Suffolk 2016Read more about Suffolk
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Suffolk Constabulary. 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 Suffolk Constabulary.
I would like to draw particular attention to the progress the force has made in its protection and support of vulnerable victims in the last year. Officers and staff in the control room are effective at identifying where victims are at particular risk and they deploy officers appropriately to incidents that involve people who are vulnerable.
The force has improved investigations involving vulnerable people. It has also improved its response to missing children.
The force is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. It has a good understanding of the threats facing the people of Suffolk, and is effective at problem solving with partner organisations.
The force does however need to ensure that taking officers away from working in their communities to respond to emergencies is not having a negative effect on its ability to prevent crime from happening in the first place.
I am pleased by the force’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders. Crime investigations are conducted to a high standard and it is good at protecting the public from the most prolific, serious and dangerous offenders. Suffolk Constabulary has an impressive high-tech crime unit with Norfolk Constabulary, investing in new technology and training to ensure that evidence can be secured from electronic devices to support prosecutions.
Suffolk Constabulary also works well with its neighbour, Norfolk Constabulary, to protect the public from serious and organised crime. It is encouraging to see the two forces working together in this way; particularly as the types of crime they are tackling span wider geographical areas than just each force’s locality.
I am reassured that the force has improved its understanding of the wide range of demand it faces when preventing and fighting crime and protecting local communities. The force has worked with a wide range of partners like local councils to uncover hidden harm within local communities. This ranges from protecting vulnerable people from harm to emerging crimes including modern-day slavery.
The force has developed financial and organisational plans based on sound assumptions. HMIC will watch with interest how the force maintains this efficiency, making sure that the skills and capability of the workforce meet future crime trends such as cyber-crime. It should also invest in technology and consider updating its current technology strategy.
Suffolk Constabulary has good collaboration arrangements in place with Norfolk Constabulary, local councils and mental health practitioners which has undoubtedly improved the services it provides while at the same time saving money.
I am pleased to find that the force takes seriously the feedback it receives from the public it serves, and ensures that it responds by improving where it needs to. It communicates well with specific communities across Suffolk. For example, having identified an increase in complaints from people with autism, the force introduced a learning package to help officers and staff understand autism and adapt their approach accordingly.
The vetting of new recruits is effective, and the force is taking action to address the backlog of people in its workforce whose vetting has expired. Corruption is taken seriously by the force. It works hard to identify and intervene in potential corruption at an early stage, which is proving effective, and it recognises abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as serious corruption.
I am pleased by the force’s approach to the well-being of its workforce: it provides a wide range of well-being services, and takes preventative and early action that includes workshops to help staff identify factors that cause stress.
In summary, I commend the force on the service it is providing to the people of Suffolk.
Suffolk Constabulary provides policing services to the county of Suffolk. Suffolk is generally affluent, although there are some areas of deprivation. The force area is home to around 0.7 million people, who live in a predominantly rural setting. It has a small number of distinct urban areas that include the towns of Ipswich and Lowestoft.
The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 81 miles of trunk roads and major sea ports.
The proportion of areas in Suffolk 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.
Suffolk Constabulary works with Norfolk Constabulary in a collaboration that covers operational policing services, such as major crime investigation, armed policing and roads policing, as well as business support functions, such as human resources, finance and technology.
The force shares several buildings with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.
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 realises fully the benefits from its investment in technology; and
- how the force equips its workforce with the necessary skills to meet the future demands for its services.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Suffolk Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our findings this year are consistent with last year’s assessment, in which we judged the force to be good in respect of effectiveness.
Suffolk Constabulary has made progress against the areas we identified in HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness and effectiveness (vulnerability) reports and has plans in place to make further improvements in the service it provides to the public during 2017.
Suffolk Constabulary is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe, and the force has seen the third biggest reduction in the rate of anti-social behaviour in the country. However, the force needs to ensure that taking officers away from working in their communities to respond to emergencies is not having a negative effect on its ability to prevent crime from happening in the first place, to engage with local communities and to undertake local problem solving.
Overall, Suffolk Constabulary investigates crimes and manages offenders effectively. The force implemented a new crime and intelligence system in October 2015. It is yet to realise the benefits of this investment fully and needs to take action to reduce the backlog of crimes awaiting closure.
The force is good at identifying vulnerable victims and works with a wide variety of different organisations to keep them safe. However, the force could do more to use preventative legislation such as court orders to protect victims of domestic abuse.
Suffolk and Norfolk constabularies work closely together to provide an effective joint response to serious and organised crime. The force works with other organisations to identify and disrupt organised crime groups and is developing how it uses information held by partner organisations to deepen its understanding of this issue.
Suffolk Constabulary is well prepared to meet the threats outlined within the Strategic Policing Requirement and regularly tests its plans to ensure they are effective. The force is in a state of readiness to respond to an attack requiring an armed response, and reviewed this following the attacks in Paris in November 2015.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Suffolk Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force has a good understanding of its current and likely future demand for its services. It uses its resources well to manage demand and has an impressive record of collaborating with other forces and organisations to improve efficiency and make savings. The force is good at planning for demand in the future and has sound financial and organisational plans. The force needs to ensure it gets the most out of its investment in information communication technology (ICT) and that its workforce has the skills they need to meet future demand and changing crime trends. In last year’s efficiency inspection, Suffolk Constabulary was judged to be good.
