Cheshire 2014Read more about Cheshire
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Cheshire 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 tackling anti-social behaviour. However, it requires improvement in reducing crime and preventing offending, and it requires improvement in the way it investigates offending. I had some specific concerns about its approach to domestic abuse, although there are now very early signs of improvement since the initial inspection;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities is good; and
the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in most of the practices that were examined this year.
Michael Cunningham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of Cheshire I have taken into account the challenges to policing the area.
Cheshire is a diverse county with large rural areas and extensive heavy industry with associated urban areas. It has vibrant commercial, retail and leisure facilities. Cheshire has pockets of extreme wealth and areas which are among the most deprived in the country. The county is also home to major university campuses. Cheshire borders two major metropolitan areas – Manchester and Liverpool – and the international airports that serve these cities are within close proximity. A major motorway and the West Coast Mainline railways run through the county.
The force is assessing a number of new initiatives to determine how local neighbourhood policing services will be delivered in future; e.g., a project in Ellesmere Port is providing evidence of how neighbourhood policing teams could work more closely to better serve the community.
I have been particularly impressed with the strenuous efforts to make savings in areas that limit the impact on frontline policing. The way in which the force manages change is a real strength.
The force works well with local partners in making good use of resources to provide a joined-up response to problems, and there is a victim-centred approach throughout the force. This is exemplified by a good understanding of domestic abuse that places a strong focus on identifying repeat victims or those who may be particularly vulnerable by using formal risk assessments, and having clear roles and responsibilities for dealing with victim safety.
The force has a positive focus on learning and improving services and a genuine commitment among staff and officers – call-takers were found to be polite, sympathetic and professional.
I 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, and the force is making efforts to understand current demand and re-align resources to provide a better service.
Over the past 12 months, there have been a number of inspections made of Cheshire that have suggested a number of recurrent issues. One of these is in relation to improving the training provided to staff to allow them to carry out more effective investigations. Another is in relation to acquiring intelligence further to inform investigative activity.
I am particularly interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months. These will include:
- addressing the recommendations from the crime data integrity inspection report;
- how the new neighbourhood pilot project in Ellesmere Port shapes the new force command team approach to providing a policing service across Cheshire; and
- how the force’s research into identifying and addressing the root causes of crime is developed with partners to provide better outcomes for both victims and perpetrators of crime.
How well the force tackles crime
Cheshire Constabulary is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is good at investigating offending. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Cheshire has a good track record in reducing crime. Preventing crime is a clear priority for the force, and it works well with local partners in making good use of resources to provide a joined-up response to problems.
HMIC found a victim-centred approach throughout the force; it has a positive focus on learning and improving services. There is a genuine commitment among staff to delivering a high quality service to local communities.
There is a mixed picture of the quality of investigations, with some good examples of effective investigations and good victim care from specialist teams dealing with domestic abuse and rape, but also some inconsistencies elsewhere in the planning and supervision of investigations.
Rates of anti-social behaviour are comparatively high in Cheshire but the force is working well with partners to understand and address local concerns.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that there was some effective working to identify victims of domestic abuse, and staff throughout the organisation understood and recognised their role in making victims safer and dealing properly with domestic abuse.
The crime inspection found that the force had effective processes in place to manage and disrupt organised crime groups across the county, and it is developing a corporate approach to identify and respond to the rapidly growing threat from child sexual exploitation. Training is being delivered to develop skills and knowledge to tackle cyber-crime with the stated aim of ‘developing the most cyber-literate investigative workforce in the country’.
The Strategic Policing Requirement inspection found that Cheshire 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.
The inspection into burglary dwelling investigations found that the standards of investigation applied by officers were good.
How well the force delivers value for money
HMIC found that Cheshire Constabulary has made good progress in saving money and has made strenuous efforts to make savings in areas that limit the impact on frontline policing. The force is well placed to continue providing effective policing and to face future financial challenges.
Cheshire is on track to meet its financial challenge of the spending review period and also for the year beyond, in 2015/16. In terms of 2016/17, there is an agreed timeline for developing and refining budget plans.
The force has a proven track record of meeting financial challenges while, at the same time, providing high-quality community policing to those working and living in Cheshire. The force’s change programme is developing how policing will be provided more efficiently, and with fewer resources, in the future. HMIC found that the way the force manages change is a real strength. Its programme is well led and ownership is shared widely among senior management and staff throughout the organisation. There was a complete change in the leadership team by the summer of 2014, and HMIC is reassured that there are good systems and processes in place, and that the force is well placed to face future challenges.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Cheshire Constabulary has addressed a number of the areas identified in HMIC’s 2012 report, Revisiting Police Relationships. Chief officer leadership is strong, and there is an obvious climate of professionalism throughout the force. Wrongdoing is challenged, but work is necessary to develop policies and inform the workforce accordingly. Misconduct investigations are proportionate and there is a confidence across the constabulary that cases are handled fairly, and opportunities for learning are exploited. The counter-corruption unit is effective in protecting the force from corruption, but it has limited capacity. The National Decision Model, designed to help staff reach rational decisions, is well understood.
Further insights on legitimacy
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013) found that the proportion of respondents who that 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 that agrees 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 that were satisfied with their experience was broadly in line with the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that operators answering calls from the public were polite, sympathetic and professional. The domestic abuse inspection found that there was a good understanding of domestic abuse, assessing risk and a strong focus on identifying repeat victims or those who may be particularly vulnerable. Formal risk assessments were undertaken at all incidents of domestic abuse and there were clear roles and responsibilities for dealing with victim safety.
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 about the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime): 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.