Kent Police: Crime Data Integrity re-inspection 2018

Crime Data Integrity re-inspection 2018

In March 2017, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) conducted a crime data integrity inspection of Kent Police.

We published the report of this inspection in June 2017 and concluded that the crime-recording arrangements in Kent Police were not acceptable. As a result, the force was given an overall judgment of inadequate.

Our 2017 report made a series of recommendations and areas for improvement aimed at improving crime recording in Kent. This re-inspection assessed the progress made since that report.

In our 2017 report we found that the force was good at recording modern slavery offences and that it was correctly cancelling rape crimes when sufficient information existed to do so. So we haven’t re-inspected these elements, but instead used the findings for these elements from the original inspection to make an overall comparative judgment in this report.

The findings and our judgment resulting from this re-inspection are set out below.

Please note: The previous inspection was carried out before 19 July 2017, when HMIC also took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. The methodology underpinning our re-inspection findings is unaffected by this change.

References to HMICFRS in this report may relate to an event that happened before 19 July 2017 when HMICFRS was HMIC.

Overall judgment

graded inadequate

Kent Police has failed to maintain the improvements to crime-recording accuracy reported in HMIC’s 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. However, we found that:

  • officers and staff are placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions;
  • the force has worked hard in bringing about improvements in the use and scrutiny of out-of-court disposals among officers and staff; and
  • its victim support hub is well-established, providing those victims who get their crime recorded with access to support services to which they are entitled.

Much work remains to be done. The force had discharged the recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report; however, we found that not all of these improvements have been maintained. This regression is undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording arrangements.

Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 June 2016 to 30 November 2016, we estimate that the force fails to record over 24,300 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 83.6 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.85 percent). The 16.4 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes such as sexual offences, domestic abuse and rape. The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 79.2 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.26 percent). This means that on too many occasions, the force is failing victims of crime.

This regression from the force’s previous high standards of crime-recording accuracy is disappointing. Improvements must be made. In particular, we consider that there are too many failures to make the correct crime-recording decision at the first opportunity. These failures are often due to an insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements by officers and staff, compounded by limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity.

The force has responded quickly to the issues identified in this inspection. For example it has:

  • increased the size of its data audit unit;
  • appointed a new lead for crime recording and investigative standards; and
  • prioritised the recruitment for new staff into roles within the investigation management unit (IMU).

Read the full 2017 report

graded outstanding

Kent Police has substantially improved its crime-recording accuracy since our 2017 inspection. We found that the force has made excellent progress. As a result it has made extensive improvements to its:

  • recording of violent crimes (including domestic abuse crimes);
  • recording of serious sexual offences (including rape offences and understanding and management of N100s);
  • supervision of crime-recording decisions;
  • use of feedback to improve crime-recording decisions; and
  • crime-recording governance and audit arrangements.

We examined crime reports for the period 1 April 2018 to 31 June 2018. Based on our findings, we estimate that the force records 96.6 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.27 percent) of crimes reported to it. This compares with our 2017 inspection finding of 83.6 percent (confidence interval +/- 1.85 percent). We estimate that, in comparison with the findings of our 2017 inspection, this improved recording accuracy meant that the force recorded an additional 25,400 crimes for the year covered by our re-inspection audit period. As a result, substantially more victims will have their reported crimes recorded. These victims have received an improved service and been offered additional support from Victim Support. Also, the force has improved its understanding of demand and the extent to which crime is affecting its communities.

The force is determined to get crime recording right, to understand clearly the criminality affecting its communities and to respond appropriately to this demand.

However, in a few areas the force acknowledges it still has more work to do. It recognises that it still does not record some reports of crime and that it must work to:

  • make sure it records all reports of crime within 24 hours of receipt of the report; and
  • make sure it records all third party professional reports at the first point of contact.

We also still found occasional misunderstanding of new rules for recording of harassment offences. However, this was neither systemic nor widespread.

At the time of our inspection a small minority of staff had not yet completed their crime-recording training. However, the force has effective processes in place which should make sure all staff receive the necessary training.

We are confident the force will achieve further progress in these areas. This is due to its sustained commitment to continuous improvement and its proven ability to make significant advances since our 2017 inspection.

