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Northamptonshire PEEL 2018

Legitimacy

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

Last updated 27/09/2019
Requires improvement

The force doesn’t consistently seek feedback from the public to improve its approach, although we did see some good examples of force leaders working with communities.

The force understands how to use force appropriately. Officers use stop and search powers appropriately. And the force is committed to continue to learn and improve in this area.

Northamptonshire Police behaves ethically and lawfully. Effective anti-corruption measures are in place. Leaders publicise their expectations and the force’s values well throughout the workforce.

The force has a reasonable understanding of workforce diversity. It has made some improvements since our last inspection. This includes recruiting an equalities and positive actions officer.

It needs to be more aware of levels of wellbeing among its workforce. It will then be able to offer more, and better, support to staff. Plans are in place to improve the situation and staff have already seen positive changes.

There are limited talent management programmes or structured ways to develop both officers and staff. Poor performance is not always tackled. The workforce doesn’t perceive as fair the processes for performance, talent management and promotion. This is having a negative effect on workforce morale and productivity.

There is a new leadership programme for supervisors and we are pleased to find that most staff now have regular meetings with their staff. The workforce is feeling optimistic about the future and is positive about the vision of the new chief constable.

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

  • The force should improve the way it communicates with the different communities it serves.
  • The force should make sure it has effective external scrutiny on stop and search.
  • The force should make sure it has effective external scrutiny on the use of force.

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

Some – but not all – leaders demonstrate an understanding of the value of working with communities, procedural justice, and treating the public with fairness and respect. The force needs to be more consistent in how it communicates with the public. It would benefit from focusing on harder to reach groups, and those less likely to contact the police.

The force doesn’t consistently seek public feedback to improve its approach. There is an over-reliance on traditional methods, such as community alerts and beat surgeries. We found some positive examples of force leaders responding to community concerns – for example, recognising that communities would like a more robust response to burglary. This approach isn’t yet consistent.

The force could make more use of social media. It is currently only used by the corporate communications department to post information. The force has two community engagement officers who attend events, such as faith centre days, and work with community leaders. These officers are carrying out meaningful work and building relationships with some communities, but they can’t be expected to service the whole county. The force needs to make sure that neighbourhood teams communicate more often and consistently with the public. It needs to tailor its work to meet local needs.

Northamptonshire Police strives to promote the use of its cadets, volunteers and special constables. The force uses volunteers in many ways. These roles include chaplains, volunteers on horseback and emergency service cadet leaders. Plus, there are around 100 Street Watch volunteers.

There are about 250 special constables. They are in traditional roles of response policing or supporting pre-planned events, such as football matches. Only 52 special constables can carry out independent patrols. The force is looking into also using them in other specialist roles, such as tackling cybercrime. Some special constables work with neighbourhood teams. The force should consider building on this.

Knowledge and understanding of unconscious bias are generally good among the workforce. However, some of those we spoke to weren’t able to say how this knowledge had positively affected their communications with the public. This training hasn’t been provided to police staff, but it is scheduled for 2019.

Using force

The workforce understands how to use force and record it appropriately. It complies with the NPCC’s recording requirements. The force has an officer safety training package. It has recently been amended to include tactical communications, based on learning from a complaint case.

The force has an internal ‘use of force’ monitoring group. The group has started to analyse variations in the use of force. It doesn’t yet externally scrutinise the use of force. It does, however, have plans to introduce this.

The force doesn’t routinely review body-worn video footage to assess the use of force. However, it is viewed by the professional standards department (PSD) if there is a complaint.

Use of force incidents taking place in custody are dip-sampled and cross-checked against CCTV. Being more proactive through wider dip-sampling of body-worn video camera footage may identify where lessons can be learned. 

Using stop and search powers

Officers understand how to use stop and search appropriately and the use of the power is well supervised. This means that the force shows a commitment to continual learning around stop and search. Unfortunately, there is a reluctance among some officers to use the power. The force’s reasonable grounds panel has been broadly effective in improving recording standards. But, although the panel is designed to be a supportive and learning process, it is not perceived as such by officers.

The panel process is contributing to the fall in the use of stop and search powers. To address this, the force should promote its benefits to officers. The force plans to provide a one-day training package during 2019 for uniformed officers and special constables on stop and search and unconscious bias. The aim is to encourage its use and ensure effective recording practices.

We reviewed a representative sample of 100 stop and search records to assess the reasonableness of the recorded grounds. Eighty-eight 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.

In the sample we reviewed, we also discovered many searches involving suspicion of possession of drugs, rather than supply of drugs. This is unlikely to fit with force priorities.

In our 2017 legitimacy report, we recommended that all forces should:

  • track and analyse detailed stop and search data to understand reasons for variations;
  • take action on those; and
  • publish the analysis and the action by July 2018.

