Essex 2014Read more about Essex
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Essex 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 and is good at tackling anti-social behaviour. However, it requires improvement in the way it investigates offending;
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.
Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of Essex Police I have taken into account the challenges of policing Essex.
Essex is a diverse county with almost a third of residents living in rural areas, while the south of the county is heavily urban, skirting the Thames. Essex is the gateway for people and freight going in and out of the country, and has major road networks linking international air and sea ports.
The force’s legacy of tragic domestic abuse murders has rightly led the force leadership radically to reassess its priorities. The new approach, aimed at protecting those most at risk of harm, has clearly been shaped by the lessons the force has learned following past failings.
I have been impressed with the improvements made by Essex Police across a number of areas, notably the service it provides to victims of crime and anti-social behaviour. It has also improved its ability to identify and deal with people who are vulnerable (this could be because of their age or because they have been victimised before). The chief constable has taken personal oversight of the improvements in how the force responds to domestic abuse.
I have been pleased with the way Essex Police has responded to the financial challenge of this spending review. The force is on track to achieve its savings challenge. The force has achieved significant cost reductions while protecting frontline posts. The continued commitment to collaboration with Kent Police is likely to form the basis of an affordable way of providing policing across the county in the future.
The force’s approach to crime-recording is good, with a high degree of accuracy.
I do have concerns that the force needs to do more to improve its standards of crime investigation, supervision of investigators and the way that it responds to calls for service from the public.
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.
Over the past 12 months, there have been a number of inspections made of Essex Police that have suggested that the force’s focus on ethical policing, and providing a quality service to victims, are recurrent themes.
I am particularly interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months and I will continue to monitor closely the progress the force is making in improving its service to victims of domestic abuse.
How well the force tackles crime
Essex Police is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force requires improvement in investigating offending. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Essex Police has significantly reorganised how it delivers policing within the county. The new model moves resources and accountability away from central control and out to the local policing areas. It is part of the force’s response to austerity, with HMIC previously assessing that the force was responding well to the financial challenges it faces.
The force works well with partners to reduce and prevent offending and to tackle anti-social behaviour. It has made great progress in improving services to victims of crime and anti-social behaviour. Essex needs to continue these efforts to ensure that the improvements become the norm in terms of the day-to-day approach that police officers and staff take towards victims.
There is clear evidence of a commitment by the force and its staff to prevent crime and reduce offending. The force has taken significant steps to increase its ability to identify and deal with those victims of crime who are particularly vulnerable.
Essex faces challenges in respect of levels of crime. The force needs to do more to improve its standards of investigation and supervision of investigators, and to improve the training and professional expertise of its staff. The way that it responds to calls for service from the public requires improvement.
While anti-social behaviour is not articulated as a specific force priority within the force’s Plan on a Page, it is implicit across all relevant areas of the plan and we found evidence of good work taking place in the neighbourhood teams to tackle anti-social behaviour although more could be done to learn from what works and to share good practice.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that, since HMIC’s previous inspection in March 2013, the force had taken a number of positive steps to improve the service provided to victims of domestic abuse. However, the inspection found that some victims of domestic abuse were still at risk of not getting the effective response or quality of service they needed from the police. The crime inspection found evidence that Essex had made considerable progress in tackling domestic abuse.
The crime inspection found that there was no apparent local responsibility for specific organised crime groups and officers viewed them as being the sole responsibility of the Essex and Kent serious crime directorate, leading to a lack of activity and the missing of opportunities to disrupt these groups or to prevent them from developing into groups that presented a risk of more serious harm.
How well the force delivers value for money
Essex Police has responded well to the financial challenge of this spending review. The force is looking beyond this period and is planning for future funding reductions so that it is best placed to be able to continue to provide an effective police service.
Essex is on track to achieve its required savings of £47.3m over this spending review period. It also has detailed plans to achieve most of the savings required for 2015/16 and is finalising work to close the remaining gap. Overall, the force understands the issues facing it and has a well-managed change programme in place to ensure that it implements savings required while making improvements to the way policing is provided locally.
Sophisticated analysis of demands and implementation of a new IT system provide the force with opportunities in the coming year to work more efficiently and effectively. Along with its continued commitment to collaboration with Kent Police this is likely to form the basis of an affordable way of providing policing across the county in the future.
HMIC is reassured by the level of detail underpinning the force’s savings plans for the next two years. It has identified opportunities to make further efficiencies while protecting, as far as it can, its crime-fighting capacity in its endeavour to keep the communities in Essex safe.
The long-term financial position of the force will be greatly improved if it can successfully develop effective policing structures which are affordable within the force’s projected budget without using reserves.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
The chief constable and all the chief officers show strong leadership on the importance of values, ethics and personal behaviour. Some policies and procedures address standards of behaviour and integrity. The force has a clear plan to implement the Code of Ethics under the force’s ‘passion in policing’ brand. The force has an established anti-corruption unit and its staff have good knowledge, skills and understanding of the organisation and systems; however, it has insufficient capacity to work proactively. There are governance arrangements for integrity issues, and an established joint process for monitoring contracts and related issues with Kent Police.
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 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 less than the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that there was a strong drive from the leadership of the force actively to promote and display a victim-centred approach which was understood by frontline staff, including call-takers. The domestic abuse inspection found that the force had taken a number of positive steps to improve the service provided to victims, including the introduction of a dedicated domestic abuse intelligence team that carried out background checks, which gave officers attending the incident an appreciation of the likely threat of harm to a victim.
The force has good crime-recording procedures in place when receiving reports of crime, meaning that victims of crime receive the service they should when they first report a crime.
HMIC is also impressed with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime), nearly all of which are correct.
This means the public can have confidence in the way the force records crime.