West Midlands 2014Read more about West Midlands
This is the first PEEL Assessment of West Midlands Police. In making this assessment I have used my professional judgment to consider the evidence available from inspections undertaken in the last 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 child protection;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities is outstanding; 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 Midlands Police I have taken into account the challenges to policing this area.
The West Midlands is a predominantly urban area with a large ethnic minority population and a high demographic of young people. As a major European City Region the area deals with transnational policing issues and also faces the most significant challenge outside the capital from terrorism and extremism. The force also faces important challenges from organised crime and is the lead force in the operation of the National Ballistics Intelligence Service.
I have been impressed that West Midlands Police is working well to cut crime and anti-social behaviour and the force has made some good progress in understanding victims’ perspectives and improving victim care. The force’s approach to crime-recording is good, with a high degree of accuracy. However, there is a need for improvement in the timeliness of crime-recording decisions.
The force works well in partnership with other organisations and there are some good examples of joint projects and initiatives that appear to be making a real difference in keeping local communities safe, e.g. combating domestic abuse and ‘hidden crimes’ such as modern slavery, forced marriage and so-called honour-based violence.
I am concerned that there are still some areas where improvements must be made to strengthen the services to victims, particularly the approach to assessing risk in domestic abuse incidents and the response to difficult, complex or prolonged child protection cases. The force is piloting a new approach to assess and manage risk better, and to identify vulnerable victims at the earliest opportunity.
West Midlands has made excellent progress during challenging financial circumstances and has innovative plans to manage further austerity that it faces in the future.
The force appropriately identifies threats and risks posed by unprofessional behaviour, misconduct and corruption and responds to these issues robustly. However, further work is needed to improve initial assessments of misconduct, ensure misconduct processes are fair and learning points are identified.
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 during the next 12 months.
How well the force tackles crime
West Midlands Police is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is good at investigating offending. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
West Midlands Police is working well to cut crime and anti-social behaviour. The crime rate in the West Midlands has fallen broadly in line with the rate in England and Wales over the last four years. The level of anti-social behaviour in the West Midlands is lower than that of England and Wales.
The force has made some good progress in understanding victims’ perspectives and improving victim care. HMIC found that the force is undertaking some innovative and useful research to find better ways to prevent crime and deal with re-offending. It uses an understanding of ‘what works’ to ensure police officers use the full range of tactics available to them to cut crime and protect victims. Investigations are generally carried out well and the force makes good and appropriate use of restorative justice outcomes as an alternative to prosecutions. The force works well in partnership and there are some good examples of joint projects and initiatives that appear to be making a real difference in keeping local communities safe.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that West Midlands provided some good services when identifying and tackling domestic abuse. However, there were still some areas where improvements could be made to strengthen the services to victims, particularly the approach to risk assessment. The crime inspection found evidence that the force had created dedicated units to investigate some crimes, including domestic abuse.
The child protection inspection found that West Midlands had a strong commitment from the leadership team to its child protection work, with a clear plan for developing its child protection work. However, the inspectors were concerned to find there was a weak response to difficult, complex or prolonged child protection cases. Heavy workloads meant staff that were part of child abuse investigation teams were unable to manage their investigations effectively.
The crime inspection found that the force uses a structured and systematic approach to matching tactics to risk at all levels. West Midlands is also working with partners across the region to combat domestic abuse and ‘hidden crime’ such as modern slavery, forced marriage and so-called honour-based violence.
The Strategic Policing Requirement inspection found that West Midlands has been working with other forces regionally to enhance its 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
West Midlands Police has made excellent progress during challenging financial circumstances and has innovative plans to manage further austerity in the future.
West Midlands Police is on track to meet its financial challenge for the spending review period and also for the following financial year of 2015/16. Importantly, the force is also looking beyond this period and has ambitious plans for an innovation and integration partnership that will enable the force to provide policing within the restrictions of further funding reductions and future financial pressures.
Overall, the force understands the issues facing it, and has a comprehensive and well-managed change programme in place to achieve the savings required. HMIC was reassured by the level of detail that underpins West Midlands’ saving plans. It was also reassured by the leadership team’s ability and determination to make future changes in partnership with a private sector innovation partner, while fighting crime and keeping its communities safe. HMIC’s assessment is that the force is achieving the savings required currently, while planning for the future.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
The leadership of the chief officer team is clear and there is a convincing plan supporting the introduction of the Code of Ethics. Governance processes are good and staff understand professional boundaries. The force appropriately identifies threats and risks posed by unprofessional behaviour, misconduct and corruption and responds robustly. Further work is needed to improve initial assessments of misconduct, ensure misconduct processes are fair and learning points are identified. A number of policies need to be reviewed and improved.
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 less than 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 less than the figure across England and Wales. The crime data integrity inspection found that a central team within the audit and compliance unit called back a proportion of people who had reported incidents or crimes as part of a quality assurance process. The domestic abuse inspection found that there were good systems within the control room to identify victims who have previously reported domestic abuse. Officers are only required to carry out formal victim risk assessments where a crime has been committed involving intimate partners or ex-partners. The force cannot be confident that all victims are consistently getting access to the services they need. 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. However, HMIC is concerned with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime), too many of which are incorrect. The force needs to take action to improve the service to the victims of these crimes and provide the public with confidence in the force’s crime data. The child protection inspection found the force lacked understanding about how to record information that had come to its attention and there was insufficient guidance in some frontline teams.