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South Yorkshire 2016

Read more about South Yorkshire

This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of South Yorkshire 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 requires improvement.

The extent to which the force is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.

Michael Cunningham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary


HMI's observations

I have serious concerns about the overall performance of South Yorkshire Police.

South Yorkshire Police has faced several significant challenges since my assessment last year: the outcome of the Hillsborough inquests, continued calls for a public inquiry into the police response to the miners’ strike at Orgreave in 1984, and the requirement to implement the recommendations from the 2014 independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

The impact of these challenges, in combination with the need to provide a continuing service to the people of South Yorkshire, has prompted me to pay particularly close attention to the force’s performance throughout the year.

I have some concerns about South Yorkshire Police’s approach to preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. The changes the force made last year to the way it provides neighbourhood policing weakened its ability to tackle the threats facing the people of South Yorkshire effectively. Staff are regularly taken away from preventative neighbourhood work to cover more reactive duties.

I am reassured that the force generally allocates crimes to investigators with the appropriate training and experience, and investigations of less complex crime are of an acceptable quality. However, it needs to be more consistent in how it supervises investigations, and there is a significant backlog of digital evidence to be examined.

I am pleased with the progress that South Yorkshire Police has made since my last assessment in how it keeps vulnerable people safe, but further improvements are needed. The force is now generally good at identifying signs of vulnerability, and it is more consistent in how it handles calls reporting incidents involving domestic abuse. However, the quality of risk assessments made at the scene of domestic abuse incidents is poor, which affects subsequent decisions about safeguarding victims and referral to other services. I am also concerned about the quality of the force’s investigations of more complex crimes, and in particular those involving vulnerable victims.

I am pleased with South Yorkshire Police’s approach to tackling serious and organised crime. The force has good processes for gathering intelligence and mapping organised crime groups, and it prioritises and tackles organised crime effectively. It also has effective measures for deterring people from becoming involved in organised criminality.

South Yorkshire Police has a very limited understanding of the current and likely future demands for its services. The force urgently needs to develop a more comprehensive understanding that includes so-called hidden demand, under-reporting of crimes, and the consequences of partner organisations changing the services they provide. The force needs to work with partner organisations to develop a shared understanding both of the services that will be provided by individual organisations and of those that will be provided through joint working arrangements, such as safeguarding vulnerable people.

The force’s current operating model was built on this limited understanding of the demands for its services, and that this has contributed to the inconsistent service the force is providing to the people of South Yorkshire.

The force has taken some steps to understand and reduce the wasteful use of its resources arising from inefficient working practices, but it needs to extend this work to its other practices.

I am also concerned that the force does not have a comprehensive workforce plan, and that its understanding of its workforce’s capability and capacity is poor. This compromises the force’s understanding of the costs of providing its services and its ability to match resources to demand.

While the force’s financial assumptions are prudent, its financial plans are limited by the inadequacy of its workforce plans and of its understanding of future demands. However, I am encouraged by the force’s acceptance of these concerns and the action it is taking to address them.

The force is very limited in how it seeks feedback from the people it serves. The force needs to improve its understanding of the public’s perceptions of what constitutes fair and respectful treatment, and use it to inform improvements in its practices.

South Yorkshire Police has a good understanding of the risks to the integrity of the organisation, including signs of potential corruption. The force takes seriously the abuse of authority for sexual gain (that is, taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime), but needs to improve its approach to identifying such behaviours.

The force does not seek feedback from its workforce regularly. However, I am pleased that the force plans to conduct a staff survey to remedy this.

In view of the findings in this assessment, I have been in regular contact with the new chief constable who understands the challenges facing the force. I do not underestimate how much improvement is needed for the force, led by its new chief officer team, to provide a consistently good service to the people of South Yorkshire.


South Yorkshire Police provides policing services to the county of South Yorkshire. South Yorkshire has a high level of poverty, although there are a small number of affluent areas. The force area is home to around 1.4 million people, who mainly live in the city of Sheffield and the towns of Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley.

