West Mercia 2014Read more about West Mercia
This is the first PEEL Assessment of West Mercia 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 some of the practices that were examined this year.
Dru Sharpling, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of West Mercia Police I have taken into account the challenges to policing the area.
West Mercia covers three unitary Councils of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and the two tier county of Worcestershire. There are pockets of social deprivation within the force area. In 2011, West Mercia entered into a strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police. The forces have developed a new shared vision and set of values so that they can work together more effectively and efficiently.
The innovative and ambitious alliance with Warwickshire has enabled the force to make efficiency savings while continuing to provide a good service to the people of West Mercia. The force has developed a strong response to crime prevention and reduction, investing resources to support victims of crime. We found evidence of the commitment of frontline staff to keep victims safe and an emphasis on conducting high quality investigations. Safer neighbourhood teams were alert to local anti-social behaviour issues.
The force has developed a structured plan to introduce the Code of Ethics, although more could be done to identify groups or individuals who may be vulnerable to corruption.
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.
I am particularly interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months.
How well the force tackles crime
West Mercia Police is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is good at investigating crime. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
West Mercia Police is in a strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police and across both forces HMIC found a strong response to preventing and reducing crime. Local neighbourhood teams in the force (called Safer Neighbourhood Teams or SNTs) have a good understanding of local priorities and work with partners to prevent crime effectively, manage high-risk offenders and safeguard victims, especially the most vulnerable and, in particular, victims of anti-social behaviour.
The force has invested resources to support victims and HMIC found frontline staff are committed to keeping them safe. There was generally an emphasis on conducting high quality investigations, although for some crimes officers could not maximise opportunities to gather evidence such as photographing injuries because specialist resource allocated to investigate crimes, such as child and/or domestic abuse, was not available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found some effective work by West Mercia Police to tackle domestic abuse. However, there were several areas for improvement that the force needed to address before the public could be confident that victims of domestic abuse were provided with a consistent standard of service.
The crime inspection found that organised crime groups are mapped by the force intelligence team and prioritised according to threat, risk and harm. There were a number of examples seen around how organised crime group mapping had been used to target child sexual exploitation.
How well the force delivers value for money
HMIC commends West Mercia Police for making excellent progress in achieving what has been a challenging savings target. Through the innovative and ambitious alliance with Warwickshire Police, the force has demonstrated some excellent efficiency savings at the same time as continuing to provide good performance in policing the West Mercia area.
West Mercia Police has already achieved the savings required for the spending review ahead of schedule and is now developing plans for the future. A clear focus on value for money is demonstrated through the alliance with Warwickshire that has the opportunity to achieve further significant savings over a number of years. The force is extremely well placed to face future financial challenges.
The force has made good progress with developing and implementing the alliance; the phased approach to managing this unprecedented organisational change has been effective and well led. The alliance is providing the force with significant opportunities for cost savings and, importantly, is providing the people of West Mercia with a better-equipped and more effective police service.
The force understands its demand and is ensuring that police time is used to best effect. The shared resources of both forces are deployed in a ‘borderless’ way to ensure that the most appropriate response is provided regardless of who owns the resource. Despite major changes and the scale of the cuts in spending, recorded crime has continued to fall in West Mercia and has fallen at a faster rate over the last year than the rate for England and Wales.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
West Mercia Police has made limited progress on the areas for improvement identified by HMIC in 2012. There is good understanding of the Code of Ethics across the force. Staff feel confident to challenge wrongdoing and the force responds effectively to such reports, although the audit of investigations, including lessons learned could improve. The force has limited capacity to identify and deal with corruption proactively.
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 of people 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 that frontline staff, including call-takers, understood the importance of meeting the needs of the victim when considering crime-recording and investigation. They were polite, professional and helpful. The domestic abuse inspection found that staff in the operations and communication centre were trained to question callers about the likely threat, harm and risk to the victim or anyone else present at the incident. The force provided an enhanced service to the victims of domestic abuse who are assessed as being at the greatest risk of harm.
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 with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime) as 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.