West Mercia 2016Read more about West Mercia
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of West Mercia 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 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.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I am pleased with the overall performance of West Mercia Police and the progress the force has made since last year. However, the force still needs to improve some aspects of its service.
West Mercia Police is in a strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police, and the two forces share all posts below the rank of deputy chief constable. They work to a single vision and set of values, and they have a harmonised set of policies.
I am pleased with the progress the force has made since last year in the way it protects vulnerable people. I am particularly pleased with its improved response to reports of missing children, which now reflects a greater understanding of factors that increase the risk of harm to children.
The force continues to have a high standard of investigations, and since last year it has increased the capacity of its specialist investigators and its ability to review digital evidence, which is a significant achievement.
The force’s neighbourhood teams generally engage well with local people and listen to their concerns and would benefit further from the good work they do by carrying out fuller evaluations of the force’s problem-solving initiatives to understand which approaches could be used to address similar problems elsewhere.
I am pleased with the improvements West Mercia Police has made since last year in its efforts to disrupt organised criminality. The force has prepared local profiles of organised crime groups, and it takes effective action in limiting the harm that they cause. However, I would like to see further progress: for example, the force should take steps to identify those at risk of being drawn into serious criminality and work with partner organisations to deter them from offending.
I am pleased that West Mercia Police, as part of the alliance with Warwickshire Police, has a good understanding of the current and likely future demands for its services. This understanding includes so-called hidden demands and new and emerging crimes such as modern slavery and human trafficking.
The alliance has also carried out a comprehensive assessment of the skills of the workforce. Its understanding of demands and workforce skills has informed changes to the composition of the workforce and the development of the knowledge and skills that will be needed to meet the future demands for services.
The force’s financial plans are prudent, allow for investment in the future, and are linked to its programme of organisational change. The workforce is involved in the change programme and is encouraged to be innovative.
The force regularly clarifies and reinforces acceptable standards of behaviour with its workforce, and makes clear when standards fall short of expectations. I am pleased with the force’s commitment to the well-being of its workforce, and I welcome its focus on mental health and its work with the mental health charity MIND.
In summary, I am heartened by the progress that the force has made in providing a good service to the people of West Mercia. I commend the force’s achievements.
West Mercia Police provides policing services to the areas of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and the Wrekin, and Worcestershire. There are both areas of deprivation and areas of affluence in West Mercia. The force area is home to around 1.3 million people, who live in a predominantly rural setting.
It has a number of relatively small urban areas that include the cities of Worcester, Hereford and the town of Telford. 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 208 miles of motorway and trunk roads.
The proportion of areas in West Mercia 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. The police force area is very 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.
West Mercia Police is in a strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police. The two forces share all posts below the rank of deputy chief constable and work to a single vision and set of values, through a harmonised set of policies.
The force shares premises with the Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and it has plans to share the control room at the force headquarters.
A new chief constable and deputy chief constable (previously an assistant chief constable) have been appointed within the past year.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how West Mercia 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 problem-solving approach to prevent crime and tackle anti-social behaviour; and
- how the force continues to improve its approach to disrupting serious organised crime.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Mercia Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. This is an improvement on last year’s assessment, when we judged the force to require improvement. In particular, the standard of investigations has improved and vulnerable victims receive a better service. The force has also made improvements in the way it tackles serious and organised crime, although its approach to crime prevention requires improvement.
West Mercia Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime.
The force operates on a solid foundation of local policing from which safer neighbourhood teams work well with local communities. As part of their day-to-day activity, officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) take time to find out what matters to local people; however, there remain areas where local policing could be improved. If the force knew more about local demographics and population trends, then it would be in a better position to prioritise resources and plan for the future. Also, while there is no doubt that the force is committed to addressing problems in local communities, it does not evaluate its problem-solving initiatives properly. These are highlighted in this report as areas for improvement.
The force is changing operational practices for criminal investigations. Considerable investment is being made to accredit more of the workforce to specialist investigator standard in order to both increase its capacity to investigate crime and provide a better service to vulnerable victims. Standards of investigations are good and, following concerns we raised in 2015, the force has increased its ability to download evidence from smartphones, tablets and other devices. More investigations are reliant on digital evidence and the force has done well to make the retrieval of this evidence part of routine investigative practice.
The public can feel confident that West Mercia Police protects vulnerable people and supports victims well. Since HMIC last examined this area in 2015, the force has improved the service it provides to domestic abuse victims and missing children.
HMIC also found some improvements in how the force tackles serious and organised crime. Local profiles of organised crime groups have been developed alongside structured action plans to limit the harm caused by organised criminals and reflect national good practice.
In addition, this inspection examined the force’s specialist capabilities and found that West Mercia Police has good arrangements in place to respond to the national threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement. It is well prepared to respond to an attack requiring an armed response, and regularly tests its firearms capability.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Mercia Police is good in how efficient it is at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force has a comprehensive understanding of its current and likely future demand and makes use of a range of demand tools; there are also plans to introduce predictive analytics. The force uses its resources to manage demand well and is changing the composition of the workforce to meet the challenges of the future. The force is working towards establishing a new operating model which is part of its Vision 2020 plan for the future. The force’s change programme is robust and subject to external oversight, and the force is making good use of commercial partners to bring specialist skills and expertise to deliver Vision 2020.
