Skip to content

Dorset PEEL 2018


How legitimately does the force treat the public and its workforce?

Last updated 09/09/2019

We judge Dorset Police to be good in terms of its legitimacy, and how it treats the public and its workforce.

The force is good at treating the public fairly. Officers and staff make fair and ethical decisions, and the leadership monitors all incidents in which force is used and gives feedback to the officers involved.

Dorset Police stops and searches a disproportionately high number of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, when compared with other forces in England and Wales. It has improved its internal monitoring of stop and search, but it should make sure that all officers and staff recognise unconscious bias.

The force’s approach to tackling corruption is mostly reactive. Its counter-corruption unit (CCU) does not have the capacity to do much proactive work, and it is held back by its outdated IT systems.

It also needs to make sure that all staff, particularly those in specialist teams, understand the abuse of position for a sexual purpose.

Dorset Police is good at treating its workforce fairly. Staff told us that they saw the leadership as open and approachable. There can be some delay in handling grievances, but the force is trying to address this.

The force could take a more focused approach to increasing workforce diversity.

Questions for Legitimacy


To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?


Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure that all members of the workforce have a sufficient understanding of unconscious bias.

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

Treating people fairly and respectfully

Leaders in Dorset Police create a positive working environment by acting as role models. The force uses the Code of Ethics, which defines the exemplary standards of behaviour for everyone who works in policing. It also uses the national decision model, which helps forces make fair decisions, as the basis for its training, policies and operational policing. During our inspection, we saw officers and staff routinely using the model when they made decisions. The force also completes equality impact assessments (to ensure a policies, projects or schemes do not discriminate against any disadvantaged or vulnerable people) to make sure that its policies and procedures are fair.

Neighbourhood policing teams engage well with the public through social media, street-corner meetings and regular visits to places of worship, food banks and refuges. We were also encouraged to find neighbourhood teams using social media to hold virtual public meetings. Neighbourhood engagement officers let the public know how the force has responded to any concerns.

Dorset Police works with several local organisations to improve relations with communities that have less confidence in the police. For example, one project with Access Dorset, a disability group, focused on finding out how to better engage with deaf people. The force has also worked with Dorset Race Equality Council on its use of stop and search powers. We also found examples of work with Prejudice Free Dorset and representatives from Muslim, Jewish and BAME communities aimed at improving engagement with the police.

The force encourages the public to get involved in crime prevention. Police support volunteers work with neighbourhood policing teams, and we saw them helping to monitor CCTV and co-ordinate neighbourhood, horse and pub-watch schemes. The force also has an established Special Constabulary, who regularly patrol with neighbourhood policing teams.

During 2017, the force trained all frontline officers in the use of stop and search powers. This included raising their awareness of unconscious bias, which is the concept that social stereotypes about certain groups of people can unknowingly prejudice a person’s behaviour. Staff in some specialist areas received further training, including those in the human resources department and staff trained to negotiate with people in crisis. Despite this training, however, many of the officers and staff that we spoke to during our inspection had limited knowledge of unconscious bias. This was a previous area for improvement for the force and it remains so.

All frontline officers attend annual restraint and conflict resolution training, referred to as personal safety training. This teaches them to use tactical communication to resolve conflict. Good communication is a theme throughout the force’s initial police training, specialist interview courses and specialist training. However, the force could do more to train all staff – rather than just specialist staff – in everyday communication skills such as empathy, listening and explaining actions and decisions.

Using force

Officers and staff are obliged to attend one day of personal safety refresher training every year, and their attendance is monitored. Officers have to record the details of any incident during which they have used force. We saw examples of supervisors giving officers feedback, challenge and guidance on their use of force, to make sure it was fair.

A use of force working group meets regularly to review the incidents during which force has been used. Personal safety trainers give officers feedback on the incidents reviewed by the group. The use of force programme board meets quarterly to examine the data. It includes members from operational training, armed response, corporate development, health and safety, the confidence and equality group, staff associations and custody.

In each meeting, the board examines a report containing comprehensive information on the use of force during the reporting period. This includes detailed information on the circumstances, the people involved and their ethnicity, the location, medical factors, environmental factors, tactics used and the outcome. The aim is to identify trends and patterns, and to learn from any mistakes. We found evidence of these reviews informing changes to personal safety training.

In addition to this internal scrutiny, the force has a quarterly external use of force scrutiny panel established by the Dorset PCC. The panel consists of members of the public and considers individual cases and a range of force data and information. We observed meetings of this panel ahead of our inspection and found that members effectively probed and questioned cases in which force had been used. The panel is currently chaired by the PCC, but there are plans to move to an independent chair in 2019.

