Sussex 2016Read more about Sussex
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Sussex 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 Sussex Police’s overall performance. However, there are some areas that the force needs to improve to provide a consistently good service.
I have expressed my concern that recent changes to local policing may be cutting too hard and too deep into neighbourhood policing. While the force’s partnership arrangements are still strong, at the time of our inspection we found that police officers were too often being taken from preventative policing duties to respond to reactive policing needs.
I am assured that since our inspection the force has taken steps to ensure that it is not eroding neighbourhood policing.
I also have some concerns about how the force approaches the protection of vulnerable victims, in particular, its response to domestic abuse. The force has recently implemented a new system for handling domestic abuse incidents that entails carrying out some risk assessments over the phone. The force needs to improve this, to ensure the proper safeguarding measures are put in place in order to give these victims the support that they need. Other risk assessments are generally completed promptly and to a good standard.
The force’s initial response to investigating crimes is good but the quality of some investigations can be inconsistent. The force needs to improve how it supervises the investigations of less serious crimes, to ensure victims get the service they deserve.
The force is working well to protect the people of Sussex from threats of serious and organised crime. It has a good understanding of the threats posed to people in Sussex, although this could be improved by including information from partner organisations. The force should do more to deter those at risk of being drawn into organised criminality.
Since our inspection in 2014, the force has made concerted efforts to improve the accuracy with which it records crimes and has made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of crime-recording decisions. The force needs to do further work to reduce inaccuracies in its initial crime-recording decisions, and to improve the supervision of crime recording.
Sussex Police has a good understanding of the broad spectrum of demand it faces when fighting crime and this has informed the development of its operating model. The force has made plans based on prudent assumptions about its future income and costs. However, it needs to improve its understanding of the skills and knowledge of its workforce.
Sussex Police has improved its understanding of inefficiencies and unnecessary demands on police time. This has led it to introduce a resolution centre that assesses whether or not to send police officers to calls for service and oversees the consistency of investigations.
The force works well with its neighbour, Surrey Police, to reduce its costs and, through increasing the ability to use one another’s technology, and share systems and infrastructure, it has achieved greater economies of scale. The force has enhanced its efficiency through increased use of technology, including mobile devices, online crime reporting, social media and community messaging systems.
The force is good at seeking feedback on the quality of service it provides, and demonstrates an understanding of the importance of trying to access groups who might have limited trust in the police. Doing so allows the force to improve and adapt its service, so it can raise public confidence across Sussex.
The force is well prepared to prevent corruption within its workforce, having both good identification techniques as well as robust management of vetting. The workforce hold the force’s well-being services in very high regard.
In summary, I am satisfied that in many areas the force continues to provide a good service to the people of Sussex, but there are some aspects of its performance where I would like to see improvement.
Sussex Police provides policing services to the areas of East, West and Mid Sussex. Sussex is generally affluent, although there are some areas of deprivation. The force area is home to around 1.7 million people, who mainly live along the south coast, in the city of Brighton and the towns of Bognor Regis, Hastings, Hove, and Horsham.
The resident population is increased by university students and the very large numbers who visit, socialise in, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 131 miles of motorway and trunk roads, major rail stations, a major airport and major sea ports.
The proportion of areas in Sussex 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.
Sussex Police has collaborated in several functions with Surrey Police, through its Policing Together programme. This includes the operations command, specialist crime and IT support. There are plans to extend these opportunities through more sharing of backroom services and the development of a joint IT infrastructure serving both forces.
The Emergency Services Collaboration Programme seeks to manage demand on all three main blue-light responders more effectively, through relationships with East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey Fire and Rescue Services and South East Coast Ambulance services.
There are plans to share technology, finance and human resource functions, in preparation for the establishment of the East Sussex Fire and Rescue headquarters and contact functions at Sussex Police headquarters in Lewes.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how Sussex Police responds to this assessment and to the cause of concern and 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 improves its response to domestic abuse;
- how the force improves the quality and supervision of its investigations; and
- how the force improves its understanding of the skills and knowledge of its workforce, and matches its workforce better to current and likely future demands.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Sussex Police requires improvement in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment this year is a deterioration on last year, when we judged the force to be good in respect of effectiveness.
The force needs to improve its approach to preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. Its effectiveness at investigating crime and reducing re-offending also requires improvement. The force is good at tackling serious and organised crime, but HMIC is concerned about the force’s response to some vulnerable people as it does not always safeguard the victims of domestic abuse early enough, and it has failed to bring some perpetrators to justice.
