Northamptonshire 2016Read more about Northamptonshire
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Northamptonshire 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 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 satisfied with most aspects of Northamptonshire Police’s overall performance. However, there are some areas where the force recognises that it needs to improve in order to provide a consistently good service.
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement in its approach to preventing crime and reducing anti-social behaviour.
The force does not give sufficient direction to officers in neighbourhood teams, which means that the work of these teams may not be aligned with the priorities of the force. Neighbourhood teams are often required to perform reactive duties, which reduces their capacity to undertake preventative work.
The quality of investigations carried out in the force is too often inconsistent. We found that investigations were not always allocated to appropriately trained staff, and that there is frequently a lack of supervision. In particular, we found that some serious and complex crimes are being investigated by trainee detectives.
Northamptonshire Police is responding well to those at risk of child sexual exploitation, working closely with partners to keep victims and potential victims safe. Encouragingly the force has made progress in how it protects vulnerable victims, but it recognises that it still has a long way to go. Despite the workforce having a better awareness of vulnerability and how to identify it, the standards of investigation and safeguarding for domestic abuse victims remain inconsistent.
The force does not currently have a comprehensive understanding of the threats posed by serious and organised crime, and its ability to respond effectively is hampered by a recent increase in gang violence. The force needs to improve understanding and awareness among neighbourhood teams, to ensure that they too can help in the fight against organised criminality.
Northamptonshire Police has a good understanding of the current demands for its services, including so-called hidden demands such as internet crime. In particular, we found that the force is good at using its resources to meet current demand, reducing unnecessary tasks and allowing officers and staff more time for frontline services.
The force has recognised the need to develop its understanding of the costs and benefits of its work with partner organisations, which includes sharing a safeguarding lead on issues such as female genital mutilation, interpersonal violence and modern slavery.
The force’s financial plans are based on reasonable assumptions and I will be interested to see how the force continues to meet emerging demands in the future, making sure that skills of its officers and staff meet the needs of local communities and developing crime trends. It should put in place an effective technology plan to support these likely future needs.
The force clearly understands the importance of treating the people of Northamptonshire with fairness and respect, but it needs to go that extra mile in communicating with the public, the changes it has made based on the feedback it has received from them.
I am pleased that the force ensures that its workforce operates ethically and lawfully, providing effective channels for reporting corruption. It is encouraging to find that the force sees the abuse of power for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as a priority for its counter-corruption unit.
Northamptonshire Police is committed to improving the well-being of its workforce, conducting regular staff surveys and exit interviews to identify issues of concern. It realises it needs to improve the support available to its workforce, and has started to work to address this.
In summary, while I am pleased the force has maintained and improved its performance in several areas, the force is on a journey under the leadership of a relatively new chief constable and is determined to go much further so that it provides a consistently good service to the people of Northamptonshire. I am very encouraged that the force acknowledges the problems and is working hard to ensure that the vision set by the chief constable and his police and crime commissioner translate into consistently good operational policing.
Northamptonshire Police provides policing services to the county of Northamptonshire. Northamptonshire 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 mainly live in the towns of Northampton, Kettering, Corby and Towcester.
The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit or travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes 139 miles of motorway and trunk roads.
The proportion of areas in Northamptonshire that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge 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 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.
Northamptonshire Police participates in the East Midlands operations support service, a collaboration with three other forces in the region that provides armed response, search, roads policing and dog services. The force also shares a technology governance board with four other forces in the region.
Northamptonshire Police works with other forces within the East Midlands and is part of a collaboration that provides policing and support services, such as major crime, special branch and serious and organised crime and forensics.
Northamptonshire Police shares premises with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service in several locations, and fire and police officers work alongside each other on public safety and emergency planning.
Northamptonshire Police, Cheshire Constabulary, Nottinghamshire Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary share human resources, finance and payroll services.
