Northamptonshire PEEL 2018
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
Northamptonshire Police is reactive in its approach to policing and has a limited understanding of demand. Demand analysis is out of date and needs to be refreshed, and the force doesn’t understand its workforce capabilities well enough. Work has begun to address this, but there needs to be wider analysis to get a fuller picture of demand.
There aren’t enough resources to cope with investigative demand. As a result, there are backlogs of crimes not allocated to investigators. A new change programme has been set up to change the force’s operating model to better meet demand and be more efficient. The force has invested in new technologies that offer opportunities for the workforce to become more efficient and visible through mobile working.
The force is committed to joint working. It benefits from working with other agencies but can’t quantify this in terms of cost savings or added resilience. Northamptonshire County Council is currently restructuring to become two unitary authorities. This means there is significant uncertainty about future partnership arrangements.
Northamptonshire Police has sound financial plans. And the finance team is more rigorous in budget setting than when we last inspected.
The force’s understanding of future demand is limited. It intends to better understand current demand first. It will then be able to better predict and plan for future demand.
The force has an ambitious vision to improve its services. It acknowledges that its current plans aren’t enough to achieve this.
How well does the force use its resources to meet the demand it faces?
Northamptonshire Police doesn’t understand current demand well enough. While the force has carried out some analysis of demand, the last detailed analysis was in 2017. The force did some work to better understand hidden demand in 2018, but there hasn’t been any more done since then. The force’s operating model is not efficient enough, with multiple handover points between units. Not being able to meet demand leads to delays in services to the public. The force has commissioned work to get a better understanding of current and future demand. It plans to change its operating model to enable it to better manage demand.
The force has plans to improve how it oversees and scrutinises the benefits resulting from changes and improvements. It also has plans to factor in expected benefits to financial plans.
The force uses the multi-force shared service (MFSS) for HR and finance. MFSS is also used by Cheshire Constabulary, Nottinghamshire Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. MFSS isn’t bringing the benefits that it could because staff aren’t sufficiently trained or supported to use the system. This means that the force only has a limited understanding of the resources and workforce skills available to it. The force plans to address these problems. The service will then be able to bring the benefits and savings that are expected.
Recent ICT investments include new laptops, mobile phones and body-worn video cameras. The force now needs to make sure that the workforce uses ICT systems more efficiently and effectively.
Cause of concern
The force can’t manage current demand effectively. It doesn’t have enough capacity or capability to investigate crime as effectively as it should. This is affecting the service too often.
Northamptonshire Police is failing to respond appropriately to some vulnerable people. This means it is missing some opportunities to safeguard victims and secure evidence.
To address this cause of concern, we recommend that within 12 months the force should do the following:
- To improve the effectiveness of its investigations, it should:
- make sure senior officers clearly and effectively oversee crime investigations and standards;
- make sure all crimes are allocated quickly to investigators with the appropriate skills, accreditation and support. They will then be able to investigate them to a good standard, on time;
- make sure it is fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime;
- make sure it can retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to avoid delaying investigations;
- make sure it uses bail and ‘released under investigation’ correctly to keep the public safe; and
- make sure that people listed as ‘wanted’ on the Police National Computer are quickly located and arrested.
- To improve its approach to protecting vulnerable people, it should:
- improve call response and initial investigation for all vulnerable victims;
- improve its response to missing and absent children by categorising information correctly, and regularly and actively supervise missing person investigations to properly safeguard victims; and
- analyse information held on systems to better understand the nature and scale of vulnerability. It should then act on its findings relating to missing people, domestic abuse, human trafficking, modern slavery and child sexual exploitation.
- To make sure it can meet demand, it should develop plans to address its current capacity, capability and efficiency problems. It should:
- change its operating model to remove inefficient practices;
- create a central record of the skills available within the existing workforce;
- reorganise the workforce to make sure officers have the skills needed to meet demand; and
- carry out a thorough assessment of current and future demand, covering all elements of policing.
How well does the force plan for the future?
Northamptonshire Police has a limited understanding of future demand. The force has invested in demand modelling software, but there are not enough trained staff to make effective use of it. The force is addressing this problem. Its focus, initially, is on understanding current demand and becoming more efficient. It has set up FP20 to define and implement a new operating model.
The force is struggling to meet demand. It plans to change its operating model and recruit more officers, which will help address this problem. The force has updated its policing priorities to make sure that the workforce and the public are clear about the force’s vision.
The force is making progress in its financial planning, but it still has work to do in this area. For example, financial, estates and workforce plans aren’t fully co-ordinated yet. And joint working plans with other agencies are limited.
While the force has some ways to identify talented members of staff, there are no formal talent management processes. There is some succession planning, but this is limited. There is a process for senior leaders to understand the potential among supervisors and managers. The force has made some improvements since our 2017 inspection, but these aren’t wide-ranging enough.
The force plans to communicate more with the public to better understand expectations. It will use this information in its planning for the future. And work is under way to build on joint working with the fire service.
Areas for improvement
- The force should make sure it understands the demand for its services, and what the public expects, are kept up to date by regularly reviewing the information it has. This should be carried out alongside local authorities, other emergency services and partner organisations. This will make sure that it takes the necessary steps to meet current and likely future demand.
- The force should make sure that workforce planning covers all areas of policing and that there is a clear rationale, based on evidence, to reorganise staff to meet current and future demand.
- The force should make sure that the additional staff resulting from the growth in council tax precept are allocated to areas of greatest risk, demand and to address skills gaps in the workforce.