Summary of inspection findings

The force has not maintained the standards of crime-recording accuracy reported in our 2014 report. However, we found that:

  • it has streamlined the process for making crime recording decisions within the IMU, and this unit now makes the majority of crime recording decisions;
  • where the force does record reported crime, it generally does so within the 24 hours required by the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR);
  • it has made good progress in developing an understanding of modern slavery offences among officers and staff; and
  • the force crime and incident registrar (FCIR) – responsible for oversight of crime-recording arrangements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is now fully accredited for the role.

Despite these advances, the force’s performance in respect of crime-recording is unacceptable in the following areas:

  • The force is currently under-recording too many reports of crime, including:
    • violent crimes;
    • reports of rape; and
    • other sexual offences.

The force needs to act promptly to improve the accuracy of its recording of these reports and to provide all victims with the service to which they are entitled and deserve.

  • The force had discharged the recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report; however, we found that not all of these improvements have been maintained. this regression is undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording requirements.
  • Reports of crime made directly to public protection teams are often not being recorded.
  • The force must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.

Some of these failings are a consequence of the force not maintaining effective and efficient oversight of crime-recording arrangements by its IMU and data audit unit (DAU) as described in our 2014 report. In addition, there remains an absence of scrutiny of crime-recording accuracy within the force public protection unit (PPU), and limited progress has been made to ensure officers and staff understand their crime-recording responsibilities.

Causes of concern and areas for improvement

In 2017, we identified several causes of concern and areas for improvement, you can view these in the full version of the 2017 report.

Read the full 2017 report

As well as the substantial improvements to its crime-recording accuracy detailed above, the force has:

  • comprehensively mapped its crime-recording processes to make sure it has a detailed understanding of all the channels through which it receives reports of crime;
  • given officers and staff a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to crime recording;
  • provided comprehensive training which has improved the understanding of crime-recording requirements among officers and staff;
  • improved supervision and quality assurance of crime-recording decisions, in its investigation management unit (IMU) and its central referral unit (CRU);
  • effective departmental learning feedback processes in place which support its commitment to continual improvement; and
  • strong audit and governance arrangements in place to make sure the improvements made to its crime-recording accuracy are sustainable and will continue.

The force has also completed all the recommendations made in our 2017 report, including:

  • reviewing the operating arrangements of the IMU;
  • introducing a call-handling quality-assurance process which includes checking that supervisors check incident reports completed by the IMU;
  • reviewing the use of secondary incidents to ensure use of these does not inhibit crime-recording accuracy; and
  • introducing extra crime-recording audit capacity.

Since our 2017 inspection the force has increased its staffing of the IMU and data audit teams. This has enabled the force to correctly resource these departments to meet demand. Consequently, the force is more able to:

  • record crime at the first point of contact; and
  • enhance its audit capacity to assure itself that it is identifying and managing any gaps in its crime-recording accuracy.

We note that the force is making good use of its available management information. It now has a better understanding of crime-recording compliance and the factors that can adversely affect crime-recording performance. This is a welcome development.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded outstanding

Overall crime-recording rate

96.6% of reported crimes were recorded

The force has considerable work to do in order to ensure it records all reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force informed HMIC that 98.8 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime reporting route. This does not mean that 98.8 percent of crimes reported to Kent Police come through these routes but that 98.8 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 83.6 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.85 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 24,300 reports of crime each year. Those failings are depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled and are a cause of concern.

Of a total of 1,500 reports of crime that we audited, we found 446 that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 446 crimes, the force had recorded 348. The 98 offences not recorded included a serious assault, other crimes involving physical violence, harassment and stalking, and malicious communications.

In ten of these cases we found no record of victim safeguarding requirements having been considered. In the remaining 88 cases risk assessments were completed and safeguarding provided. On 21 occasions officers had undertaken investigations and provided safeguarding but had neglected to record the crime on the force crime system.

We found inconsistency in the way that the control room allocates domestic abuse incidents which contain reports of crime. Some are sent correctly to the IMU for a crime recording decision to be made, but others are sent to the IMU for a domestic violence secondary incident (DVSI) to be created. The purpose of the DVSI is to record the fact that a domestic abuse incident has occurred which does not constitute a crime. We found that many reports of crimes are contained within DVSIs but, as no request had been made by the control room for a crime-record to be created, many of these have not been recorded as crimes by the IMU. These include offences of assault and harassment.

The absence of understanding of the extent of domestic abuse crime, the under-recording of crimes related to domestic violence secondary incidents, and the failure to provide safeguarding and a satisfactory service to some of these victims are causes of serious concern. This is because domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them.

