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Dorset PEEL 2018


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

Last updated 27/09/2019

We judge Dorset Police to be good in terms of its effectiveness at keeping people safe.

The force is good at investigating crime. Its investigators are well trained and, in general, cases are allocated to officers with appropriate skills. Most of the case files we saw were of a high standard.

However, investigations are not always supervised thoroughly enough. The force also needs to conduct more regular reviews into cases in which suspects have not been apprehended, or have been released under investigation.

Dorset Police is good at protecting vulnerable people. Staff across the force know how to recognise vulnerability, and officers attend incidents involving vulnerable victims promptly.

However, the safeguarding referral unit is operating with significant backlogs, and may need more resources. The force should do more to seek feedback from victims of domestic abuse, and shape its services accordingly.

In 2017, we judged the force to be good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. We also judged it to be good at tackling serious and organised crime.

Questions for Effectiveness


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


The overall standard of investigations conducted by Dorset Police is good. The force has trained investigators working in frontline roles and specialist investigation teams. Staff trained in the use of intelligence systems are present in the control room, so they can support investigations when a crime is first reported.

Officers and staff in Dorset Police understand the importance of gathering evidence during the ‘golden hour’ after a crime is committed. Frontline officers know how to preserve forensic evidence, and they told us that they were given enough time to do this when attending crime scenes.

However, many of the files we reviewed showed ineffective supervision of investigations. The force is aware of this problem and has posted supervisors with detective experience into teams with high demand.

The force effectively monitors people who are wanted on warrant or circulated on the Police National Computer (PNC). However, the force is less effective at supervising these cases once they have been circulated. It is important to review investigations involving outstanding offenders regularly.

The force is good at managing arrested foreign nationals and criminal records checks. It has processes in place to make sure custody sergeants complete all the relevant checks when foreign nationals are arrested.

The force generally uses protective powers, such as domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs), appropriately. However, there are far fewer DVPOs issued than there are released under investigation (RUI) cases. This could mean that some victims of domestic violence may be at risk while their cases are being investigated.

In response to national concerns, the force has made good progress on training staff in disclosure, which is providing the defence with copies or access to all material that is capable of undermining the prosecution case or assisting the defence.

Areas for improvement

  • The force should improve the scrutiny and governance of outstanding suspects and persons released under investigation to ensure that investigations are pursued effectively.
  • The force should ensure regular and active supervision of the quality and progress of investigations. This supervision should be properly recorded.

Detailed findings for question 2


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


Staff across Dorset police understand how to identify vulnerability. The chief constable makes this a priority, and spreads this message through station visits, internal communications, leadership and training events. The force also understands the nature and scale of vulnerability in its area. Officers and staff have uncovered ‘hidden’ forms of harm, such as vulnerable people being trafficked or subjected to forced labour.

Control room processes are generally effective at identifying vulnerable people, including repeat victims, when they contact the police. The IT system is ineffective, but a replacement system is planned this year. The THRIVE model of risk assessment is the primary tool used in the force communication centre, and we found that staff were applying it correctly.

In general, the incidents that we reviewed during our inspection were well managed and attended promptly. The force closely monitors its response to emergency incidents against set response times, but is not as rigorous about monitoring the response to non-emergency incidents.

Dorset Police works well with other organisations, including Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust, Dorset County Council, and Bournemouth and Poole local authorities, to protect vulnerable people. However, there are significant backlogs of unprocessed public protection notices in the safeguarding referral unit. The force has responded swiftly to our concerns, implementing short, medium and long-term plans, but it will need to prevent a similar situation arising again.

The force uses a wide range of measures to protect domestic abuse victims. It could do more, however, to seek feedback from them, and use this to improve its services.

Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure that the capability and capacity of the safeguarding referral unit enables it to process referrals promptly and effectively. Within this, it should ensure that its approach and model is sustainable for the long term.
  • The force should improve how it seeks feedback from victims of domestic abuse and use that feedback to improve services.

Detailed findings for question 3


How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?


We have previously inspected how well forces provide armed policing. This formed part of our 2016 and 2017 effectiveness inspections. Subsequent terrorist attacks in the UK and Europe have meant that the police service maintains a focus on armed capability in England and Wales.

It is not just terrorist attacks that place operational demands on armed officers. The threat can include the activity of organised crime groups or armed street gangs and all other crime involving guns. The Code of Practice on Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons (PDF document) makes forces responsible for implementing national standards of armed policing. The code stipulates that a chief officer be designated to oversee these standards. This requires the chief officer to set out the firearms threat in an armed policing strategic threat and risk assessment (APSTRA). The chief officer must also set out clear rationales for the number of armed officers (armed capacity) and the level to which they are trained (armed capability).

Detailed findings for question 5