Devon and Cornwall 2014Read more about Devon and Cornwall
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Devon and Cornwall Police. 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. I have some specific concerns about its approach to domestic abuse;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities is good; and
the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in some of the practices that were examined this year.
Dru Sharpling, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of Devon and Cornwall I have taken into account the challenges to policing the southwest peninsula of England.
Devon and Cornwall incorporates five upper tier/unitary local authorities and eight district/city councils. Plymouth, Torquay and Exeter are urban centres of significant size, but the remainder of the population across the peninsula is spread between smaller urban clusters, market towns, villages and seaside towns. There are significant pockets of deprivation and a dependency on seasonal and part-time working.
The population is generally older than the national profile with more people aged over 65 years and fewer under the age of 25. The population is increased by a large number of students, including a growing number of international students. The population also significantly increases due to the influx of visitors to the area throughout the year. This forms a major part of the local economy but increases the demand on services and infrastructures.
I am impressed that the co-location of resources with partners is widespread and has led to better information sharing and action. This is particularly prominent in relation to anti-social behaviour, addressing vulnerability, repeat incidents and safeguarding issues. Investigations are generally of a good standard and conducted in a timely manner, with robust supervision, direction and scrutiny. A ‘victim-centred service’ is a stated aim of the force, and initial contact with victims is good but the service at latter stages of investigations is inconsistent. Police custody arrangements were generally positive and detainees were commendably well cared for.
I have been encouraged by the progress the force has made in achieving savings despite spending less on policing than most other forces at the start of the spending review and having less scope to find those savings. Partnership working is strong, with evidence of effective joint working at all levels; this is especially so across neighbourhoods.
I have some specific concerns about the force’s approach to domestic abuse. High-risk cases are generally dealt with well, but there is less consistency with lower-risk cases. Weaknesses and inconsistencies in the oversight and supervision of the risk assessment process when officers first attend meant that the force could not be confident that it was consistently providing an appropriate response in all cases of domestic abuse.
I also have 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 interested to see how the force responds to areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months.
How well the force tackles crime
Devon and Cornwall Police is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is good at investigating offending. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Devon and Cornwall has clear strategic priorities in relation to crime prevention and anti-social behaviour. They are consistent with the priorities set by the police and crime commissioner, and by the Peninsula Partnership, an umbrella body which includes all of the statutory partners within Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Partnership working is strong with evidence of effective joint working at all levels; this is especially so across neighbourhoods. The co-location of resources with partners is widespread and has led to better information sharing and action to resolve community issues. This is particularly prominent in relation to anti-social behaviour where joint working is aimed at addressing vulnerability, repeat incidents and safeguarding issues.
Investigations were generally of a good standard and conducted in a timely manner, with robust supervision, direction and scrutiny. A ‘victim-centred service’ is a stated aim of the force; initial contact with victims is good but HMIC found that the service was variable at latter stages of investigations.
Force leaders set and drive clear strategic priorities to reduce crime and prevent reoffending. Investigations of crime are of a good standard and victims generally receive an effective service. The force has made significant progress in clamping down on anti-social behaviour which has improved the quality of life for local people.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that there were some significant risks in the way the force tackles domestic abuse. High-risk cases were found to be generally dealt with well, but there was less consistency with medium and standard-risk cases. The joint inspection of police custody suites found that police custody was generally positive and detainees were commendably well cared for.
The crime inspection found that the force could do more to establish a systematic approach to disrupt and deter the activity of organised crime groups; this lacked structure and a shared understanding of responsibilities and expected outcomes.
How well the force delivers value for money
Devon and Cornwall Police has continued to make good progress in achieving savings despite facing a very difficult challenge.
Devon and Cornwall Police is on track to make all of the savings it needs over the period of the spending review. The force has faced a particularly difficult challenge, not only because of the scale of the spending cuts but because it was already spending less on policing than most other forces, and had less scope to find the savings.
The force has assessed the further savings it needs to make for the following financial year of 2015/16 and has plans in place to make these savings. The force is also looking beyond this period and is developing plans for an ambitious alliance with its neighbouring force, Dorset Police. Although there is some risk to savings plans beyond 2016, HMIC is reassured that the force is working hard to find ways of cutting spending while protecting neighbourhood policing and fighting crime.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Devon and Cornwall Police has worked well to instil ethical and professional behaviour. Chief officer leadership is effective, although some staff perceive a need for more contact and communication with the chief officer team. Offers of gifts and hospitality are recorded comprehensively but not yet cross-checked with chief officers’ and senior managers’ diaries. The force manages threat, risk and harm from corruption but tends to be reactive; more could be done to prevent problems developing. Vetting procedures are a strength.
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 who agree 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 broadly in line with the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found frontline officers and staff, including call-takers, understood the importance of meeting the needs of the victim when considering crime-recording and investigation. The inspection on domestic abuse found weaknesses and inconsistencies in the oversight and supervision of the risk assessment process during initial attendance. This meant that the force could not be confident that it was consistently assessing risk and providing an appropriate response in all cases. There was a lack of clarity about what constituted a repeat victim and how to identify if a victim was vulnerable.
As a result of the crime data integrity inspection, HMIC is 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.
The force’s approach to no-criming (cancelling a recorded crime) is generally acceptable. However, there is room for some improvement if the force is to retain the confidence of the public in recorded crime data.