Skip to content

Dorset 2016

Read more about Dorset

This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Dorset 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 is good.

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

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 very pleased with the overall performance of Dorset Police.

I am particularly pleased with the progress the force has made in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. In our inspection last year, we found that Dorset Police did not have robust plans to make the financial savings needed to balance its budget.

The force now has a credible, prudent and comprehensive programme for achieving required efficiencies, which includes sharing some services with Devon and Cornwall Police as part of the forces’ developing strategic alliance. As a result of this collaboration, the force has put in place a detailed infrastructure, which should work well and to the mutual benefit of both forces.

The force continues to provide an effective service to the public. The workforce has a good understanding of the problems affecting the people of Dorset, and works well with other public service organisations to prevent crime and reduce anti-social behaviour. There is a clear priority within the force to reduce harm and protect the most vulnerable people across the county.

The force investigates crime to a high standard, provides victims with a good service, and manages serious and organised crime well.

Dorset Police has a comprehensive understanding of the current demand for its services and has conducted an extensive evaluation of likely future demand. This evaluation has led to the force investing significantly in prioritising its response to vulnerability. However, the workload resulting from this prioritisation, particularly for response teams, has caused some delays in attending crime scenes. The force may be able to alleviate some of this demand by more effective use of mobile technology.

I am pleased that the importance of treating people with fairness and respect is reflected strongly in Dorset Police’s vision and values, and is widely understood by the workforce. The force uses a variety of methods to engage with the public, including those who may have less confidence in the police.

The force is consistent in actively publicising the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases to the public and workforce. However, it could do more to bring vetting procedures into line with national standards, and to direct resources towards tackling corruption. In particular, the force does not conduct detailed analysis to understand why some applicants with protected characteristics fail to pass the vetting process, and the capacity of its anti-corruption unit is limited which means the force is unable to monitor all of its IT systems for potential corruption.

Dorset Police has a well-developed understanding of its leadership capability and has effective processes to predict and address gaps in leadership and other skills.

In summary, the force provides a good level of service to the people of Dorset. I commend the force for improving its performance since my previous assessment.


Dorset Police provides policing services to the county of Dorset. Dorset is generally affluent, although there are some areas of deprivation. The force area is home to around 0.8 million people who live in a predominantly rural setting. It has several distinct urban areas, including the towns of Bournemouth, Poole, Weymouth and Dorchester.

The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, or travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes 59 miles of trunk roads and air and sea ports.

The proportion of areas in Dorset that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high 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 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.

Working arrangements

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

Dorset Police and Devon and Cornwall Police have made the decision 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 areas for improvement that HMIC identified last year.

I will be particularly interested to see:

  • the continued development of the strategic alliance with Devon and Cornwall Police;
  • how the force alleviates the pressures on frontline officers and staff; and
  • how the force improves its capacity to look for potential corruption.


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

Last updated 02/03/2017

Dorset Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force has an effective approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, investigating crime and reducing re-offending. It protects vulnerable people well and is good at tackling serious and organised crime. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year, when we judged the force to be good in respect of effectiveness.

Overall, the effectiveness of Dorset Police is good. It provides an effective service to the public with clear priorities of reducing harm across the county and protecting the most vulnerable people in the community.

The force has a coherent approach to neighbourhood policing that means local officers across the force understand the problems which affect communities. They work well with other public service organisations to prevent crime and reduce anti-social behaviour.

Crime investigation is managed well in most areas. There are good systems in place to investigate crime and help victims. The reduction of re-offending by the most serious and dangerous offenders is also effective. However, the force needs to improve its method of integrated offender management.

The identification and management of vulnerability are priorities for the force. The way that priorities, plans and decisions are agreed is strong and there are well co-ordinated processes that provide effective safeguarding across the force. The force has integrated its service with other partner organisations (such as local authorities, or health and education services), and continues to invest in keeping people safe.

