South Yorkshire PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
During our 2019 effectiveness inspection, we found that South Yorkshire Police is good at reducing crime and keeping people safe. The force continues to be good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour; and at tackling serious-organised-crime.
The force is generally good at investigating crime. It has changed its structures and processes to improve how it investigates crime. The force’s crime support hub is very effective. The force should reduce delays in investigations that involve digital evidence. It is the first force to have developed and delivered a specialist course for police staff who are investigating crimes against vulnerable victims.
The force is good at managing wanted persons and outstanding suspects. It works well with its partner organisations to check the status of arrested foreign nationals. It understands and uses bail well. When releasing suspects under investigation, it tries to make sure it protects vulnerable victims. It is working to improve the quality of its case files to meet its disclosure obligations.
The force is good at protecting vulnerable people and works well with partners to do this. It has a good understanding of vulnerability and supports its staff in identifying this. However, officers need to spot less obvious signs of vulnerability more consistently.
The force is good at using its powers and protective orders to protect victims. However, supervisors need to monitor domestic abuse risk assessments that are re-graded. South Yorkshire Police is good at working with its partners to manage and prevent the demand from mental health. The force can’t always respond to emergency and priority calls involving vulnerable people quickly enough. But it is doing the best it can to manage and prioritise its resources well.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all investigations are completed to a consistently good standard and in a timely manner.
- The force should improve its ability to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to ensure that investigations are not delayed.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
South Yorkshire Police conducts good investigations leading to satisfactory results for victims. Leaders have made sure that the force has the structure and staffing it needs to investigate crime. The force has changed the way it investigates crime using local officers and staff rather than operating from central units. The force has reduced its detective shortage through appointing and training police staff investigators who have received appropriate training and have achieved, or are working towards, accreditation. It has also introduced a new crime recording and management system.
The force is the first in the country to have developed and run a specialist police staff investigations officer course, which we consider positive practice. It recruits specialist investigators who then complete a postgraduate certificate in investigating crime against the vulnerable. The University of Sheffield has developed this course with the force, together with the College of Policing and Durham Constabulary, using police transformation funding. After they graduate, the new investigators start working within the force’s specialist investigations units. A new unit – the investigator development unit – supports and trains the recruits as they develop their investigation skills and gain the required formal accreditation.
In 2017, the force introduced its crime support hub and we found that it continues to be effective and is now responsible for a wider range of crimes. Staff in the hub triage these crimes, plan the investigations and allocate them to other teams if further investigation is necessary. This has improved the quality of these investigations, the experience of victims and has reduced the demand placed on response officers.
The force allocates most investigations to appropriately skilled officers and staff. In most cases, officers take the necessary steps to identify and secure evidence immediately. However, sometimes the force is unable to respond to incidents quickly enough. This means that officers are not always completing the timely initial enquiries that are necessary for a good quality investigation.
South Yorkshire Police investigates some crime over the telephone through its crime support hub. It does this effectively. This is an appropriate and more efficient way of investigating less serious crimes when it is immediately clear there are no viable lines of enquiry. All the telephone investigations we reviewed were of a high standard and there is strong leadership in place. The hub completes all enquiries that it can do over the phone, or by retrieving CCTV through electronic downloads. Where further enquires are required, staff prepare investigation plans and allocate the crimes to district officers.
Most cases we examined within the force’s investigation teams were of a good standard, though we did find some that didn’t have a detailed investigation plan with directions from supervisors for investigators to follow. The force did its own audit of crime investigations before our inspection. It recognised that it needed to make improvements and provided its supervisors with further training. The more recent cases we reviewed were of a better standard. The force has tighter governance arrangements in place since moving its investigation teams into its four districts. It holds officers and staff to account for the quality of investigations through a monthly investigation governance group and through quarterly performance reviews.
However, we found that restricted capacity in the force’s digital forensic support function is affecting its ability to investigate some crimes efficiently. Although the force invested further in this unit in 2017, it hasn’t yet been subject of review as part of the force’s change programme. There is growing demand for digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices. The force has processes in place to prioritise this work, and has trained officers to do local examinations, but the unit can’t always manage current demand.