Suffolk Constabulary has continued to be good in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime since HMIC’s inspection in 2015. The force now has a good understanding of its current and future demand, and is improving its understanding of demand that is less likely to be reported. It has worked with a wide range of partners to uncover hidden harm within Suffolk communities, such as modern-day slavery within the traveller community and gang masters exploiting migrant workers. The force is involved in the Better Policing Collaborative, a joint venture involving a number of universities as well as the organisation Skills for Justice, which gives it a better understanding of what works and allows it to make future decisions based on strong evidence. The joint performance and analysis department with Norfolk Constabulary is undertaking research into specific areas of new and emerging demand. The force is working closely with partner organisations to understand and respond to any likely reduction in their resources that may affect demand for police services.
The force is good at using its resources to manage current demand. It has implemented a new policing model to help make sure it matches its resources to demand, its finances and the priorities of the police and crime commissioner’s police and crime plan. However, it needs to ensure that it identifies and swiftly addresses skills and capability gaps in its workforce so that it can meet future demands and changes in crime trends such as cyber-crime. The force has an impressive record of collaborating with other police forces, emergency services and public-sector organisations such as local councils to improve efficiency and save money. The force, together with Norfolk Constabulary, has installed three large software platforms across both forces to improve interoperability, reduce costs and increase efficiencies. It shares some premises with Suffolk’s fire service and is working closely with them to provide more co-ordinated fire and crime prevention services. It recently extended its pilot scheme of mental health professionals working alongside officers in Ipswich to having additional practitioners within its force contact and control room.
Suffolk Constabulary is good at planning for demand in the future. It has developed financial and organisational plans that are practicable, credible, based on sound planning assumptions and focused on transforming the way it provides and improves services for the public. The force continues to identify savings to invest for the future and has effective governance processes to manage change through the organisational change board. It collaborates with Norfolk Constabulary in operational policing services such as major crime investigation, armed policing and roads policing, as well as business support functions, such as human resources, finance and ICT. Its joint digital strategy with Norfolk Constabulary outlines how the force plans to use ICT to increase efficiency and change how it provides service to the public. It has piloted the use of body-worn video and mobile data and is seeking to address the issues the pilot raised, including the poor mobile reception across the county. Although it is good at realising the benefits of its investment in most areas, it needs to do more to realise fully the benefits from its investment in ICT. It will need to ensure the workforce has the skills it needs to carry out the force’s plans.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Suffolk Constabulary 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 treats the people it serves, and its workforce, with fairness and respect. It has good processes to ensure its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. The force provides a wide range of wellbeing services to support the workforce.
Suffolk Constabulary is good at treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. It seeks feedback and challenge using local media, rural newsletters, social media, the police connect messaging system (through which the public can receive updates relevant to where they live), live web chats with chief officers, the force website, traditional links with local parish and district councils and local public engagement. The force also seeks feedback from those groups with less trust and confidence in the police, and makes use of the independent advisory group and independent custody visitor scheme.
The force makes improvements based on the feedback it receives. For example, it recognised an increase in the number of complaints from people with autism and now has a learning package to help the workforce understand autism and adapt their approach. The force has also responded to the concerns raised by rural communities and has introduced a rural crime team using members of the special constabulary on horses and all-terrain vehicles to increase its visibility in remote areas.
Suffolk Constabulary is good at ensuring that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. The force vets all people joining the organisation. It gives specific and detailed guidance on gifts and hospitality, notifiable associations, use of social media, information security and standards of behaviour. It also highlights lessons learnt from recent public complaints and misconduct investigations. The force uses a range of techniques to identify individual and organisational risks, including monitoring its own internal computer systems as well as open source information on social media.
The force recognises abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as serious corruption. It is preparing its workforce, and partner organisations who support vulnerable victims, to recognise the signs of inappropriate relationships or behaviour.
Suffolk Constabulary is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. The force uses the Ask the Chief email facility (which can be used anonymously), web chats with chief officers, staff leadership forums and seminars, online blogs by senior officers, specific forums and various staff focus groups to seek the views of its workforce. It listens to the concerns raised by staff and takes action to address them. At the time of the inspection, it had plans to conduct a survey later in 2016 to better understand the views of the entire workforce.
The workforce’s wellbeing is important to the force. It offers a wide range of wellbeing services, which it is looking to develop further by providing mobile health screening and occupational health drop-in centres. The force is also taking preventative and early action to improve workforce wellbeing, through proactive work to raise awareness of stress and mental illness and holding workshops for staff to help them identify stress factors in themselves and others. However, it needs to fully understand and take appropriate action to address the higher levels of short and medium-term sickness among officers and long-term sickness among PCSOs.
The force has developed and recently implemented a new way of assessing staff performance, after consulting the workforce and staff associations to ensure that the new process is 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.
Suffolk Constabulary has made good progress in addressing the issues we identified in HMIC’s 2015 Leadership inspection. The force has sought the views of its workforce in setting clear expectations of what it requires from its leaders and now needs to ensure that these are understood and adopted throughout the workforce.
The force, together with Norfolk Constabulary, has revised and recently relaunched its leadership and development programme. This aims to ensure annual staff appraisals are consistent and fair, and to ensure the force has strong leadership, identifies talent and develops its employees to be the best they can be.
Suffolk Constabulary has a strong focus on establishing what works through its evidence-based policing programme and learns from the experience of other forces. Most, though not all, staff we spoke with felt that new ideas were listened to and implemented quickly at the local level.
The chief officer team within Suffolk Constabulary understands that diversity in leadership teams concerns more than protected characteristics in the context of age, disability, or gender reassignment, and considers the experience, skills and development needs of senior leaders when deciding the composition of senior leadership teams. The force intends to use the newly revised leadership and development programme to assess the leadership capability throughout the organisation.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Suffolk Constabulary.