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Surrey PEEL 2018

Legitimacy

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

Last updated 27/09/2019
Good

Surrey Police works hard to promote a no-blame, ethical, learning culture. It has set up an ethics committee, overseen by someone completely independent of the force. Not all staff fully understand regulations about notifiable associations (people in their lives who might compromise their position). The force needs to make sure everyone knows what a notifiable association is – and what to do about them.

Also, not all staff fully understand regulations on abusing a position for sexual purpose. The force is remedying this by giving supervisors clearer information and providing online training. On diversity, the Surrey Police Association of Culture and Ethnicity (SPACE) offers a mentoring scheme for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff. It has won several awards including the Excellence Award for Diversity and Inclusion at the 2018 HR Excellence Awards.

There are many innovative ways the force is supporting staff wellbeing. For example, wellbeing events show staff where they can get help and support. The force has also worked to reduce stress by making sure regular overtime isn’t seen as ‘business as usual’.

Service from the occupational health unit (OHU) needs to improve. Waiting times for staff needing help have reduced since 2017. But staff are still waiting up to a month for an appointment.

The force now uses informal ‘Focus’ discussions between staff and managers covering wellbeing, performance management and more. Staff like them, but they are informal and not recorded. That means the force can’t capture the results.

Some senior officers identify staff with potential and offer mentoring and coaching. However, this is inconsistent and only open to a few people. The force would benefit from a talent programme open to everyone.

Questions for Legitimacy

1

To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves 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.

2

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

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure that information and intelligence on its staff is used more effectively, sharing appropriately to highlight corruption risks earlier.
  • The force should improve its workforce’s knowledge and understanding of the abuse of position for a sexual purpose, and integrity policies involving business interests and notifiable associations.
  • The force should ensure it has full information technology (IT) monitoring to effectively protect the information contained within its systems.

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

Surrey Police works hard to promote a no-blame, ethical, learning culture. The Code of Ethics has been an important part of the force’s culture for several years. Ethics and ethical behaviour are a vital part of the force’s leadership programmes and promotion processes.

To promote ethical decision making, the force has recently set up an ethics committee with representatives from across the force. The panel’s chair, a local businessman who is also a member of the force’s professional reference group, is completely independent of Surrey Police. This adds impartial oversight, greater transparency and scrutiny to discussion. Early signs are that the committee has been well received and the ethical dilemmas discussed will be an important part of the force’s future learning.

Surrey Police has achieved the 2016 vetting recommendation that all staff should have at least the lowest level of vetting clearance for their roles. This meets the national vetting code of practice and Authorised Professional Practice. Surrey Police’s vetting unit has worked with Sussex Police for some time. It has now digitised its paper records to provide a more accurate picture. The force currently has 50–70 vetting renewals to complete a month. It considers this to be business as usual.

Surrey Police tells staff what standards are expected of them in several ways. These include live PSD webchats to answer questions about standards, ethics and handling complaints. There are also discussion forums on the force intranet, video blogs and a PSD website that people use often. The force also publishes the outcomes of misconduct investigations to encourage learning across the workforce. 

Tackling corruption

The force has an effective counter-corruption strategic assessment and control strategy. Both are subject to governance and review processes.

Staff have different levels of knowledge about declaring business interests and notifiable associations. Those with existing business interests were clear about their responsibilities and described how annual follow-ups take place. People were less consistently aware of notifiable associations.

The force needs to make sure that all officers, staff and volunteers know what a notifiable association is, along with the steps they need to take when they find one.

The force goes through a risk assessment process with officers at risk of corruption. But there isn’t a wider ‘people intelligence’ process where information is shared to identify staff at risk of becoming a corruption threat. This means that the force may not identify people who could be a risk to the organisation as early as it could.

The force can’t yet monitor all its IT systems. If it could it would be easier to check that officers and staff aren’t misusing them. The force is fully aware of this and is working to solve this problem. The specialist teams that look for and tackle corruption have enough staff and resources.

In our 2016 inspection, we said that the force didn’t actively seek intelligence from as wide a range of sources as it could. For instance, it didn’t gather information from women’s refuges, sex worker support groups, gyms or websites. The force has now developed effective links with outside agencies who support vulnerable victims of crime. We look forward to seeing how this develops. The force also has an effective anonymous online reporting system for all staff. When staff contact the anti-corruption unit (ACU), it is mainly by email or personal contact. This shows a high level of confidence in the team.

The force recognises abuse of position for a sexual purpose as serious corruption. This is reflected in the force’s ACU strategic threat assessment. The force is good at dealing with abuse of position for a sexual purpose and refers all cases to the IOPC.

However, the workforce has different levels of understanding about it. Some fail to distinguish between abuse of authority for sexual gain and sexual harassment at work. The force has given supervisors guidance about warning signs and most staff have completed an online training package. The force shares the results of misconduct to increase awareness of the problem.

For example, the force became aware of inappropriate behaviour by a traffic officer to the young victim of a road traffic accident. The force fast-tracked its processes and, despite the victim not wanting to be involved, the officer was quickly dismissed.

Summary for question 2
3

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

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The force should complete a review of its Occupational Health Unit (OHU), to streamline processes and ensure a consistent and timely service is provided for staff.
  • The force should improve how it records and monitors its ‘Focus’ discussions to ensure they are consistently applied across the force, and effectively capture issues such as wellbeing and counter-corruption.
  • The force should ensure that it has a talent programme that is open to everyone and consistently applied.

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

The force continues to make progress on how it identifies and improves potential unfairness at work.

The 2017 inspection showed that the force used a range of effective methods for leaders to get feedback. But it didn’t widely share that feedback.