The force has improved its understanding of the outcomes of its investigations. It has found that 95 percent of its suspects fall into one of three categories: charged/summons, named suspect but ‘evidential difficulties’, and named suspect but ‘victim does not support the investigation/prosecution’. For the 12 months to 30 September 2018, the force’s rates for charged/summonsed were in line with the England and Wales rate. There has been a small increase in cases where there are evidential difficulties and a decrease in ones where the victim does not support a prosecution, although this remains slightly higher than the England and Wales rate. Through dip sampling, the force identified that officers and supervisors didn’t always understand or record the correct finalisation codes. This was affecting its outcomes and the force has worked to correct this over the last 12 months. In addition, campaigns about vulnerability and domestic abuse may have also contributed to an improved understanding and awareness among officers.
South Yorkshire Police provides victims with a satisfactory service, which addresses their specific needs. Most victims receive good victim care and the force monitors the quality of service they receive through victim satisfaction surveys.
South Yorkshire Police actively pursues offenders who are a risk to the public. It promptly circulates wanted persons on the Police National Computer and effectively monitors them. The force prioritises those people who are most wanted, focusing on domestic abuse offenders. It prioritises outstanding named suspects based on crime type, other offences, vulnerability and risk to the public. Officers and staff have a good awareness of those people who are wanted or outstanding through the force’s self-briefing system (daily and weekly management meetings that inform response officer briefings). Neighbourhood officers also have good knowledge about wanted people in their local area.
The force works proactively with its partner organisations to manage foreign national offenders. It has two immigration leads who act as points of contact for the force. Each district also has a dedicated foreign national offender lead. The force works with the ACRO Criminal Records Office to check previous overseas convictions for arrested foreign national offenders. Automated ACRO checks mean that the force obtains available conviction data for all those arrested. Through working with immigration enforcement, the force has assisted in removing approximately 250 foreign national offenders from the UK since 2014. This is in line with central government criteria for deportation where convictions exist in the offender’s home country. The force raises officers’ awareness about foreign national offender checks through a section on its internal website, which explains what they need to do. Student officers also receive an input on foreign national offenders during their initial training.
The force understands and makes effective use of post and pre-charge bail. It has a bail management team in place to monitor this. It manages bail decisions daily through sergeant and inspector reviews. When custody sergeants decide to release a person under investigation without any further bail conditions, there are sufficient controls in place through a superintendent’s review. The force makes sure that officers and custody sergeants give these decisions appropriate consideration, so that vulnerable victims remain protected. It monitors these decisions through its investigations governance group and force performance meetings.
South Yorkshire Police is improving how it meets its disclosure obligations. The force recognised that its previous processes didn’t allow it to properly measure the quality of disclosure in criminal procedures. It has trained all detectives in disclosure, and between July and December 2018 the force provided further training for response officers and police staff investigators. It has started triaging files pre-charge, using new file building teams within each of the force’s four districts. A working group is leading this change together with the force’s disclosure lead. The force has also trained a detective to a higher level, to advise senior staff on more complex and problematic disclosure decisions. A new process for quality assuring investigation files has also led to improvements.Summary for question 2
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Areas for improvement
- The force should make use of the full range of data from its new systems, to better understand, analyse, and profile vulnerability, victims, and offenders.
- The force should put in place appropriate controls to ensure that where there is a secondary review of domestic abuse cases, and a decision is made to re-grade the risk assessment, a supervisor oversees this decision.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Understanding and identifying vulnerability
South Yorkshire Police is good at how it protects vulnerable people. We found that the force has made good progress since our 2017 effectiveness inspection.
The force has a clear strategy and definition of vulnerability, which is in line with that published by the College of Policing. It has outlined its strategic aims in its plan-on-a-page, with protecting vulnerable people at its centre. It has communicated this well through presentations and on the force intranet. All force computers have screen saver messages about vulnerability.
The force has developed a high-level overview of vulnerability from its own data through its strategic assessment. Its analysis at a local level also demonstrates that understanding has improved. However, we found that most of the information presented is police data rather than data from partner organisations. Partners are not yet regularly sharing data to help with the understanding of all aspects of vulnerability across South Yorkshire.
An assistant chief constable chairs the monthly vulnerability group to discuss how the force is performing. The group puts plans and actions in place to drive continuous improvement and is supported by data to ensure decisions are appropriately informed. The force is working on broadening its understanding of vulnerability through additional data that will now be available from its new operational information and communications technology (ICT) systems.
