West Mercia 2018/19Read more about West Mercia 2018/19
This is HMICFRS’s fifth PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of West Mercia Police. PEEL is designed to give you information about how your local police force is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable both across England and Wales, and year on year.
West Mercia Police was inspected in tranche two and we found:
the extent to which the force is effective at reducing crime and keeping people safe requires improvement.
the extent to which the force operates efficiently and sustainably requires improvement.
the extent to which the force treats the public and its workforce legitimately requires improvement.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I have concerns about some aspects of the performance of West Mercia Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime and, in particular, serious concerns about the force’s efficiency. In view of these findings, I have been in regular contact with the chief constable, because I do not underestimate the challenges ahead.
The force is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. But it needs to improve the way it investigates crime and how swiftly it brings offenders to justice. I am concerned that crimes are not always allocated to appropriately trained staff and that they are not investigated thoroughly enough or supervised effectively. The force also needs to improve how it protects vulnerable people. In particular, it needs to make sure that it responds to all reports of people at risk in a timely manner and works more closely with partners to ensure that such people are adequately safeguarded.
The force has demonstrated significant improvements in the way it deals with serious and organised crime (SOC). It is a force priority, and the force understands the threat it poses and has effective systems in place for managing it. The efforts made by the force in this respect are to be commended.
The force currently provides many of its services through an alliance with Warwickshire Police, an arrangement that it will end in October 2019. I am sure this will have been a difficult decision for the force to make, given that there were potentially significant implications for both forces. For this reason, I am concerned that the force’s decision to terminate the alliance does not appear to have been based on a well-evidenced business case, nor were the public or partners consulted beforehand. There is no certainty as to how it will provide these services in the future, and the costs and benefits of terminating the alliance are not yet fully known. The force understands its current demand, but it also needs to understand the capability and capacity of its workforce, and anticipate future pressures. It is vital that a clear plan for a new operating model is developed quickly to ensure that all policing services to its communities are maintained.
The force continues to uphold an ethical culture and promote standards of professional behaviour well. However, it needs to increase its engagement with the workforce and improve the confidence of the workforce that all staff are treated fairly. In addition, the force needs to do more to ensure the wellbeing of its officers and staff.
My overall assessment is that, notwithstanding the notable improvements in SOC, the force’s performance has declined since last year.
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
West Mercia Police is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour (ASB).
The force prioritises crime prevention. It focuses on problem solving and early intervention. It is developing a new neighbourhood policing strategy.
While the force is good at protecting the public from harm, it needs to clarify its approach to problem solving and risk management plans (RMPs).
The force needs to improve the ways in which it investigates crime. It does not have enough capacity and capability to cope with investigative demand. This is adversely affecting the service that it gives to the public: it is keeping victims waiting too long to see an officer, and it is sometimes taking too long to investigate crimes. This is a cause of concern. We note that more victims withdraw support for police action than in most other forces.
The force needs to improve its approach to catching criminals and resolving investigations. It needs to put processes in place so that it prioritises effectively those suspects who represent the most harm to the public.
The force needs to improve the way in which it protects vulnerable people. The workforce has a good understanding of vulnerability. This includes the importance of identifying and safeguarding vulnerable people. But the force is missing opportunities to make arrests in some domestic abuse cases. It needs to be sure that it is producing thorough domestic abuse, stalking and harassment (DASH) risk assessments. And it could use pre-charge bail more effectively.
The force is good at tackling SOC, which represents a significant improvement in its performance over the past year. It considers threats, harm and risks daily. It identifies new organised crime groups (OCGs), gangs and networks. And it proactively gains information from other forces to understand and tackle county lines criminality.
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
West Mercia Police requires improvement in how it meets demand and uses resources.
Currently, the force provides many services through the shared functions of its alliance with Warwickshire Police. But the imminent end of the alliance, in October 2019, is a cause of concern. It is not known how both forces will offer a full, uninterrupted range of public services by the time the alliance ends.
The force is working to gain a full understanding of the cost of services as it decides how best to operate post-alliance. But it must act swiftly if there is to be minimal disruption to the service it gives to the public, and its workforce, from October onwards.
A lack of detailed preparation in advance of the alliance termination announcement is a contributory factor to our judgment that West Mercia Police is inadequate in how it plans for the future.
The force has failed to provide evidence of the business case that led to the decision to terminate the alliance and therefore it is difficult to assess the force’s decision.
And it is a cause of concern that the force did not consult the public or key partners before making its decision.
We expect both forces to work together, as they transition to new operating models, to ensure no adverse effects on the public or their workforces.
How legitimately does the force treat the public and its workforce?
The force needs to improve in terms of how legitimately it treats the public and its workforce.
The force decides its priorities without community-based consultation. We note that there is some evidence of dissatisfaction within the community about the force’s decision to end its alliance with Warwickshire Police.
The force is inconsistent in its approach to unconscious bias and effective communications skills training.
The force could do more to understand its stop and search data. It could also do more to address disparities in different search types, and to address disproportionality.
The force is good at maintaining an ethical culture. Recent changes to its practices include training for custody staff about the needs of transgender people. The force also has an effective approach to tackling corruption. And it has an effective and comprehensive plan in place to tackle abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
The force has some way to go in terms of improving potential unfairness at work. There is less confidence about the force in some respects at its junior levels.
The workforce speaks highly of wellbeing support services. But we found examples of a lack of basic support, including an absence of psychological screening and trauma risk management for those who need it.
The force needs to manage poor performance among its workforce better than it does. It is working to address some perceptions of unfairness.
How well has the force performed in our other inspections?
In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMICFRS carries out inspections of a wide range of policing activity throughout the year. Some of these are conducted alongside the PEEL inspections; others are joint inspections.
Findings from these inspections are published separately to the main PEEL reports, but are taken into account when producing the rounded assessment of each force's performance.
Joint targeted area inspection of the multi-agency response to sexual abuse in the family in Shropshire – published 15 January 2019