The force will complete its policy of providing body-worn video equipment to frontline officers and staff by July 2019. We were pleased to hear of plans to review footage in future scrutiny meetings, both internal and external.

The force publishes a range of information regarding use of force on its website, including explanations of the equipment issued to police officers and how information is used and recorded. It publishes an infographic on the use of force, and quarterly summaries that provide an overview of how and why force was used during the reporting period.

Dorset is one of four forces that does not yet fully comply with NPCC use of force recording requirements. The force can produce a report against most, but not all, of the recording requirements. It is making changes to the force records management system later this year to record all required information. The force does comply with the Home Office Annual Data Return on use of force.

Using stop and search powers

Dorset Police stops and searches a disproportionately high number of people from BAME backgrounds when compared with other forces in England and Wales. The force has adopted a range of measures to try and improve its performance in this area. The external scrutiny panel reviews all searches of BAME people, and any BAME person who is stopped and searched is asked for feedback. The force continues to work with Dorset Race and Equality Council to improve its understanding of the use and effect of these powers on BAME communities.

In November 2018, the PCC commissioned an independent review of the use of stop and search, and presented the findings to both Dorset Race and Equality Council and the independent scrutiny panel. The force is in the process of adopting the recommendations from this review; for example, through improved governance processes.

The force provides a wide range of information, guidance and support to the workforce on the use of stop and search powers. During our inspection, we found that staff generally understood how to use these powers fairly and respectfully. All frontline officers received training in 2017, and some officers received additional training to become stop and search champions. These champions provide advice, guidance and one-to-one support to colleagues.

There are stop and search information boards at police stations, and internal communication campaigns and toolkits on the force intranet site aimed at helping supervisors to monitor the use of these powers. Line managers check stop and search records and give feedback to officers where necessary. The force introduced a toolkit for supervisors, called Searchlight, in February 2019. This allows them to scrutinise individual officers’ records and identify individuals who have been the subject of repeat searches.

We reviewed a representative sample of 208 stop and search records to assess whether the recorded grounds were reasonable. In 81 percent of cases, the records contained reasonable grounds (our assessment is based on the grounds recorded by the searching officer and not the grounds that existed at the time of the search).

In our 2017 legitimacy report, we recommended that all forces should:

  • monitor and analyse comprehensive stop and search data to understand reasons for disparities;
  • take action on those; and
  • publish the analysis and the action by July 2018.

The force has complied with some of this recommendation, but it doesn’t look at the extent to which find rates differ between people from different ethnicities and across different types of searches, and does not separately identify find rates for drug possession and supply-type offences. The force does compare drug searches for cannabis with those for other types of drug, but it isn’t clear that it monitors enough data to identify the prevalence of possession-only drug searches or the extent to which these align with local or force-level priorities. We reviewed the force’s website and found no obvious mention of analysis it had carried out to understand and explain reasons for disparities or any subsequent action taken.

In 2017, we recommended that the force should evaluate how its stop and search activity helped it to meet its policing priorities. We are now satisfied that the force thoroughly monitors stop and search. It has effective internal governance in place to monitor the use of stop and search powers, including internal reviews, quality assurance processes and supervisory scrutiny. The force lead chairs a quarterly working group to review stop and search information and data to identify patterns, trends and notable practice. The working group reports its findings to a strategic legitimacy board which is a quarterly meeting chaired by the chief constable.

We also recommended that the force should improve its external monitoring of stop and search and this, too, has been implemented. The force has an external stop and search scrutiny panel, administered by the OPCC, that meets quarterly. The panel is made up of members of the public, including young and BAME people. A recent recruitment campaign has brought more people on to the panel, and they are given sufficient training and information to enable them to perform their roles effectively.

In the period leading up to this inspection, we observed both stop and search, and use of force scrutiny panels. We saw panel members posing challenging and probing questions regarding use of these powers. Both panels scrutinise a comprehensive range of force data and information, and the stop and search panel reviews a sample of stop and search records. Minutes of their meetings are published on the PCC website.

The force is also working with students from Bournemouth University to get feedback on stop and search from young people. This is a new initiative for the force and we will watch its progress with interest.

Summary for question 1

How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?


Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure that its counter-corruption unit:
    • has enough capability and capacity to counter corruption effectively and proactively;
    • can fully monitor all of its computer systems, including mobile data, to proactively identify data breaches, protect the force’s data and identify computer misuse; and
    • builds effective relationships with individuals and organisations that support and work with vulnerable people.
  • The force should improve the knowledge and understanding of the abuse of position for a sexual purpose within its specialist teams.

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

Maintaining an ethical culture

Leaders in Dorset Police promote the force’s values and the Code of Ethics. The chief constable and other members of the leadership team reinforce high standards of behaviour at training events and through internal communications. The force has run a campaign to raise awareness of the issue called ‘The Only Way Is Ethics’. During interviews, staff told us that they saw the leadership team as accessible and receptive to ideas and challenge.

The force has an established ethics committee, shared with Devon and Cornwall Police. We observed one of the committee’s meetings, which was well attended by officers and staff from both forces and members of the public. The workforce can read feedback from its meetings on the force intranet.

We examined the extent to which supervisors and staff understood the Code of Ethics and the force’s values. We saw good examples of ethical decision making in relation to critical cases, the allocation of time off, conflicts of interest, and gifts made by bereaved families. We also saw compelling examples of officers reporting inappropriate behaviour. Those involved told us that the professional standards department (PSD) had supported them well during the investigation of misconduct cases.

During our previous inspection of Dorset Police, we found that the force was complying with national vetting standards. This time, we were pleased to find that it had maintained its performance in this area by making sure that all staff had received at least the lowest level of vetting clearance for their roles.

The force makes some effort to ensure that candidates from BAME backgrounds are not disproportionately affected by the vetting process. The vetting unit makes decisions without seeing information on race, gender or disability, to reduce the influence of unconscious bias. The human resources department monitors vetting information, and cases involving BAME candidates are forwarded to the chief constable, who makes a personal assessment. This process is adequate for it to ensure that decision-making is fair throughout its recruitment process. However, it plans to introduce new vetting software, which will enable it to identify disparities more easily.

The force complies with its obligation to share details of its barred and advisory lists with the College of Policing. This prevents people who have left the service under investigation, or who have been dismissed, from re-joining a law enforcement agency.

Dorset Police circulates the results and lessons learned from local and national cases, using both general orders and the intranet. The PSD publishes information in Blue Print, the force’s newsletter. Information about risks to integrity, including the reporting requirements relating to gifts and hospitality, is readily available on the force’s intranet site. The PSD also tells all new officers, staff and transferees about the expected standards of professional behaviour, and reinforces these standards on promotion courses.

The force publishes the outcomes of misconduct hearings internally and externally. Chief officers and the PSD reinforce any lessons learned in the messages they send to the workforce. During our inspection, we tested whether the workforce knew about risks to integrity, including gifts and hospitality, and the abuse of position for a sexual purpose, and found a generally good understanding of this issue.

Tackling corruption

The force draws on different sources of information to assess corruption risks; for example, it looks at data held on its registers of business interests and notifiable associations, and compares this with financial information and other forms of intelligence to identify staff who might be at risk of corruption. Its approach is mostly reactive; it does not regularly bring together representatives from different departments to review information and identify potential causes for concern.

We reviewed 60 cases and found that once a concern had been raised, the force had investigated it to an acceptable standard. The CCU has an ability to audit some of its force IT systems; however this is limited. The force is in the process of procuring new software that will improve capability, but we will continue to monitor this area during future inspections.

Previously, the force has worked with other agencies who support vulnerable people, such as those dealing with domestic abuse, to raise awareness of the abuse of position for sexual gain. However, this is no longer happening, which could mean that it misses opportunities to identify officers and staff who are behaving inappropriately. The force recognises this and is trying to re-establish its connections. It promotes whistleblowing policies and anonymous reporting systems. Officers and staff are aware of the force’s ‘Confide in Us’ confidential reporting system and know how to use it.

The force has adopted the NPCC strategy to tackle police officers and staff who abuse their position for a sexual purpose. It recognises this behaviour as serious corruption and it refers cases to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). In our 2017 inspection, an area for improvement was for all cases meeting the mandatory referral criteria to be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (now IOPC). We are now satisfied that this is happening.

Dorset Police has been a national leader in identifying and classifying intelligence about predatory behaviour and continues to develop work in this area. However, limitations in monitoring of IT systems means that it has not yet achieved our 2016 national recommendation that required all forces to implement a plan to achieve the capability and capacity required to address abuses of position. Neither is it clear that the CCU has the capacity to handle intelligence relating to abuse of position for sexual purpose. The force recognises this and is addressing resource levels in the department.

