West Midlands 2016Read more about West Midlands
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of West Midlands 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 outstanding.
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 very pleased with the overall performance of West Midlands Police.
West Midlands Police is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. The force has a sound understanding of the concerns of the people it serves, including those who would not routinely talk directly to the police.
The force uses a range of innovative tactics, but it could be more systematic in analysing problems and assessing the effectiveness of its interventions.
I am pleased with the force’s approach to investigating crime and reducing reoffending.
The force assesses calls from the public using a structured process, and the initial stages of its investigations are mostly thorough, although there is some room for improved consistency. Investigation plans are used to good effect to provide structure, and line managers supervise investigations well. The force makes extensive and innovative use of integrated offender management.
However, I have some concerns about the force’s approach to protecting vulnerable people, and I am disappointed that the causes of concern I highlighted last year persist. The force is still inconsistent in how it assesses and manages cases involving missing people, which creates the potential for vulnerable people to be exposed to harm unnecessarily. The force is also inconsistent in how it assesses risk in domestic abuse cases, and it cannot be confident that all victims of domestic abuse receive a multi-agency response that is tailored to their individual needs.
West Midlands Police has developed a good understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime. The force regularly disrupts and investigates serious and organised crime in collaboration with a wide range of other public service organisations, and it has a variety of effective projects for deterring people from becoming involved in organised criminality.
I am pleased that West Midlands Police has maintained a detailed understanding of the current and likely future demands for its services, including so-called hidden demands such as internet crime. Its understanding is based on thorough analysis of an extensive range of information. The force has worked closely with partner organisations to develop a mutual understanding of the demands for their services. The force and its partner organisations also share an understanding of how joint working arrangements may be changed in the future by, for example, the reform of public services throughout the West Midlands region.
I am impressed by the way the force has reviewed many of its own practices and has made changes to reduce waste, and I encourage the force to extend this work to its other practices. The force uses its understanding of demand to match resources to need, and it co-ordinates the deployment of officers and staff around the force with the support of bespoke software.
The force has a good understanding of its workforce’s current skills and is working to develop a comprehensive, force-wide, understanding that includes current and future gaps in its capabilities.
West Midlands Police has comprehensive financial plans based on sound assumptions. It is continuing to invest in a more preventative style of policing, with many services integrated with those of partner organisations and supported by better technology.
I am impressed by the force’s very effective arrangements for monitoring and reviewing the changes that it makes, and its strong record of generating savings and improving services.
West Midlands Police uses a range of approaches to seek feedback from the public on their perceptions of what constitutes fair and respectful treatment. The force makes a concerted effort to contact those who are less well served and adjusts its approaches to meet the needs of different people.
I am pleased that the force has improved its approach to identifying and responding to potential corruption, and that it recognises officers and staff abusing their authority for sexual gain (that is, taking advantage of a position of power to exploit vulnerable victims of crime) as serious corruption.
The force uses a variety of approaches to understand the views of its workforce. This feedback has informed several improvements, including how it addresses grievances. However, the force should improve its performance appraisal and development system.
West Midlands Police has relatively high levels of sickness absence for both officers and staff. The force needs to strengthen its understanding of what is causing this, and take action to improve the health and well-being of its workforce. An improved appraisal system will assist in that respect. I am pleased that it has introduced a range of health and well-being initiatives, and increased the capacity of its occupational health support.
In summary, I am pleased that, faced with the challenges of keeping a major conurbation safe, the force has maintained a good overall level of performance.
West Midlands Police provides policing services to the metropolitan area of the West Midlands. The police force area covers 348 square miles in the centre of England. West Midlands has high levels of poverty, although there are areas of great affluence. The force area is home to around 2.8 million people, who live in a predominantly urban setting. The force covers the West Midlands conurbation, including the cities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, and large surrounding townships.
The resident population is ethnically very diverse, with 30 percent from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and is increased by a large number of university students and of those who visit, socialise in, commute into, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 57 miles of motorway and trunk roads, major rail stations, and a major airport.
The proportion of areas in the West Midlands that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is higher 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.
In December 2016, following serious disorder within HMP Birmingham, the force responded with specially trained officers to support the prison service. A subsequent investigation has resulted in eight prison inmates being prosecuted for prison mutiny.