The management of serious and organised crime is good. The force’s understanding of local criminal networks is evolving in line with the threats that it deals with. There are good relations with regional police specialists and other partner organisations at local and national level, and the force works well with the public to fight and prevent crime.

The arrangements in place to ensure that the force can fulfil its national policing requirement obligations are good. Its active monitoring of threats and continual review of its capability to respond are effective.

The force is experiencing resource pressures. The prioritisation of vulnerability is creating more demand and is increasing pressure on police resources. The pressure could be alleviated more by the use of effective mobile technology, which at present is not widespread, and some force systems are not configured to serve operational needs in the best way. The force must address these problems to remain as effective as possible.

View the five questions for effectiveness


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

Last updated 03/11/2016

Dorset Police has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. This compares favourably with the 2015 efficiency assessment, in which Dorset Police was judged to require improvement.

Dorset Police has a comprehensive understanding of the full range of the current demand for its services and the force’s evaluation of likely future demand is extensive. It has identified a number of areas of growing demand including child sexual exploitation, and paedophile and online investigation. A specialist unit to investigate cyber-crime has been set up. The force regularly surveys local residents to assess their level of satisfaction with policing services. Staffing levels are monitored and the number of officers who specifically investigate domestic abuse has increased. Dorset Police is continuing to collaborate with Devon and Cornwall Police, sharing services and reducing costs. This should continue to make its services more efficient. The force has improved the management of its finances since 2015 and future investment plans are designed to achieve greater efficiency and service improvement.

Dorset Police has a comprehensive understanding of current demand and local priorities, and the force’s evaluation of likely future demand is extensive. The force predicts an increase in reported offences, such as child sexual exploitation, paedophile and online investigation, and missing person reports. These predictions inform the force’s assessments of whether it has the capacity and capability to meet this demand, and influence workforce planning and investments in priority areas such as domestic abuse investigation.

The force gauges public expectations through surveys questioning residents, and the results enable the force to clarify what aspects of its service the public are happy with, what concerns they have and how it should provide policing services. Staffing levels are regularly monitored. However some difficulties exist. An incident resolution team (IRT) has been established and the number of officers who specifically investigate domestic abuse has increased. There is an innovative plan to include responding to the top ten individuals or organisations that generate demand. Calls handled by the control room are prioritised but there is a risk that vulnerable people may not be given priority at times of high demand. The force has set up a dedicated unit to address the issue of cyber-crime and is taking measures to give more support to frontline officers and staff who are experiencing pressure. It is working with local mental health services to meet the needs of vulnerable people more effectively by avoiding the use of custody units as places of safety.

In our 2015 inspection, we noted that Dorset Police did not have clear plans in place to meet the spending cuts required. This situation has now improved because the force is building on its collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Police in a ‘strategic alliance’. This is a formal agreement to share certain services and thereby reduce costs, rather than a merger, and the collaborative work is an emerging strength, with effective systems already in place. The alliance is projected to produce savings of up to £15m. Dorset Police has made investments in information and communications technology (ICT), which will bring efficiency benefits, and the two forces have a joint strategy to converge ICT. This is mostly proving effective. However, some mobile technology has not been introduced in an efficient way by Dorset Police and this has reduced the confidence of some of the workforce in future ICT developments.

The force’s financial position has improved since the 2015 inspection and this will allow it to meet future requirements. It is reliant on realising savings from its strategic alliance. Savings are currently being exceeded. These efficiencies should enable the force to continue to provide improving services. Dorset Police adopts a traditional approach to assessing crime levels, outcomes and victim satisfaction. However, it also examines quality of service. We look forward to learning what effect this will have on the quality of its services and the demands faced by the force’s frontline officers and staff.

View the three questions for efficiency


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

Last updated 08/12/2016

Dorset 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 force understands the importance of fair and respectful treatment, and takes measures to seek public feedback. However, more could be done to bring vetting procedures into line with national standards, and ensure that the resources are in place to tackle corruption.