The force takes robust action against individuals who abuse their position. During reality testing, we found that supervisors understood the warning signs. However, the level of understanding varied in specialist investigation teams, including those that deal with serious and sexual offenders and their victims. The force should make sure that staff across the force understand this issue.

We were pleased to find that frontline officers and staff understood the serious consequences of developing inappropriate relationships with members of the public. The force publicises cases to demonstrate how it deals with this type of corruption.

Dorset Police has recently completed a counter-corruption strategic assessment and control strategy. These documents are used to inform counter-corruption policies, procedures and activity, but it was too early at the time of our inspection to know how effective these will be.

Summary for question 2

To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?


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

Improving fairness at work

Leaders in Dorset Police are good at seeking feedback and challenge from the workforce. Chief officers promote an open and approachable culture, and there are direct lines of communication between the chief officer’s team and the workforce. We saw comprehensive evidence of staff consultation through focus groups, meetings and surveys. Staff can also ask direct questions of chief officers through the force intranet site.

Soon after his appointment, the chief constable made a commitment to address issues that were preventing officers and staff from doing their jobs effectively. He visited teams and departments across the force and asked for feedback and suggestions for improvement. This was called the ‘100 Little Things’ initiative. Staff can see how he has acted on their feedback through the force intranet site. Most of the issues that were raised have been addressed and staff told us this had made a positive difference to their workplace environment and wellbeing.

There are two ways for staff to raise grievances in Dorset Police; informally or formally, both of which are dealt with by line managers. Prior to our inspection, we examined ten grievance case files and found that six had not been handled within recommended timescales. The force responded promptly to our concerns by implementing a revised grievance procedure in December 2018. It now uses a computerised system to track the progress of grievance investigations.

Most of the officers and staff that we spoke to were aware of the new procedure and how to access it, and we were encouraged to find newly-promoted supervisors receiving guidance on how to investigate grievances. This is likely to bring much-needed improvement to how such cases are dealt with; however, it was too early to assess progress at the time of our inspection.

The people department monitors a range of information and data to identify workforce concerns. The legitimacy board, which is chaired by the chief constable, also reviews this. The force monitors information on people joining and leaving, diversity data, absence and flexible working, across all ranks and roles.

We were pleased to find that the PSD reviews complaint and misconduct investigations to identify any disparities in investigation procedures involving staff from BAME groups. It reports its findings to the quarterly force legitimacy board chaired by the chief constable.

Forces inspire greater confidence if they reflect the communities in their area. Dorset Police proactively encourages workforce diversity. It has a positive action strategy that outlines how it aims to achieve this, and a positive action team to progress this work. It has trained staff to be positive action ambassadors, mentoring employees and potential candidates from under-represented groups.

The force has held public engagement events aimed at encouraging interest and applicants from diverse communities. These events attracted large numbers, but there is no clear evidence to show whether they made a significant difference to recruitment. It has also held internal events to promote the progression of women in policing, including confidence-building and coaching and mentoring workshops.

However, the strategic leadership, governance and plans to improve workforce diversity lacked clarity. The force should make sure that it has adequate structures in place to promote diversity in the workplace.

Supporting workforce wellbeing

Workforce wellbeing is a priority for Dorset Police. The force analyses management information, such as absence data, staff survey results, demand data and use of occupational health services, to find out why staff suffer ill-health and to put support in place. The chief officer team has set three priority areas following review of workforce information: resources, demand and wellbeing. Improvement plans to support these priorities are developed and led by senior officers.

The PCC has provided funding to invest in the wellbeing of officers and staff. The Blue Light Framework addresses the unique challenges that affect the wellbeing of emergency service personnel. The framework enables forces to audit themselves against an independent set of standards that have been tailored to meet the specialist needs of emergency service staff. The force has completed the self-assessment framework and is in the process of improving its services.

The force places equal importance on both physical and mental wellbeing. It has many initiatives aimed at breaking the stigma of mental ill-health in the workplace. For example, it has commissioned short videos of officers and staff who have experienced mental ill-health, which will be published on the force intranet site. It has developed a mental health wellbeing plan with Devon and Cornwall Police, in response to feedback from online surveys and delegates who attended a mental health conference. Progress against the plan is assessed through use of a fast survey system, called a pulse survey, and was last evaluated in March 2019 with the findings published on the force intranet.

Officers and staff can attend one-day resilience workshops, which are run by mental health professionals and provide advice, guidance and support on dealing with stress. The feedback from those who have attended the workshops was overwhelmingly positive.

