North Wales 2016Read more about North Wales
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of North Wales 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 requires improvement.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I am satisfied with North Wales Police’s overall performance. However, there are some areas that the force needs to improve to provide a consistently good service.
North Wales Police is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. The force understands the issues that are of most concern to the public, and uses a range of methods to address them.
I am pleased with the improvements the force has made to its crime investigations since my assessment last year. Incidents are assessed thoroughly at the first point of contact, using an established and structured process. Less complex crimes are allocated to investigators with the appropriate skills and experience, and the quality of subsequent investigations is good.
North Wales Police has also made progress in the way it protects the most vulnerable. The force has a good understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability in North Wales, and the force will want to build on this achievement by ensuring that officers spot all opportunities to keep vulnerable people safe when responding to calls for service. The force will also want to ensure that all specialist and more complex investigations, including those involving serious sexual offences and high-risk domestic abuse, are allocated to investigators with the necessary training or experience.
I am pleased with the force’s approach to tackling serious and organised crime. It works with partner organisations to understand serious threats, although this engagement needs to be further developed at senior levels. The force prioritises crime groups appropriately, and officers manage them until they no longer present a threat. The force has effective initiatives to deter people from becoming involved in organised criminality.
North Wales Police has a good understanding of the current and likely future demands for its services. The force understands the effect that reduced resources in other organisations may have on its operations, and how this might change the public’s expectations of the services provided by the force.
I am reassured that the force’s financial plans are based on sound assumptions that include improved efficiencies, reduced costs and prudent use of financial reserves. It continues to achieving savings by to providing some of its services in collaboration with other organisations. It would benefit from an even more rigorous evaluation of its investments and change programme.
The force has been slow to invest in new technology. For example, it has not yet provided its frontline staff with mobile devices. I am pleased that the force now has plans in place to rectify this situation, which will bring efficiency benefits to the force.
The force has addressed gaps in the capacity and capability of some specialist areas. However, the force’s ability to match its resources to demand may be hindered by its incomplete understanding of the current skills and knowledge of its workforce. The force should continue to develop this understanding as a matter of urgency.
The force seeks feedback from the people of North Wales and is able to identify the issues that have the greatest impact on their perceptions of fair and respectful treatment. It has a comprehensive programme of action that reinforces to the workforce the importance of maintaining acceptable standards of behaviour, and it has sound vetting procedures. It also takes action where it suspects the abuse of authority for sexual gain (that is, taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime). However, the force has a limited understanding of risks to the integrity of the force and could be more proactive in identifying potential misconduct and corruption. It also has insufficient capacity to identify and deal with these risks.
The force is aware of the importance and value of promoting well-being within the workforce and is working to make support services widely available to officers and staff.
In summary, I am satisfied that the force provides a good service to the people of North Wales. There are, however, some aspects of its performance where I would like to see improvement.
North Wales Police provides policing services to the areas of Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd and Wrexham. North Wales has a high level of poverty, although there are some more affluent areas. The force area is home to around 0.7 million people, who live in a predominantly rural setting. Its several distinct and small urban areas include the town of Wrexham.
The resident population is increased by university students and the very large numbers who visit or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 322 miles of motorway and trunk roads, and a major sea port.
The proportion of areas in North Wales that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is lower 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 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.
North Wales Police works locally with other agencies, including the Welsh Ambulance Service and the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service. The force works as part of the all-Wales counter terrorism unit.
The Welsh Policing Estates collaboration is drawing up options for a joint estates service for policing in Wales, to reduce costs, enhance resilience and make service improvements. The force collaborates on firearms response with Cheshire Constabulary.
The force is working with Cheshire Constabulary and Merseyside Police to improve the sharing of information through joint processes, facilitated by a shared IT platform. It is also finalising agreements with these forces on a shared forensics service.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how North Wales Police 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 improves its approach to keeping vulnerable people safe;
- how it improves the way it matches its resources to the demand it faces;
- how it increases its capacity to investigate potential corruption; and
- how it makes well-being services more accessible to its workforce.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
North Wales has been assessed as good in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force has an effective approach to preventing and investigating crime, and it is good at tackling serious and organised crime. However, it needs to improve the support and safeguarding it provides to vulnerable people. Our overall judgment this year is an improvement on last year, when we judged the force to require improvement in respect of effectiveness.
North Wales Police is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. It has worked hard to solve problems, consulting the public in order to understand the threats and risks faced by ordinary people.
The force is good at investigating crime and reducing re-offending. It has recognised the need to understand vulnerability in its area. It works with determination to ensure that offenders are brought to justice. The majority of investigations are allocated to appropriately skilled officers and staff.
North Wales Police requires improvement at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims. The force is good at understanding the nature and scale of victims’ vulnerability, but response officers sometimes fail to conduct all of the initial safeguarding actions. Some specialist investigations are still being allocated to officers who do not have the necessary training or experience to deal with them.
