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Devon and Cornwall 2016

Read more about Devon and Cornwall

This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Devon and Cornwall Police. 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 force is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.

The extent to which the force is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.

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

Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary

Contact Wendy Williams

HMI's observations

I am satisfied with some aspects of Devon and Cornwall Police’s overall performance. There are, however, some areas that the force needs to address to provide a consistently good service, and I am concerned that its performance has declined since last year.

I am very pleased with the improvements that the force has made since my assessment last year in how it protects the most vulnerable people.

The workforce is now better able to recognise and respond to signs of vulnerability. The force works well with partner organisations, both at force and local level: it makes risk assessments that draw on information from a wide range of sources, and it co-ordinates its approach to safeguarding with the activities of partner organisations.

I have concerns about Devon and Cornwall Police’s approach to neighbourhood policing. The force is inconsistent in how it engages with the public across the force area and, as a result, it cannot be confident in its understanding of the issues that cause them the greatest concern. The force also has a variable approach to problem solving: there is some good local practice, but this can be offset by some unstructured activity that is not driven by a coherent plan.

I am deeply concerned by the force’s crime-recording practices. Since our inspection in 2014, the force has made limited progress in improving its arrangements for recording crime. Officers and staff do not always make correct crime-recording decisions at the first opportunity because of deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording arrangements, which include insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements and limited supervision. The force has already begun to address this.

The force has sound processes for investigating recorded crime. The control room is effective in gathering information, assessing risk, and allocating crimes for subsequent investigation. The force is usually quick to attend crime scenes, and investigating officers are appropriately supported by specialist services. However, the force’s poor recording practices mean that these processes may not be applied appropriately to every incident.

I also have some concerns about the force’s approach to managing offenders. The capacity of the team that manages registered sex offenders to mitigate risks to the public is limited because of poor data quality and the size of its workload. The force also needs to improve its integrated offender management programme, which is focused too narrowly on acquisitive criminals and does not include those involved in violent crime or domestic abuse.

I am pleased to note that the force’s approach to managing serious and organised crime is effective. It has a good understanding of the breadth and scale of serious criminality across both counties, and it works well with partner organisations and regional police specialists. However, the force needs to improve the awareness of officers and staff working in local areas of the threat of organised criminality and of how to respond appropriately.

The way the force is organised and provides services – its operating model – is informed by its understanding of current and likely future demands, and the knowledge and skills of its workforce. In my assessment last year, I highlighted issues in respect of the force’s operating model, and it is unfortunate that the force has not made more progress in addressing them.

Devon and Cornwall Police has also made only limited progress in developing its understanding of the current demand for its services. The analysis undertaken so far has been restricted to calls from the public for police attendance at crimes and incidents, and this analysis may have been adversely affected by the force’s crime-recording practices. The force urgently needs to widen the scope of this analysis by improving its understanding of so-called hidden demands, such as internet crime. It also needs to build on the work it has done to understand how the demand for its services is likely to change in future. The force’s ability to plan is further hindered by its limited understanding of the current knowledge and skills in its workforce, and of how these will need to change.

The force has a good track record of achieving budgetary savings. It has formed a strategic alliance with Dorset Police, and the two forces now share some services, which has reduced their cost. The forces plan to combine other services, which should result in further savings.

I commend Devon and Cornwall Police for using a variety of different methods to engage with the public and gather information about their perceptions of the police. The force then uses this information to shape changes to its policies, systems and practices. However, the force could do more to seek feedback from the public, and in particular those who may have less confidence in the police, about what constitutes fair and respectful treatment. That said, the force has a firm commitment to addressing the well-being of its workforce and is putting in place initiatives to support them for the challenges of policing in the current age.

I have been in regular contact with the chief constable and I do not underestimate the force’s commitment to providing a consistently good service to the people of Devon and Cornwall.


Devon and Cornwall Police provides policing services to the counties of Devon and Cornwall, including the Isles of Scilly. Devon and Cornwall is generally affluent, although there are some areas of deprivation. The force area is home to around 1.7 million people, who live in a predominantly rural setting. The counties have distinct, relatively small urban areas that include the cities of Exeter and Plymouth, as well as the towns of Torquay, Newquay and St Ives. The resident population is increased by university students and the very large numbers who visit, socialise in, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 240 miles of motorway and trunk roads and major rail stations, air and sea ports.

