Bedfordshire 2017Read more about Bedfordshire
This is HMICFRS’ fourth PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Bedfordshire 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 requires improvement.
The extent to which the force is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
Matt Parr, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
Read my assessment of Bedfordshire Police below.
I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Bedfordshire Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime, and note its progress in effectiveness, but it needs to make improvements in some areas to provide a consistently good service.
I am reassured to see that the force has improved its response to tackling serious and organised crime. Though it is on a positive trajectory, having made improvements in many areas since last year, the force still has work to do to improve its investigations, to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, and to protect vulnerable people.
I am encouraged by the force’s commitment to protecting vulnerable children, although it still needs to improve its approach in some areas.
Since 2016 it has gained a better understanding of demand and begun to develop its future financial plans, but it needs to do more.
The force continues to treat members of the public and its own workforce with fairness and respect.
Overall, I am encouraged by the obvious progress that Bedfordshire Police has made in most areas, and am pleased to see efforts being made to ensure that improvements continue. The force will need to sustain these efforts in the future.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Bedfordshire Police requires improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Since HMICFRS’ 2016 effectiveness inspection the force has made solid progress in most areas, and HMICFRS is pleased to see that efforts have been made to ensure that improvements have been made throughout the force. However, further action is needed in a number of areas set out below in order to provide the public with an effective service and to continue its recent improvements.
The force does not yet have an effective approach to preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. Although it has made progress since 2016, it needs to resource local policing teams fully and continue to develop staff skills in crime prevention and problem solving. At the time of the inspection the force was ahead of schedule for its resourcing plans. The force is improving its understanding of what matters to local communities and is improving its response to their needs. The force works proactively with other organisations to solve problems and address the underlying causes of crime. It is developing more sophisticated analysis, to focus staff activity and maximise its positive effect.
Bedfordshire Police needs to improve its investigation of crimes. The force needs to improve the timeliness of its initial response to victims, as we found the current model does not always provide victims with a good service when they need it. The force also needs to improve its approach to the examination of digital devices in support of investigations, such as mobile phones and computers, and ensure arrested foreign nationals are subjected to checks for overseas convictions to understand and manage the risk they may pose more effectively. Positively, crimes are generally investigated to a good standard. The force makes good use of intelligence, and victims are regularly updated as investigations progress. The force has some understanding of those who cause the most harm in communities, and has a good approach to reducing re-offending.
The force must improve its ability to protect vulnerable people. It does not consistently identify vulnerable people when they initially contact the police via the force control room. Subsequent risk assessments are also of inconsistent quality. The force investigates most crimes involving vulnerable victims to a good standard. However, officers and staff are dealing with unacceptably high workloads. There are increased sickness absence rates, which compromises the force’s ability to conduct high-quality investigations and provide tailored support to victims.
The force responds well to serious and organised crime. It has improved its understanding of organised crime threats, and works well with partner organisations to tackle organised crime groups, although it should do more to involve local policing teams in disrupting organised criminals. The force also needs to enhance its ability to prevent serious and organised crime, for example by identifying and supporting young people who are at risk of being drawn into gang violence.
Bedfordshire Police has the necessary arrangements in place to fulfil its national policing responsibilities, and to initially respond to an attack requiring an armed response.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Bedfordshire Police is judged to require improvement in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our overall judgment this year is consistent with last year. The force’s understanding of demand is judged to require improvement; it is judged to be good for its use of resources to manage demand; and its planning for future demand is judged to require improvement.
Bedfordshire Police is developing its understanding of demand for its services, although the force acknowledges that this still requires improvement in some important areas. Since 2016 it has been doing good work with the College of Policing, other forces and organisations such as the local authority and the health service to improve its assessment of current, complex and future demand. The force continues to work to improve its understanding of how demand may change. It demonstrates a good commitment to managing and prioritising how it responds to demand to increase its efficiency. However, it could improve its understanding of and response to anti-social behaviour as well as how it assures itself that its response to emergency incidents that require immediate police attendance is effective and timely.
The force generally uses and allocates its resources well and has been increasing the resourcing of its policing model since June 2015, although the model is still not fully staffed. It has prioritised vulnerability and increased significantly resources in its public protection teams. However, it still does not have enough officers and staff within community policing to deal efficiently with demand, including crime and anti-social behaviour prevention. Progress is being made to increase local police constable and police community support officer numbers, including a new rural crime team, but the community teams will not be fully staffed until 2018.
We recognise that Bedfordshire Police continues to face significant financial challenges. The force does not currently have any clear plans beyond 2019/20 for how it will continue to provide the level of policing needed, within the resources that are likely to be available. Despite this fundamental issue, the force has done several positive things to improve its position. The force invests well and works constructively with others to manage demand for its services. It has some understanding of its current workforce’s operational skills and capabilities, and it is identifying and making plans for future skills requirements appropriately. Leaders are being trained for the future. Building on Bedfordshire Police’s pioneering methods to increase minority ethnic diversity in its workforce, joint work through the alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary is expected to increase opportunities to improve diversity for under-represented groups and to identify and nurture talent.
HMICFRS is concerned that the force’s future plans remain uncertain. The new policing model that was developed some years ago is not expected to be fully staffed until 2018. The force recognises that beyond 2019/20 even this level of resourcing will be unlikely to meet growing demand for services without further organisational change, plans for which have not yet been developed. The chief constable and the police and crime commissioner are working closely with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary and with local partner agencies to achieve greater efficiencies in an attempt to bridge the gap.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Bedfordshire Police is judged to be good at how legitimately it keeps people safe and reduces crime. For the areas of legitimacy we looked at this year, our overall judgment is the same as last year. The force is judged to be good at treating all of the people it serves with fairness and respect. It is also judged to be good at ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully and good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect.
The force has improved the extent to which all officers and staff treat the public with fairness and respect. The workforce understands the importance of effective communication skills and has some understanding of how personal bias can affect decision making. In Bedfordshire police, independent challenge and advice, together with internal scrutiny and oversight, improve how the workforce treats members of the public. In particular, the force carefully monitors the use of coercive powers, such as stop and search, which demonstrates its strong commitment to improving how it treats the people it serves with fairness and respect. However, the force could do more to monitor the way its officers use force when dealing with the public.
The force promotes an ethical culture and an ethical approach to decision making, with its leaders acting as positive role models. There is an improved force-wide system for discussing and resolving ethical dilemmas to aid learning across the organisation, but this needs to be communicated more effectively. Additionally the force needs to ensure that it complies with the national vetting policy by December 2018. Allegations of discrimination are generally identified, responded to and investigated well and the force makes it easy for people to make a complaint, including offering additional support to those who need it. However, for internal complaints, improvements need to be made in the extent to which complainants, witnesses and staff are updated on progress, when cases are referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the way that grievances are managed.
The force is good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. It takes early action in support of wellbeing, but more needs to be done to support supervisors to identify and access support. Leaders encourage feedback and challenge from the workforce, and officers and staff generally feel able to challenge, admit mistakes and provide feedback. The workforce also consider their wellbeing to be adequately supported. The force is developing fair and effective performance assessment procedures with more open and independent selection and consistent promotion processes implemented across the strategic alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary. However, the force could do more to guide and support supervisors in the process, and to review the quality of assessment.
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.
Abuse of position assessment – Bedfordshire Police – published on 5 October 2017
Bedfordshire – National child protection inspection – published on 24 November 2017