between complaints and the use of force. Ensuring that these matters are raised within the internal working group would support better understanding of trends or concerns. Positively, we found that some organisational learning has been identified, including how close-contact use of force results in more injuries for officers and subjects. As a result, the force is highlighting effective tactical communications through its operational safety training programme.

External scrutiny processes for the use of force aren’t yet embedded or driving service improvement. The force has recently created four community review groups, which will meet quarterly. They will provide independent scrutiny when officers and staff report the use of force and will provide feedback to help improve the service the force provides in the future. The intention is for these groups to be independently chaired and to be fully representative of communities. However, the chairs haven’t yet been appointed, and the deputy police and crime commissioner is currently acting as the temporary chair. Only one group had met at the time of our inspection, so it is too early to judge what effect they will have. We will be interested to follow the development of this approach during future inspections.

Some use of force data is published on the force website. However, this doesn’t provide analysis of the data or identify any trends or disparities. Minutes from internal working groups and the community review group aren’t published on the website. North Yorkshire Police may wish to review the information displayed on its website to make sure it is open about the use of force.

Using stop and search powers

Most officers and staff we spoke to had received some refresher training in stop and search powers and procedures as part of the operational safety training programme. However, we found that this isn’t being delivered consistently, as the training depends on stop and search champions being available. Some of the workforce we spoke to hadn’t received the training at their last refresher session.

We reviewed a representative sample of 294 stop and search records to assess the reasonableness of the recorded grounds. We found that only 63 percent of those records contained reasonable grounds. Our assessment is based on the grounds recorded by the searching officer and not the grounds that existed at the time of the search. This is far lower than necessary to have confidence that stop and search powers are being used fairly and respectfully. The force needs to satisfy itself that training is being delivered consistently to make sure that recorded grounds are reasonable.

Some operational supervisors told us that they don’t review all stop and search forms submitted by officers. This misses a vital opportunity to provide immediate feedback and learning. Processes for wider internal scrutiny vary across the force. In Scarborough and York, it is expected that all stop and search forms are quality assured by supervisors, but this isn’t consistent across other areas. We examined more stop and search forms within Niche, the force records management system, during our fieldwork. Again, we found limited evidence of supervisor quality assurance. We do know that the force has locally appointed single points of contact who dip-sample submitted forms, but this shouldn’t remove the need for appropriate
local supervision. The force may wish to clarify responsibilities with respect to monitoring and quality assuring the use of stop and search powers.

Internal monitoring at force level is established through the stop and search working group, which meets quarterly. A stop and search dashboard allows the force to spot trends and disparities – for example, an increase in BAME stop and searches, which was being further explored. Currently, this working group doesn’t review body-worn video footage. We understand that this will be implemented in the future, but it wasn’t clear when this would happen.

In our 2017 legitimacy report (PDF document), North Yorkshire Police was subject to a cause of concern and a recommendation relating to having a structure in place for appropriate external scrutiny of stop and search. This year, we found these haven’t been fully addressed, and improvements still need to be made.

The force is working with the PFCC to develop its approach to external scrutiny. It does have a ride-along scheme for people to observe police patrols, encouraging public involvement and challenge. But wider external scrutiny is only just beginning, with the creation of four independent community review groups to make sure the force uses its powers fairly. At the time of our inspection, only one group had met, and the approach isn’t yet contributing to organisational learning. The force should make sure that it swiftly progresses these groups to improve in this area.

The minutes of both the internal scrutiny working group and the external community review group aren’t published. Doing so would improve openness about the use of stop and search powers. The force may wish to consider what data and information is available on its website.

The force doesn’t display detailed stop and search data on its website, instead providing a link to www.police.uk. Only raw data is displayed and, where there is a disparity in the use of stop and search powers, no explanation or context is given. This means that the force hasn’t addressed our 2017 recommendation to explain the reasons behind such disparities.

Summary for question 1
2

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

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should take steps to make sure that officers and staff are aware of how to raise ethical issues.
  • The force should ensure that its counter-corruption unit:
    • 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 its workforce’s knowledge and understanding of the abuse of position for a sexual purpose.

    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

    The workforce understands and applies the Code of Ethics in their work. Chief officers act as role models, fostering a learning culture in which staff feel able to challenge and learn from mistakes. The force is implementing a leadership approach across the organisation that is designed to empower the workforce, enable effective ethical decision making and support the use of discretion. This is a positive initiative to encourage an ethical organisational culture.

    The force doesn’t have an established process that enables its workforce to raise ethical issues. Staff told us they would discuss matters with a line manager. However, we found little evidence that the workforce regularly discusses ethical concerns with their line managers. The force should consider developing an independent mechanism for reporting ethical matters affecting the workforce to enable these to be properly addressed.