The force shares public enquiry counter services with Northamptonshire County Council.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how Northamptonshire 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 crime prevention;
- how the force improves the standards of its investigations;
- how the force continues to improve the way it keeps vulnerable people safe, and in particular victims of domestic violence;
- how the force improves its approach to disrupting serious and organised crime; and
- how the force improves the way it plans for the future.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment is the same as last year, when we judged the force to require improvement.
Northamptonshire Police has weaknesses across a range of areas. Crime prevention activity, investigative standards and the safeguarding provided to vulnerable victims all need to improve. The force has adequate arrangements in place to fulfil its national policing responsibilities, but needs to address shortcomings in its approach to tackling serious and organised crime.
Northamptonshire Police’s effectiveness in keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.
Northamptonshire Police has introduced a force-wide approach to problem-solving long-term crime and anti-social behaviour problems, known as SARA – scan, analyse, review and assess. The SARA model is a simple problem-solving approach used by many police forces. However, it is not being used systematically because staff are too frequently taken away from their community policing roles to cover other duties elsewhere.
The quality of investigations by the force is inconsistent and needs to improve. Investigations are not always allocated to appropriately trained staff, investigation handovers are sometimes poor and there is a lack of supervisory oversight. Vacancies in the criminal investigations department have resulted in a high proportion of serious and complex crimes being dealt with by trainee detectives, which means that victims do not always receive the level of service they should.
The force’s management of suspects was identified as an area for improvement in HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report and we found little evidence of progress. The level of oversight and scrutiny of outstanding suspects, forensic DNA and fingerprint identification packages is inconsistent. However, Northamptonshire Police makes good use of its integrated offender management scheme.
The force has made some improvements since HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report in the way it supports vulnerable people. People may be vulnerable through their age, disability, or because they have been subjected to repeated offences, or are at high risk of abuse, for example. Incidents are assessed and managed adequately by control room staff. They use a proven process known as THRIVE (threat, harm, risk, investigation, vulnerable and engagement) to inform decision-making. The workforce has a better awareness of vulnerability and of how to identify it. However, standards of investigation and safeguarding for domestic abuse victims remain inconsistent.
The force has a partial understanding of serious and organised crime, but its ability to respond effectively is hampered by an increase in gang violence. Community policing teams have limited awareness of organised crime groups and the force does not consistently involve them in tackling organised crime.
Northamptonshire Police has adequate plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement, but the force needs to ensure staff know what to do in the event of a terrorist firearms attack.
Many of the problems identified in this year’s inspection relate to the workforce not being aligned or suitably skilled to deal with demand. Supervisors are not given the right management information to allow them to manage their areas of responsibility effectively, and governance structures are missing. The force’s change programme aims to address many of these problems.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northamptonshire Police has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. It is taking steps to understand current and future demand better and is developing tools to allow effective monitoring of changes in demand. The force is developing its understanding of hidden demand. While it sets great store on the opportunities for savings and efficiencies from the use of information communication technology (ICT) and closer collaboration with other forces, its future planning needs to be strengthened.
Northamptonshire Police has improved the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime since HMIC’s 2015 inspection, although its planning for demand in the future requires improvement. The force has a good understanding of its current demand based on a range of data and a detailed policing model capable of providing relatively complex analysis. In collaboration with forces in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire, and working with the College of Policing and academia, the force is developing tools to allow effective monitoring of changes in demand. It is developing its understanding of crime less likely to be reported, and has identified domestic violence and child abuse as concerns in the region. The force has done a great deal of work with partners to understand how the community is changing and to manage demand collectively with partners. It realises that it also needs to engage with harder-to-reach groups to prepare for changes in demand.
