Essex PEEL 2018
How legitimately does the force treat the public and its workforce?
Essex Police is good at treating the public and its workforce legitimately.
The force’s counter-corruption strategy is effective. In tackling abuse of position for a sexual purpose, it is improving links with organisations that support vulnerable victims of crime.
Less positively, the force needs to improve how it ensures its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully. We saw the force has an ethical culture. But it failed to vet its workforce before the national deadline, despite hard work by the vetting unit. It says it will be up to date by late spring 2019.
In 2017, we assessed the force as good at treating the public and its workforce fairly.
To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves with fairness and respect?
This question was not subject to inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 legitimacy inspection has been carried over. However, we reviewed a representative sample of 317 stop and search records to assess the reasonableness of the recorded grounds. We found that 84 percent had reasonable grounds recorded. Our assessment is based on the grounds the searching officer recorded on the record 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 to reduce those disparities; and
- publish the analysis and the action by July 2018.
We found that the force has complied with some of this recommendation. But it doesn’t identify the extent to which find rates differ between people from different ethnicities and across different types of searches (including separate identification of find rates for drug possession and supply-type offences). It also isn’t clear that the force 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 that the force publishes stop and search data and a partial explanation of the disproportionality rate. But it does not publish any analysis carried out to understand the reasons for disparities or any subsequent action taken.
We will continue to monitor progress in this area.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure all officers and staff have at least the lowest level of vetting clearance for their roles and clear any backlogs, so it complies fully with the national vetting guidelines.
- 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.
Force leaders reinforce the Code of Ethics that governs the policing profession. The workforce can refer ethical issues of all levels to the ethics board. The resulting discussions are available to the workforce. Officers discuss minor dilemmas with colleagues and supervisors. This means the force maintains an ethical culture and the public will continue to benefit from this.
Essex Police worked hard to meet the national deadline for vetting its workforce, but failed to do so. The force has assured itself that officers and staff who are not yet vetted can’t access sensitive material and are not a corruption risk. The force told us it will have dealt with the backlog by late spring 2019.
The force knows its counter-corruption needs. It has improved the way it identifies corruption risks. It cannot yet monitor all its IT systems. But, with new equipment, it will soon be able to do this. This will increase the workload, but the force is increasing the number of staff in its anti-corruption intelligence unit.
To tackle the problem of abuse of position for a sexual purpose, the force needs good links with organisations that support vulnerable victims of crime. Essex Police recognises that it has done little work in this area since 2017. It is working on these links.Detailed findings for question 2
To what extent does the force treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 legitimacy inspection has been carried over.