The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, commute into, or travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes 91 miles of motorway and trunk roads, major rail stations and an airport.

The proportion of areas in South Yorkshire 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.

Working arrangements

South Yorkshire Police collaborates with Humberside Police on human resources and criminal justice functions, and on the development of joint information and communications technology projects, such as hand-held mobile data devices. They have also merged some of their operational policing functions, such as roads policing, firearms and the dog section.

South Yorkshire Police also collaborates with other police forces in the Yorkshire and Humber region to provide a range of specialist policing services. South Yorkshire Police leads on procurement, stores and firearms training.

Looking ahead to 2017

In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how South Yorkshire 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 neighbourhood policing;
  • how the force continues to progress in responding to and supporting vulnerable people;
  • how the force develops its understanding of the demand it faces and better matches its resources to that demand; and
  • how the force improves its planning for the future.


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

Last updated 02/03/2017
Requires improvement

South Yorkshire Police requires improvement in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year, when we judged the force to require improvement in respect of effectiveness. Considerable improvements are needed in the way the force supports and safeguards vulnerable people. Investigation standards and offender management are poor. The force also needs to improve the way it prevents crime, tackles anti-social behaviour and keeps people safe. However, the force is good at tackling serious and organised crime, and has the necessary arrangements to fulfil national policing requirements.

South Yorkshire Police has an understanding of the communities it serves and the threats they face. However, the changes the force has made to the way it provides neighbourhood policing have weakened its ability to be effective in tackling those threats.

The force allocates its investigations in general to the right people, who have the training and accreditation for those offences. However, the recording of managerial supervision on investigation files is inconsistent, as is the quality of investigation plans to support and direct the officers involved in investigating offences. The force has significant backlogs for the examination of digital media recovered as part of an investigation.

South Yorkshire Police has effective processes in place to manage the threat and harm from those offenders who pose a risk to the community. The force has processes in place to manage repeat offenders, but approaches across its policing areas are inconsistent.

The force has improved its knowledge and understanding of vulnerability and has improved the way it responds to incidents involving vulnerable victims. However, it routinely fails to complete quality risk-assessments for victims of domestic abuse, which means that the force might not safeguard vulnerable victims effectively.

The force has a comprehensive understanding of the risks posed by serious and organised crime in South Yorkshire. It has positive working relationships with local authorities and with regional resources to gather and share information to support its activities and keep the community safe.

The force has good measures in place to deter people from becoming involved in organised crime. It takes action to move people who are at risk away from serious and organised crime.

South Yorkshire Police has good plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement (PDF document). It is well prepared to respond to an attack requiring an armed response.

View the five questions for effectiveness


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

Last updated 03/11/2016
Requires improvement

South Yorkshire Police has been assessed as requires improvement in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.

South Yorkshire Police has limited understanding of current and future demand and workforce capability. This is affecting adversely the quality of services it currently provides. The force has recognised this and, with peer and partner support, it is looking to develop its current and future plans to better meet the needs of the public.

South Yorkshire Police has a good understanding of reactive demand based on recorded incidents and crime. It has a limited understanding of current preventative and future demand. This is a deterioration in the force’s position since our last efficiency inspection in 2015.

The force implemented a new operating model at a time when it did not properly understand its workforce capability and capacity. The force has resourced its highest priorities but has not been able to provide the full range of services envisaged by the operating model, including resilient call handling and 24-hour community policing. The force does not have an up-to-date workforce plan which aligns established posts with the operating model. The staffing levels within the contact management centre mean that the force cannot consistently answer non-emergency calls from the public. The demands on local policing team officers mean that community engagement and preventative policing is diminishing.

The force has a medium-term financial plan based on sound assumptions. It has recognised the need to improve its understanding of current and future demand and workforce requirements. It is working with peer support to address these gaps and develop its future plans.