    The force uses its partnership hub diversity specialist as a ‘critical friend’ to make sure that its policies are ethical and meet its equality responsibilities. Agreed policies and procedures are available on the force intranet, for the workforce to view and understand.

    The force complies with the Vetting Code of Practice and Authorised Professional Practice (APP) for recruitment, including for contractors and volunteers. It fulfils its requirements to check whether anyone it intends to employ is on either of the barred or advisory lists held by the College of Policing, ensuring that the potential for corrupt former personnel to re-enter policing is reduced.

    We found that the force has addressed our 2016 recommendation to make sure that all members of the workforce have at least the basic level of vetting. The force maintains effective vetting health checks and renewals, with minimal backlogs, supporting its need to ensure only appropriate candidates are employed or placed in designated roles. It has increased the capacity of the vetting team and the vetting co-ordinator plans to enable vetting processes to be renewed. The co-ordinator sits on the force’s positive action board and works closely with recruitment. The vetting team has attended recruitment events to make sure that applicants understand vetting requirements early in the application process, reducing the potential for problems later. The force also monitors vetting decisions for inequalities and conducted an internal review in September 2018 to examine vetting decisions against known protected characteristics. A previous anonymised review has provided reassurance about decision making where there may be concerns about different treatment.

    The force seeks to develop organisational learning by publishing the outcome of misconduct cases on the intranet. The bulletin gives details of misconduct outcomes and relevant Independent Office for Police Conduct recommendations. However, we received feedback that the items were hard to find on the intranet. This may limit the reach of this information. The force may wish to consider how these important messages can be better shared to enhance awareness of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

    Tackling corruption

    The force has a local strategic counter-corruption threat assessment and control strategy. These were refreshed in January 2019 and identify national as well as local priorities, including the abuse of position for a sexual purpose. The force checks the information it holds on its employees to identify those who may be at risk of corruption because of their individual circumstances. Early intervention is provided in the form of practical support from the welfare department and through signposting to other services, such as counselling and debt management. However, the force doesn’t then monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of its interventions. It may not, therefore, fully understand their effect.

    The force could be more proactive in its monitoring of compliance with notifiable associations and business interest decisions. This would help to identify future corruption risks. Some information published on the force website needs to be refreshed. The force publishes data on business interests and gifts and hospitality on the internet. But the most recent entries relate to April 2017 for business interests and December 2018 for gifts and hospitality. Updating this information may build further confidence in the service.

    Most officers and staff we spoke to had some understanding of the force’s procedures for business interests and gifts and hospitality or would speak with a supervisor for guidance.

    The force operates a confidential online messaging system to allow officers and staff to report concerns about misconduct or corruption. This can be readily accessed via the force’s intranet homepage and is well used by the workforce. But we found that the initial grading and assessment of intelligence doesn’t consistently follow APP guidance. This makes it more difficult for the force and colleagues elsewhere in law enforcement to analyse corruption trends and patterns. We examined a sample of cases during our inspection. We generally found that appropriate enquiries were carried out to confirm or refute intelligence. In a small number of cases, however, obvious lines of enquiry weren’t pursued, with not enough rationale being recorded. Although the professional standards integrity unit personnel are fully aware of covert techniques, we found no evidence of the force using covert tactics such as surveillance to develop corruption intelligence. This may limit the force’s ability to identify corrupt behaviour.

    The force doesn’t have the capability to monitor all IT systems and the data contained within them. As a result, there are gaps in coverage. Recent extra capacity in the professional standards integrity unit is enabling the force to develop proactive processes to look for corruption linked to abuse of position for a sexual purpose by analysing data. But this is in its initial stages. The force should take steps to make sure that data is protected and effective monitoring of technology can take place.

    In addition, the force hasn’t yet fully developed effective links with external agencies who support vulnerable victims of crime. It has started to work with some agencies such as domestic abuse support groups and mental health workers. However, it hasn’t yet forged any links with drugs or alcohol support workers, sex worker support groups or gyms. This means that, although the force recognises the abuse of position for a sexual purpose as serious corruption, its plan to address our 2016 national recommendation in this area hasn’t yet been fully implemented.

    The force provides information to its employees that is intended to increase their awareness of the abuse of position for a sexual purpose. However, our inspection found that few officers and staff can demonstrate an appropriate level of understanding. Training to identify the warning signs isn’t given to all supervisors. So far, information has been provided only to newly promoted sergeants and inspectors. The force needs to take steps to enhance training, improve workforce understanding of the abuse of position for a sexual purpose and provide guidance to all supervisors about the warning signs.

    Positively, we found that when the force uncovers cases of this nature, it adopts a proactive media approach. This includes reassuring the public that it is taking steps to prevent such actions from recurring and encouraging the public to report inappropriate behaviour. We saw evidence of cases documented on the force website for public information and confidence.

    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.