Hertfordshire PEEL 2014
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Hertfordshire Constabulary, working with both Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary, has developed a joint professional standards department (PSD) that has been in place for 18 months. The three forces in this strategic alliance are continuing to develop their joint policies and procedures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how they jointly manage and respond to unprofessional behaviour, misconduct and corruption. However, there is currently insufficient capacity to prevent, reduce and investigate corruption matters effectively.
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 greater than 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 greater than 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 greater than the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that most frontline staff, including call-takers, understood the need to have a victim-centred approach and display it in their everyday work. The domestic abuse inspection found that there were good systems in the force control room to identify victims of domestic abuse, and staff were trained to question callers to establish the nature of the call, and the level of risk to the victim. However, available information was often not passed to attending officers which meant they had an incomplete understanding of the threat of harm to a victim or their children as they arrived at the scene.
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. However, HMIC is 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.
To what extent does the force ensure that the workforce acts with integrity?
There is clear leadership from the chief constable to create a climate of ethical behaviour, and staff and officers are familiar with ‘The Herts Way’; the chief’s method of communicating his expectations. The actions of some managers, however, do not always reflect this ethos, and there is some evidence to suggest that unethical behaviour is not always challenged or dealt with effectively.
The force has recently established an ethics, equalities and integrity board to manage the introduction of the Code of Ethics, and this provides an opportunity for structured training for staff and officers. Joint policies for the three forces have been developed to manage business interests although work needs to be done to improve the effectiveness of this process. The force takes a different approach to investigations of misconduct by police staff to that applied in respect of police officers. This could lead to inconsistent outcomes. The force has confidential reporting mechanisms in place which are promoted by the joint professional standards department through its branded communication booklet ‘Shield’. Results of misconduct hearings are also published. There is, however, more the force could do to share the lessons it learns in misconduct matters.
The professional standards department and anti-corruption unit have police officers and police staff with appropriate skills and experience for the roles they perform. They are selected from across all three forces in the strategic alliance, but there was little evidence of any structured succession planning, to make sure that the right staff are in place if someone leaves.
The joint professional standards department unit has limited capacity to analyse intelligence, threats and vulnerabilities within the three forces of the alliance, and fails to identify vulnerable staff. Vetting arrangements do not comply with the national vetting policy and do not identify corruption risks at the recruitment stage for officers and staff. The force also does not use random substance misuse testing, and it does not have the capacity to take active steps to identify misconduct and corruption.
What are the public perceptions of the force?
HMIC considers that there are two sources of data that give an insight into the public’s perceptions of their police force: the Crime Survey for England and Wales, and the Victim Satisfaction Survey.
The data for Hertfordshire Constabulary show that:
Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013)
- 71 percent of adults surveyed think that the police do an excellent/good job, which is greater than the figure across England and Wales of 61 percent.
- 68 percent of adults surveyed agree that the police deal with local concerns, which is greater than the England and Wales proportion of 60 percent.
Victim Satisfaction Survey (12 months to June 2014)
- 88.8 percent (± 1.3 percent) of victims were satisfied with their experience which is greater than the figure across England and Wales of 85.0 percent (± 0.2 percent).
To what extent does the force respond to calls for service appropriately?
The value for money inspection found the force had set a clear performance standard for response times, and this had remained the same since 2010. The inspection found that during this time the proportion of calls attended within these standards for both ’emergency’ and ‘prompt’ calls had remained constant.
The crime data integrity inspection found that most frontline staff, including call-takers, understood the need to have a victim-centred approach and display it in their everyday work. However, the inspection found that in some circumstances, call-takers showed a degree of frustration with those who had been drinking and those who did not have a strong command of the English language.
The domestic abuse inspection found that there were good systems in the force control room to identify victims of domestic abuse. Staff were trained to question callers to establish the nature of the call, and the level of risk to the victim. Through its systems, the force was able to identify callers that were repeat victims. Common sense was also applied by all staff.
Control room staff researched police databases to gather available information about a caller, the victim, the alleged perpetrator, the family or the address. However, this information was often not passed to attending officers which meant they had an incomplete understanding of the threat of harm to a victim or their children as they arrived at the scene. Officers had received domestic abuse, stalking, harassment and honour-based violence (DASH) risk assessment training. The force had given enhanced training to domestic violence emergency response officers (DVEROs), some of whom were response officers. However, these officers were seldom used or asked for advice.
To what extent are the data and information provided by the force of a high quality?
The crime data integrity inspection examined 224 incident records and found that 181 crimes should have been recorded. Of the 181 crimes that should have been recorded, only 130 were. This was of considerable concern as it meant that some victims’ crimes were not being recorded and they were not getting the service they deserved (e.g., because certain victim support services are only triggered when a crime is recorded).
The force also had a centralised crime-recording unit through which HMIC estimated that the force recorded approximately 40 percent of the total of its recorded crime. This unit recorded reports of crime directly from members of the public which did not require the creation of an incident record. Our inspection of this unit (a review of 34 calls from the public) found that of the 36 crimes that should have been recorded, all 36 were recorded correctly. This was an effective approach to crime-recording for the force.
The inspection also examined 75 no-crime records and found 71 records to be compliant with Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) and the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS). The authority to authorise a no-crime decision rests with four people and there is a high degree of consistency between them.