We found that the force has complied with some of these recommendations. However, it doesn’t identify the extent to which find rates differ between people from different ethnicities or across different types of searches (including separate identification of find rates for drug possession and supply-type offences). Also, it isn’t clear that the force 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. There was no obvious mention of analysis to understand and explain reasons for variations, or any subsequent action taken.

Northamptonshire Police has an internal stop and search monitoring group. The group is provided with detailed data to identify patterns and trends. The group has started to better understand the disproportionately high numbers of BAME groups being stopped. The force is now improving its practice as a result.

The force has recently instructed that body-worn video cameras are used for all stop and search encounters. The internal scrutiny group reviews this footage to identify lessons that can be learned.

There is also an external scrutiny group for stop and search. It is chaired by a chief inspector and community representatives attend. The group meets quarterly and listens to community feedback. However, members aren’t provided with fully comprehensive data to help them understand the issues. And membership isn’t fully representative of communities. The police officer chair reduces the independence of the group.

Summary for question 1
2

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

Good

Areas for improvement

  • 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 force’s performance in this area.

Maintaining an ethical culture

Northamptonshire Police’s workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. Leaders communicate their expectations well and there is a good understanding of these expectations across the organisation, championed by the chief officer team. Staff discuss difficult ethical issues. Some ask the PSD for advice.

Leaders promote the four values expected of officers and staff – honesty, fairness, reliability and approachability. These values have been widely promoted, and awareness among the workforce is good. Most leaders understand the importance of acting as ethical role models, and to foster a no-blame culture.

Force policies are accessible and equality impact assessments are in line with the Code of Ethics. The force equality adviser reviews all policies, and the force involves the staff unions. This makes sure that the force’s policies and procedures are properly evaluated.

Acceptable and unacceptable behaviours are communicated well. The force circulates the results of misconduct hearings and meetings. And the PSD circulates a monthly ‘Lessons learned’ bulletin. These activities support acceptable, and reduce unacceptable, standards of behaviour. They will also improve future performance.

The force has internal and external ethics committees, with the chief constable chairing the internal panel. The internal committee recently used a staff survey to identify which ethical issues to raise. The promotion system was amended as a result, although many officers and staff are not aware of these committees, their purpose, or how to use them. The ethics committees don’t play enough role in ethical communications across the force. More could be done to make the workforce aware of these groups and share what was discussed.

Northamptonshire Police complies with all aspects of the vetting code and authorised professional practice. It also fulfils its obligations to provide details to the College of Policing for the barred and advisory lists. These lists stop people who have left the service under investigation, or have been dismissed, from re-joining or working in law enforcement.

The force has enough resources available to fully vet the workforce. New software has recently replaced the previous system in the vetting unit. This has made the unit more efficient and allows better maintenance of vetting through annual reviews. This work reduces the chances of the force employing an inappropriate member of staff. It will soon start to review cases where individuals fail vetting to identify any inconsistencies or unfairness.

Officers and staff understand the standards of behaviour that are expected of them. And they are aware of their obligations associated with business interests, reportable associations, gifts and hospitality policies. The workforce trusts the various reporting methods. The force makes good use of the integrity registers and monitors compliance. This work will reduce the likelihood of corruption within the force.

Tackling corruption

Northamptonshire Police has enough capability and capacity to address corruption issues. It has an effective anti-corruption strategic assessment, and a satisfactory governance and refresh process. The force collects and analyses data from several sources to identify early any corrupt behaviour or vulnerability to corruption. It intervenes early to reduce this risk.

Abuse of position is in the force’s anti-corruption strategic assessment. It has raised awareness among its workforce through PSD ‘Lessons learned’ bulletins. It also reassures the public by publicising cases and encouraging the reporting of inappropriate behaviour.

In 2017, the force submitted a plan to address our 2016 national recommendations about the abuse of position for a sexual purpose. This is now in place. The force recognises and records the abuse of position as serious corruption. It refers cases to the IOPC as required. We reviewed 60 cases – 16 needed IOPC referrals. These were made in all but two cases and the force accept that these cases should have been referred. Complying with the referral criteria is likely to increase the public’s trust that serious corruption is dealt with appropriately.

The force has passive monitoring systems in place across almost all its ICT equipment. This includes the new mobile devices.

The force asks its workforce for information about corruption and organisations that support vulnerable people. This provides it with good corruption intelligence. An external reporting line will soon launch. The workforce reports business interests and notifiable associations. There are minimal backlogs and information is gathered on time.

The force ensures that all intelligence and allegations involving potential criminal behaviour by officers and staff are fully investigated. It needs to consider how it protects those who report wrongdoing. The workforce knows it must report notifiable associations and there is a good awareness of the confidential reporting line (called ‘Bad Apple’). However, many said they felt nervous about using it because they were concerned they wouldn’t remain anonymous.