Factors contributing to the force’s under-recording of crime reports are its crime-recording processes, including incident handling, the crime-recording knowledge of its workforce and the absence of effective and efficient supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes are a concern. In particular, we found that:

  • call handlers did not always record the important details of the call received from the member of the public, including reports of crime, on the incident record;
  • the use of the same incident record to record initial and subsequent complaints from the same victim, or other victims reports which may be linked to the same offenders, results in many crimes not being recorded;
  • incident records become lengthy and confusing, resulting in officers and staff, including auditors, finding it difficult to determine what crimes have been reported and by whom, and which if any of these crimes has been recorded;
  • on too many occasions incidents which include allegations of crime are being categorised wrongly by the control room. This means that they do not always get sent to the IMU for a crime recording decision to be made; and
  • when further offences come to light after the initial deployment or during subsequent investigation, the force does not always record reported crimes.

We found that officers and staff do not always make correct crime recording decisions. In particular:

  • basic crime-recording principles and knowledge of crime-recording requirements relating to common assault, malicious communications and harassment are poorly understood. For example, we found that staff were unsure of the crime-recording rules regarding common assault where there is no physical assault but the threat of one; and
  • supervisors are not identifying crime-recording requirements from secondary incidents and where additional crimes are found during crime investigations.

We also note, in concluding this section, that reduced staffing levels and a high turnover of staff has resulted in an increased number of inexperienced staff working within the IMU. As the IMU has responsibility for a high proportion of crime-recording decisions this is affecting negatively on the quality of these decisions. This is exacerbated by the lack of effective audit.

The force has taken immediate steps to develop and implement an action plan designed to address problems identified during this inspection.

Read the full 2017 report

The force has made significant progress with its processes, ensuring it now records more reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force informed us that 99.5 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This does not mean that 99.5 percent of crimes reported to Kent Police come through these routes, but that 99.5 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 96.6 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.27 percent). We estimate that this means the force is recording an additional 25,400 reported crimes each year. This is a substantial improvement.

In most cases where crimes are still not recorded, we found this was because:

  • recently introduced changes to the crime-recording rules regarding harassment are not yet being fully applied by all officers and staff;
  • not all crimes reported in incidents involving more than one crime report are being recorded; and
  • rules for crime recording following third party reports were not always being followed.

Of a total of 784 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 165 of these related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 152. In the 13 cases where crimes had not been recorded, safeguarding had been provided in all relevant cases.

This recording rate for domestic abuse incidents is an important improvement since our 2017 report. It contributed significantly to the overall crime-recording results achieved by the force. This is a testament to the force’s hard work and commitment to crime recording.

As part of its improved audit arrangements, the force has introduced daily checks of all domestic abuse-related incident reports to ensure any crimes contained in these reports are recorded. These checks are carried out by staff within the force control room and by staff within the force CRU.

We conclude that the force has taken the necessary steps to ensure that it records reports of crime from victims of domestic abuse.

Violent crimes

95.7% of reported violent crimes were recorded

We found that 79.2 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.26 percent). This is lower than the overall crime recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 10,600 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. As violent crime can be particularly distressing for the victim, this is an area in which the need for improvement is particularly acute.

Many of these crimes involve injury, which can cause even further distress for the victim. This includes a report of grievous bodily harm, whereby an adult female had disclosed a previous assault by her partner which had resulted in a broken arm. This disclosure was made while the female was reporting another matter; the historic report was not recorded in the incident record and as a result no crime was recorded. We therefore find the recording of reports of violent crime by the force to be concerning.

In the majority of cases, where violent crimes were not recorded, we found the principal causes to be:

  • the processes currently in place for the recording of a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules, particularly around the complexities of some violence offences such as harassment, malicious communications and the more straightforward offence of common assault. This results in the failure to record many such violent crimes; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Victims of violent crime and, in particular, victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the reporting and investigating officers, but also, possibly, from the victim hub. Under those circumstances, crime-recording takes on a heightened importance. Failing to properly record a violent crime can result in the victim hub receiving no notification that a person has become a victim of violent crime. That in turn deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

Read the full 2017 report


We found that 95.7 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.25 percent). We estimate that, in comparison with the findings of our 2017 inspection, the force is now recording an additional 12,380 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. Again, this is a substantial improvement.