This year was similar. Leaders look for feedback in different ways, such as the Leading from the Middle events mentioned earlier and intranet discussion forums. The force also seeks the views of candidates following each promotion process to understand their perspective.

We were particularly impressed by the new in-house reality testing. This makes a team responsible for gathering information directly from officers and staff to find out what is working and what isn’t. Early signs show that this should provide invaluable feedback to senior officers on a wide range of issues. But even though the force has already considered some changes based on the feedback, there was limited evidence they had been shared with the wider workforce. The force should ensure that staff are made aware of changes made as a result of the feedback.

The force has taken a healthy approach to learning lessons from grievances. There are many examples of lessons identified in the files we reviewed. But there was less evidence of these lessons inspiring action so the force can learn from its mistakes.

Some of the grievance files highlighted repeat complaints against the same person, but no-one had realised this. The force didn’t routinely consider misconduct in grievance cases. It could have avoided this risk if the relationship between the PSD and people services were closer.

We hope the new grievance policy established at the end of 2018 will address many of the issues. We also hope it will improve staff confidence, which is lacking in some areas of the force. The force carries out staff surveys and uses the results to monitor how fairly staff feel they have been treated.

Most staff felt that the force’s promotion processes were fair. We noted the force’s efforts to reduce gaps in workforce representation.

The diversity board, whose chair is the deputy chief constable, makes sure diversity data is captured from every stage of the promotion process to ensure fairness. The force also holds a quarterly equality, diversity and human rights board to discuss recruitment, retention and progression issues, and take action.

For example, SPACE is responsible for a mentoring scheme for BAME staff. SPACE also works with colleges and universities to support BAME candidates in recruitment. SPACE has been recognised nationally and has won several awards, including the Excellence Award for Diversity and Inclusion at the 2018 HR Excellence Awards.

Supporting workforce wellbeing

Our 2017 inspection showed that Surrey Police needed to prioritise workforce wellbeing and improve how it identifies and understands workforce concerns, using a range of data, information and analysis.

The force has made lots of progress. There is now a well established wellbeing board with Sussex Police. This board looks at a wide range of data. For example, attendees at a recent meeting discussed data from the employee assistance programme.

This included the amount, types and reasons for contact, the number of counselling referrals and other interventions such as debt and legal services. Surrey Police now has its own wellbeing strategy. The force is currently developing it to include subjects identified by staff, such as mental and physical wellbeing and resilience. The force also has wellbeing single points of contact (SPOCs) across the workforce, reporting to a chief superintendent.

The force is aiming to create a more positive workplace by changing attitudes to health and wellbeing through many initiatives. For example, the force has done work to reduce stress by promoting the clear message that routine overtime isn’t simply accepted as part of the job.

There are lots of ways the force supports wellbeing. These include wellbeing days, wellbeing weeks and wellbeing fairs. These activities all support staff and signpost them towards other support and help. The force is much better at noticing the early signs of problems and taking action. All newly promoted supervisors are trained in wellbeing.

In 2017, the service provided by the OHU was declining (following its merger with Sussex Police). There has been some improvement, but more could be done to meet demand.

The OHU now works with Surrey Fire and Rescue Service and has a new manager. Waiting times have reduced. But staff told us they were still waiting up to a month for an appointment. The service can also be inconsistent. Some people get appointments for telephone calls, others are seen face-to-face. Staff feel there is no obvious reason for the different approaches.

The IT system in the OHU is difficult for staff to use. That makes it difficult to refer to the OHU or to get a referral. There should be a wider OHU review to make processes easier and create a consistent and timely service for staff.

The force’s approach to absent officers is inconsistent. In East Surrey, officers who are on restricted duties (for example, through injury or pregnancy) are posted to the response support team. This allows those officers to take on a meaningful role, following a risk assessment, to support their colleagues. We hope this approach is replicated in other areas of the force.

For misconduct-related matters, the force appoints a welfare officer to support the person facing the allegation, and any victim or witness to it. However, the support for officers and staff absent through maternity leave or sickness was variable, and return-to-work interviews were not regularly recorded.

Managing performance and development of officers and staff

The force’s approach to performance management has changed since our last inspection in 2017. The early signs are positive.

The force has moved from formal performance development reviews, to more informal ‘Focus’ discussions between staff and their line managers. These discussions were regularly taking place and have been well received by staff. They cover the person’s wellbeing, integrity and performance issues and managing talent.

However, the discussions are informal and not recorded. This means the force can’t show they are applied in the same way across the force. It also means it can’t show the force is developing talent, or supervisors are recording and dealing with issues such as wellbeing and counter-corruption. Despite this, the relatively high number of staff subject to unsatisfactory performance procedures in Surrey Police (at 3 percent, it is the third highest in the country) shows performance continues to be managed.

The force identifies and supports talented people in some areas. Some senior officers identify officers and staff with potential, and offer opportunities including mentoring and coaching. However, this is inconsistent and only open to a few people. The force would benefit from a consistently applied talent programme that is open to everyone.

The promotion process in Surrey Police is seen as fair and open for both officers and staff. The force has a joint promotion process with Sussex Police for police officers up to the rank of chief superintendent.

Surrey Police publishes its promotions calendar to staff, so they can plan for promotion processes in advance. The force consults the Police Federation on the process. The Police Federation also forms part of the selection process, providing independent oversight and scrutiny.

There is an appeals process for people who may feel that a promotion has been unfairly awarded, offering an impartial review. The force also seeks the views of candidates following each promotion process to get feedback on the process.

This allows the force to identify any themes. For example, unsuccessful candidates were finding that honest feedback was generally difficult to achieve in the most recent selection process. Staff support the force’s promotion processes.

Summary for question 3