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Cumbria PEEL 2018


How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?

Last updated 02/05/2019

Cumbria Constabulary is good at reducing crime and keeping people safe.

It is good at protecting vulnerable people. This is a strategic priority. Officers and staff understand the importance of protecting vulnerable people.

Specialist safeguarding officers work in the control room. They advise and guide officers dealing with incidents. This means call takers and officers make better quality risk assessments. The constabulary can take the right safeguarding measures at the earliest opportunity.

A 24-hour mental health helpline assists officers and staff in supporting people with mental health problems.

Officers can recognise less obvious signs that a person may be vulnerable.

They know how to protect those at risk from modern slavery and human trafficking.

Officers use body-worn video cameras to record evidence at domestic abuse incidents. The constabulary uses arrest, charge and bail to reduce risk of further harm.

Dedicated officers and staff manage dangerous and sex offenders. They visit them regularly and use court orders to control their behaviour.

In 2016 we judged the constabulary as being good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. In 2017 we judged the constabulary to be good at investigating crime and tackling serious and organised crime.

Questions for Effectiveness


How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?


This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.


How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?


This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.


How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?


We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the constabulary’s performance in this area. 

Understanding and identifying vulnerability

Cumbria Constabulary is good at protecting vulnerable people and has improved since our 2017 effectiveness inspection, when it was also graded as good. It has a clear strategy and definition of vulnerability. The strategic aims of the constabulary are outlined in a simple ‘plan on a page’. Protecting vulnerable people is the central objective. The constabulary has made sure that the whole workforce is aware that vulnerability is a priority. It has done this through training courses, continuous professional development events, briefings and internal media campaigns. Everyone we spoke to during our inspection displayed a clear understanding of their responsibilities in protecting vulnerable people.

The vulnerability board, which is chaired by the head of protecting vulnerable people, meets monthly. It discusses how well the constabulary is performing and puts plans and actions in place so that improvement continues. The meeting considers a broad range of data to make informed decisions. The plans follow a 4P approach – prepare, prevent, pursue and protect. Through this simple model, leaders understand what they need to do to improve how the constabulary protects vulnerable people. The constabulary has found that traditional detailed problem profiles are not the best method for determining its response to vulnerability. It is developing a better way of analysing patterns and trends.

The constabulary has made good progress in improving its strategic partnership working. It now has an effective multi-agency domestic abuse and sexual abuse board. Partners include health services, probation, prisons, charitable organisations, adult and children’s social care. This has increased its understanding of vulnerability by improving information sharing and identifying good practice. At a local level, the constabulary has developed local focus hubs which help the exchange of partnership data. Each of the six district and borough council areas of Cumbria has a local focus hub. The hubs bring together police and local agencies such as housing, council services, NHS and charitable organisations to solve those community problems that have the greatest effect on communities and demand on services. These help the constabulary meet the needs of individuals and communities.

The daily management meetings in each of the three geographical policing areas (north, south and west) have protecting vulnerable people as a main objective. These meetings make sure that there are enough resources available to deal with the main risks. For example, ensuring high-risk domestic abuse suspects are arrested promptly.

All frontline officers and staff who we spoke to during our inspection had completed training about modern slavery and human trafficking. Many could give examples or recount situations where they had put this training into practice. Examples include educating staff in local hotels and conducting regular visits to car washes that employ migrant workers. At a recent licensing conference, neighbourhood staff educated licensees and security staff about signs of modern slavery and child sexual exploitation.

Our inspection found that call handlers were identifying vulnerable people when they first contact the police. Officers and staff in the constabulary command and control room (CCR) use the THRIVE assessment process to identify vulnerable people. We found improvement since our 2017 effectiveness inspection in the quality and quantity of logs with a recorded THRIVE assessment. Most assessments included other elements around safeguarding and stated whether a crime had been committed. The constabulary has an IT system which helps to identify repeat callers. There is also a system of drop-down menus so staff can identify and address a range of vulnerabilities during the call. CCR staff have access to intelligence systems that help them decide on an appropriate response.

The constabulary has gone further in its efforts to improve the quality of service to people when they contact the police. It has introduced a safeguarding help desk. This means detectives trained in establishing, responding to and investigating vulnerability share a workspace with CCR staff. They advise and guide call takers and initial responding officers. And they make rapid referrals to partners, such as social services, to manage the risk to victims better. Most people we talked with during our inspection spoke positively about the effect of this initiative. The constabulary plans to extend this service. During our fieldwork we found examples of officers attending incidents getting advice on safeguarding action, scene enquiries and opportunities to record evidence and these examples support the workforce’s positive view.

Responding to incidents

As part of our inspection we reviewed a sample of crime investigation files and incident logs. These show the details of reported incidents and the response. We concluded that the constabulary is responding to incidents quickly enough to keep people safe. There was no evidence that the attendance times increased risk to victims. When there was a change in circumstances, we found officers did a further THRIVE assessment so that any response was still appropriate.

