West Mercia 2017Read more about West Mercia
This is HMICFRS’ fourth 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 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 requires improvement.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
Read my assessment of West Mercia Police below.
I have concerns about the performance of West Mercia Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime, and grave concerns about the force’s effectiveness in protecting the public from serious and organised crime. In view of these findings, I have been in regular contact with the chief constable, as I do not underestimate how much improvement is needed.
Although its workforce appreciates the importance of protecting vulnerable people, the force’s use of problem-solving techniques to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour is not consistently effective.
The force has a good understanding of demand, and its strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police has enabled both forces to make considerable savings and achieve efficiencies. Its change programme is both ambitious and innovative.
The force needs to do more to ensure the workforce behaves ethically and lawfully, and to improve its use of coercive powers. However, the force is working to improve the way it develops individual performance, and its leaders demonstrate a growing commitment to health and wellbeing.
I am disappointed that overall the force’s performance has declined since last year.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Mercia Police has been assessed as requiring improvement in respect of how effective it is at keeping people safe and reducing crime. This contrasts with last year’s assessment, when we judged the force to be good.
The workforce understands the force’s vision to protect the most vulnerable and there are well-established channels of communication in place with different communities. However, the use of structured problem-solving techniques to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour is not widespread within neighbourhood teams and the force’s understanding of its communities is insufficiently developed. This means its response to problems is not always based on local feedback and it does not evaluate its use of tactics and interventions to improve its service to the public. In addition, response officers do not currently contribute to the community policing model and neighbourhood officers are sometimes reassigned to other duties; collectively this is likely to undermine the force’s commitment to local people.
The workforce displays a strong understanding of the signs of vulnerability. However, the force needs to improve its initial response to incidents involving vulnerable people, particularly victims of domestic abuse. Although the force generally investigates crimes involving vulnerable people to a good standard, it needs to ensure that investigators’ workloads are manageable and effectively supervised. The scheduled replacement of outdated ICT systems in the control room is anticipated to improve how the force recognises and responds to the needs of vulnerable people.
The force’s approach to serious and organised crime is a cause of concern. There are weaknesses in the way it assesses the risks posed by organised crime groups (OCGs), and its processes for scrutinising the use of tactics and interventions are under development. It is failing to assess the impact of its efforts to disrupt OCG activities in accordance with national guidelines. The force needs to ensure that the prevention of serious and organised crime is based on a comprehensive understanding of the threats posed. It also needs to work more closely with its partner organisations (such as local authorities, or health and education services) to understand and prevent this type of criminality.
West Mercia Police has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities, and to respond to an attack requiring an armed response.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Mercia Police is judged to be good in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year. The force is judged to be good in its understanding of demand; its use of resources to manage demand is assessed to be good; and its planning for future demand is also judged to be good.
West Mercia Police has a good understanding of current and likely future demand and continually assesses its ability to respond effectively. Its strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police is a strength that has enabled both forces to make considerable savings. Forthcoming developments include the introduction of new control rooms, supported by advances in technology that include new command and control, intelligence and mobile data systems. These developments are timely, because the force is experiencing operational pressures within its control rooms, leading to inefficient processes for call-handling and crime management. The force is refining its new investigative model to improve how it manages crimes and transfer of investigations to officers with the right skills.
The force’s change programme is subject to firm governance, increasing the likelihood of benefits being realised and avoiding unintended consequences. The force exposes itself to external scrutiny to provide further validation and it engages with its workforce well, allowing officers and staff to influence future changes. There is a strong commitment to leadership development and the force’s new approach to talent management offers a good opportunity to identify and develop the most talented members of its workforce. Across the strategic alliance, there are mature arrangements in place supporting partnership work, and its change programme is ambitious and innovative.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Mercia Police is judged as requiring improvement in how legitimately it keeps people safe and reduces crime. For the areas of legitimacy we looked at this year, our overall judgment is less positive than last year when we assessed the force as good. The force requires improvement in some aspects of treating the people it serves with fairness and respect; it requires improvement in ensuring its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully; and it requires improvement in some aspects of treating its workforce with fairness and respect.
West Mercia Police is judged as requiring improvement in respect of how legitimately it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Although leaders clearly demonstrate that they understand and value the benefits of procedural justice, they need to provide the workforce with training so the force acts fairly, treats people with respect and communicates effectively. The force scrutinises its use of stop and search powers well, but it must improve its understanding of how its officers and staff use force. Reassuringly, the force encourages external scrutiny from different groups and acts on their feedback, but it would benefit from involving young people more.
West Mercia Police takes steps to ensure that its workforce makes decisions that are ethical. Its internal ethics committee is a new development that will provide officers and staff with opportunities to raise ethical questions and allow for learning to be passed on. The force needs to improve its handling of complaints and misconduct cases, including how it supports and communicates with complainants, witnesses and those subject to investigation. It needs to be consistent in handling cases that involve discrimination and it could do more to promote access to the complaints system for people who need extra assistance.
The force requires improvement in some aspects of treating its workforce with fairness and respect. Although it understands the importance of addressing potential disproportionality in the recruitment, retention and progression of officers and staff with protected characteristics (such as age, gender or sexuality), it does not monitor disproportionality in their treatment if they are subjected to complaint or misconduct investigations. Positively, leaders demonstrate a growing commitment to health and wellbeing, particularly support for mental health, and this is recognised by the workforce. The force is also working to improve how it manages and develops individual performance, but many of its initiatives are recent and their benefits cannot yet be determined. The introduction of continuing professional development provides West Mercia Police with the ability to identify leadership potential throughout its workforce; its leadership selection process is fair and transparent, and the workforce perceives it to be fair.
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.