Sussex Police needs to improve the way it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour. At the time of HMIC’s inspection the force was mid-way through a long term change programme aimed at improving the way it works in the neighbourhoods. This has had a negative effect on areas which HMIC has previously judged to be good. We found neighbourhood staff are too often taken away from preventative policing and enforcement activities to cover reactive duties, limiting their ability to respond to community concerns. The force is confident that these problems will be addressed when a new local policing model is introduced April 2017.
Sussex Police’s effectiveness at investigating crime and reducing re-offending also requires improvement. Its initial investigative response to a crime is generally good, and its ability to retrieve digital evidence has improved. However, the overall quality of investigations is inconsistent and investigations into less serious crimes are often poorly supervised.
The force could do more to target violent criminals and perpetrators of domestic abuse. The type of offenders in its integrated offender management scheme has not been adjusted to match local and national priorities and mainly includes perpetrators of theft, burglary and robbery. A high number of visits to registered sex offenders are overdue, meaning that offenders are not being monitored effectively, potentially exposing communities to unnecessary risk.
Sussex Police also needs to improve its effectiveness in the way it protects vulnerable people from harm and supports victims. The force’s response to domestic abuse is a cause of concern. Arrest of domestic abuse perpetrators and charge rates have fallen in the last year, and without a comprehensive understanding of the reasons for this, the force cannot take appropriate steps to address these weaknesses. A new system of carrying out risk assessments of victims of domestic abuse over phone has been introduced, which aims to resolve so called non-urgent calls after they have been graded by the contact centre. This is of serious concern to HMIC as In some of the cases we examined, the full extent of the risk to the victim and any children involved was not fully identified, and actions taken to deal with the perpetrator were inappropriate. These failings present risks to victims which we drew to the attention of the force. It is recommended that he force should cease this practice. Although most staff in the control room have received training, we found examples of vulnerable victims being graded incorrectly, and children being recorded as absent in circumstances where they should have been recorded as missing.
The force is good at tackling serious and organised crime. It has a good understanding of the threats posed to its communities by organised criminals, but this could be improved by including information from partner organisations. However, the force should do more to identify those people who may be at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime, and take action to deter offending.
Sussex Police has good plans to ensure that it can respond to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement, including firearms incidents. It collaborates with Surrey Police and the two forces have effective procedures to test their preparedness to respond to civil emergencies and public order incidents. The force has a comprehensive training programme for firearms officers and firearms commanders, which is often carried out jointly with other forces in the south east region.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that Sussex Police is good at working efficiently to keep people safe and reduce crime. The force has a good understanding of demand, which has been clearly reflected in the way it has designed its current and future operating model.
The force recognises that it needs to continue to improve its ability to seek out demand in relation to crimes that are less likely to be reported. HMIC is pleased to note that collaborative arrangements are planned which will enable the force to continue to direct resources towards reducing crime and to develop a greater understanding of this ‘hidden’ demand.
The force has reduced the numbers of officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) in its local policing programme over the last year, which has had a negative effect on the service the force provides.
While the overall assessment remains broadly consistent with last year’s finding of good, HMIC has identified some areas for improvement this year which the force will need to address.
Sussex Police has a robust and sophisticated operating model, supported by an understanding of demand. Collaborative arrangements are planned which will continue to direct resources towards reducing crime and developing a greater understanding of crime that is less likely to be reported.
The force has a detailed savings plan which predates the most recent spending review settlement. It still plans to make these savings, which are above those now required from 2016 to 2020. Although the level of savings may not change, the force still needs to revise the plan fully following the actual settlement. The force was able to demonstrate that it has some plans to invest these savings to improve its efficiency, but these had not yet been finalised at the time of inspection and will need significant further development over the next year.
HMIC’s PEEL inspection 2015 reported that Sussex had a current operating model that met the existing demands made of it, but that the force had embarked on an ambitious programme to reform how it would deliver local policing services. A fundamental aspect of this was the introduction of a ‘demand reduction’ programme and the roll-out of new mobile technology. The force recognised that future financial reductions would have an inevitable impact on workforce numbers. It carefully worked out numbers based on projected demand and using more efficient ways of working as part of the local policing programme.
Despite its detailed plans, the force has reduced the numbers of officers and PCSOs in its local policing programme over the last year to make savings. The inspection found evidence that the reduction of resources has had a negative effect on the service the force provides.