The causes of the non-recording of the remaining 4.3 percent of reported violent crimes are as described above.

Sexual offences


More than 98.2% of reported sex offences were recorded

The force’s recording of reports of sexual offences (including rape), is a concern. We found that the force records 90.2 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.99 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 400 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

Those failings are significant given the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm they cause to their victims. We found that the force failed to record some reports of rape, sexual assault against both adults and children and sexual offences committed using the internet to share indecent images. A large number of these related to reports made by third parties, as part of their employment, on behalf of the victims.

The causes of that under-recording are similar to those described earlier:

  • the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules;
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions; and
  • a failure by officers and staff to understand the rules in regard to the recording of reports of crime made on behalf of victims by professional third parties (for example health professionals and social services).

Sexual offence victims require significant support from the outset. The failure to record such crimes, to provide appropriate support to the victim, or any delay in attendance or investigation will often result in a lack of confidence in the police and reluctance on behalf of the victim to engage in subsequent stages of the criminal justice system. The force must improve its performance in this respect.

Read the full 2017 report

We found that all reports of a sexual offence crime (including rape) that we audited were recorded (with a confidence interval of – 1.80 percent). This is an exceptional achievement. We estimate it is now recording an additional 660 reported sexual offence crimes each year because of its improved crime-recording standards, a substantial improvement.

This recording standard is helping the force to better understand the extent of sexual offence crime in the force area and to ensure victims receive the service and support they need and deserve.

Rape

Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important. It helps to ensure victims receive the service they have a right to expect and deserve, and it allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area. In turn, this enables the police to operate with the highest practicable levels of efficiency to identify and deal effectively with perpetrators.

In Kent Police we found that of 112 reports of rape that should have been recorded, 102 had been recorded. These include reports that originated on the force incident system and reports received directly by specialist officers from third party professionals.

However, importantly we found that although a crime may not have been recorded, Kent Police provided support and safeguarding in all of these ten cases, including referrals to partner organisations when appropriate. Investigations had been carried out in all but one. It should be noted that in that single case the victim was being provided with support owing to other crimes that had been reported and recorded. In two cases the officers’ understanding about consent in rape crimes was lacking, which led to these offences not being recorded.

Kent Police’s policy is that any reports of rape it receives must be recorded as a crime or, if appropriate, an N100 without delay. Despite this some offences were not recorded. The causes of the under-recording of these ten crimes are the same as were identified above in respect of sexual offences. These are:

  • the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

There are, in addition, issues with the force’s use of the Home Office classification N100. Introduced in April 2015, the N100 is a record created to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rapes, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties, have not been immediately recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include instances where additional information confirms the rape did not occur, or where the rape occurred in another force area and was therefore transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.

We found 53 incident reports for which an N100 classification should have been applied, but it was only applied on 36 occasions.

Separately, we also reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. Among these, we found three reports that the force should have recorded as crimes of rape from the outset. However we found that the FCIR had intervened, as is her role in all these cases and all three had been subsequently recorded correctly.

The responsibility for recording a classification N100 lies with the IMU and with specialists within the PPU. We found good levels of understanding within the IMU but less so within the PPU. We also found that some officers and staff did not understand correctly the crime-recording rules for when a report of rape is made by a professional third party.

As with other sexual offences, the recording of a report of rape is important. Victims generally require significant support from the outset and any delay in providing support can be detrimental to both the recovery of the victim and to any investigation. This, in turn, may influence negatively any future judicial proceedings.

Read the full 2017 report

62 of 63 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience, so it is especially important that reports of rape are recorded accurately. It helps to make sure victims receive the service and support they deserve. And it helps the police identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area.

We found the force had improved all aspects of rape recording. We identified 63 reports of rape which should have been recorded and found that 62 were correctly recorded. The one report of rape not correctly recorded had been identified by the force as needing reclassification, having been incorrectly classified as a sexual assault. The victim in this case had been safeguarded and an investigation had been completed.

Where a reported rape is not recorded as a crime, forces are required to apply a Home Office classification N100. We also found the force had improved its understanding and management of N100s.

We examined 20 N100 records. Of these we found:

  • 12 were correctly recorded;
  • three were later correctly re-classified as crimes of rape;
  • one was incorrectly re-classified as a recorded crime; and
  • four were over-recorded.

