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Cumbria 2016

Read more about Cumbria

This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Cumbria Constabulary. PEEL is designed to give the public information about how their local police force is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable both across England and Wales, and year on year. The assessment is updated throughout the year with our inspection findings and reports.

The extent to which the constabulary is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.

The extent to which the constabulary is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.

The extent to which the constabulary is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.

Michael Cunningham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary


HMI's observations

I am pleased with the overall performance of Cumbria Constabulary. However, the force still needs to improve some aspects of its service.

I am particularly pleased with the improved effectiveness with which Cumbria Constabulary keeps the people of Cumbria safe and reduces crime. Since my assessment last year, the force has made substantial improvements in how it investigates crimes: the initial stages of investigations are generally conducted well, and the force allocates cases for subsequent investigation to teams with the appropriate investigative capability. Further improvements are needed in how some investigations are supervised.

The force has established a good understanding of the likely threats and risk of harm to the people of Cumbria. Neighbourhood policing teams work with partner organisations to tackle local problems, and there are specialists within each division dedicated to supporting a problem-solving approach.

Cumbria Constabulary has improved its approach to tackling serious and organised crime. It has good oversight of its response to the groups involved in the most serious criminality, which encourages consistency of approach across the force. However, the force is less consistent in its approach to disrupting groups involved in less serious crime. Also, the force would have a better understanding of the threat of organised crime if it made use of information from partner organisations.

The force has made some progress in protecting those who are most vulnerable from harm and in supporting victims. I am pleased with the strong commitment of senior leaders to improving services for vulnerable children. Since my assessment last year, the workforce has an improved understanding of its responsibility to protect vulnerable people, and in particular of the risks present when young people go missing. However, the force needs to improve its approach to assessing risk, and to be more consistent in how it safeguards vulnerable people.

Cumbria Constabulary has a proven track record of sound financial management and has a well-managed organisational change programme. It does not yet have a full understanding of all of the current demands for its services or the likely future demands and I welcome the steps the force is taking to address this.

The force has made a significant investment in new technology to enable more flexible working. Improving the way it uses and develops technology is an important feature of its future plans.

Cumbria Constabulary has made effective arrangements for seeking feedback from the people of Cumbria. The force investigates complaints from the public thoroughly, but it needs to improve its vetting of the workforce. It also needs to be more active in identifying wrongdoing rather than relying on reports of corruption.

In summary, I am pleased that the force has built on its performance in many areas, but there are some aspects where I would like to see improvement.


Cumbria Constabulary provides policing services to the county of Cumbria. Cumbria generally has a high level of poverty, although there are some very affluent areas. The force area is home to around 0.5 million people, who live in a predominantly rural setting. It has small, distinct urban areas that include the city of Carlisle, and the towns of Barrow-in-Furness, Workington and Penrith. The resident population is increased by university students and by the very large numbers who visit or travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes 193 miles of motorway and trunk roads and major rail stations and sea ports.

The proportion of areas in Cumbria that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is broadly in line with the national average. The most challenging areas are generally characterised by a high concentration of people living, working, socialising, or travelling in the area.

Features that both cause and/or indicate a concentration of people include the number of commercial premises, including licensed premises and fast-food premises, public transport, and social deprivation. In some areas, these features are combined. The police force area is large, relative to other forces in England and Wales, and it takes a comparatively long time to travel across the area by road, which increases the difficulty of providing police services.

Working arrangements

The extent of collaborative working in Cumbria Constabulary is limited compared to many other forces, but there has been some progress since last year in developing new joint working arrangements.

The force works with Lancashire Constabulary to provide learning and development.

In addition to working with academic institutions to develop digital technology, the force is collaborating with Durham Constabulary on a new bespoke IT platform to manage crime and intelligence.

The force has changed its assistant chief constable within the past year.

Looking ahead to 2017

In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how Cumbria Constabulary responds to this assessment and to the areas for improvement that HMIC identified last year.

I will be particularly interested to see:

  • further improvements in the way Cumbria Constabulary responds to and supports vulnerable people; and
  • how the force develops a more comprehensive understanding of current and future demand for its services.