Summary for question 2
3

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

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should improve the way it communicates with the workforce to increase trust and confidence in its leaders. It should communicate the action it takes in response to issues identified by the workforce.
  • The force should make sure that it has effective processes in place to identify and understand the causes of potential disproportionality, and to take effective action.
  • The force should improve its provision of preventative healthcare measures for the workforce and ensure that wellbeing is considered in decisions around manging demand resource allocation. This should include making sure it provides suitable training, support and capacity for its supervisors so that they have the necessary time to recognise the signs and provide the necessary early intervention response for managing wellbeing issues.
  • The force should improve how it manages individual performance and identifies talent within the workforce.
  • The force should tackle the workforce perception of unfairness in Northamptonshire Police through ensuring that its performance, talent management and promotion and selection processes are accessible and perceived by the workforce as fair.

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

Improving fairness at work

There are some systems and processes in place for leaders to get feedback from the workforce about fairness and how to treat staff. These, however, are limited. There is some evidence of senior leaders demonstrating changes that had been made because of staff feedback. For example, the force has recently reviewed the fairness at work policy. The policy defines the approach for handling grievances. The review involved benchmarking with other forces. And the force got feedback from interested parties such as focus groups.

The review led to many recommendations. These included improved training for line managers, better record keeping and a process to learn lessons from grievances raised. The chief constable has a regular video blog where he invites feedback. There is also an ‘Ask the chief’ section on the force’s intranet pages. This is where the chief constable or a nominated representative responds to questions within a set timeframe.

Those responsible for managing change communicate regularly with the different staff networks. The staff networks represent different groups within the workforce. Representatives from these groups confirmed that they felt they were suitably consulted on change plans. However, there is a lack of awareness of these consultation activities among the wider workforce.

The force asks for feedback and challenge from staff networks. It aims to use this to inform future plans. The force hasn’t carried out a staff survey since 2017. The next one is planned for 2019. We look forward to the findings.

Officers and staff feel optimistic about the future. And many made positive comments about the visibility of, and messages from, the chief constable, who started in August 2018.

Decisions are sometimes made in isolation, following feedback from individuals or small groups. For example, the force changes the shift patterns of some investigators based on feedback from officers and staff working in those teams. Some of the workforce may feel pleased they have been listened to. However, the shift patterns have been designed to meet the demand profile of the SDM. Changes to shift patterns may also affect the forces ability to manage demand or have other consequences.

Northamptonshire Police handles grievances well. We examined ten cases, and all had been resolved in line with the ACAS Code of Practice. The force acts quickly to address areas of perceived unfairness. This minimises the stress involved for those raising grievances.

The force doesn’t consistently track the underlying causes of workforce complaints. If it had a better understanding of the reasons behind grievances, it would help to identify problems, and learn from them.

Northamptonshire Police has dedicated leads for their diversity objectives. These include:

  • community engagement;
  • hate crime;
  • stop and search;
  • equality impact assessments;
  • representative workforce; and
  • a supportive and inclusive environment.

The force has a reasonable understanding of workforce diversity and acknowledges that diversity within its workforce varies. Since our last inspection, it has recruited an equalities and positive actions officer. The officer is supporting the force’s diversity strategy to address inconsistencies within the workforce.

The force collects data for age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity. This is scrutinised at the equality and diversity board. A chief officer oversees the board, which meets quarterly.

Data is recorded on its Centurion system. This means the force can identify and analyse inconsistencies in how it treats officers and staff who face complaint and misconduct allegations. It doesn’t yet carry out this work. This may affect the way some officers and staff are dealt with during complaint and misconduct processes.

The delays in forensically examining digital devices in the HTCU is a factor in prolonging misconduct cases. This may have a negative impact on the wellbeing of those involved and affect outcomes.

The force doesn’t analyse the information it has on people applying for roles. This means it can’t identify whether there are reasons stopping people from joining that may be affecting the workforce profile.

The force doesn’t ask the people leaving why they are going. It does carry out exit interviews, but only if someone asks for one. It is missing opportunities to better understand, and respond to, the reasons why some people leave. This will be affecting retention levels.

There is a perception among the workforce of unfairness and a culture of favouritism. Staff don’t feel that recruitment, retention and progression processes are fair. The force doesn’t use information it has about those applying for promotion to find out if there are any inconsistencies.

Officers and staff we spoke to referred to a culture of favouritism. Examples included some people getting promoted while other credible candidates were overlooked. The force needs to tackle these perceptions of favouritism. Until this happens, fairness can’t be truly embedded.

Supporting workforce wellbeing

Although leaders promote wellbeing, Northamptonshire Police doesn’t have a consistent and accessible wellbeing service for its workforce. The service isn’t valued among the workforce and related activities don’t follow good practice.