CCR staff are not under pressure to grade incidents according to resource availability. And there are enough review mechanisms that calls are properly graded according to the needs of the caller. The response officers we spoke to during our inspection felt the calls they attended were mostly graded appropriately.

Officers who initially attend incidents are trained to look for risks to other people in the household. Examples might be children or elderly adults who would be more at risk from a situation. To help officers assess all the risks when they attend domestic abuse incidents, the constabulary has developed a ‘toolkit’. This gives information on dealing with incidents and a checklist, so that they can record all the information at the scene. Officers complete risk assessment forms directly on their handheld devices. This is important because this information can be shared with partners to make sure there are no other risks to the child. Recording all the information properly helps other officers who may attend future incidents at the address.

In our 2017 effectiveness inspection we concluded that the constabulary needed to improve the quality of information that attending officers identified and recorded. This would help police and other organisations to act in the right way to protect vulnerable people. We are pleased to note that the quality of these initial risk assessments has improved. The constabulary has a dedicated team that reviews and acts on the information. Team members felt that the information recorded had improved and there were no problems with identifying risks to others in the household, like children. The team still returns some forms to officers for further details, but the numbers were reducing. During our inspection we conducted a dip-sample of forms that had been submitted recently. We found that in most cases there was enough information for the recipient to decide on further action.

Dealing with people with mental ill health is an increasingly complex and demanding area for policing. It is best dealt with in a co-ordinated way with the other agencies involved. NHS mental health services in Cumbria, as elsewhere, are facing significant financial difficulties which present a barrier to better partnership working. Despite this, senior leaders are making sustained efforts to improve its effectiveness.

The constabulary and mental health service provider have a mental health telephone triage scheme. This is a dedicated 24-hour helpline, staffed by approved mental health professionals. They give advice to police call takers and attending officers dealing with incidents involving people with mental health problems. But our inspection found that there was an inconsistent picture in the quality of this service. It appears to work well on occasions, but there were numerous pieces of anecdotal evidence from officers we spoke with about delays in phone answering. We heard that sometimes the advice contradicted the officer’s assessment, too. So, it took longer to put protective measures in place. The constabulary has seen the positive effect of the safeguarding help desk within the CCR. It may wish to explore opportunities to develop this help desk and enhance its approach to mental health triage.

This position reflects our findings in last year’s inspection. The constabulary has a comprehensive joint operational protocol for inter-agency assistance. This has been signed by all the main organisations that respond to incidents involving people with mental health conditions. But the constabulary still needs to develop its partnership response to mental health. Funding has ended for the multi-agency crisis assessment service, which provided three additional beds as a place of safety. In addition, local consultant psychiatrists have withdrawn from most out-of-hours Mental Health Act assessments. These factors are likely to place more pressure on police resources. The force management statement recognises an increasing demand in relation to mental health incidents. As part of its future planning, the constabulary has assessed the projected increase in demand and decided its current resources and processes can cope with this increase.

Our inspection found that Cumbria Constabulary takes positive action to protect vulnerable victims. For example, it uses the power of arrest at domestic abuse incidents when it is necessary and proportionate. The arrest and charge rate for domestic abuse is higher than the national average which shows that the constabulary is good at investigating these crimes. Consistent with national trends there has been an increase in the percentage of victims not supporting police action. The constabulary reviews periodically the use of voluntary attendance in dealing with domestic abuse suspects to ensure it is appropriate. The constabulary may need to consider including this in its more regular performance management meeting.

Supporting vulnerable victims

Cumbria Constabulary has a clear policy and process for allocating safeguarding responsibilities in respect of high, medium and standard-risk domestic abuse cases. But during our reality testing some officers did not fully understand the reason for the allocation of cases. The constabulary continues to use proactively the range of legal powers available to support victims. It makes good use of the domestic violence disclosure scheme and has also used domestic violence protection orders. Recent changes in legislation have resulted in a decrease in the use of bail as a means of protecting vulnerable people. The constabulary has taken steps to improve understanding for officers and custody staff of the powers available. The constabulary reports that this has resulted in an increase in the use of bail conditions to safeguard victims of domestic abuse.

We are pleased to see the constabulary using some innovative approaches to protecting vulnerable people. For example, a covert app which can be loaded onto a domestic abuse victim’s phone to give help and advice. A local pubwatch co-ordinator is working with the constabulary to promote the Ask for Angela initiative. Under this scheme vulnerable people can safely contact bar staff if they feel they are at risk of harm. The constabulary utilises the banking protocol to good effect by working in partnership with banks to reduce the risk to vulnerable people from banking fraud.

Operation Encompass is being introduced throughout the constabulary. Problem-solving staff in the local focus hubs are receiving additional specialist training. The constabulary is piloting Operation Mandarin to reduce the risks to victims from high-risk domestic abuse offenders. This is an integrated, proactive approach that brings together problem-solving staff, investigators, offender managers and safeguarding staff to implement bespoke 4P plans. The constabulary reports early signs of some significant success, with a 58 percent reduction in offending by the top ten domestic abuse offenders. We are interested to see how this innovative approach develops.

The multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) is working well with several partner agencies. The MASH has staff from health and children’s services working together in the same building. There is a partnership approach to performance management with all partners providing data to a fortnightly performance meeting. This is leading to better outcomes for vulnerable people. Adult social care services are not working in the MASH. But constabulary leaders are working hard with their partners to address this gap.

About 49 million visitors come to Cumbria each year, which brings added policing problems. The constabulary recognises that there is a significant number of ‘away from home’ domestic incidents. It ensures that after dealing with an incident, it provides the details to the home police service of the people involved. In this way, any continuing risks can be managed better.

The constabulary ensures it is aware of vulnerable children in local authority care moving to the county. The constabulary established that it was not being told when vulnerable children moved to a care home from another force area. So, it agreed with local authority care homes to share details. The constabulary reports that about 80 percent of care homes in Cumbria are now part of this scheme.

All high-risk domestic abuse victim referrals from partners such as the health service, child protection, housing practitioners, independent domestic violence advisers, probation and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors are considered at the multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC). Because of a higher number of referrals, police referrals first go through a partnership triage process. This means those cases needing additional support from other agencies get appropriate attention at the MARAC. The constabulary has made good progress in its strategic partnership working through the domestic abuse and sexual assault partnership board. The board is developing and publicising learning and recognising good practice.

The constabulary seeks feedback from hate crime victims and takes feedback from partners working with victims of sexual assault. The constabulary has recently engaged Leicestershire Police to obtain direct feedback from domestic abuse victims. Although this project is in the early stages, the constabulary is confident that the feedback will help it improve its approach to domestic abuse.

Cumbria Constabulary makes sure those who pose a risk to vulnerable people are subject to specialist offender management at the earliest opportunity. It does this by including offenders who have been charged with offences as well as those convicted by the courts. Staff involved in MOSOVO conduct daily checks of the custody and crime IT systems, contacting investigating officers to give advice and support on obtaining ancillary orders, such as serious harm prevention orders. Our reality testing with officers and staff within the offender management teams found that most staff were up to date with their offender visits. There was no significant backlog in offenders waiting for an up-to-date risk assessment.

We found that people in the teams are trained for the role and have a good understanding of their responsibilities. During our inspection we found variation in the way in which work was allocated among the teams in the three different policing areas and that workloads of staff are above where the constabulary wants them to be. The constabulary has plans to increase the number of supervisors and offender managers. This will give reassurance that the number of offenders and the level of risk managed by each team member is not placing undue pressure on staff and negatively affecting the management of offenders.

The constabulary uses specialist software to identify people who are sharing indecent images of children. It conducts a daily check and has the capacity and capability to develop intelligence and act against suspects. There are no backlogs in intelligence reports being actioned. There are good links with the regional organised crime unit (ROCU). Staff within the unit have the support from both constabulary and ROCU resources when conducting operations.

Cumbria Constabulary makes good use of ancillary orders such as serious harm prevention orders to protect the public. It takes prompt action against those who are in breach of orders. We found that neighbourhood and response officers were aware of the dangerous offenders and sex offenders living in their area. Officers get regular updates either through direct email from MOSOVO or a bulletin. Officers knew of their responsibilities in submitting intelligence and we found examples in support of this.

Summary for question 3

How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?


This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.


How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?


Understanding the threat and responding to it

Cumbria Constabulary has a good understanding of the potential harm facing the public. Its APSTRA conforms to the requirements of the code and the College of Policing guidance. The APSTRA is published annually and is accompanied by a register of risks and other observations. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently to maintain the right levels of armed capability and capacity.

All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. There are different standards for each role that armed officers perform. The majority of armed incidents in Cumbria Constabulary are attended by officers trained to an armed response vehicle (ARV) standard. However, incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and specialist capabilities of more highly trained officers.

We found Cumbria Constabulary has good arrangements in place to mobilise specialist officers from outside the county if their skills are required, through agreements with Lancashire Constabulary and the North West Armed Policing Collaboration, including the North West Counter Terrorist Unit. 

Working with others

It is important that effective joint working arrangements are in place between neighbouring forces. Armed criminals and terrorists have no respect for county boundaries. As a consequence, armed officers must be prepared to deploy flexibly in the knowledge that they can work seamlessly with officers in other forces. It is also important that any one force can call on support from surrounding forces in times of heightened threat.

The arrangements in place with Lancashire Constabulary and the North West Armed Policing Collaboration, including the North West Counter Terrorist Unit, mean that Cumbria Constabulary can call on additional ARV as well as specialist capability if it is needed. This additional capability aligns well with the threats set out in the APSTRA.

We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Cumbria Constabulary are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. Also, Cumbria Constabulary has an important role in designing training exercises with other organisations that simulate these types of attacks. We found that these training exercises are reviewed carefully so that learning points are identified and improvements are made for the future.

In addition to debriefing training exercises, we also found that Cumbria Constabulary reviews the outcome of all firearms incidents that officers attend. This helps ensure that best practice or areas for improvement are identified. We also found that this knowledge is used to improve training and operational procedures.

Summary for question 5