We also found within other records that ten N100s should have been recorded and all were correctly recorded.

How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?

graded good

Crime reports held on other systems

In order to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, the force must improve its recording of crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.

We examined 50 vulnerable victim records. Of these, we found that 18 crimes should have been recorded, of which 5 had been. The missing 13 crimes included 3 involving sexual activity with a child and several physical assaults. Importantly, we found that although a crime may not have been recorded, Kent Police provided support and safeguarding in all of these 13 cases, including referrals to partner organisations when appropriate. These were disclosed during structured risk assessments, but were not recorded as crimes and remained recorded as secondary incidents.

The causes of the under-recording of these 13 crimes are the same as were identified above in respect of sexual offences. This is particularly true in relation to the improper use of secondary incidents and lack of effective supervision of those records.

The extent to which reports of crime received by public protection teams are not being recorded, and the seriousness of the risks associated with the under-recording of these reports of crime, are of concern.

Read the full 2017 report

We found that the force has made changes to its processes to ensure that crimes reported directly to its public protection teams are recorded. Recording these crimes is important. It means the force can be confident that vulnerable victims receive the support they need.

We examined 49 vulnerable victim records. We found that these records contained 13 reports of crime and of these six crimes had been recorded. The crimes that had not been recorded included:

  • one assault with injury and three without injury;
  • one criminal damage;
  • one deception; and
  • one case of harassment.

In one of these cases the force had not conducted an investigation. This was a counter-allegation contained within a third party professional report. However, safeguarding requirements had been considered on every occasion.

The force has introduced processes within its CRU to ensure crimes reported by third party professionals are identified and recorded. Despite these arrangements, all but one of the unrecorded reports of crime were received this way. We found that the crime-recording requirements for such reports continue to be misunderstood by some staff. The force is aware and is already addressing this.

Timeliness

The HOCR require that reports of crime are recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report. We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by Kent Police, 85 out of 95 reports of rape, 427 out of 462 reports of violent crime and 158 out of 190 sexual offences (excluding rape) had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report.

This means that generally, when the force makes correct crime-recording decisions, its recording procedures are effective at ensuring the crime is recorded within 24 hours, as permitted by the rules. This timely recording enables the force to make early referrals to its victim support hub for those victims in need of the support that is available.

Read the full 2017 report


If the information that the force receives at the first point of contact satisfies the national crime recording standard, the force should record crimes straight away, and in any case within 24 hours.

We found that of the reports Kent Police had recorded, the force had only recorded the following number within 24 hours of receiving the report:

  • 133 out of 292 reports of violent crime;
  • 142 out of 167 sexual offences; and
  • 177 out of 290 other offences.

Although some victims might be referred to support organisations in other ways, recording reported crimes late is leading to delays in referring victims to Victim Support. This is unacceptable, as some victims would benefit from the early support this team can give.

The force recognises it needs to improve the timeliness of recording. It anticipates that the introduction of a new crime-recording system in November 2018 will enable it to make this improvement. This is welcome.

Cancelled crimes

Where additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the crime record can be cancelled. In this respect we found that the force has made limited progress.

We reviewed 20 cancelled recorded crimes each of rape, violence and sexual offence crimes (excluding rape) and 11 robbery crimes. Of these, we found that the FCIR had correctly cancelled 19 out of 19 crimes of rapes. This is excellent. However, other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated decision makers (DDMs) located within the IMU. The DDMs had correctly cancelled 13 out of 20 sexual offences, 11 out of 20 violence offences and 9 out of 11 robbery offences. This is an unacceptably poor standard.

Where a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force for investigation, a victim should always know the status of his or her reported crime. In the case of a decision to cancel a recorded crime, the very least the victim should expect is an explanation of the reason for this decision. We found that the force needs to improve in this respect as only 49 out of 70 victims had been informed of the decision to cancel their reported crime, and this included victims of rape and sexual offences.

Read the full 2017 report


If additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime didn’t take place, the record can be cancelled. All crime cancellations except those for recorded offences of rape are made by dedicated decision makers (DDMs). We found these arrangements to be effective.

We reviewed a sample of cancelled recorded sexual offence crimes, violence offences and robbery. We found the DDMs had authorised correctly the cancellation of 18 out of 20 sexual offences, 20 out of 20 violence offences and 14 out of 14 robbery offences.

This is a significant improvement on our 2017 report.