The proportion of areas in Devon and Cornwall that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is very low compared to 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 which 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 very 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

Devon and Cornwall Police’s collaboration with Dorset Police is an emerging strength that will support it in sustaining efficient and effective policing services while responding to financial challenges.

Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police have decided to align their deputy chief constables across both organisations. One is responsible for operational policing for both forces and the other is the transformational change lead for both forces.

Looking ahead to 2017

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

I will be particularly interested to see:

  • how the force improves its approach to neighbourhood policing;
  • how the force improves the accuracy of its crime recording; and
  • how the force develops its understanding of demand and uses this in the development of its new operating model.


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

Last updated 02/03/2017
Requires improvement

Overall, the effectiveness of Devon and Cornwall Police requires improvement. The force has clear priorities for reducing harm across the force area and protecting the most vulnerable people in the community. Its management of vulnerability and serious and organised crime is good. However, it needs to improve its approach to neighbourhood policing and aspects of crime investigation. Our overall judgment is a deterioration on last year, when we judged the force to be good in respect of effectiveness.

The force has an established neighbourhood policing structure, but it needs to be more consistent in its engagement with communities across the force area. It works well with partner organisations but needs a more effective approach to recording and solving problems.

The force investigates recorded crime effectively and manages victims well. It needs to improve its management of wanted persons, especially those listed as wanted on the police national computer. It also needs to be more effective in its management of registered sex offenders and in the way it reduces re-offending through integrated offender management.

HMIC’s 2016 crime data integrity inspection found that the force only recorded 81.52 percent of crime reported to it. HMIC judged the force to be inadequate in its crime-recording. That finding has been considered as part of our judgment of the force for this effectiveness inspection.

The identification and management of vulnerable people are priorities for the force. Governance is good and there are co-ordinated processes that provide safeguarding across the force area. The force has integrated its service with partner organisations and continues to invest in keeping people safe. It needs to make better use of civil orders designed to protect victims of domestic abuse.

The force’s management of serious and organised crime is good. Its understanding of local crime networks is evolving in line with the threats it is dealing with. There is good interaction with regional police specialists and partner organisations as well as engagement with the community. The force needs to ensure that staff working in local areas are fully aware of the serious and organised crime threat and know how to respond appropriately.

The force is reviewing different areas of work and making changes in response to an increase in the demand for its services. The use of mobile technology is increasing and there are plans to expand further to improve the service provided to victims. Some force systems do not link together effectively and there are data quality problems that do not best serve the needs of the organisation. The force must address these problems to improve its effectiveness.

View the five questions for effectiveness


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

Last updated 03/11/2016
Requires improvement

Devon and Cornwall Police has been assessed as requiring improvement in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force’s understanding of current and future demand is limited and it does not have a developed target operating model on which to base its current and future plans for allocating resources and managing demand.

Devon and Cornwall Police’s understanding of current, and likely future, demand is limited to traditional responsive policing. The force also lacks a full understanding of likely changes in demand and the impact this might have on its future capacity to sustain efficient policing. HMIC is disappointed that despite our findings in the 2015 efficiency inspection, Devon and Cornwall Police has not made enough progress in developing a new operating model to manage demand through to 2020 and beyond. As a consequence, it is unable to identify its capacity and capability requirements, including its workforce and assets, either now or in the future, to a sufficient degree of accuracy. Since the inspection in 2015 the force received a far more favourable financial settlement than expected, which has reduced the need for immediate savings. However efficiencies need to be made and while the force has some plans to align its resources to meet demand, they are not soundly based.

The force does, however, have ambitious plans to collaborate in an alliance with Dorset Police. Progress has been made to merge some services and the alliance intends to combine others, including ICT. The force has a good track record of achieving budgetary savings and has healthy reserves. The majority of savings the force plans to make by 2019/20 will come from its strategic alliance.

HMIC concludes that the current and future management of demand and resources by the force does not yet provide an assurance that the future for policing across Devon and Cornwall is sustainable.

View the three questions for efficiency


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

Last updated 08/12/2016

Devon and Cornwall Police has been assessed as good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our findings this year are consistent with last year’s findings, in which we judged the force to be good in respect of legitimacy.

The workforce has a good understanding of the importance of treating people with fairness and respect, and makes improvements where concerns are identified. It could do more to seek feedback from those with less trust and confidence in the police. The force needs to improve the way it identifies and intervenes early to reduce risks to its integrity, particularly through analysis, vetting and auditing. The force is good at identifying and responding to workforce concerns and supporting workforce wellbeing, but needs to improve perceptions of the fairness and effectiveness of individual performance management.