West Midlands Police is closely involved in the ambitious and extensive plans for change in the delivery of public services in the West Midlands combined authority area.
The force has innovative arrangements with a strategic commercial partner to implement its 2020 change programme.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how West Midlands 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 keeping vulnerable people safe;
- how the force addresses the causes of the high rate of sickness absence in its workforce; and
- how the force develops its processes to identify and map more organised crime groups.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Midlands Police is good in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. It has an effective approach to preventing and investigating crime, but the support and safeguarding it provides to vulnerable victims need to improve. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year, when we judged the force to be good in respect of effectiveness.
Although we found some areas for improvement, West Midlands Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime.
The force assesses calls from members of the public using a structured process, which ensures that an appropriate response is provided in the majority of cases. In many cases initial investigations are thorough, but this is not consistent.
Subsequently, the force’s investigations make good use of plans to structure investigative work. Managers provide effective supervision and the force gives the majority of victims a good service. The force is working effectively to manage the increased demand for examinations of computers and it is giving effective and timely support to investigations.
Previous causes of concern relating to the force’s management of missing persons and its approach to domestic abuse risk assessment have not been alleviated.
The force’s revised policy for managing cases of absent or missing persons places greater emphasis on gathering information and assessing risk at the first point of contact. However the force is not accurately assessing risks for missing persons consistently, and in some cases duty inspectors overlook relevant information. This creates the potential for vulnerable missing persons to be unnecessarily exposed to potential harm.
Officers do not consistently complete a domestic abuse risk-assessment when it is appropriate that they should do so. The force cannot be confident that all vulnerable victims of domestic abuse receive a response which has been tailored to their individual needs from all the public services which are able to help them.
The force is effective at recognising vulnerability associated with mental health. Street triage vehicles provide a 24/7 response and mental health professionals work in all of its custody areas. The force gives regular mental health training to front line officers and staff.
The overall number of suspects across the force who are wanted for domestic abuse offences has remained relatively stable for a sustained period. The force has an improved focus on outstanding domestic abuse offenders as part of its routine business.
The force regularly disrupts and investigates serious and organised crime (SOC) in collaboration with a wide range of other public service organisations. Use of all four elements of the 4Ps approach (pursue, protect, prevent, prepare) is increasing but is not yet entirely consistent practice.
The force has low numbers of organised crime groups (OCGs) per one million of population, particularly in comparison to other urban forces. The force intends to apply the OCG mapping methodology more broadly to incorporate more organised urban street gangs and other groups engaged in organised crime, which will allow it to target these groups with its SOC partners more effectively. The force has a variety of effective projects in place to deter people from becoming involved in serious and organised crime.
The force has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure its preparedness to respond to the national threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement. The force is well prepared to respond to a marauding terrorist firearms attack. It is increasing its armed capability, and is making excellent progress with recruitment and training in order to achieve this.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Midlands Police has been assessed as outstanding in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force has a detailed understanding of current demand; it is working well to identify hidden crimes, and is making progress in evaluating future demand. It has a developing appreciation of the impact, scale and likelihood of future risk. The force manages its resources well to meet current demand. The central focus of the force’s plans for investment and managing demand in the future rest with its comprehensive and ambitious change 2020 programme, which aims to transform how it provides its services.
The force has a detailed understanding of current demand, which is based on an extensive range of information. It is working well with partners and the public to identify hidden crimes. It has reviewed practices across a number of functions to identify and remove inefficient internal processes. It has also made progress in evaluating future demand and has a developing appreciation of the impact, scale and likelihood of future risk. The force recognises the changing demographics in its region and the impact of changing public expectations. Its plans take into account the public’s readiness to access police services online. The force and its local partners are working to improve the management of demand and the delivery of public service through a number of collaborative arrangements, including plans for a West Midlands Combined Authority.
West Midlands Police manages its resources well to meet current demand. These are allocated in accordance with the force’s strategic assessment, which prioritises early intervention and prevention by police and partners. The force ensures that resources are matched to these priorities in a variety of effective ways.
