Essex 2016Read more about Essex
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Essex 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.
Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I am very pleased with the overall performance of Essex Police. I am particularly pleased with the progress that the force has made in the effectiveness with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
There have been improvements across all areas including in how the force supports people who are vulnerable. There are still some areas that I would like to see the force improve upon, but overall it is very encouraging progress.
The force has taken on board our recommendations on how it should improve its crime prevention work, and it is committed to tackling anti-social behaviour to prevent it from escalating.
I am particularly encouraged by the way in which the chief constable and his chief officers have made an enormous effort to drive improvement in how the force protects vulnerable people, especially children. Control room staff are now good at identifying risk and the force has clear systems and processes for assessing and responding to victims and vulnerable people. Some of the changes to the force’s approach to child protection were not fully established in all parts of the force, particularly among frontline officers. Although there is still work to do in this area, Essex Police has made significant progress.
I am pleased that Essex Police has improved how it investigates crime. The control room uses a structured approach to assess whether calls require an officer to attend, and, when officers do, they collect and preserve evidence effectively. However, I am still concerned about the number of suspects who have yet to be investigated and the number of incidents that remain unresolved, despite reductions in the number of both since the last time we inspected the force.
The force works well with other local partners to prevent reoffending by some of its most prolific offenders, but it accepts that it needs to do more to improve how it manages the risks posed by registered sex offenders living in its area.
The public can have confidence in Essex Police’s ability to tackle organised crime. The force, in an effective collaboration with Kent Police, not only pursues and disrupts these high-end criminal organisations, but works to prevent them from taking root in its communities.
The force manages its resources against current and future demand, and it has developed an impressive and comprehensive mapping process to predict this. As a result, it has a sophisticated understanding of new, emerging and hidden demand, including internet crime, hate crime, and female genital mutilation.
I am pleased to see how Essex Police has improved its management of current demand since last year. However, I remain concerned about the number of suspects who have yet to be investigated and the number of incidents that remain unresolved, despite reductions in the number of both since the last time we inspected the force.
The force has a proven ability to achieve savings and has ambitious but credible and realistic plans in place to continue to achieve further efficiencies. It has a very strong track record of working closely with other forces and with partner organisations to improve the service it can offer to its communities and to reduce inefficiencies.
Essex Police has a comprehensive understanding of the skills in its workforce. It is good at allocating the right number of appropriately trained officers and staff to the right places to provide effective services to the public.
I am impressed with the force’s determination to understand the issues that are important to the people of Essex, and with how hard it works to gather feedback from those who identified as having less trust in the police, in order to learn and improve. We found positive examples of the force communicating with both the public and its own workforce on the results of misconduct and corruption cases. This helps to improve confidence inside and outside the force, which encourages people to come forward with their concerns.
I was encouraged to find a clear focus on the well-being of the workforce. This is clearly demonstrated by its open and positive approach to supporting staff, including those with performance or attendance problems, and its emphasis on removing the stigma of mental health issues. The force could do more, however, to communicate what action it has taken on the issues raised by its workforce.
In summary, the force provides a good level of service to the people of Essex and I am pleased that it has maintained its performance since my previous assessment.
Essex Police provides policing services to the county of Essex. Essex is generally affluent, although there are some areas of deprivation. The force area is home to around 1.8 million people, who mainly live in the city of Chelmsford, as well as the towns of Clacton-on-Sea, Southend-on-Sea and Harlow. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 154 miles of motorway and trunk roads, and a major airport and major sea ports.
The proportion of areas in Essex that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is higher than 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.
Essex Police collaborates extensively with Kent Police across a range of areas of business. The force is planning to co-locate some services with Essex County Council.
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:
- how the force makes further progress on protecting vulnerable people and supporting victims, in particular children; and
- how it continues to reduce the numbers of unresolved open incidents and numbers of suspects who have not yet been investigated.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Essex Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment is an improvement on last year, when we judged the force to require improvement.
The force has an effective approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, investigating crime and tackling serious and organised crime. The force has greatly improved the way it protects vulnerable people, including victims of domestic abuse, but still needs to do more in this area.
Essex Police is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. It understands the communities it serves and the threats they face. The force regularly seeks the views of the public and acts on this feedback to prioritise its activities.