The importance of treating people with fairness and respect is reflected well in Devon and Cornwall Police’s mission statement. The force uses different methods to engage with the public and gather information about the origins of negative and positive perceptions of the police. It provides feedback on lessons learned to its workforce and promotes understanding.

The force’s performance assessment system is mature and survey work has helped it gain a thorough understanding of the communities it serves; its high levels of public satisfaction confirm it is strongly committed to improving how it treats all the people it serves. The force vets new officers, staff and volunteers in an appropriate way; however HMIC found that 326 individuals had no current vetting in place. It is also unclear what effect its vetting process is having on its recruitment of a diverse workforce.

The force effectively clarifies and reinforces acceptable and unacceptable standards of behaviour. It engages with the public and its workforce about the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases.

The force must ensure it has a clear grasp of areas of known risk, and that it consistently identifies and tackles emerging misconduct threats. The force sees the abuse of authority for sexual gain as serious corruption. It publishes the outcomes of misconduct cases internally and externally.

Positively, elements of the force’s approach are outstanding. The force takes wellbeing seriously and acts positively to identify and understand the workforce’s wellbeing needs. We found good evidence of the force addressing the cultural impact of changes in advance of making these changes, to help secure emotional engagement from the workforce.

The workforce’s views of the purpose and value of performance appraisal system are mixed. Devon and Cornwall Police’s alliance with Dorset Police offers greater opportunities to ensure workforce appraisal systems are used consistently, effectively and fairly.

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.

Devon and Cornwall Police has clear and well-established leadership expectations which are effectively communicated and understood across the workforce. The force shows some understanding of its leadership capability across its workforce and has some ability to identify gaps and concerns. It uses a variety of methods to understand leadership strengths and capabilities. It should, however, take steps to understand the full set of skills of each individual and give greater consideration to how it identifies and prioritises leadership concerns across different ranks, grades, teams and departments.

The force is clearly committed to talent management: it has a variety of mechanisms to provide support to, and ensure the progression of, some of its most gifted individuals. However, its evaluation of them is currently limited. Further, it does not appear to be developing diverse leadership teams in a consistent way that acknowledges the experience, backgrounds and skills it will need. HMIC recognises that the force has done some work to address gender imbalances. However, we consider that the force would benefit from a deeper understanding of how effectively its programmes and activities have addressed leadership shortcomings, supported lateral development and secured participation from police staff and officers in all under-represented groups.

The force demonstrates a proactive approach to seeking out new ideas, approaches and working practices from other police and non-police organisations. It also encourages ideas from its workforce. We found that the development of its wellbeing programme was a particularly strong example of how the workforce’s views can influence the force’s approach.

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 Devon and Cornwall Police.

View other reports

Key facts – 2019/20

Force Area

3,967 square miles


1.79m people
up7% local 10 yr change


92% frontline police officers
92% national level
2.92 per 1000 population
3.69 national level
down9% 10yr change in local workforce
down5% 10yr national change

Victim-based crimes

0.04 per person
0.06 national level
up11% Local 5 year trend
up9% National 5 year trend


50p per person per day local
59p per person per day national

Points of context provided by the force

  • Devon and Cornwall covers an area of 3,961 square miles, with over 500 square miles of moorland, over 700 miles of coastline and 13,500 miles of roads.
  • The population significantly increases with millions of visitors each year, which increases the demand on services and infrastructure.

Police and crime plan priorities

The Police & Crime Plan priorities focus on ensuring safe, resilient and connected communities. A key priority is connecting communities and policing more effectively. This will be delivered through a local policing promise to deliver policing that is:

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  • Accessible – the police and PCC will be easier to contact;
  • Responsive – the police will be there when needed and will provide clear feedback on what action will be taken;
  • Informative – the police and PCC will keep you well informed on crime and policing issues;
  • Supportive – the police and PCC will work with partners, the public and businesses to identify and resolve issues locally and to prevent crime and harm.

This promise will be used to deliver four additional priorities:

  • Preventing and deterring crime;
  • Protecting people at risk of abuse and those who are vulnerable;
  • Supporting victims and witnesses and helping them to get justice;
  • Getting the best out of the police.