For workforce skills and gaps, now and in the future, the force has a five year workforce plan in place with associated recruitment and promotion plans. Work is also being undertaken within the crime portfolio to develop a more detailed workforce plan to inform the overall corporate plan. In addition, departments assess current and future skills gaps on a quarterly basis, and this is then used to drive training delivery by the corporate learning and development function.
The central focus of the force’s plans for investment and managing demand in the future rest with its comprehensive and ambitious change 2020 programme, which aims to transform how it provides its services. The objective is to bring about a shift from reactive policing to a more preventive model, with a greater focus on partnership working and better use of IT. This programme is well led and managed and benefits realisation is tracked across each individual project to provide a consistent understanding of the whole system. Much of the 2020 change programme is focused on developing digital capability to enable the force to operate more efficiently and improve the way it provides services. It is conducted through a series of incremental changes and is progressing very well. More generally, the force has a strong record of achieving service efficiencies, having undertaken budgeting exercises over several years; the force estimates it has achieved savings of £60m.
The force is now using its substantial reserves to support the force’s change programme and it has £45m set aside for this specific purpose. Following a better than had been anticipated budgetary position, the force has conducted a review to re-calibrate its change programme with the intention of increasing value for money.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Midlands 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 responds to the needs of its communities and the public is encouraged to have a voice. Vetting processes are mostly compliant with national guidance and the force deals effectively with corruption related intelligence. Workforce wellbeing is important to the force and recent changes should help it respond more effectively. The force needs to do more to ensure that performance and development are managed consistently and fairly.
The force treats the people it serves with fairness and respect. The force has adopted a new set of values, which focus on compassion for the vulnerable and helping those in need. The force is responsive to its communities, including groups that are harder to reach, and adjusts its engagement activities to encourage the different communities to have a voice. The force records an adequate range of information from its engagement activity, but would benefit from more systematic analysis and a structured process for responding effectively to public feedback.
The force ensures its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. The force’s initial vetting arrangements are fair to all applicants and ensure it only recruits people with high ethical standards. Officers and staff show awareness of the required standards of behaviour. The force’s counter-corruption unit gathers and acts on information which identifies potential corruption and is reviewing resource levels for this unit as part of its change programme. The force recognises officers and staff abusing their authority for sexual gain as serious corruption. The force could, however, make better use of its community links to restore trust following high profile cases.
The force seeks feedback and challenge from its workforce and takes action to address this. The force is increasing its occupational health support capacity and investing in a new medical IT system to allow it to understand and respond more effectively to the workforce’s wellbeing needs. Its use of performance reviews to manage professional development is, however, inconsistent and it does not have effective scrutiny arrangements in place to ensure performance is being managed fairly and consistently across the force.
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 Midlands Police is developing its understanding of its leadership. The force has recently introduced a ‘leadership promise’, which clearly defines its expectations of its leaders.
During the extensive consultation which the force undertook in order to define these expectations, the workforce engaged positively, and we found that officers and staff at all ranks and grades understood the ‘leadership promise’. The force recognises that some aspects of leadership are weaker, including the approach to performance appraisal and absence management.
The force is developing its approach to enable a more sophisticated appraisal of the quality of leadership across the force. However, the inconsistent use of performance review is limiting the force’s understanding of leadership capabilities and gaps. Although the force provides a range of leadership development opportunities including secondments, temporary promotions and formal training programmes, it does not have a comprehensive and transparent approach to talent management. In the absence of this, it cannot ensure that it draws the best candidates from the widest possible pool of potential leaders. There is limited evidence that the force evaluates its leadership development programmes. The force could make better use of recruitment opportunities at higher ranks and grades to enhance its overall leadership capability.
The force is proactive at looking outside the police service to search for new ideas and methods. The force uses academics and professional bodies to review its practices, and to provide feedback across a broad range of police activities. By applying the learning to its local context, new approaches have been introduced quickly. We found new ideas and practices being trialled and communicated across the force. The force recognises the need to improve the diversity of its leadership teams but this focuses on progression of the black, Asian and minority ethnic workforce, and on increasing female representation. Beyond this, we found little evidence of how the force is attempting to increase the diversity of its leaders in terms of their skills, experience and background.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of West Midlands Police.