The force is good at tackling serious and organised crime. It works with partners to understand serious threats, but this co-operation needs to be developed at a senior partnership level. Crime groups are prioritised appropriately, and officers manage them until they no longer present a threat. There are effective projects in place to deter people from becoming involved in serious and organised crime, and the force monitors criminals to prevent them from re-offending.
The arrangements that the force has in place to fulfil its national policing responsibilities are good. It has effective leadership responsible for planning its response to Strategic Policing Requirement threats, in collaboration with other emergency services and partner organisations. It has assessed the threat of an attack which requires an armed response and has arrangements in place for reviewing its firearms capability.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
North Wales Police has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. It recognises the importance of having a better understanding of current demand for its services so that its resources can be used efficiently to prioritise and respond to demand. The force has identified the need to focus on new emerging areas of demand and has been successful in addressing gaps in its workforce for most grades and specialist roles. The force has a positive track record of achieving savings for the future, and its plans are built on sound assumptions.
North Wales Police continues to recognise the importance of having a better understanding of current demand to make sure that resources can be used efficiently to prioritise and respond to demand. The force is good at identifying future demand for its services and the effect of reduced resources in the organisations it works alongside, and how this might change public expectations. The force has been successful in addressing gaps in its workforce in specialist areas of work, such as criminal investigations and protecting vulnerable people. It has also recognised the need for closer co-operation with other blue light organisations to lessen the effect of reduced resources.
North Wales Police is good at using its resources to manage current demand and has recognised the need to focus on emerging areas of demand. It is also reducing costs through workforce modernisation. However, the force does not have a detailed analysis of the benefits of information and communication technology (ICT), to help it to develop its understanding of how technology can be used better to support its response to both current and future demand across all areas of work.
North Wales Police works with others to improve how it manages demand for its services, but it does not yet have a complete understanding of the effectiveness of its current or planned investment. The force has good organisational governance in respect of managing projects and is good at planning for demand in the future. The force matches projected workforce numbers and planned use of resources to demand, organisational priorities and financial requirements. The force has introduced new technology in its control room and it has plans to provide operational officers with mobile data technology. The force is beginning to focus on mobile data provision, and needs to ensure that these more flexible and adaptable working practices produce benefits before the end of 2017.
North Wales Police has a positive track record of achieving savings for the future, and its plans are built on sound assumptions. The force is also seeking to improve efficiency and cut costs to help it to balance its budget and has sustainable plans to use its reserves in the future. It is working with other organisations, using mixed workforce teams that may be answerable to managers outside the force, to improve efficiency.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
North Wales Police has been assessed as requires improvement in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our findings this year are not consistent with last year’s findings, in which we judged the force to be good in respect of legitimacy. The force works hard to ensure that the behaviour of its officers is aligned with the Code of Ethics, is good at treating the people that it serves with fairness and respect and seeks feedback and challenge from its local communities. It has limited capacity to seek out and deal with potential corruption, however, and while it recognises the value of wellbeing, we found concerns among the workforce.
North Wales Police understands the importance of treating people with fairness and respect and the workforce understands the relationship between the force’s vision and values and the Code of Ethics. The force seeks feedback and challenge from the people it serves using social media and other methods, and has taken some action to communicate with those who have less trust and confidence in the police. North Wales Police vets applicants in accordance with national guidelines and has a comprehensive programme of action to highlight what is considered to be acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
The force has some understanding of strategic risks to the integrity of the organisation but has limited capacity to seek out and develop intelligence and conduct proactive enquiries to deal with potential corruption. It is taking action to prevent abuse of authority for sexual gain and informs the public and its workforce about misconduct outcomes. The force uses a several methods to seek the views of its workforce, and is aware of the importance and value of promoting wellbeing. However, not all staff feel equipped to recognise the signs of ill health and the force’s counselling service has been withdrawn. The force’s annual performance assessment is not yet perceived to be fair and effective.
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.
North Wales Police communicates well with both its workforce and other organisations. Its leadership expectations are fairly well understood across the force and leaders encourage challenge. There is less understanding of the force’s revised ‘leadership principles’, and although the force is planning to communicate with officers and staff about these, there has been limited discussion with employees about the development of these principles.
The force understands its leadership capabilities across ranks, grades, roles and teams and uses this knowledge to resolve concerns about team development and team dynamics. It has recently introduced a formal annual appraisal system and talent management approach. However, at the time of our inspection, not all officers and staff benefited from this new system. In the past, in the absence of any formal or systematic approach, the force relied on line managers to identify individual and team development problems. The quality and regularity of one-to-one line manager meetings are inconsistent.
The force uses a range of methods to develop talent, but these are neither communicated effectively nor well understood by the workforce. In the absence of a formal talent management scheme, the force has to rely on immediate line managers to select staff for promotion and development opportunities. The force has worked hard to develop leadership skills, and its teams are diverse in terms of experience, background and skills. North Wales Police encourages innovation. Both officers and staff felt that the force welcomed new ideas and challenge.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of North Wales Police.