Skip to content

Devon and Cornwall 2017

Read more about Devon and Cornwall

This is HMICFRS’ fourth PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Devon and Cornwall 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.

Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary

Contact Wendy Williams

HMI's observations

Read my assessment of Devon and Cornwall Police below.

I am satisfied with most aspects of Devon and Cornwall Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime, but the force needs to make further improvements in some areas to provide a consistently good service.

Devon and Cornwall Police has significantly improved its crime recording practices since our inspection last year.

The force is working to enhance its neighbourhood policing and crime prevention. However, it still needs to improve its criminal investigations and its protection for vulnerable people, as performance in these areas has declined since 2016.

Devon and Cornwall Police should be commended for the progress it has made. Its overall direction of travel is positive and it now needs to sustain and improve its performance in certain aspects consistently.

The force makes efficient use of its resources and has a good understanding of the demand it faces. Over the past year, its strengthening alliance with Dorset Police has enabled both forces to benefit from sharing staff and equipment, and to provide more cost-effective services.

While Devon and Cornwall Police treats members of the public with fairness and respect, it needs to manage complaints about the force better.


How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 22/03/2018
Requires improvement

Devon and Cornwall Police requires improvement in how it keeps people safe and reduces crime. While its performance in some areas has deteriorated since 2016, in others it has made positive progress. Overall, the force correctly concentrates its resources both on higher-risk victims and on the most harmful offenders as it tackles crime.

The force has clear priorities to reduce harm and protect the most vulnerable people. These priorities are evident across all aspects of the organisation. However, some of the force’s IT systems and processes do not always work as well as they could and can get in the way of protecting the public. The force recognises the need for change and is making improvements, or has firm plans to do so, in several operational areas. These changes are positive and demonstrate a strategic intention to improve how the force is organised and how it provides services to the public.

The force is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour; the prevention of crime is a priority. Neighbourhood policing arrangements are well established, and the force works effectively with partner organisations. However, the force needs a more structured approach to how it manages and solves community-based problems. It is undertaking a broad review of its approach to crime prevention, community engagement and neighbourhood policing, and is designing a new way of providing these services. We look forward to evaluating their effect, once they are put into operation.

The force requires improvement in some aspects of investigating crime and reducing re-offending. The service that callers receive when they first contact the control room is good. Call handlers are effective at spotting when callers may face harm, and the force determines its response by taking into account their perceived needs. In general, victims of crime continue to receive a good service and are well supported by committed officers and staff. However, in common with the national picture, the force is experiencing rising demand, which is undermining the quality of some subsequent investigations. This is also increasing pressure on the workforce and causing gaps in some aspects of policy adherence. In response, the force is redesigning its crime-recording and crime-management processes. We found delays in the examination of digital devices, and this is affecting the quality of some investigations. Procedures for tracking and arresting wanted criminals also need to improve.

The force requires improvement in some aspects of how it protects vulnerable people. The identification and protection of vulnerable people are priorities for the force. Established procedures provide safeguarding support and protect people from harm. In particular, the force works constructively with other organisations to support people who have mental health problems. Overall, the force maintains a focus on the most harmful offenders and on protecting victims most at risk. However, the force needs to provide better support to officers and staff investigating crimes with vulnerable victims. The force needs to improve its understanding of the way it protects some victims of domestic abuse, including the use of legal powers to protect people at risk. Similarly, body-worn video cameras are not yet used widely by all operational officers, which means that opportunities to gather evidence might be missed.

The force has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities.

View the five questions for effectiveness


How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 09/11/2017

Devon and Cornwall Police is judged to be good in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our overall judgment this year is an improvement on last year. The force’s understanding of demand is judged to require improvement; its use of resources to manage demand is judged to be good; and its planning for future demand is also assessed to be good.

Devon and Cornwall Police is an efficient police force, but it still has work to do to improve further. Over the past year, the force has worked hard to achieve a much better understanding of the demand for its services placed upon it by the public, and also of demand created internally. It is now in a strong position to move to the next phase of its alliance with Dorset Police and introduce a new service model intended to transform how both forces operate. However, it faces continuing performance pressures within its call handling function. These pressures need addressing to ensure that it provides a good service to people wanting to contact the police.

The force has a good understanding of its overall capabilities, but needs to understand better, and make best use of, the skills and leadership potential of its workforce. It has clear investment plans, aligned with the police and crime plan, focusing on the benefits that a structured use of new technology can bring to the public and the force. It has an excellent record in partnership working, with a clear focus on the potential benefits. Its willingness to seek and implement new ideas from both within and outside the force is noteworthy.

The force’s understanding of the future demand for its services that it is likely to face is developing well. To make the most of its plans for the future use of technology, the force knows it needs to address some current inefficiencies in its systems and processes. Similarly, there is a recognition that the force does not yet have a clear picture of its future leadership needs. However, the strengths of its existing change programme indicate that the ambitious scale of the force’s plans is achievable, both in the organisational ability to manage change, and in the force’s sound financial position.

View the three questions for efficiency


How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 12/12/2017

Devon and Cornwall 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 and good at treating its workforce with fairness and respect. However, it is judged as requiring improvement at ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully.

The importance of treating people with fairness and respect is reflected well in the Devon and Cornwall Police mission statement. The force works hard to ensure that its officers and staff understand the need, and are trained to provide, a good service to the public. There are various internal and public scrutiny processes that monitor how officers and staff interact with the public. These work well, but the force needs to continue improving the way it manages the oversight of how coercive powers are used. In particular, the force needs to maintain a strong focus on monitoring how its staff use and record their stop and search powers and make use of body-worn video footage as it becomes more widely available.

The commitment to developing a strong ethical culture in the force is evident. Leaders at all levels promote the need to make policing decisions that are ethical and lawful and the workforce is able to recognise different forms of discrimination. It is relatively easy for the public to make a complaint about Devon and Cornwall Police and complaints are generally managed to an acceptable standard. However, improvements need to be made in the quality of discrimination investigations, how complainants are kept updated, and ensuring that all appropriate cases are referred to the IPCC.

There are established and well-used processes by which the workforce can provide feedback and challenge to the force leadership which means that their concerns are identified and resolved. The force understands that its workforce is not representative of the wider community, and is taking action to increase representation of people with different backgrounds across the organisation, but it has more to do. Elements of the way that the force treats its workforce are outstanding. The force takes wellbeing seriously and acts positively to identify, understand and respond to the workforce’s wellbeing needs. The majority of the workforce has responded positively and there is good engagement with the wellbeing agenda. However, the force needs to improve some of its other people management activity (most notably individual performance assessment), which is not as effective as it needs to be.

View the three questions for legitimacy

Other inspections

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.

Key facts – 2019/20

Force Area

3,967 square miles


1.79m people
up7% local 10 yr change


92% frontline police officers
92% national level
2.92 per 1000 population
3.69 national level
down9% 10yr change in local workforce
down5% 10yr national change

Victim-based crimes

0.04 per person
0.06 national level
up11% Local 5 year trend
up9% National 5 year trend


50p per person per day local
59p per person per day national

Points of context provided by the force

  • Devon and Cornwall covers an area of 3,961 square miles, with over 500 square miles of moorland, over 700 miles of coastline and 13,500 miles of roads.
  • The population significantly increases with millions of visitors each year, which increases the demand on services and infrastructure.

Police and crime plan priorities

A PCP sets out the police and crime commissioner’s (PCC’s) priorities for policing and the resources the PCC has allocated to the chief constable for achieving these priorities.