West Midlands 2017Read more about West Midlands
This is HMICFRS’ fourth 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 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 Midlands Police below.
I am satisfied with many aspects of the performance of West Midlands Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime, but the force needs to address my particular serious concerns about its effectiveness in protecting vulnerable people. In view of these findings, I have been in regular contact with the chief constable, as I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge. The force performs well in some areas of vulnerability, for example the way it deals with those in mental health crisis, but there is the need for greater consistency in its service provision.
The force has taken action to improve the accuracy of its crime recording, but I have serious concerns that it is still failing to record a significant number of reported crimes.
I am reassured to see that since our inspection in 2016 the force has developed a much better understanding of the threats from organised crime, and it is now good at tackling serious and organised crime.
This year we found the force to be good in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime, but it has not maintained its outstanding performance from last year.
Last year the force was assessed as good. Despite notable progress in some areas, the force now needs to improve consistently, particularly in the way it protects vulnerable people from harm.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Midlands Police requires improvement in how effectively it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Although it has made progress in some areas since 2016, we found serious failings in its ability to protect vulnerable people from harm.
Many of the services provided by the force to vulnerable people are good, but our most recent inspection found that it is failing to protect some victims adequately. Staff are generally good at identifying vulnerable people when they first contact the police, but at the time of our inspection there were often not enough officers available to respond to incidents quickly when required. This means that victims – including some who are vulnerable – do not always receive the response they need, and may be put in danger as a result. It also means that in some cases the force is missing opportunities to secure evidence, which can undermine the quality of subsequent investigations. Following our inspection, the force immediately took steps to address these concerns and services have improved as a result.
By contrast, the force is good at tackling serious and organised crime and has made major improvements in this area since 2016. The force has greatly improved its understanding of organised crime threats, including urban street gangs, and it works well with partners to develop this understanding. It is effective at disrupting organised criminals and places a strong emphasis on preventing serious and organised crime. A wide range of activities is in place to help the force deter those at risk of being drawn into this type of offending. However, we found that the force does not have a consistent and structured process for the management and enforcement of serious crime prevention orders.
West Midlands Police has the necessary arrangements in place to fulfil its national policing responsibilities, and to respond initially to an attack requiring an armed response.
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Midlands Police is judged to be good in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our overall judgment this year is not consistent with last year when the force was judged as outstanding. The force’s understanding of demand is judged to require improvement; its use of resources to manage demand is assessed as good; and its planning for future demand is judged to be outstanding.
This year, the force is assessed as good rather than its 2016 grade of outstanding for a number of reasons. The overall grade reflects the balance between some excellent areas of performance and other areas where we had some concerns. For example, the force’s understanding of the total demand for its services may not be accurate because its analysis is not adequately supported by reliable crime data. Also the volume of 999 and 101 calls is outstripping the force’s capacity to answer them all.
Although the force’s overall judgment has been downgraded, there are still many outstanding elements of performance. The force continues to have a good understanding of prioritisation and costs; this takes into account the public’s changing expectations and national trends such as the increased threat to the public from firearms. The force has a strong record of reducing costs while improving the quality of its services. It also has a structured system to determine where best to invest and to ensure that benefits are realised. West Midlands Police continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to joint working with a range of public and private sector agencies to provide a better service to the public. The force will also seek to innovate if there is a solid argument that this will lead to sustained improvement in services.
The force has a thorough understanding of how technology can improve policing, and many aspects of its change programme focus on developing the force’s digital capability to enable it to operate more efficiently. The force has substantial plans to enable it to handle both the challenges and benefits of technological advancements in the context of law enforcement.
The force’s plans are ambitious and wide-ranging and are underpinned by effective governance arrangements. However, the force should ensure that these plans are supported by a more accurate understanding of the current and likely future demands placed on it by the public.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
West Midlands 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 overall. The force is good at treating all 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 Midlands Police is judged as requiring improvement in respect of how legitimately it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Although we found many effective established practices and some recently introduced developments, the force still requires improvement in how it demonstrates legitimacy.
Local and force-wide independent advisory groups assist the force’s improvement across a range of policing activities, and its forward-thinking and innovative ‘fairness in policing’ project aims to transform workforce behaviour. Although officers and staff are trained to use coercive powers fairly and respectfully, some apply these powers inconsistently when using force. Such inconsistency is compounded by inadequate arrangements for recording and scrutinising data on the use of force, particularly the unsatisfactory monitoring of the use of lesser levels of force. This contrasts with the monitoring of the use of stop and search powers, for which the force has effective scrutiny both internally and externally. Chief officers endeavour to be role models and they encourage the workforce to challenge their decision making. However, published information on gifts and hospitality needs to be updated regularly, and the large backlog of vetting reviews presents an unnecessary risk to the force’s integrity. Although standards of complaints investigation are generally good, the force has an inconsistent approach towards its complainants and in referring appropriate cases to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
The force has analysed in detail its recruitment of individuals from minority communities, as well as their treatment as complainants of the force, and has introduced well-considered and innovative action in response. Health and wellbeing provision for the workforce has been improved, but some supervisors lack knowledge and understanding of the support services that are available. Processes which are intended to improve how fairly and effectively the force manages individual performance, nurtures talent and selects its leaders, while ambitious and promising, have only recently been introduced and are not yet established.
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.
West Midlands – Joint inspection of police custody – published on 21 June 2017
West Midlands Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2017 – published on 7 September 2017
Abuse of position assessment – West Midlands Police – published on 5 October 2017