The importance of treating people with fairness and respect is reflected strongly in Dorset Police’s vision and values. The widespread understanding of this among the workforce should positively influence attitudes and behaviours, and the public’s perception of the force.

Different methods are used to identify the issues that affect the public’s perceptions of fair and respectful treatment. The force is working to obtain views from communities that might not have confidence in the police, or that want to engage with the force in different ways. More extensive contact with support networks should enable the force to increase its understanding of how it treats vulnerable people.

The force vets applicants effectively. However, HMIC could not find evidence of positive action being taken during the vetting process to support the recruitment of a diverse workforce.

Dorset Police clarifies and reinforces acceptable and unacceptable standards of behaviour, and initiates integrity-related investigations based on intelligence. However, the capacity of the anti-corruption unit appears limited.

The force is consistently proactive in publicising the outcomes of misconduct cases. Chief officers reiterate the importance of the standards of professional behaviour and the consequences of not adhering to them. The force understands well the importance of taking action to encourage fair and respectful treatment across its workforce. However, it is not always clear how the force informs staff about the action it takes.

The force understands strongly and values highly the benefits of workforce wellbeing. It works with public and private healthcare partners to provide support, analyses data relating to the welfare of its workforce, and has taken positive steps to address mental health wellbeing.

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.

Dorset Police engages effectively with its workforce to ensure there is a clear understanding of leadership at all levels. We found that there is a good understanding of leadership values across the workforce. However, we also found evidence that some staff have mixed views about the relative importance of the values and how consistently they are applied.

Dorset Police uses different approaches to understand the leadership strengths across its workforce and has a well-developed understanding of its leadership capability. HMIC noted that it has effective processes to address leadership gaps. We welcome the force’s recognition of the importance of leadership development and its commitment to improve its capability; however, talent development for police staff appears more limited than it does for officers. Although the force promotes its leadership programmes, it could improve its appraisal of how effectively its programmes have addressed leadership shortcomings, supported development and secured participation from police staff and officers from under-represented groups.

Dorset Police and Devon and Cornwall Police show a strong commitment to working collaboratively, which allows them to exploit opportunities to share good practice and help promote a culture of innovation. HMIC is pleased that Dorset Police has explored working practices in other forces to understand the services it will deliver in future and hopes to see this approach shared more widely.

Dorset Police’s understanding of diversity extends beyond protected characteristics, and recognises how individual diversity in experience and skills strengthens teams and improves leadership. The senior leadership team maintains oversight of the deployment of officers and staff, and takes skills and experience into account to achieve balance across teams.

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 Dorset Police.

View other reports

Key facts – 2019/20

Force Area

1,024 square miles


0.777m people
up5% local 10 yr change


89% frontline police officers
92% national level
3.43 per 1000 population
3.69 national level
up1% 10yr change in local workforce
down5% 10yr national change

Victim-based crimes

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


53p per person per day local
59p per person per day national

Points of context provided by the force

  • Dorset is a largely rural county with no cities or motorways; a long coastline, two major ports and an international airport.
  • The economically and demographically diverse population is inflated each year by millions of visitors and university, college and school students.

Police and crime plan priorities

Martyn Underhill has published a number of commitments (PDF document) from his 2016 election manifesto for delivery during his second term. These underpin the broader strategic aims of the new Police and Crime Plan, focused around four main themes:

Read More
  • Protecting People at Risk of Harm – Protecting those most at risk of harm or vulnerable to crime, including issues such as Safeguarding; Mental Health; Crime and ASB reporting; and emerging threats such as fraud.
  • Working with our Communities – The PCC as a link between the public and the police, and as a facilitator between partners and stakeholders.
  • Supporting Victims, Witnesses and Reducing Reoffending – Focused on supporting victims and witnesses of crime whilst also recognising the need to work with offenders to break the cycle of offending.
  • Transforming for the Future – Investing in people, resources and innovation to ensure that local policing is as efficient and effective as possible now, and into the future.