How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 02/03/2017

Cumbria Constabulary is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The constabulary has an effective approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and tackling serious and organised crime. It has good arrangements in place to protect victims and to investigate crime effectively, but needs to improve the way it supports vulnerable people. Our overall judgment this year has changed from last year, when we judged the constabulary to be requires improvement in respect of effectiveness.

Cumbria Constabulary is effective at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. It has a good understanding of the threat and risk of harm to its communities. Dedicated problem-solvers provide a sustained community presence. The constabulary has made some use of anti-social behaviour powers and is expanding its understanding of the legislation.

The constabulary is effective at investigating crime and reducing re-offending. It has made significant efforts to improve the standard of its initial response to cases, their investigation and the completion of case papers. Officers and staff are well aware of their responsibilities under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. There is still room for improvement, however, in the way that some investigations are supervised.

Since HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report, the constabulary has made good progress in introducing arrangements with other organisations to reduce offending and monitor offenders. However, it needs to do more to ensure that it checks the previous criminal history of foreign national offenders who have been detained in police custody.

The constabulary has made progress at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims although it is not consistently identifying vulnerability and providing effective safeguarding. The constabulary is not using all available intelligence systems to determine the levels of risk to vulnerable people. The overall standard of the risk-assessments submitted by officers is acceptable, but could be improved.

The constabulary is effective at tackling serious and organised crime. It has responded to HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report, and good oversight and management arrangements are now in place for the most serious organised crime groups. However, less harmful groups are not disrupted as effectively.

The constabulary has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its obligations under the Strategic Policing Requirement (PDF document).

View the five questions for effectiveness


How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 03/11/2016

Cumbria Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.

The constabulary has a proven track record of sound financial management and there is a well-managed change programme to oversee the continued development of services. There are plans for further investment in buildings, new technology and vehicles. While there are scalable plans to ensure that the constabulary can continue to provide an effective police service across Cumbria, these plans could be further developed to ensure that the constabulary has greater clarity on how it would continue to provide services with fewer resources, given the uncertainty of its future funding position.

Improving the way technology is used and developed is an important feature of the constabulary’s plans and it has made a significant investment in information technology to enable more flexible working. The constabulary has plans to share resources with Lancashire Constabulary and to collaborate with other blue light services, although it recognises that there is more work to do in strengthening partnership working arrangements across Cumbria. An existing collaboration with the National Health Service to introduce a multi-agency assessment and crisis centre is encouraging and has the potential to improve services for people with mental illness.

In responding to the winter 2015/16 flooding crisis across the county, the constabulary showed that it had learned from previous flooding events in 2005 and 2009 and as a result worked more effectively, including with partners.

There is a clear focus on ‘managing demand better’ as one of the most important business areas within Cumbria Constabulary’s new ‘Big 6’ framework of priorities. The constabulary has made changes to the way it responds to demand for its services by placing a number of police officers in the control room to manage calls and assess risk more effectively. The effects of this change will be considered in September 2016, as part of an ongoing review. Work to understand more complex demand within the constabulary’s crime command is still being developed. Until the results of this work are known, the constabulary cannot have a clear understanding of its demand.

View the three questions for efficiency


How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 08/12/2016

Cumbria Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.

The constabulary has a good understanding of the importance of providing positive and fair treatment for all members of the public. There are good arrangements in place to work with local communities and the constabulary’s workforce, and to understand their concerns. However, there are limited arrangements for the constabulary to proactively identify corruption when it has not been reported.

Cumbria Constabulary has established good arrangements to listen to the public and understand their concerns. The constabulary is addressing public priorities and people’s perceptions of whether they have been treated fairly and respectfully in the course of their involvement with the police.

The constabulary investigates complaints from the public thoroughly. There is a system in place to analyse trends and to promptly address problems concerning individual officers who are the subject of repeated complaints. All staff have a good awareness of the high standards of behaviour and integrity required of them, and regularly receive updates and reminders on the standards of behaviour expected.

The professional standards department is adequately resourced to receive, assess and manage intelligence in relation to wrongdoing and corruption from across the constabulary. However, while the constabulary can vet all new applicants, there is insufficient capacity to carry out the full range of vetting required under new guidelines of staff who have been in the constabulary for some time.