The force provides regular psychological health screening for people working in high-risk areas and biannual health screening through the occupational health unit (OHU). It regularly reviews its wellbeing provision. Recently, one of these reviews identified a gap in the support available to officers and staff affected by the menopause. As a result, the force appointed 20 menopause champions, to promote awareness and understanding of how this can affect people.

Five local groups representative of officers and staff across the force co-ordinate health and wellbeing activities. The groups are chaired by senior leaders and have access to funding. They have improved facilities in refreshment areas, developed a wellbeing library and provided water bottles for officers and staff. The groups report into a strategic wellbeing group which is chaired by the director of people services. Force policies and procedures comply with the equality duty and are regularly quality-assured by the equality and diversity lead.

There is a caring culture in Dorset Police, and the officers and staff we spoke to told us that they felt their welfare was a priority for the leadership. They also spoke positively of the support they received from their line managers. Line managers review staff welfare during one-to-one meetings, and they know how to access wellbeing services. We saw evidence of their support making a significant difference.

However, there are some areas of the force in which morale is low. This is generally in teams with high workloads or long-term vacancies. Officers and staff in some teams told us that they were operating at the boundaries of wellbeing due to the high demand. The force is aware of these issues and several reviews to bring improvement were ongoing at the time of our inspection. The force should make sure it considers the wellbeing needs of officers and staff working in high-demand areas.

Being the subject of a public complaint or an internal misconduct allegation, or a witness to it, can be very stressful for members of the workforce. In our 2017 inspection, one of our areas for improvement was that force should improve levels of support provided to officers and staff in this situation. We were pleased to find improvement in this area through the introduction of monthly review meetings. Officers and staff who had been subject of investigation or suspension spoke positively of the support provided by the force. We are satisfied that it has improved in this area.

Managing performance and development of officers and staff

In our 2017 inspection, we found that the force needed to improve the management of its PDR process. Our inspection this year found that considerable improvement had been made. The force has sent useful guidance and information to staff on how to “make your PDR count”. Most areas of the force now engage in the PDR process, with an 80 percent completion rate for the 2018 performance year. This a considerable improvement on the previous year.

The force is introducing a new performance management system, called EPDR, in September 2019, and we were pleased to find this had been developed through focus groups held with officers and staff. The new system has been the subject of internal marketing, but some staff told us that they were not aware of it, nor why it was being introduced. The force should consider how it communicates the benefits of the new process.

Newly-promoted sergeants demonstrated a good understanding of performance management. The force continues to monitor and evaluate the needs of managers. For example, focus groups held with line managers identified the need for training to help them have difficult conversations. This is now scheduled for 2019.

The workforce generally has a positive view of management in the force. A recent survey of officers and staff regarding line manager support found that four out of five respondents felt they were given sufficient time to speak to their line manager and four out of five managers demonstrated an interest in them. A further 83 percent agreed that their manager listened to what they had to say.

The competency values framework (CVF) sets out nationally-recognised behaviours and values that help with recruitment and professional development. The force is currently progressing CVF for police officer selection, initial police officer recruitment (subject to national developments) and the recruitment of all police staff. The force’s talent management and promotion processes also use the CVF for assessment and to identify areas for professional development.

Following our inspection in 2017, we advised that the force should conduct a leadership and skills audit to understand its capacity and capability better. We are pleased that it has made progress in this area. In 2018, it developed and conducted an audit for all sergeant and police staff supervisor equivalents and above, using a self-assessment questionnaire. This mapped individual skills against organisational needs and priorities, and the results are informing current and future training plans.

Dorset Police is committed to supporting the development of its officers and staff. It does so through coaching and mentoring, 360-degree feedback processes, models and toolkits to support development, development workshops, and talent panels involving meetings with chief officers and senior HR advisers. However, not all the staff we spoke to knew about these resources.

Dorset Police has an open and accessible promotion process that is modelled on the College of Policing framework. It has aligned its processes with those of Devon and Cornwall Police, to guarantee fairness across the two-force alliance. HR staff have received unconscious bias training, and the workforce understands and supports
the CVF.
We spoke to officers and staff with varying degrees of experience of the force promotion processes. The majority told us that the CVF had made the process fairer, and that there was now better support available to those seeking promotion. Managers are supposed to provide feedback to support the continuing development of officers and staff, but not everyone seemed to have received this. Even though the force reviews its promotion processes regularly, some people still felt promotion was dependent on professional relationships.

Summary for question 3