Avon and Somerset 2014Read more about Avon and Somerset
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Avon and Somerset Constabulary. In making this assessment I have used my professional judgment to consider the evidence available from inspections undertaken in the past 12 months.
The available evidence indicates that:
in terms of its effectiveness, in general, the force is good at reducing crime and preventing offending, good at investigating offending and good at tackling anti-social behaviour;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities is outstanding; and
the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in a limited number of the practices that were examined this year.
Dru Sharpling, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of Avon and Somerset I have taken into account the challenges to policing the area.
Avon and Somerset is one of the largest police force areas in England and Wales, covering many diverse physical, economic and social environments, from the cities of Bristol and Bath to rural and coastal areas. Bristol is a major transport hub, intersected by the M4 and M5 motorways and main rail routes from London to South Wales and the South West, and home to Bristol International Airport and the Avonmouth Docks. Glastonbury Festival, the largest music festival in Europe, is one of the force’s most significant events.
I have been encouraged by the way in which the force has responded to its spending review challenge. It is looking to the longer term and is taking today the necessary decisions to ensure future sustainability. I am reassured by the level of detail that underpins Avon and Somerset’s change plans and encouraged by the rigorous assessment of demand which has provided the evidence base for restructuring how policing will be provided.
The officers and staff of Avon and Somerset clearly understand the important issues and use them to prioritise policing and partner activity in order to prevent and reduce crime. The force works effectively with partners to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, although there is room for improvement in the way staff identify and respond to repeat victims. The force’s initial investigations are good with appropriate supervisory oversight, and it has well-established and effective processes for managing the highest risk criminals who cause most harm in their communities. I am encouraged by the work with a local university to address the lack of a systematic mechanism for capturing and sharing good practice.
However, there are serious inconsistencies in the way the force initially responds to incidents of domestic abuse. More needs to be done to manage the threat, risk and harm from corruption and I also have serious concerns about the force’s approach to crime-recording, which is not as accurate as it should be.
Our intention is to examine leadership specifically as part of future PEEL Assessments, once criteria have been established. This will allow us to take account of the College of Policing review of leadership that is currently underway.
In common with other forces, there is a need to develop a better understanding of the changing demands for police services.
I am particularly interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months.
How well the force tackles crime
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is good at investigating offending. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Avon and Somerset has clear strategic priorities to reduce crime and prevent reoffending. The officers and staff of Avon and Somerset clearly understand these priorities and use them to focus policing and partner activity to prevent and reduce crime. The force works effectively with partners to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, and victims are highly satisfied with the service that they receive from the force.
HMIC found evidence of good initial investigations with appropriate supervisory oversight. There are well-established and effective processes for managing the highest risk criminals who cause most harm in their communities. The force is working with a local university to develop an improved approach to learning from what works but there is, as yet, no systematic mechanism for capturing and sharing good practice.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that the public could be reasonably confident that the force could conduct an initial investigation and identify safeguarding issues to manage the risk to vulnerable people. The management of high-risk victims was found to be generally good, but medium and standard-risk cases were not consistent.
The crime inspection found that there was evidence of increased work in intelligence gathering and organised crime group mapping. It found that the involvement of neighbourhood officers in tackling organised crime groups was underdeveloped; this may lead to opportunities to gather intelligence being lost or activity to disrupt their activity being overlooked.
The Strategic Policing Requirement inspection found that Avon and Somerset Constabulary had, or had access to through collaboration with other forces regionally, the necessary capability to tackle terrorism, civil emergency, serious organised crime and public disorder but not a large-scale cyber incident.
How well the force delivers value for money
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has responded extremely effectively to its spending review challenge. It is looking to the longer term and is taking the necessary decisions today to ensure future sustainability.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is on track to meet its financial challenge of the spending review period and also for the following financial year of 2015/16. Importantly, the force is looking beyond the immediate horizon. While there are inevitable uncertainties about future funding and costs pressures, the force’s planning is identifying likely future scenarios and developing high-level options to meet the challenge.
Overall, the force understands the issues facing it, and has a comprehensive and well-managed change programme in place to achieve the savings required. It has undertaken a rigorous assessment of demand which has provided the evidence base for restructuring how policing will be provided more effectively and continues to realise savings for the force.
HMIC was reassured by the level of detail that underpins Avon and Somerset’s change plans and by the leadership’s ability, innovation and determination to make changes while fighting crime and keeping its communities safe.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has made some progress in communicating the need for ethical and professional behaviour and has made good progress in relation to the areas for improvement identified by HMIC in 2012. It has an effective approach to the management of misconduct matters: however, the force does not manage the threat, risk, and harm from corruption as effectively as it should.
Further insights on legitimacy
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013) found that the proportion of respondents who think that the force does an excellent/good job was broadly in line with the figure across England and Wales. The same survey over the same period also found that the proportion which agrees that the force deals with local concerns was broadly in line with the figure for England and Wales. The force’s own victim satisfaction survey (12 months to June 2014) found that the proportion of victims who were satisfied with their experience was greater than the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that call-handlers were polite, helpful and professional. The domestic abuse inspection found that there was room for improvement in the way the force identified domestic abuse victims. HMIC was concerned to find that, in practice, there were serious inconsistencies in the way domestic abuse incidents were responded to initially. There was insufficient supervision of the risk assessment process by patrol sergeants, leading to a lack of compliance with procedures at the first attendance.
As a result of the crime data integrity inspection, HMIC is seriously concerned that a notable proportion of reports of crime are not being recorded, and this means that victims of crime are not receiving the service they should when they first report a crime. HMIC is also concerned with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime) as too many of these are incorrect. The force needs to take action to improve, serve the victims of these crimes and provide the public with confidence in the force’s crime data.