There are strong governance arrangements in place to oversee disciplinary cases, and members of the workforce are supported when they report wrongdoing. While there are confidential reporting lines available to officers and staff, there is only a limited amount of proactive investigation of wrongdoing.

There is a strong reliance on the relationship between an individual and their line manager to manage the wellbeing of staff and to understand their concerns. The constabulary has conducted an internal staff survey and is responding positively to the issues raised by the workforce through the introduction of a new wellbeing strategy, which will extend the current physical and emotional support available to the workforce.

Performance assessment occurs at management, team and individual level. The new performance assessment is centred on the constabulary’s ‘big six’ strategy that clearly sets out its ambition and values.

Current performance appraisal arrangements are immature and there is a need to improve the way information on staff progress, skills and development is recorded and managed by the constabulary.

View the three questions for legitimacy

Other inspections

How well has the force performed in our other inspections?

In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMICFRS carries out inspections of a wide range of policing activity throughout the year. Some of these are conducted alongside the PEEL inspections; others are joint inspections.

Findings from these inspections are published separately to the main PEEL reports, but are taken into account when producing the rounded assessment of each force's performance.


Last updated 08/12/2016

Police leadership is crucial in enabling a force to be effective, efficient and legitimate. This inspection focused on how a force understands, develops and displays leadership through its organisational development.

Cumbria Constabulary has clear expectations of its leaders. The senior leadership team has introduced a new vision and values for the constabulary, which is widely understood throughout the organisation. The constabulary used a staff survey to seek feedback and is addressing the concerns raised; staff feel that the chief officer team responded well to their feedback. Performance meetings at strategic, area and team level provide good accountability and allow managers to understand the relative strengths of leaders. However, the constabulary does not have a full understanding of the skills and potential of all its officers and staff because its new performance system is not fully in place. The new system is part of a strategy to identify potential senior leaders. The constabulary has leadership programmes, tailored to different ranks, and has plans for additional programmes.

Leadership problems are identified quickly and managed appropriately; emerging disciplinary issues are raised at an early stage. The constabulary plans to introduce ‘business improvement groups’ to seek new ideas from the workforce, but the workforce is not aware of these plans. At present, officers and staff can only make suggestions through the ‘ask the chief’ intranet forum or their line manager.

The constabulary is aiming to recruit and retain excellent police staff and officers to meet future needs and develop internal talent. There is scope to develop diverse leadership teams more widely. Recent selection processes have been internal, and have seen current members of the constabulary promoted, although the most recent senior appointment at chief officer rank was through an open recruitment process, and an assistant chief constable was recruited from outside Cumbria Constabulary.

View the three questions for leadership

Other reports

Last updated 24/10/2016

This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Cumbria Constabulary.

View other reports

Key facts – 2019/20

Force Area

2,634 square miles


0.5m people
No change local 10 yr change


88% frontline police officers
92% national level
3.86 per 1000 population
3.69 national level
down6% 10yr change in local workforce
down5% 10yr national change

Victim-based crimes

0.05 per person
0.06 national level
up10% Local 5 year trend
up9% National 5 year trend


64p per person per day local
59p per person per day national

Points of context provided by the force

  • Cumbria is 98 percent rural and mountainous, with 150 miles of coastline, geographically isolated and with a sparse population.
  • The small population increases with millions of visitors each year increasing the demand on services and infrastructure.

Police and crime plan priorities

The Police and Crime Plan Objectives for Cumbria sets out my vision for the next four years. My legacy will ensure that we have an effective and efficient police force by reducing dependency on public services; targeting resources at prevention and early intervention.

Read More

I am committed to ensuring we have visible uniformed policing and support services in our communities, ensuring offenders face a consequence for their crime whilst giving victims a choice in a satisfactory resolution.

My Plan emphases the importance of working in partnership to prevent, reduce and tackle crime and disorder across the county, ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our community are protected and have access to support services that will help them to cope and recover when needed.

I am committed to supporting activities and providing opportunities for young people to have a vision and voice around future policing and what impacts on them.