The force has a limited focus on wellbeing and staff aren’t fully aware of the services on offer. The force doesn’t adequately identify and understand wellbeing issues as well as it could. There has been little progress on understanding wellbeing issues since our 2017 inspection.

Leaders aren’t briefed enough to carry out for their wellbeing responsibilities effectively. The force now routinely reviews sickness, and the reasons. However, it doesn’t consider other factors that may affect wellbeing, productivity and morale.

The force recognises the impact high workloads have on workforce wellbeing. It plans to review its operating model and services it provides. This will help it better manage workforce pressure and improve wellbeing. The force plans to use support from the national police wellbeing service.

The force’s approach to wellbeing is reactive. There are only limited examples of early intervention or preventative action. The force does, to a degree, address the wellbeing needs of its workforce when staff are absent from work through ill health. People with physical health problems and those who have suffered trauma receive broadly effective support.

The force can’t routinely identify early signs of stress or address its causes. This would minimise the number of officers and staff unable to work because of ill health. There is an employee assistance programme available. This offers confidential counselling, financial advice and other such support. Levels of take-up among the workforce aren’t clear.

Supervisors have some information to help them recognise the warning signs. This helps them intervene early to prevent wellbeing concerns escalating. The high number of temporary supervisors means that there is a lack of consistency. Around a quarter of sergeants and half of inspectors were temporary at the time of our fieldwork. The force has promotion campaigns planned to fill these posts permanently. This should mean supervisors can provide consistent, good-quality supervision and support.

The force should consider how often it monitors and analyses its own management information. It should also consider the methods it uses to better understand any threats and risks to wellbeing.

Wellbeing features heavily in the new leadership programme and we were pleased that most staff now have regular one-to-one meetings with their supervisor. The workforce values this. Officers and staff we spoke to said there had been a significant change in the past 12 months. Supervisors now better understand their teams’ wellbeing, workload, welfare and performance needs. This means supervisors can better support them.

The force isn’t making effective use of its intranet to promote and understand the wellbeing needs. The intranet could be used to raise awareness or signpost staff to support services.

Sickness absence across the workforce is high. A group has been set up to tackle the issue. The force is trying to better understand the reasons behind high sickness levels, but it hasn’t yet been able to reduce the level. During our fieldwork, occupational health provision didn’t meet demand. There is now better support for those on maternity and paternity leave. A ‘maternity buddies’ support group has been set up.

The force has plans to improve wellbeing support to the workforce and intends to have developed the Blue Light Charter by autumn 2019.

Managing performance and development of officers and staff

Northamptonshire Police has made limited progress to manage and develop workforce performance since our last inspection.

A new personal development review (PDR) system is part of a planned upgrade to the force’s HR and finance system (MFSS). This, however, has been delayed. In the meantime, the force is manually completing PDRs. This means that there are no accurate force-wide data about completion rates or their quality.

The force doesn’t have a way to routinely:

  • identify talented officers and staff;
  • develop or improve individual performance;
  • support career development; or
  • improve wellbeing.

PDRs are essential, but staff don’t see them as useful or effective unless they are seeking promotion. Without a proper PDR system, the force recognises that it is difficult to identify and develop talented staff or carry out effective succession planning.

The force needs to make sure that supervisors feel supported when tackling poor performance. Many supervisors reported that they are reluctant to manage poor performance because they fear a grievance may be raised against them.

HR advice hasn’t been effective. We were briefed on cases where poorly performing staff were moved around rather than the poor performance tackled. Members of the workforce we spoke to were concerned that poor performance isn’t tackled effectively. This is seen as being due to a lack of HR support and weak leadership to deal with underperformance. The force recognises that supervisors who challenge underperformance don’t get enough support when taking robust action. It is striving to tackle this.

Northamptonshire Police doesn’t do enough to identify talent within its workforce. Aside from national schemes, there are limited ways to develop both officers and staff. The force needs to do more to make sure that officers and staff have access to talent management schemes.

Since our last inspection, the force now uses the competency and values framework to recruit, develop and keep officers. This will help it identify talent. The force supports candidates by identifying as early as possible when boards and other promotion processes will take place. This helps candidates plan, and to arrange relevant mentoring and coaching support. This is a positive step for police officers. However, there is no equivalent system for police staff. Some police staff feel they are not valued. The force may be missing opportunities to develop and keep some police staff.

The workforce doesn’t feel that the processes for performance, talent management and promotion are fair. Promotion processes have been reviewed, but the perception of unfairness remains. This will mean that some people don’t apply for promotion because they don’t think they will be fairly treated. Senior leaders are aware of this perception and are working to address it. The force needs to identify and remove barriers to promotion.

Summary for question 3