The force has worked with partners to improve its understanding of the nature and scale of domestic abuse. It has set up a domestic abuse group that meets quarterly, to review the profile of victims and determine where, collectively with partners, they can improve and support victims better.
The force has worked hard to increase the awareness of its workforce through providing a range of training on how to identify vulnerability, which focuses on ‘looking beyond the obvious’. This includes training on the 15 strands of vulnerability through online courses, classroom inputs, masterclasses given by vulnerability leads in the force, and training by external agencies. There has been a clear emphasis on domestic abuse training, mental health, modern slavery, and so-called honour-based abuse. Vulnerability features in all the force’s accredited training courses, and 95 police staff investigators have completed a postgraduate course to investigate crimes committed against vulnerable victims.
The force is leading the way in gaining support for mental health provision to manage and prevent demand with partner agencies. It is now a member of the integrated care system, which provides it with the opportunity to influence how the system commissions services across South Yorkshire. The force offers an extensive range of mental health training and awareness to its officers, staff and partner organisations. It does this through the multi-agency mental health training programme, and conferences, with a wide range of health providers.
The force’s mental health training programme has been developed in line with the College of Policing, authorised professional practice and minimum standards of training on mental health. The programme improves participants’ understanding of relevant polices, including those implemented following recent legislative changes. This has raised the awareness of its officers and staff in identifying mental health issues that they may come across in both victims and offenders. We consider this positive practice.
More recently, the force has trained its frontline officers and staff in understanding autism, and acute behavioural disturbance (ABD) . Victims and service users have spoken in training sessions about the need to ‘show us that you care’, and ‘show us empathy’. Student officers have a two-week placement within a range of health services so that they understand more about mental health problems and to influence their policing style when dealing with victims and offenders suffering from mental health.
The force searches proactively for hidden forms of vulnerability and exploitation. It has dedicated teams whose work focuses on uncovering and investigating child sexual exploitation, modern slavery and human trafficking. The force is good at identifying potential vulnerable victims of fraud and provides advice to prevent them from becoming victims again.
However, while officers understand to look for vulnerability such as living conditions and social isolation, they are not always identifying the less obvious issues. The force is currently providing training to officers and staff about hidden vulnerability.
South Yorkshire Police provides its workforce with the tools they need to identify vulnerability. It has trained its staff in using:
- the THRIVE risk assessment tool to determine the threat, harm and risk to the victim; and
- a vulnerability assessment framework to help determine the level of vulnerability of the victim, offender, or others involved in incidents or crimes.
The vulnerability assessment framework has been developed by a university and provides consistent guidance for officers and staff to follow. It is good practice that South Yorkshire Police has adopted from another force. All the staff we spoke to understand THRIVE and the vulnerability assessment framework and this training is being provided as a rolling programme. Officers and partners across South Yorkshire use a mental health toolkit to assist them in identifying mental health issues, and it also provides them with guidance. This is available for officers to use on their handheld devices.
Call handlers identify vulnerability when people first call the police and can identify repeat victims through telephone numbers, names and locations. During our pre-inspection work, we found that call handlers complete a structured risk assessment and can consistently and accurately identify the level and type of vulnerability presented and make appropriate decisions about how to respond. They give advice to vulnerable victims about how to stay safe until the police arrive. However, they could do more to advise victims on how to preserve forensic evidence.
Responding to incidents
South Yorkshire Police is not able to respond to all its incidents involving vulnerable people within the target time. However, it is doing the best it can with the resources it currently has. Due to increased levels of demand from calls for service, the force is unable to allocate officers to respond to all incidents requiring an immediate (within 15 minutes) or priority response (within 60 minutes).
During our pre-inspection work this year, we found that the force is identifying vulnerability, with correct grading of its calls. There is an escalation process between the control room, district sergeants and inspectors when there is a delay to a response and the control room can draw on limited additional resources such as firearms officers and traffic officers to assist patrol officers. Staff review and prioritise calls that are awaiting allocation. The force has changed its management information to give it a better understanding of the delays that victims are experiencing. It frequently monitors this information at both force and district level. This, together with the escalation process, helps the force be sure that vulnerable victims are receiving a quick enough response to keep them safe.