View the three questions for efficiency


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

Last updated 08/12/2016
Requires improvement

South Yorkshire Police requires improvement in the way it interacts with the communities it serves and its workforce. Enabling fair treatment is a stated priority for the force, but recent changes in the way it operates have had an adverse effect on how it understands and is able to respond to its communities and the morale of its workforce.

The force has a good understanding of threats to its integrity. Most of the systems to ensure integrity in the workforce are good, and it communicates with the public well about misconduct hearings and their outcomes.

South Yorkshire Police’s stated priority is to treat everyone it serves fairness and respect. Despite this it could do more to reassure itself it is obtaining feedback from all the communities it serves.

The recent change in the force’s operating model has led to a reduction in involvement with many communities. We found good examples of specific engagement, and the force also has a substantial and active social media following. It does not, however, collate or analyse feedback to develop a complete picture. South Yorkshire Police ensures that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. It has a good understanding of most of the risks to the integrity of the organisation, informed by well-managed intelligence from a wide range of sources, and in the main has good systems in place to secure the integrity of the organisation.

The force communicates effectively with the public; it advertises misconduct hearings and publishes the results on the internet. Although it shares the results of misconduct hearings with the workforce, not all officers and staff were aware of the cases or what had been learned from them.

The force should treat its workforce with greater fairness and respect. It uses a range of methods to assess how members of the workforce feel they are treated, but not frequently and consistently enough for a full understanding. The force has made some changes in response to feedback, increasing measures to support wellbeing and introducing a new electronic individual performance assessment process (PDR), but the workforce does not see how these changes relate to its feedback. The new electronic PDR is a forward-looking tool for development and wellbeing, but at this early stage we cannot say that it ensures consistent and fair assessment and development for the workforce.

Low morale is a problem throughout the force. The command team recognises this and is working to alleviate the pressures on leave and rest days.

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.

South Yorkshire Police has faced a number of significant challenges over the last year. These include the outcome of the Hillsborough inquests in April 2016; calls for a public inquiry into the police response to the miners’ strike in Orgreave in 1984; and the requirement to implement the recommendations from the 2014 independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. This inspection examines leadership at every level within the force and does not comment on the individual performance of senior leaders. However, we note that the force has seen a significant number of changes to its senior leadership team over the last year.

South Yorkshire Police has struggled to build or maintain an understanding of the leadership capability within its workforce. The force has developed a set of leadership principles for police officers, and HMIC found evidence that senior officers clearly understand what is expected of them. However, we found that knowledge of these principles among the wider workforce is limited, and the force has not yet produced similar standards for police staff.

The force’s ‘Leading Together’ strategy does provide a plan for leadership development, but to date there has been limited evaluation of the effectiveness of activities the force has undertaken as part of the strategy. The force does not have a systematic approach to identifying and developing potential future leaders through a talent management programme. Although senior officers are aware of leadership support available to them, more junior members of the workforce that HMIC spoke to were either not aware of such opportunities or felt unable to take them because they could not find adequate cover to allow them to be released from their duties.

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 South Yorkshire Police.

View other reports

Key facts – 2019/20

Force Area

599 square miles


1.42m people
up6% local 10 yr change


92% frontline police officers
92% national level
3.57 per 1000 population
3.69 national level
down7% 10yr change in local workforce
down5% 10yr national change

Victim-based crimes

0.07 per person
0.06 national level
up12% 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

  • South Yorkshire has long established, diverse communities and a proud history of welcoming refugees, Sheffield having been declared a “City of Sanctuary.”
  • South Yorkshire is home to two universities and a large, vibrant student population. There are five professional football teams in the area, each with a passionate local following.

Police and crime plan priorities

My Police and Crime Plan Priorities will remain unchanged from previous years:

  • Protecting Vulnerable People,
  • Tackling Crime and ASB,
  • Enabling Fair Treatment.

The outcomes that I will be setting the force and partners to work towards will be published shortly along with the full plan on my website.