Thames Valley 2016Read more about Thames Valley
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Thames Valley. 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 Thames Valley Police.
Police officers, police community support officers and staff are doing a good job in recognising when a person is vulnerable.
As a result, the force assesses and addresses risk to vulnerable people well, and has excellent processes for safeguarding victims, including procedures for supporting missing children and assessing whether they are likely to be victimised by sexual predators. Police officers and staff routinely complete risk assessments for victims of anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse and honour-based violence.
The force has sustained its good performance in preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour, and uses innovative approaches to understand the problems affecting the people of Thames Valley. I am pleased with its continuing collaboration with partner organisations to reduce offending, support vulnerable people and prevent crime.
The force generally investigates crime to a good standard. The force has a number of specialist investigative teams to manage offences associated with vulnerable victims, but we found that despite efforts to manage the workloads of these teams, some domestic abuse investigators still expressed concern over their caseloads. I am encouraged that the force recognises this and is taking steps to address it.
Thames Valley Police generally responds effectively to organised crime. It uses publicity campaigns to help prevent people falling victim to crime of this type, in particular cyber-crime. The force is now working to ensure that local policing teams have a better understanding of the serious and organised crime threats the area faces.
I am impressed by Thames Valley Police’s comprehensive understanding of the current and future demands for its services, and I am particularly pleased that it has taken concerted action to uncover crimes that are often hidden from view, such as so-called honour-based violence and child sexual exploitation.
Thames Valley Police has a good understanding of where its crime hotspots are. It generally has the right number of police officers and staff, with the right skills and experience, in the right place to prevent crime, investigate crime (from the more straightforward to the most complex) and to bring offenders to justice. The force is working to gain a better understanding of the repercussions of reductions in the resources available to partner organisations such as local councils.
The force shares some services, such as its contact centre and vehicle fleet management, with other forces to improve efficiency and reduce costs. It works very well with its neighbour, Hampshire Constabulary, to reduce costs and generate economies of scale. It also works with other emergency services to agree the most appropriate service to respond to particular demands, and has a well-regarded mental health triage scheme.
I am very pleased to find that workforce well-being is taken seriously by the force. Its staff survey has been used to identify areas for improvement and track the success of the force in addressing them. The force’s occupational health team supports both mental and physical well-being, and it has a preventative approach that includes, for example, psychological screening of those with responsibility for protecting vulnerable people.
I am pleased to find that the workforce recognises abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as serious corruption. The force deals with the misconduct of police officers and staff well but it recognises that it could do more to gather information on potential corruption from external sources and its own IT systems, and to publicise the outcomes of misconduct cases.
We found that the workforce understands the importance of treating the public fairly and respectfully; the force also provided positive examples of how it deals with complaints.
In summary, the force provides a good level of service to the people of Thames Valley. I am extremely pleased that it has maintained its performance since my previous assessment.
Thames Valley Police provides policing services to the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Thames Valley is generally affluent, although there are some areas of deprivation. The force area is home to around 2.4 million people, who mainly live in the city of Oxford and the towns of Milton Keynes, Reading, Aylesbury, Maidenhead and Slough.
The resident population is ethnically diverse, with 15 percent from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, commute into, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 208 miles of motorway and trunk roads, and major rail stations.
The proportion of areas in Thames Valley 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. The police force area is large, relative to other forces in England and Wales, and it takes a comparatively long time to travel across the area by road, which increases the difficulty of providing police services.
Thames Valley Police has a joint operation unit with Hampshire Constabulary, which incorporates specialist policing services, such as firearms and dog support. It shares two chief officer posts with Hampshire and has increased the scope of the collaboration to incorporate information and communications technology, and contact management.
The force works with other public sector organisations, including the three fire and rescue services in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how Thames Valley Police responds to this assessment and to the areas for improvement that HMIC has identified.
I will be particularly interested to see:
- how the force continues to manage the increased workload of the investigation teams; and
- how the force implements and adapts to its new organisational structure.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Thames Valley Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime, our overall judgement is the same as last year when we judged the force to be good. It should be commended for the actions it has taken to address areas for improvement identified by HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness inspection.
The force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and it generally investigates crime well. It is good at protecting vulnerable people and provides the right support to them in conjunction with partner organisations. It tackles serious and organised crime effectively and is well prepared to respond to national threats.
Thames Valley Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. It has addressed many of the previous areas for improvement which HMIC identified during previous inspections.
Levels of crime and anti-social behaviour in the Thames Valley Police area remain low. The force understands the problems which affect its communities and it works well to keep people safe. It is generally good at investigating crime and at considering the needs of the victim. It works well with other public services to reduce offending and protect the public from dangerous offenders, but it could do more to address the other types of harm that offenders can cause, including domestic abuse.
The force is good at protecting vulnerable people. Officers and staff are trained to recognise when a person is vulnerable and there are good systems in place to assess and address risks to vulnerable people. The force has progressed its proud history of working with partner organisations to establish multi-agency safeguarding hubs which specifically address the needs of vulnerable victims.
The force is generally effective at tackling serious and organised crime. Organised crime groups are mapped, scored and managed in line with national guidance. The force has completed a large amount of work where it has used law enforcement powers to disrupt the activities of criminal gangs. It is good to see how the force includes partner organisations in some of these disruption tactics, but this is an area that would benefit from more consistent partnership involvement and, in particular, better sharing of information. In other forces, organised crime partnership boards have been used effectively to include partner organisations in the fight against organised crime. Thames Valley Police should consider establishing a partnership board structure to address this.