The force has a strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police (the alliance), whereby all posts below deputy chief constable are shared. Both forces share a single vision and set of values and work to a harmonised set of policies. As a result, practice and procedures should be the same in both forces, and, in this inspection, HMIC found that to be the case. Therefore, save for specific localised examples, all references to the force can be read as applying equally to the alliance.
The force is good at understanding the current and likely future demand for its services. Its intelligence analysis supports the daily management meeting and extensive demand analysis has led to changes to the composition of the workforce. This ensures that resources are aligned to the areas of greatest need. The force intends to refine this understanding by recruiting an analyst to record real-time demand data from all of the force’s ICT systems. It has also carried out further research to deepen its understanding of secondary demand, for example the time invested in the investigation of offences.
The force is good at using its resources to manage current demand. The force’s priorities are identified in a forward-looking strategic assessment, and an accompanying control strategy ensures that they are properly resourced.
The force’s people strategy outlines how it plans to establish and maintain the correct blend of skills and experience in the workforce; this is managed through the monthly workforce management group (WMG). The WMG has recently undertaken a comprehensive skills assessment as part of this programme.
The alliance between West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police is more extensive than any other that is unique in the police service. The force also collaborates with five partner organisations in the unique Place Partnership Limited (PPL). PPL is an ambitious joint venture involving the sharing of estates and facilities management. This collaboration aims to save £58m over ten years through the sharing of services and realise disposal receipts of around £100m through the sale of obsolete buildings.
The force has a well-established change programme which uses a dashboard to track project benefits and is clearly linked to the force’s medium-term financial plan (MTFP).
The force is good at planning for demand in the future. It has used extensive demand analysis to inform Vision 2020, which includes technological advances, notably a significant upgrade of the ICT operating platform. The force is seeking to appoint external partner organisations with expertise in transformational change to lead change and has commissioned consultants to advise on the ICT developments.
The MTFP is prudent and includes a credible programme to balance the budget, including some use of reserves. The force is investing in capital projects, such as the redesign of control rooms, to make savings. The exact scale of the anticipated savings has yet to be determined.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Mercia Police is good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
Treating people with fairness and respect is widely understood across the organisation. The force has improved the way it uses stop and search. It regularly clarifies and reinforces acceptable standards of behaviour. It works well with the public and the workforce in managing the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases. The workforce recognises the force’s clear commitment to health and wellbeing.
The overall judgment of good is an improvement from HMIC’s inspection of 2015 which found the force to require improvement.
The force has entered into a strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police (the alliance), within which all posts below deputy chief constable are shared. Both forces share a single vision and set of values, and work to a harmonised set of policies. As a result it would be expected that practice and procedures would be the same, or at least similar, in both forces. Indeed, in this inspection HMIC found that to be the case. Therefore, apart from specific localised examples, all references to the force can be read as applying equally to the alliance.
The force is good at treating all of the people it serves with fairness and respect. The force’s vision and values, clearly linked to the Code of Ethics, are widely understood across the organisation. The force actively seeks to identify and work with those who may have less trust and confidence in the police.
The force is good at ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. It regularly clarifies and reinforces acceptable standards of behaviour and makes it clear when standards fall short of expectations.
The force has not yet installed software that automatically monitors access to sensitive databases to ensure that officers and staff are not misusing computer records. This delay is due to a major upgrade of the force’s operating systems and it is actively seeking a solution. The force offers and promotes a range of options for staff to report wrongdoing. The force works well with the public and the workforce regarding the outcomes of misconduct and corruption cases.
The force is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. We found a clear commitment to health and wellbeing that is recognised by the workforce. The force has made significant progress in reducing absence levels and time off accrued.
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.
West Mercia Police’s strategic alliance with Warwickshire Constabulary (the alliance) has resulted in all posts below deputy chief constable being shared. Both forces share a single vision and set of values, and work to an agreed set of policies. For this reason, HMIC anticipated that practice and processes would be the same for both forces, and has found this to be the case. Therefore, apart from a few specific examples, all references to the force apply equally to the alliance.
Leadership expectations form an integral part of the force’s vision and values, and are widely understood by officers and staff. The chief officer team meets all newly promoted officers to communicate these expectations.
The force does not make use of all the tools available to improve its leadership capability. For example, it has only recently conducted a comprehensive skills assessment as part of its evaluation of training needs and its leadership development programme. The force maintains a database of interested and skilled people who can be approached for recruitment to specialist posts, including senior leadership positions. However, many officers and staff that HMIC spoke to were unaware of any talent management schemes.
The force has successfully involved its employees in changes through its ‘change hub’ (a team dedicated to managing change) and is working to develop diverse leadership teams, although the force’s policy of posting staff anywhere across West Mercia and Warwickshire has deterred some staff from applying for promotion.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of West Mercia Police.