The force has trained frontline officers to look for any signs that may indicate that the victim is vulnerable. Officers also assess any risks to other people in the household, such as children or elderly adults. They are good at assessing the risk of vulnerable victims when they attend domestic abuse, child abuse or incidents involving a victim with mental health problems. Officers identify these more obvious types of vulnerability well. However, we found that they don’t always identify less obvious vulnerability and they occasionally miss wider risks. Officers don’t always have time to do all the research required as part of their overall assessment of risk.
Both officers and the force’s domestic abuse review unit complete a thorough assessment of domestic abuse victims and other people identified as vulnerable in the household. Every domestic abuse incident has a risk assessment completed. Officers refer to a domestic abuse expectations checklist, complete the required form (DASH), and a sergeant signs it off. The forms that we reviewed showed good completion rates and good decision making. The domestic abuse review unit conducts a secondary review, based on a wider range of information about children or other people in the household. We were pleased to find there was no backlog of forms waiting to have this secondary review, therefore no delay to ongoing safeguarding. But despite the effectiveness of these processes, we found two cases that this team had incorrectly re-graded from high risk to medium risk. Staff had made these decisions with no supervisory oversight. This practice means some victims might not receive the proportionate safeguarding needed to protect them. The force should address this.
The force’s four local referral units work well with partners and refer victims for ongoing safeguarding, but they do not work in a consistent way. In some of the units, staff are making decisions without completing enough further research. Some also have a backlog of forms waiting for a supervisory review before closure. These forms have had an initial review, but staff may have missed some element of vulnerability during the subsequent assessment. The force recognises this problem and has put a review and audit process in place.
South Yorkshire Police takes positive action to protect vulnerable victims. Its arrest and charge rates are good and in line with the England and Wales average. Since the introduction of the force’s new crime system, it is now able to record domestic related crimes and investigation outcomes more accurately. This has led to an increase in its domestic abuse related crimes as well as changes in its outcomes. Although consistent with national trends, it still records a high percentage of outcomes where the victim does not support police action. The force is introducing body-worn video technology which it feels will assist officers to progress victimless prosecutions.
The force has developed effective partnerships with mental health services to assist officers with an initial assessment regarding the vulnerability of a victim or suspect. It is now a member of the integrated care system, which provides the force with the opportunity to influence how the system commissions services across South Yorkshire. A 24/7 telephone triage is available to officers in all four areas of the force. This provides officers with professional advice to assist in their decision making. Sheffield also has a mental health street triage service that responds to incidents where an officer requires their assistance. An initial evaluation of the effectiveness of this service shows that over 3,500 people have used it since it started in 2014, and use has increased every year. Partners told us that the officers they work with clearly understand how to use the vulnerability assessment framework and know what do to when they recognise mental health issues.
Supporting vulnerable victims
South Yorkshire Police has a clear policy in place for the ongoing safeguarding of victims. For all domestic abuse victims, safeguarding is the responsibility of the officer completing the investigation. For other types of vulnerability, police community support officers (PCSOs) provide reassurance visits within their local communities. Officers have a booklet with contact information for partner organisations that can also provide support for victims.
The force makes effective and consistent use of protective powers and measures to safeguard vulnerable victims. It has increased its use of protection notices and protection orders for domestic abuse offenders. It has also been proactive at monitoring these orders and acting when offenders breach them. We are pleased that the force has increased its focus on the use of Clare’s Law ‘right to know’ and ‘right to ask’, including increasing officer awareness.
The force works well with its partners to support longer-term safeguarding. Each of the four districts has multi-agency safeguarding arrangements in place, with police and partner organisations jointly located. These provide effective support to vulnerable children and vulnerable adults. The force shares information with partners, which means that together they can safeguard vulnerable people more effectively. For example, it has used forced marriage protection orders for young vulnerable children, to protect them until they are adults.
South Yorkshire Police refers all high-risk cases of domestic abuse to a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC). A MARAC allows the police and other specialists, including those who support victims, to exchange information on high-risk domestic abuse cases. High-risk domestic abuse victims are those who are at risk of murder or serious harm. However, the criteria for which cases MARACs will consider differ between county and city areas nationally.
