Police forces are generally performing well but 'cracks are widening'

Police forces in general are offering a good level of service, but are doing so under significant pressure, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has said in a report published today.

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PEEL spotlight report: A system under pressure – Emerging themes from the first group of 2018/19 PEEL inspections

The report on the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of police forces provides an overview of the emerging themes from the first group of 2018/19 Integrated PEEL Assessment (IPA) reports. These themes are based on findings from the 14 forces HMICFRS has inspected in this group. Also published today are individual force reports on the forces inspected.

These inspections found that a relatively positive picture of performance is being provided by a service that is straining under significant pressure. This is affecting different forces in different ways, across neighbourhood policing and investigations through to counter corruption and workforce health and wellbeing. Given the current operational and financial context forces find themselves in, it is not clear for how long they will be able to maintain their current performance levels. For many of the forces inspected in this group, cracks in the system are widening.

The remaining 29 forces in England and Wales will be inspected in the two subsequent groups later this year.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said:

“As this report is based only on the first group of 14 forces, we have to be tentative in how we judge policing as a whole. The patterns we are beginning to see emerge paint a picture of a committed and capable police service that is starting to show signs of real strain in some areas. Many of the forces we inspected are in general providing a good service to the public, but all are faced with competing priorities that if not managed correctly could see this service deteriorate.

“Despite these worrying trends, there have been some areas of innovation and improvement. In particular, we are seeing forces getting better at identifying vulnerability, with officers now having a greater understanding of what to look for to provide the right service. We also found several forces developing innovative ways of using technology to better manage the demand on their resources.

“But the forces we inspected are trying to meet ever-more complex and high-risk demand with strained resources.  We have previously reported that redeploying neighbourhood officers, often to response, can damage their crime prevention work and limit their engagement with communities. We found that this trend has continued over the last year. Most forces also continue to have a large number of vacancies for detectives.

“Forces are improving how they manage demand, but that is having a knock-on effect in other areas. For instance, this is stretching forces’ ability to root out corruption which, as well as having serious ethical considerations, threatens to increase demand in the longer-term. It is also having an adverse effect on the wellbeing of officers.

“If these trends continue, the service the police provide is bound to deteriorate. A discussion is therefore needed about what needs to change. There is too big a gap between what police can do, and what the public expect of them.”

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PEEL spotlight report: A system under pressure – Emerging themes from the first group of 2018/19 PEEL inspections


  1. PEEL is our annual assessment of police forces in England and Wales. We assess forces in three ways to find out:
    • how effective they are at preventing and investigating crime, protecting vulnerable people and tackling serious organised crime;
    • how efficiently they manage demand and plan for the future; and
    • how legitimately they treat the public, how ethically they behave, and how they treat their workforce.
  2. We judge forces as ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ in these categories (or pillars).
    • On effectiveness, we graded one force as outstanding, twelve as good and one as requiring improvement.
    • On efficiency, we graded three as outstanding, eight as good and three as requiring improvement.
    • On legitimacy, we graded one force as outstanding, eleven as good and two as requiring improvement.
  3. As part of the IPA approach, we have looked for ways to reduce the intensity of inspection on forces. On the basis of our analysis of previous inspections and other information, we have used a risk-based approach (RBA), where well-performing forces are inspected on fewer areas.
  4. On 19 July 2017, HMIC took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
  5. HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing and fire & rescue services in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire & rescue services.
  6. HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies.
  7. For further information, HMICFRS’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 0203 513 0600.
  8. HMICFRS’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.