The force is good at using its resources to manage current demand. It has revised its service delivery model to focus on demand and has taken the opportunity of the redesign to try and identify inefficient processes. Good analytical tools are in place to help identify where costs can be reduced and to model the impact of any changes to its processes. The force has good processes in place to ensure benefits are realised from change programmes, and that potential negative impacts are identified and limited. It makes sensible decisions about how to deploy resources. For example, its demand model showed that cyber-crime was creating more demand than could be resourced so the force moved staff from other areas, and also used suitably qualified and vetted volunteers with specialist skills, to bolster its capability. The force has undertaken a skills audit and analysed every role in its workforce so it can map the impact of changes. However, it could do more to understand the non-operational skills in its workforce. The force collaborates effectively to reduce costs and improve efficiency. It has good joint working arrangements with other forces in the region, collaborating over armed response, roads policing and dogs services with three other forces and sharing an ICT governance board with four other forces. It works very closely with the fire service, especially on public safety and in arson investigations, and shares premises at several locations. It also works closely with local authorities in Northamptonshire, sharing a safeguarding lead on issues such as female genital mutilation, interpersonal violence and modern slavery.
Northamptonshire Police’s plans for demand in the future require improvement. The force’s budget is based on assumptions it expects to change. Although it is developing an ICT strategy as part of a collaboration with the forces in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire and it has some individual ICT projects (such as agile working, body-worn video, hand-held devices and video calling), it has no clear ICT strategy of its own. There is no clear link between ICT and workforce plans. The force does not have a clear investment strategy and decisions have been made without a clear overall aim.
During our inspection some concerns were raised with HMIC about the arrangements for a move to a new police headquarters. HMIC is looking further into the circumstances relating to this matter and will return to consider it in future PEEL inspections.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northamptonshire 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 has a good understanding of the importance of treating the people it serves and its workforce with fairness and respect. It has an effective workforce vetting process, and the workforce can use range of ways to report corruption. The force seeks feedback from the workforce about their perceptions of fairness, and aims to identify their wellbeing needs.
Northamptonshire Police understands treating people with fairness and respect is important and this is a central part of the force’s vision and values. The force has made good progress in communicating its vision and values to the workforce, but does recognise it has more to do to ensure that they are understood across the whole workforce. It seeks feedback and challenge from the public, including through independent advisory groups and an independent monitoring group for custody suites. However, it could do more to ensure that the public are informed about the action it has taken in response to their feedback.
The force has an effective vetting process and a dedicated vetting unit, which works closely with the HR team and the counter-corruption unit (CCU). There are effective channels for reporting corruption. However, the force would benefit from a specific counter-corruption strategy to target resources to areas that pose the greatest threat to the force.
Abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) is treated as serious corruption and is the main priority for the CCU. At present, the force has insufficient resources to monitor systematically the use of force ICT systems to identify and respond to potential misuse, despite having the software to do this.
Northamptonshire Police seeks to understand the areas that have greatest effect on the workforce’s perception of fairness. It undertakes staff surveys and conducts exit interviews for those officers or staff leaving the force. The force also seeks to identify the workforce’s wellbeing needs. The force is addressing delays in accessing support services and concerns regarding the quality of some of those services, such as counselling. It is also improving the performance assessment process.
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.
Northamptonshire Police has engaged with its workforce to create a clear set of leadership expectations that are well recognised and understood across the workforce, although some additional communication is now needed. The force has a number of ways of understanding its leadership capabilities, but it could broaden its use for example by including a greater focus on police staff. The force recognises these gaps and it is looking to address them.
The force has focused its leadership development effort on senior officers, particular groups (such as female officers) and newly promoted officers, and good systems are in place to support them. However, more could be done to offer leadership development to the wider workforce.
The force thinks innovatively about how to identify prospective new leaders and has good mechanisms in place to identify and respond to leadership concerns. However, it has no formal programme to identify talent and because staff are unclear about how to access what leadership development opportunities are available, the force could be preventing strong prospective leaders from reaching their potential.
The force has sought new ideas and working practices from across the police service and has adopted innovative ideas suggested by staff. It is using a variety of media to communicate new approaches across the workforce and is developing a centralised E-services proposal that, if successful, could be very beneficial to the public.
The force’s understanding of diversity extends beyond age, race and gender. The make-up of leadership teams in certain areas is now looked at in terms of personality types and working preferences.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Northamptonshire Police.