Forces good at treating people fairly, but they have to take urgent action to root out sexual exploitation of victims

Police forces are good at treating the majority of people fairly and reinforcing high standards of behaviour, but police leaders need to do much more to tackle the serious problem of the abuse of authority resulting in the sexual exploitation of victims, according to a report published today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

HMIC’s Legitimacy inspection examined the extent to which forces treat people with fairness and respect, the extent to which they ensure their workforces act ethically and lawfully, and the extent to which those workforces themselves feel they have been treated with fairness and respect by the force.

Alongside this, HMIC’s Leadership report examines the degree to which leadership is understood within policing, how forces work to develop leadership, and how well leadership is displayed by a force.

Get the reports

PEEL: Police legitimacy 2016 – A national overview

PEEL: Police leadership 2016 – A national overview

Overall, HMIC’s assessment of police legitimacy was positive. HMIC graded Derbyshire and Kent police forces as outstanding, 36 forces as good and five as requiring improvement. None were graded as inadequate. The Leadership report was ungraded.

HMI Mike Cunningham, who led this inspection, said:

“We know that, despite the unprecedented period of change, our police forces have managed to maintain public confidence. Our inspection backed that up, with victims’ satisfaction in the way they’re treated by their police force remaining high, and evidence that forces are working hard to improve their services in response to feedback and learning. Forces generally continue to clarify and reinforce high standards of professional behaviour and seek the views of their workforces, and they are taking positive steps to improve the wellbeing of their workforces.

“However, for the first time, we looked at how well forces are tackling the problem of officers or staff abusing their positions of authority for sexual gain. This is the most significant corruption challenge for the police, as it betrays the trust of the public – particularly some of the most vulnerable people in society. Forces need to become far more proactive in rooting out this most serious form of corruption, rather than only dealing with it once it has been reported, and ensure every preventative measure is being taken if they are to continue to hold the trust of the public.”

While forces acknowledge the seriousness of the problem of abuse of authority for sexual gain, some are still failing to recognise it as a form of serious corruption and so cases are not always being referred to the IPCC. HMIC believes the problem requires a coherent, comprehensive national policing response, including clear messages about the seriousness of this form of corruption, and significant action in relation to prevention.

The report into police legitimacy found that there were a number of additional areas in which improvements could be made:

  • Many forces need to improve the ways in which they elicit feedback, particularly from groups which are less likely to complain or have low levels of trust in the police.
  • Too many forces are not complying with the national vetting policy.
  • Most forces do not have fair and effective processes for managing the individual performance of officers and staff.

Many forces are demonstrating clearly that they expect and demonstrate good leadership, and have a range of leadership programmes in place to develop their current and future leaders. HMIC has recommended that forces can improve in the following areas:

  • To improve the consistency with which they assess leadership as part of their performance review processes;
  • To demonstrate a broader understanding of the skills, background and experience of their leadership teams to allow for more targeted development; and
  • To ensure that they have fairer processes in place for performance reviews which will help them to identify and develop talented individuals.

HMIC will return to forces to examine police legitimacy and leadership next year and to assess progress.

Get the reports

PEEL: Police legitimacy 2016 – A national overview

PEEL: Police leadership 2016 – A national overview


  1. Derbyshire and Kent police forces were graded as outstanding, 36 as good and five as ‘requires improvement’: Cleveland, Dyfed-Powys, Gloucestershire, North Wales and South Yorkshire police forces. No forces were graded as ‘inadequate’.
  2. Last year’s overall Legitimacy judgments graded one force as outstanding, 37 as good, 5 as requiring improvement and none as inadequate.
  3. Individual assessment reports are available for each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.
  4. As part of its annual inspections into police efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy (PEEL), HMIC’s Legitimacy inspection focused on the overall question: ‘how legitimate are the police at keeping people safe and reducing crime?’ The inspection has assessed forces’ legitimacy in three main areas:
    • To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
    • How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
    • To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
  5. The report into police efficiency was published on 3 November 2016.
  6. These reports will be followed in Spring 2017 by the report into the remaining strand of the annual PEEL assessments – Effectiveness – of all 43 police forces of England and Wales. The judgments in this report will be counted towards the next HMIC PEEL assessment, published next year.
  7. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to prevent and tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies.
  8. For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
  9. HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.