The effect of the reductions has been more severe than initial projections, as the force has high levels of vacancies compared with England and Wales averages. In addition, the force’s reduction in PCSOs (from 347 to 196 budgeted posts) led to more staff leaving the organisation on voluntary redundancy than was required and meant that the force now needs to recruit PCSOs to replace some of those who left. The force thus does not appear to have had sufficiently robust processes to control the level of resources in the local policing model or to enable it to understand fully the consequences of the changes to the local policing programme, in particular for effective crime prevention and problem-solving. The force has now realised that the resources for its local policing programme should be increased and is taking positive steps to do so.
The force has improved its understanding of internal inefficiencies and unnecessary demands on police time, such as officers responding to all calls for service when this was not necessary. This has led to the introduction of a resolution centre to reduce the times police officers are sent to incidents which do not require their attendance. The force has also introduced an investigation framework to ensure that decisions over whether investigations should continue or be concluded are consistent. The force has conducted initial surveys of members of the public who have had contact with the resolution centre and early indications are very positive.
The force has well-established arrangements to collaborate with other forces and agencies to maximise purchasing power, increase the ability to use each other’s technology and share systems and infrastructure.
Greater access to technology, including the use of online crime reporting, social media, track-my-crime, community messaging systems and police mobile devices, has increased efficiency, supported the force’s way of working and made improvements in the investigation of crime. The mobile devices currently used by frontline officers do not, however, have some functions, such as the ability to access all of the force’s investigative systems. This may be limiting increases in productivity.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Sussex 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 treats the people it serves, and its workforce, with fairness and respect. Effective scrutiny and governance arrangements manage risks to its integrity and ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. The force supports the workforce’s physical and emotional wellbeing by providing effective wellbeing services.
Sussex Police is good at treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. The force’s vision emphasises the importance of fairness and respect, in line with the Code of Ethics, and its importance is understood across the workforce. The force seeks feedback from the public about the service it provides; for example, in community meetings, through its website and by undertaking surveys. It understands the importance of working with groups whose trust in the police is limited and works well with a range of external groups. The force responds to feedback by generating action plans, training and development, and ensures the workforce are made aware of any lessons to be learnt.
The force has a robust vetting process, which helps ensure that it recruits people with high standards of ethical behaviour. It gives clear guidance to the workforce on the standards of behaviour it expects, and reinforces this by publishing the outcomes of disciplinary procedures.
A control strategy and plan covers disclosure of information, computer misuse, associations with criminals and sexual misconduct. 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 ensures that all intelligence on risks to the integrity of the organisation is collated, evaluated and analysed. Details of any officers or staff who are dismissed from the force, or who resign while under investigation, are entered onto a national database through the College of Policing.
Sussex Police is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. It uses staff surveys to help identify and understand the areas that have the greatest impact on workforce perceptions of fair and respectful treatment.
The force understands the impact work may have on the health of its workforce. It has identified specific issues and instigated preventative work to protect and support its workforce. The force’s wellbeing services are well understood by staff and held in very high regard.
The annual individual performance assessment process (known as the PDR) applies to both officers and staff. Although it is regarded as effective by the force, it is not obvious whether PDR appraisals are completed and valued at all levels of the organisation.
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.
Sussex Police has a good understanding of leadership. The chief constable is involved and listens to officers and staff. Its work with staff to develop leadership skills appears to be good at a senior level. Although, despite the availability of management and leadership training opportunities for all levels of management, there is a perception among staff that opportunities for leadership development below chief inspector and police staff equivalent are limited. Officers expressed confidence in being able to challenge the chief officer team, but officers working from remote sites report that there is very little contact with senior officers. Where it lacks experience, the force is recruiting externally and it responds appropriately where it identifies gaps in leadership capability.
The force seeks new ideas internally and externally. It has created a knowledge exchange hub which looks ahead, works with academic partnerships, and enables the force to consider and adopt new and innovative ways of working. The force encourages staff to submit new ideas via an online system, but this is a new initiative and we were told that officers and staff were given little feedback about their suggestions. There is little collation, nor is there a central repository of learning and ‘what works’ to disseminate wider lessons.
The force displays strong leadership in terms of diversity. A ‘positive action delivery plan’ has been produced to address under-representation, following a review of the force’s annual equality data in 2014.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Sussex Police.