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Devon and Cornwall PEEL 2016

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.

Questions for Leadership


How well does the force understand leadership?

A good understanding of leadership capabilities and expectations is critical to the effective functioning of forces. How forces engage with their workforces when setting leadership expectations is vital in ensuring that police staff and officers feel enabled to lead in an ethical way and to challenge the expectations appropriately.

Forces’ understanding should also extend to their leadership strengths and weaknesses across every rank and grade. This includes an understanding of leadership styles and personality types of individuals, and how they affect wider team dynamics. Forces should be able to take this knowledge and use it to adapt quickly to identify any gaps or issues in leadership. Devon and Cornwall Police has clear and well-established leadership expectations.

The chief constable has taken the lead in involving the workforce extensively so that these are defined clearly. The force encourages and welcomes internal challenge of its expectations. The workforce may challenge the force, including on its leadership expectations, through several forums. These include the staff survey and the leadership events, and also through staff associations, staff support groups, local focus groups, the force-wide discussion board (on the force intranet) and the recent ‘Rumour Mill’, also on the intranet. The force effectively communicates its expectations of leadership, and there is a good understanding of them across the workforce. Reinforcement of expectations takes place in a number of ways, such as the facilitated discussion in workshops during the November 2015 ‘Leading the force’ leadership event.

Devon and Cornwall Police has some understanding of the leadership capability of its workforce and its ability to identify gaps and concerns. The force uses a variety of methods to understand leadership strengths and capabilities, ranging from individual profiling for ranks and staff equivalents from sergeants to executive members to 360-degree feedback and performance development reviews. Through its workforce-planning approach, promotions for officers are planned to meet organisational need. The force has conducted a self-assessment exercise against the College of Policing’s guiding principles for leadership and recognises that greater evaluation is needed.

The force has formed a strategic alliance with Dorset Police; this is a formal agreement to collaborate on matters relating to the workforce, such as future resource planning and talent management. Plans include the introduction of a joint People Strategy (2016–20). The force would benefit if this work included plans to gain a comprehensive understanding of the full set of skills possessed by individuals. This would enable the force to identify wider strengths among its leadership teams, rather than simply confirming that individuals have the necessary skills required for specific roles. Positively, the force has recently conducted a workforce climate and staff engagement survey that explored distinct themes, including ethical leadership and engagement. This has informed the decision to prioritise topics such as procedural fairness and clarity of vision for the organisation.

Until recently, the force held a corporate learning management group each month (in April 2016 the group was renamed the people, planning and development group and became an alliance function). The group helps the force respond quickly to training needs as they arise. Although representatives from different parts of the force participate, it appears that the activity of this group is aimed at managing the operational risks faced by the force, rather than responding to particular leadership gaps. However, the force has a leadership development strategy which has prioritised development at senior leadership and inspector/sergeant level for the past couple of years. The focus now is at chief inspector/superintendent and police staff-equivalent level, supported through formal development from the College of Policing. The force should give consideration to how it identifies and prioritises leadership issues across all the different ranks, grades, teams and departments.


How well does the force develop leadership?

The way in which a force identifies and develops leadership skills is crucial in making sure it performs well now and in the future. Forces should identify leadership development programmes containing a broad range of approaches, beyond just formal training, to develop leadership.

Forces’ knowledge of their current leadership capability should also mean that they are aware of the leadership skills and experience they do not currently possess, and are seeking to recruit to address this.

HMIC found that, although the force takes steps to identify leadership issues, there is little evidence of problems being identified promptly. Leadership issues are identified through various means, including analysis of data on sickness and grievances, survey results and bespoke and regular quarterly performance reviews, and through selection and promotion processes. One mechanism we noted was the quarterly performance review meetings with senior management teams from across the force, which are chaired by the deputy chief constable. These meetings provide the force’s executive with insight into what is happening within teams and also provide an opportunity to identify concerns.

Following the initial development at senior leadership level, the executive team identified a need for some further professional development and has invested in a programme facilitated by the Institute of Directors. Senior leaders at a local level identify the need for interventions at individual and team levels where a performance gap is identified, and individuals highlight development needs through discussions with line managers, for example through the performance development review. Increasingly, there is an emphasis on a blended mix of learning styles of 70 percent on-the-job training, 20 percent supported learning and 10 percent formal training.