The force has good arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing requirements. A chief officer is responsible for each of the threats specified within the Strategic Policing Requirement, and for testing and checking that the arrangements are in place. The force is well prepared to respond to an attack which might require an armed response. It carried out a thorough assessment of its requirements following the attacks in Paris. The force’s assessment is that its capabilities need to be increased in this area, and interim arrangements are now in place while it develops a long-term solution.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Thames Valley Police has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. It has a comprehensive understanding of demand for its services and uses its resources to manage this demand well. The force has sound financial plans that are likely to achieve further savings while improving efficiency. In last year’s inspection, Thames Valley was also judged to be good.
Since HMIC’s 2015 inspection, Thames Valley Police has continued to be good in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. It has a good understanding of current demand. By reviewing and analysing response demand, protective demand and investigative demand, the force aims to determine the source of demand, the time taken to deal with it and the average cost it involves. The force has taken action to uncover hidden demand such as child sexual exploitation, honour-based violence and hate crime by raising staff awareness, and recording of incidents has increased as a result. It is refining its understanding of both current and hidden demand by making better use of data held by partner organisations such as the fire service and local authority. The force has a strategic threat assessment that considers how demand may change over the next few years and it is looking at the potential impact on demand of reducing resources in its partner organisations.
The force is good at using its resources to manage current demand. It prioritises resources based on its assessment of threat, harm and risk and uses priority-based budgeting to align resources to the areas of greatest need. The force has a very good understanding of its workforce’s skills, which are logged in a database so that skills profiles can be monitored and gaps can be identified and addressed. It has increased specialist detectives to address a substantial increase in reported cases of domestic abuse and serious sexual offences, and is addressing the changes in skills needed to deal with cyber-crime and the threat of terrorism. The force has a good track record of joint working with other police forces to improve efficiency and reduce costs, for example in a shared contact centre, ICT and vehicle fleet management. It also works with other emergency services to agree the most appropriate service to respond to particular demand, and has a well-regarded mental health triage scheme.
Thames Valley Police is good at planning for demand in the future. The force has ambitious and transformational plans to use ICT more effectively in collaboration with Hampshire Constabulary. It is already making use of body-worn video cameras, smartphones and tablets. The force uses external expertise when necessary, for example to improve financial planning and to assure ICT plans for technical viability and value. Its projected workforce model and planned use of assets match its organisational priorities and financial requirements. It has a strong track record in meeting its savings requirements and it plans to increase its collaboration with other forces in its drive for efficiency and saving money. The force’s financial plans are practical and credible and should achieve comprehensive change and savings.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Thames Valley 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 understands the importance of treating people with fairness and respect and it seeks and responds to feedback about the service it provides. Although it has good processes to ensure ethical behaviour, it could be more proactive in how it gathers information about potential corruption. The force supports workforce wellbeing and has an effective individual performance assessment process.
Thames Valley Police is good at treating the people it serves with fairness and respect. It actively seeks feedback and challenge; for example, through its website, independent advisory groups and a complaints integrity and ethics panel that includes members of the public. It also monitors trending issues on social and traditional media and has an analyst within the professional standards department (PSD) who is responsible for identifying and analysing complaints data. The force acts on the feedback it receives and uses lessons learnt to improve the way it treats the public.
The force is improving its engagement with the communities it serves. Good examples include its work with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and awareness training for staff.
Thames Valley Police is committed to the highest standards of behaviour; the workforce is generally aware of acceptable standards of behaviour and reports suspected wrongdoing to the PSD.
Although the force has effective initial vetting processes in place for new staff joining the organisation, it has decided not to complete routine re-vetting and therefore is not complying with current national vetting guidelines.
We have identified that the force needs to improve in some areas this is largely because its systems need to improve; this is not a comment about the force’s overall approach and commitment to tackling corruption or its ethos.
All staff have received specific training in the Code of Ethics, and a professional decision-making course is being run that includes discussion about ethical dilemmas. The workforce are generally aware of acceptable standards of behaviour and report suspected wrongdoing. Gross misconduct hearings are held in public and the results are published, but the force could do more to communicate more regularly with its workforce about actions taken.
The force and its workforce clearly recognise abuse of authority for sexual gain (taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as serious corruption. However, the force could be more proactive in identifying potential corruption by monitoring its IT systems and seeking intelligence from outside the organisation.
Thames Valley Police is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. It understands and values the benefits of workforce wellbeing and provides support for both mental and physical wellbeing through its occupational health team. The force makes good use of a staff survey and analyses its data on sickness absence and rest days in lieu outstanding to understand areas of wellbeing concern. The force also takes a preventative approach to workforce wellbeing. For example, firearms officers and those in teams concerned with protecting vulnerable people have regular occupational health, welfare and psychological screening. Officers and staff feel that the force is aware of wellbeing needs and tackles them effectively.
The force has a good process in place for individual performance assessment, although it needs to do more to convince officers and staff of the value of the 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.
Thames Valley Police has clear expectations of leadership, linked to the Code of Ethics. It is quite apparent that there is a well-known style of leadership within the force, which has been reinforced and discussed with officers and staff. The force has a robust performance and development process, which means that police officers in a supervisory rank understand the specific expectations placed on them.
The force has the ability to develop a good mix of skills within local leadership teams and oversees leadership skills across the organisation. The force is aware that it needs to support women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) officers to progress towards, and within, leadership positions, and can point to the developmental work it has done with both of these groups to support such progression.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Thames Valley.