State of Policing: The Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2021 – Foreword

Published on: 10 March 2022

Foreword by Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary

This is my report to the Secretary of State under section 54(4) of the Police Act 1996. It contains my assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in England and Wales.

My tenure as Chief Inspector of Constabulary ends on 31 March 2022; this is my ninth and final report. It is based on the inspections we carried out between April 2021 and November 2021.

It has been a privilege to report on the efficiency and effectiveness of policing and law enforcement since 2012 and to discharge my other national duties. I am grateful to my colleagues both in and outside the inspectorate for their support.

This report’s structure and purpose

Part 1 contains my assessment of the state of policing in England and Wales. In making my assessment, I have drawn on the inspections we carried out over this period, the findings and reports of other organisations, and other information and analysis available to me. I have included reflections on my nine-year tenure. I have also included commentary on how the efficiency and effectiveness of the inspectorate have been enhanced and how its jurisdiction and independence have been protected.

Part 2 is an overview of our inspection findings between 1 April 2021 and 30 November 2021 and includes a summary of our police efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy (PEEL) inspections.

Part 3 contains a full list of our inspections and other work during the period in question.

The results of our individual inspections enable an assessment of the performance of individual forces, and a more general assessment of performance in specific aspects of policing.

I hope that people, including the public, who hold policing to account will draw on the overall conclusions in this report just as much as they draw on the specific conclusions we have reached for each force. I also hope that my wider reflections and observations will prove helpful both to my successor and to those policymakers responsible for securing, maintaining and protecting the inspectorate’s independence.

The pandemic and our inspection programme

Since January 2020, when the United Kingdom’s first coronavirus cases were identified, the pandemic has been a significant and highly unusual factor in policing. It has also had a profound effect on our inspection programme.

As lockdown restrictions were eased in 2021, we resumed our inspections in a phased and cautious programme, including on-site activities. Today, the inspectorate makes much more extensive use of video-conferencing facilities, the infrastructure and technology for which have become more readily available and reliable in recent years. In 2021, our inspections have balanced both face-to-face and remote working. They will continue to do so in the future. This is partly so that we can continue to discharge our responsibilities during pandemic-related restrictions on movement and human contact, and partly to realise efficiencies associated with remote working. Our evaluation has shown that many of our inspection methods work just as well remotely as they do on site. But it is important to emphasise that not all elements of inspections can be satisfactorily carried out remotely. Where appropriate, we will continue to visit police stations and police headquarters buildings, interview personnel there, and observe their working practices and the environments in which they operate.

HMI Roy Wilsher

HMI Roy Wilsher OBE QFSM joined us in October 2021. Roy has assumed responsibilities as HMI for the Eastern region, as senior responsible officer for the fire and rescue inspection programme and inspections concerning domestic abuse. He has been most warmly welcomed. Roy brings with him very substantial and valuable experience from the fire and rescue sector, where he was the first chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council.

HMIs past and present

In my period of office as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, which began in 2012, there have been ten holders of the office of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary.

All have made significant contributions to the advancement of public safety and to the efficiency and effectiveness of the police. I record here my warmest thanks to them for their selfless and tireless dedication to the public interest and the ways in which we have improved the inspectorate to become one almost unrecognisable from the organisation I took over almost ten years ago. They are: Drusilla Sharpling CBE, Roger Baker QPM, Stephen Otter QPM, Zoë Billingham, Mike Cunningham CBE QPM, Matt Parr CB, Phil Gormley QPM, Wendy Williams CBE, Andy Cooke QPM DL and Roy Wilsher OBE QFSM.

Contributions to my assessment

As in previous years, I wrote to chief constables, police and crime commissioners and their equivalents and other interested parties to ask for their views on policing during the year. I am most grateful for the many thoughtful and erudite responses I received.

As usual, we have worked with the other criminal justice inspectorates: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons; Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation; and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate. We have also benefited enormously from our joint work with the Care Quality Commission, Ofsted, Estyn, Care Inspectorate Wales and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales.

My staff

I should also like to place on record my strong appreciation and warmest thanks to my staff for their loyalty, commitment and hard work over the past nine years. They have performed exceptionally well, and the record of this office is one I am proud to defend, to promote and to say is ours, not mine. Examples of my staff making extraordinary efforts, contributions and sacrifices in the course of their work are too numerous to mention. There are, however, two individuals to whom my greatest appreciation is due.

The first is a Home Office civil servant, Rebecca – known to her colleagues as Becs – Smith. As my private secretary, Becs has been at my side since the day I assumed this office. Her professionalism, dedication and unswerving loyalty are of the highest order and in the finest traditions of the civil service.

The second is chief superintendent Kellie McMillan, who has served as my staff officer while on secondment from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Kellie’s cool head, quiet efficiency and unfailingly sound judgment have surpassed the highest expectations I may have had of any of my staff. I have no doubt that, when she returns to her home force, she will make a substantial and beneficial difference to the policing of Northern Ireland.

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State of Policing – The Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2021