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. It uses different management tools to ensure it maps its talent to differentiate a development according to organisational need. These include a nine-box talent grid which combines indicators of performance with potential, and is used to identify the most talented individuals at inspector and police staff-equivalent level and above, as well as for more mainstream processes such as workforce appraisals and promotion. The force has 60 accredited coaches and mentors to support those it identifies as having particular potential. It uses a 360-degree feedback tool that is mandatory for officers at chief inspector and staff-equivalent level. The force is using this tool to help it to identify individuals who would benefit from further development.

The force aims to ensure equality of opportunity and access for these schemes and has identified a need to provide greater support to police staff on personal development and career progression. It uses a blended or mixed approach to developing its leadership, including core leadership programmes at sergeant/inspector and staff-equivalent levels, as well as specifically for newly-promoted officers; a bespoke programme at senior leadership levels; through formal development from the College of Policing, including those targeted at under-represented groups; and bespoke events to enhance women’s development. For those identified as having high potential, there is support to attend external leadership programmes and obtain professional qualifications. The force also offers access for all officers and staff to a world-class business school’s online resource. Its approach to evaluating the impact of these programmes is, however, limited. Improvements in evaluation could ensure that the programmes are able to address leadership shortcomings and support tangible development.

We found some evidence of the force using recruitment to support the development of its leadership capabilities and meet future leadership requirements. It has not used Direct Entry at the superintendent rank, but senior leadership roles for officers and staff are now advertised across both forces in the alliance. This is a positive step, as it provides greater opportunities for the workforce and increases the pool of potential applicants. The force also plans to use recruitment to rebalance its workforce in terms of age, ethnicity and gender. The broadening of processes across the alliance is an important step, but, to improve its capabilities, the force must give more consideration to the skills, experience and background of its leaders and potential leaders.

Areas for improvement

  • Devon and Cornwall Police should conduct an evaluation of its leadership programme and talent management processes to ensure a structured, comprehensive and transparent approach to identifying and developing potential leaders.


How well does the force display leadership?

Good leadership encourages and develops a wide range of people, embraces change and actively supports the development of new ideas. While it is important for forces to ensure that they are representative of the communities they serve, truly diverse leadership teams are built around the wider experience, background and skills of individuals.

The force demonstrates a proactive approach to seeking out new ideas, approaches and working practices from other police and non-police organisations. We were provided with examples of the force working with Exeter University to promote specific themes. These include encouraging innovation and developing the force’s research capability through an eXpert Project. HMIC was also told that the force plans to work with the university in the delivery of its MBA programme by allowing students to review the force’s business processes as part of their examination of public sector business practices. Another source of innovation is through the strategic alliance with Dorset Police. This underpins the force’s main activities over the medium to longer-term to implement new working practices by using good practice gleaned from another force. The force also participates in the wider south-west region, in which collaboration occurs across different strands of policing.

Devon and Cornwall Police encourages staff at all levels to put forward suggestions for innovation and improvement. It has accessible and straightforward systems for this, such as its ‘Rumour Mill’ forum. The chief constable and the deputy chief constable have both held live web chats to hear directly from the workforce. One was particularly aimed at hearing about gender issues, recognising the commitment to increase the gender balance across ranks and roles and demonstrating the desire for greater diversity through recruitment.

The force’s recent workplace survey revealed that a high proportion of respondents were keen to share ideas that improve performance and were comfortable in doing so. 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.

The force shows an understanding that diversity extends beyond the protected characteristics; however, 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 noted that the force provides lateral and external development opportunities, including its ‘Springboard’ and ‘Glass Lift’ programmes for senior women. The Women’s Network arranges developmental events for staff across the force area. The force has also commissioned a gender audit to identify barriers to personal development. In addition, it believes that it recognises how individual diversity in experience and skills strengthens teams and improves leadership. When posting officers, it assesses the diversity mix in terms of the protected characteristics within departments. The force includes members of the community in all promotion processes for chief inspector and above, to encourage an external perspective in the selection and subsequent development of leaders. However, we could not find evidence of how it is proactively using its understanding of the experience, backgrounds and skills of individuals to develop more diverse leadership teams.