Every neighbourhood has a community policing team made up of police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) who spend most of their time carrying out community engagement and prevention activity. The force has a structured and collaborative approach to problem solving and there are good examples of partnership working, such as with local councils. The force learns from best practice to provide better services for the public, although it could do more to develop its evidence base on the most effective ways to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
Essex Police is good at investigating crime and reducing re-offending. The force uses a structured approach to assess whether calls require an officer to attend. Officers ensure evidence is collected and preserved effectively. However, the force needs to promote awareness of its local digital media investigators and improve its ability to retrieve digital evidence quickly.
The force has made improvements in how it tracks and arrests those people who pose a risk to the public, including those who are wanted and outstanding suspects. It has a well-established integrated offender management scheme that includes some domestic abuse offenders. The force is under pressure to deal with increasing numbers of registered sex offenders and is piloting a new approach in this area; however it must ensure that its management of these offenders is appropriate at all times and minimises the risk to the public.
The force has greatly improved its response to people who are vulnerable since 2015, but more still needs to be done. There are clear systems and processes in place to direct officers in their actions and the force has removed the absent classification for children which has provided greater clarity for the force in the approach and response to these individuals. However, it should make better use of data from partner organisations to ensure it has the fullest possible understanding of risks to those who are vulnerable. The force also lacks an effective county-wide multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH), although it is working hard to bring other partners on board.
The public can have confidence in the force’s ability not just to pursue and disrupt organised criminals but also to prevent organised crime from taking root in its communities. The force works with Kent Police to tackle the most serious and harmful organised criminals, but combating serious organised crime is increasingly the responsibility of all frontline officers. The force is taking a longer-term approach to tackling organised crime groups and although it regularly seeks serious crime prevention orders it has been successful in a very few.
Essex Police’s work with street gangs is proving to be effective. It also works with communities to help prevent young people from being drawn into gangs or organised criminality, and it is increasing its work in this area.
Essex Police has good plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR). It undertakes exercises with partner organisations, such as other forces and the military, and amends its plans in response to lessons learned. The force is well prepared to respond to a firearms attack and continues to train authorised firearms officers to keep numbers at the required levels.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Essex Police has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force has a detailed understanding of the demand on its services and is evaluating how demand may change in the future. It has improved how it uses its resources to manage current demand since last year, but the force could still do more. Essex Police has a good track record of delivering savings. It has an ambitious financial plan that should lead to savings and greater efficiency, while also improving services. In last year’s efficiency inspection, Essex Police was judged to be good.
Essex Police has maintained its efficiency in keeping people safe and reducing crime since HMIC’s inspection in 2015. The force is good at understanding current demand through using an extensive range of management information. Its recent comprehensive mapping exercise to identify all current demand allows future demand to be modelled, based on local and national crime trends. The force has also developed a sophisticated understanding of new, emerging and hidden demand, including cybercrime, hate crime and female genital mutilation. It has developed a new strategy for tackling digital crime and is looking into disability hate crime and hate crime in sport.
The force is working with the children’s charity Barnardo’s and local authorities to improve the identification and reporting of female genital mutilation. It is making good progress in evaluating likely future demand and the impact, scale and likelihood of future risk, and is working closely with partner organisations to understand how reducing resources may affect services and what action should be taken.
Essex Police is also good at making sure it has the right number of properly trained officers and staff in the right place to provide an effective service to the public. The force regularly looks for ways to identify inefficient activities and its transformation programme uses demand and process mapping to identify and resolve such inefficiencies. It has mature and effective processes to assess the cost of services in relation to the quality and level of outcomes.
The force has improved its management of demand since HMIC’s 2015 inspection, with good reductions in unresolved open incidents and suspects who have yet to be investigated, but needs to do more. It does have a comprehensive understanding of workforce skills. The force’s detective capacity and capability was found to be low in last year’s inspection and is now improving. Essex Police has an extensive, mature and expanding collaboration with Kent Police and they have ambitious joint plans for mobile devices later in 2016.
