Northumbria PEEL 2016
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northumbria Police has been assessed as good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
HMIC found that Northumbria Police’s vision of providing a good service to the public of Northumbria is a routine part of the force’s culture.
The force actively seeks feedback from the community it serves. There are a number of well-established independent advisory groups (IAGs) that represent minority groups and provides the opportunity to challenge the force and give feedback on positive and negative perceptions.
Northumbria Police seeks to identify learning opportunities that arise from feedback provided by the public. It formed the Code of Ethics committee to address and resolve issues relating to both positive and negative perceptions from within the community. The group assesses both good and poor working practices and devises new methods of working to address such perceptions.
Northumbria Police vets all new recruits, volunteers and contractors according to current national guidelines. However, there are concerns that as a result of the planned recruitment drive, there will be limited capacity to ensure that vetting procedures are completed in an acceptable timescale.
Northumbria Police understands corruptive influences and has a counter-corruption control strategy to mitigate any threat posed. The counter-corruption unit has a dedicated team that monitors police systems and investigates allegations of corruption. Northumbria Police is able to assess all intelligence relating to possible corruptive practices, and to review it in a timely manner.
Northumbria Police recognises the importance of supporting the wellbeing of its staff and it has signed up to the Workplace Wellbeing Charter. It is also in the process of recruiting a lead for wellbeing. Investments in the mental health charity MIND blue-light programme have enabled supervisors to identify mental health warning signs early so that they can offer appropriate guidance.
Assessment as to how the new performance development review (PDR) process will be adopted and subsequently influence individuals’ development is not possible at this stage, because the new process is not fully established.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
Northumbria Police was judged to be good regarding the extent to which it treats all the people it serves with fairness and respect.
Staff from across the organisation show a good understanding of both the ‘proud to protect’ programme and the Code of Ethics. The force continually reinforces the message of treating people with respect, and this is now a central feature of all recruitment and promotion processes. We found the culture of the organisation fully understood the link between displaying strong values and the provision of an effective service.
The force actively seeks feedback from the community and can provide good evidence of how it works with hard-to-reach groups. Perception surveys are used extensively to reach a variety of groups and this has helped to shape the way in which Northumbria Police provides its service.
The force uses feedback from the public to identify learning opportunities, and it has formed a Code of Ethics committee to address issues of positive and negative perceptions from within the community.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
HMIC judges Northumbria Police as requires improvement in the way it ensures that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully.
The force’s vetting procedures comply with national guidance for new recruits, volunteers and contractors. There are however concerns over the capacity of the vetting unit to ensure that the backlog of vetting applications and reviews are completed in a more timely manner. This is more relevant taking into account the large recruitment processes that are due to commence in the near future.
The force constantly reinforces the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and its messages appear on screensavers and posters. The chief constable’s blog emphasises good practice and highlights behaviour that has fallen below an acceptable standard.
The force’s counter-corruption control strategy outlines the process adopted to address corruption-related issues. However, the force’s assessment of strategic threat is outdated and this would limit the value of the action plan that is used to mitigate the threat posed by corruptive influences.
The force can audit all internal police systems, including those accessed by remote technology. The ability to monitor systems in live time was not available at the time of the inspection, although there are plans to upgrade this capability in the near future.
The force complies with the requirement to inform both the public and the workforce about the outcomes of misconduct hearings. However, further work needs to be done to make this more effective.
In our 2016 national overview of police legitimacy, we recommended that all forces should have started to implement a plan to achieve the capability and capacity required to seek intelligence on potential abuse of position for sexual gain. In 2017, we reviewed of the plans put in place by all forces to in response to this recommendation.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure it complies with all aspects of the current national guidelines for vetting.
- Annually, the force should produce a local counter-corruption strategic assessment and control strategy, to identify risks to the force’s integrity.
- The force should ensure that it has the capability and/or capacity to monitor all its computer systems to identify risks to the force’s integrity.
- The force should improve how it communicates with its workforce about lessons learned.
- The force should improve how its workforce understands the issues identified from lessons learned.
- The force should establish and operate effective processes for identifying and managing individuals at risk of corruption.
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
Northumbria Police has been graded as good in relation to the extent that it treats its workforce with fairness and respect.
In 2015, the force completed its first staff survey since 2010, which allowed the workforce to express its feelings and perceptions as to how it is being treated. The results have been analysed and an action plan developed to address the concerns raised. The command team has gone to great lengths to work with its workforce and create a culture of positivity, innovation and belief that all staff have the opportunity to develop their skills and experience.
Staff wellbeing is now central to force policy and the force has put considerable investment into awareness raising and the training of managers to identify mental health-related issues. It has signed up to the Workplace Wellbeing Charter and developed a health and wellbeing action plan. It has adopted a proactive approach to addressing problems related to psychological and musculoskeletal issues, and this has had a further positive impact on the workforce.
The PDR process has been re-energised. However, it is too early to say whether the new process will be appropriately adopted by all and used effectively to enhance career development.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it manages individual performance.