Kent 2014Read more about Kent
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Kent 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;
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 Kent Police I have taken into account the challenges to policing the area.
Kent, known as the ‘Garden of England’, borders London and the Thames and is a popular tourist destination. The county has seen significant population increases in some areas such as Dartford and Ashford. Kent is the principal gateway to Europe and has major road networks linking to the ports.
I have been impressed with the way the force has responded to the challenge of regaining the confidence of the people of Kent regarding its crime-recording figures. The leadership has worked tirelessly to focus the force on ethical crime-recording and placing the victim at the centre of all that it does. In our last inspection, I judged that the public of Kent can have confidence in Kent Police’s crime figures. The force’s approach to crime-recording is now good, with a high degree of accuracy.
I have also been impressed by the way the force prevents and reduces crime and anti-social behaviour. It has introduced a predictive analysis tool which allows it to analyse crime patterns to ensure officers are better able to prevent crime. Anti-social behaviour has reduced and the force has improved its response to community policing by working well with partners, including local councils and voluntary agencies.
I am encouraged by the quality of the force’s crime investigations. The force has taken steps to improve supervisory oversight and has invested in training to ensure that staff investigating crimes have the right skills and experience.
Tackling domestic abuse is a priority for the force and there are some good ways of working. The quality of investigations involving victims at the highest risk of harm is generally of a high standard. However, the force needs to do more to support those assessed as being of a lower risk where the standard of investigation is inconsistent.
I have been pleased with Kent Police’s response to the financial challenge of the current spending review. The force is on track to achieve the savings required. It is planning for the long term by taking the necessary steps today so it is ready to meet future funding challenges, and it is committed to protecting frontline posts. It is collaborating with others, in order to cut costs. Its joint work with Essex Police is especially noteworthy.
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 Kent that have suggested that the force’s focus on putting the victim at the centre of all that it does is a recurrent theme.
I am particularly interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement in the next 12 months.
How well the force tackles crime
Kent Police is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is good at investigating offending. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Kent Police has seen larger increases in the levels of recorded crime over the last four years than elsewhere in England and Wales. This is mainly due to the changes the force has made to ensure that crime-recording is in line with national recording standards. These changes stem from concerns raised by HMIC as a result of the police and crime commissioner for Kent commissioning a review into the force crime figures.
The force works well with partner organisations, particularly at a local level, and has worked hard to develop community safety units across the county.
There is a clear commitment from the force to put the victim at the centre of the way it provides services; this is led by the chief officer team. The levels of victim satisfaction are higher than the average across England and Wales. The force has made good progress in steps to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected, but still has work to do to improve the service it provides to the public.
Reducing anti-social behaviour is one of the priorities for the force, and the force has invested in this area including introducing a case management system to increase effectiveness.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that responding to, and preventing, incidents of domestic abuse was a priority for Kent and this was recognised by staff. The inspection found that, while there were some good ways of working, there were some areas which required improvement in order to provide a consistent quality of service and minimise the risks to victims. The crime inspection found examples of high quality investigations for victims considered to be high-risk; however for those assessed as medium and standard-risk it was inconsistent.
The crime inspection found that organised crime groups were managed through the joint Essex and Kent serious crime directorate who had a rigorous approach to identifying and closely monitoring the highest risk activity. However, there was limited understanding and activity to disrupt organised crime groups at a neighbourhood level. The inspection also found officers had a strong awareness of so-called ‘hidden crimes’ and found some good examples of local officers identifying potential offences of child sexual exploitation.
The Strategic Policing Requirement inspection found that Kent 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
Kent Police has responded well to the financial challenge of the spending review. Importantly, the force is planning for the long term by taking the necessary steps today so it is ready to meet future funding challenges in this era of ongoing austerity.
Kent is on track to achieve its required savings of £49.4m over this spending review period. It has plans in place to achieve further savings in 2015/16. Importantly, the force is also developing plans and options beyond this period, drawing on commercial expertise. It is preparing now, so that it will be best placed to manage further funding reductions and financial pressures in the future.
The force understands the issues facing it and has a comprehensive and very effective programme in place to achieve the savings and the organisational change required. It continues to evaluate how local policing is provided so that it remains affordable and meets the requirements of the police and crime commissioner’s police and crime plan.
The force has maintained its commitment to collaborating with others, in order to cut costs. Its joint work with Essex Police is especially noteworthy. There is strong leadership in the force and a real determination to achieve change while minimising reductions to frontline officers and improving the quality of the service to the public, which is entirely commendable.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Kent Police has a well established professional standards department including an anti-corruption unit, which has a good capacity. The force has made good progress since the last HMIC inspection, embedding positive behaviour and good standards and has a clear plan for implementing the Code of Ethics. The force needs to improve how it initially assesses, then investigates, misconduct and unprofessional behaviour. There is a need to improve the way in which the force proactively reduces the risk of corruption and increases its capacity to investigate, within the strategic alliance arrangements it has with Essex Police. There is an established joint process for monitoring contracts and related issues with Essex Police.
Further insights on legitimacy
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013) found that the proportion of respondents that think that the force does an excellent/good job was less than the figure across England and Wales. The same survey over the same period also found that the proportion that 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 that were satisfied with their experience was greater than the figure across England and Wales.
The inspection on domestic abuse found that there were effective systems in place to identify victims and conduct risk assessments, including those to identify repeat callers. However, there was a risk that domestic abuse incidents involving harassment, including stalking, may not have been appropriately prioritised and the victim may not have received the level of police response they needed.
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.
The crime data integrity inspection found that the leadership in the force had worked tirelessly to transform the force culture and judged that this was a commendable improvement since the earlier inspection of recording practices.