Essex Police is also good at planning for future demand. Its plans are ambitious but credible and realistic, and are informed by a good understanding of the force’s future challenges. The medium-term financial plan is based on realistic and prudent assumptions about future income, costs and benefits and it links to the workforce plan and planned increase in digital capabilities. Future investment plans are designed to achieve greater efficiency and service improvement.
The force has a good track record of delivering savings, despite being one of the lowest-funded forces. It has an ambitious plan to 2019/20 to deliver savings of £43.9m across a wide range of budgets, but mainly in the back and middle office functions. It is also aiming to realise major savings through changes to its estate. Essex Police has a strong track record of joint working, primarily with Kent Police but also as part of a seven-force strategic collaboration that seeks to find efficiencies in operational, middle office and support services. The force is also part of the Athena programme, in which nine forces have jointly obtained a new integrated single policing system . If the force successfully implements all of its plans, it will have a solid and sustainable base for the future.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Essex 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 treating the public and its workforce with fairness and respect. It is good at identifying, understanding and responding to issues that might undermine public confidence and satisfaction. The force has a clear focus on the wellbeing of its workforce.
Essex Police is good at treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. It has clear and well-established vision and values, which are in line with the Code of Ethics, and understood across the workforce. The force seeks feedback and challenge, especially from those who have less trust and confidence in the police or who may be less likely to express their views, and works hard to make improvements. It uses a wide variety of methods to communicate with the public, including through its website and meetings with the community, independent advisory groups and the organisation Victim Support, and makes good use of social media.
The force is determined to understand the issues that are important to its communities. Lessons learned are shared widely across the force and are used to inform training. Victim satisfaction with overall treatment by the force is lower than the England and Wales average, but the force is striving to improve. The force’s stop and search process is scrutinised by independent panels, including a youth panel.
Workforce vetting processes are good. Although there is a vetting backlog, the force has a reasonable plan to deal with this, based on minimising risk. The force provides up-to-date details of disapproved officers to the College of Policing. Acceptable and unacceptable behaviours are emphasised and clarified for the workforce regularly, underpinned by training that includes ethical dilemmas. While the force has the ability to review and manage many risks to the integrity of the organisation, it needs to do more work, including updating its control strategy, before it can be satisfied that it can manage all such risks.
Essex Police and its workforce have a good understanding of abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) and it is treated as serious corruption. The force ensures that it publicises the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases.
The force is good at seeking the views of the workforce, including volunteers, using suggestions schemes, face-to-face meetings and staff surveys. However, it is slow to publicise the actions taken in response to surveys. Officers and staff can obtain advice and guidance around issues of unfairness.
With a clear focus on wellbeing, that is perceived to be authentic by the workforce; the force uses a variety of measures to support workforce wellbeing, including both mental and emotional wellbeing, and to prevent problems escalating. For example, wellbeing training aims to develop individual resilience by equipping staff with strategies and tools to deal with the everyday pressures of life and work. The force has effective personal performance arrangements in place, but the use and quality of these is mixed and could be improved. The performance improvement unit, however, provides an excellent support service for performance and attendance issues.
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.
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.
Essex Police is working closely with its workforce in developing its leadership expectations, alongside effective communication across the workforce, through a variety of methods. The force is developing its approach to enable a more sophisticated appraisal of the individual and team skills and capacity throughout the force. The force has a good understanding of the gaps and areas for improvement in its leadership capability.
The force has demonstrated its ability to respond quickly and effectively when a leadership problem is identified. It has a well-considered and coherent approach to leadership development, which includes employing a ‘talent manager’ to develop talented officers and staff through a range of courses and development opportunities. The force has a very good development programme which is exclusively for members of police staff.
Essex Police is very proactive in seeking out and sharing new opportunities for improvement, both externally and internally. Officers meet regularly with the seven forces in the south east area to discuss new and innovative practices. The workforce is encouraged to put forward suggestions for innovation and improvement.
Although the senior team in Essex Police has a clear understanding of diversity in the context of protected characteristics, such as age, disability, or gender reassignment, there are not enough black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the workforce, particularly in middle and senior management roles. The force has adopted a wider definition of diversity, to include background, skills, experience, and personality types, to create more effective leadership teams. Substantial work is taking place to increase the diversity of the force and its leadership, including Direct Entry at the superintendent level.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Essex Police.