Equality


HMIC found that the force must improve its collection of information regarding crimes affecting identifiable groups within communities.

Protected characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age do not necessarily increase the vulnerability of an individual to the risk of crime. However, it is important that the force records information regarding the characteristics of victims of crime in order to identify any patterns which may exist between different community groups and their vulnerability to (or their relative likelihood to report) different types of crime. We found that the force records equality information in relation to the victim such as age, gender and ethnicity on every occasion, but only records other protected characteristics where these are determined to be relevant to the offence.

So long as the force fails to record such information on every occasion, it will be unable to understand clearly whether its crime-recording decisions are consistent across different community groups. This, therefore, is an area for improvement.

Read the full 2017 report

In common with other forces that we have inspected, we found that while in most cases the force records information on the age, gender and nationality of victims, information on the disability, religion and sexual orientation of victims is not routinely collected unless it is a feature of the crime itself.

However, the force has made some improvements since our 2017 report. It has introduced the use of open questions by call-takers to obtain equality data from informants. This is a useful approach. The force also plans to incorporate equality data within victim surveys. These are made available to victims on completion of investigations when the force feels more able to obtain this information.

These approaches will help the force to have a better understanding of how identifiable communities are affected by crime, and to meet the needs of these communities in accordance with its equality duty.

The progress since our 2017 report and the force’s plan for continuous improvement is welcome.

How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?

It is clear that officers and staff are placing the needs of the victim at the heart of their crime-recording decisions. However, we found deficiencies in crime-recording arrangements, together with an insufficient knowledge of crime-recording requirements among some officers and staff.

The force had discharged the recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report; however, we found that not all of these improvements have been maintained. This regression is undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording requirements.

The progress made by the force in the use of out-of-court disposals is notable. Inspectors were impressed with the process in place to monitor all such disposals, including the use of independent scrutiny panels. Procedural documents are clear and concise; these ensure considerations as to the suitability of the use of the disposal for both the victim and offender are very good.

Progress has also been made against the action plan developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics following the 2014 report, and which all forces have been asked to implement.

The force took immediate positive action upon receipt of the findings of this inspection. This includes the development of an action plan, and improvements to the level of governance at a local and force level. Additional staff have also been recruited to the DAU to support the FCIR, and further recruitment is underway within the IMU. This immediate response is welcome.

Read the full 2017 report

graded outstanding

Improvements to crime-recording arrangements in Kent Police since our 2017 report are impressive. Crime-recording and ensuring the best possible service to victims of crime are priorities. We did not identify any adverse cultural practices in respect of crime recording.

The deputy chief constable (DCC) has led the work to improve the force’s crime-recording arrangements. Through his leadership, crime-recording expectations have been re-emphasised and explained to officers and staff. This has ensured they understand their crime-recording responsibilities. To achieve this the force has used various methods of communication to reinforce crime-recording requirements and to share any changes to rules and processes.

Effective governance arrangements are in place. The force has developed an action plan which addresses all issues raised in our previous crime-recording inspections. The chief officers strategic meeting oversees this. This has improved senior officer oversight of crime-recording arrangements, training arrangements and systems and processes. Consequently, we were pleased to find the force has completed all the recommendations from our 2017 report.

The force crime registrar now maintains a comprehensive crime-recording audit programme. This reflects the force’s strategic assessment, strategic priorities and perceived crime-recording risks. The DCC has overall responsibility for this plan. All audit staff have been trained to use the HMICFRS crime-recording audit methodology. This is good practice.

The force is also collating crime data from the last 15 years which relates to domestic abuse. It is using this data to identify trends and potential improvements to the service that victims of domestic abuse receive. This shows how crime data can be used as a tool to improve the policing response to crime and the service provided to victims.

The force has made excellent progress, and has substantially improved its crime-recording arrangements. We are confident that these improvements are sustainable.

Conclusion

The force has made excellent progress in improving its crime-recording processes since our 2017 inspection.

The leadership shown has resulted in a cultural change to the importance of crime-recording among officers and staff. This has ensured that more victims receive the service to which they are entitled and deserve.

What next?

We welcome the steps taken by Kent Police to improve its crime-recording arrangements. We expect the force to continue to make further progress and to build on the improvements made so far. We will continue to monitor progress.

The force, as with all police forces, may be subject to a further unannounced crime data integrity inspection at any time.