We identified good practice in two of the force’s districts where they have introduced a MADA meeting. This brings together police and partners including a local authority referral manager, independent domestic abuse support and a social worker. The MADA process makes sure that the domestic abuse cases where a child was present, but that haven’t resulted in a strategy meeting, are still subject of multi-agency discussion. The group considers the risk to the child and determines what support or prevention it can put in place. Independent domestic violence advisers have access to local authority funds to help with prevention measures for the home.
The force seeks feedback from vulnerable victims and uses this to improve the services it provides. This includes victims who do not support police action. The force completes comprehensive analysis of its victim surveys, focusing on all aspects of the service provided. Its domestic abuse best practice group meets quarterly to discuss how they can collectively improve the service to victims of domestic abuse.
The force makes good use of ancillary orders and other powers to protect the public. It routinely considers the use of serious harm prevention orders, sexual risk orders and violent offender orders. It has support from its legal services team and a good success rate for the orders it applies for. The force has invested in polygraph (lie detector test) technology. It uses this as part of its management of serious harm prevention orders and asks offenders to submit themselves for a polygraph test. By using this test, the force has had success in identifying breaches of orders.
The force has found that officers don’t know enough about serious harm prevention orders and when to apply for them. It has plans to address this.
Neighbourhood officers have a good awareness of the registered sex offenders living in their areas. The force has trained them about low-level offenders and they carry out visits on these individuals and are provided with up-to-date information through briefings from offender managers.
While we were pleased to find no backlog of unassessed registered sex offenders within the force’s violent and sexual offenders units, the workloads in these units are high. Sex offender managers are also mentoring and overseeing investigation officers who have their own allocated workload. There is a lack of consistent supervision within these units, with some supervisors being unaware of current caseloads. While we recognise the steps that the force has taken to put additional staff into the units to manage the caseload, these staff do not yet have the full skills and powers required.Summary for question 3
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over. From our 2018/19 pre-inspection work we found the force continues to be good and did not require further inspection.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Understanding the threat and responding to it
The force has an adequate understanding of the potential harm facing the public.Its APSTRA conforms to the requirements of the code and the College of Policing guidance. The APSTRA is published annually and is accompanied by a register of risks and other observations. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently to maintain the right levels of armed capability and capacity.
There is one area where the APSTRA could be improved. The assessment does
not include an analysis of how quickly armed response vehicles (ARVs) respond to armed incidents. This omission concerns us. ARV response times are an important factor in determining whether a force has sufficient armed officers to meet operational demands.
In our last effectiveness inspection, we identified another shortcoming. The force had not developed its own APSTRA and was reliant on an assessment of threats and risks affecting several forces in the region. This has now been rectified.
All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. There are different standards for each role that armed officers perform. Most armed incidents in South Yorkshire Police are attended by officers trained to an ARV standard. However, incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and specialist capabilities of more highly trained officers.
The force has sufficient specialist officers at its disposal. Furthermore, if specialist capabilities are not immediately available in South Yorkshire, agreements are in place to seek the assistance of specialist officers in the regional counter terrorist unit.
Because of the terrorist threat, South Yorkshire Police has received Home Office funding as part of a programme to boost armed policing in certain parts of England and Wales. We established that the force has fulfilled its commitment to the programme by increasing the availability of ARVs.
Working with others
It is important that effective joint working arrangements are in place between neighbouring forces. Armed criminals and terrorists have no respect for county boundaries. Therefore, armed officers must be prepared to deploy flexibly in the knowledge that they can work seamlessly with officers in other forces. It is also important that any one force can call on support from surrounding forces in times of heightened threat.
South Yorkshire Police has effective arrangements with forces in the Yorkshire and Humber region to provide armed policing. This means that the standards of training, armed deployments and command of armed operations are assured in all four forces. It also brings certainty that armed officers can deploy flexibly and rapidly to any area in the region.
We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in South Yorkshire Police are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. Also, South Yorkshire Police has an important role in designing training exercises with other organisations that simulate these types of attack. We found that these training exercises are reviewed carefully so that learning points are identified, and improvements are made.
In addition to debriefing training exercises, we found that South Yorkshire Police reviews the outcome of all firearms incidents that officers attend. This helps ensure that best practice or areas for improvement are identified. We also found that this knowledge is used to improve training and operational procedures.Summary for question 5