Kent PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
Kent Police is effective at reducing crime and keeping people safe.
It is good at investigating crime. But it should quickly resolve the problems with its new information and communications technology (ICT) system. The force should also make sure it doesn’t close investigations too early.
The force is good at protecting vulnerable people. It works well with partner organisations to do this. It also uses its protective powers well. But it needs to make sure it has enough staff in its online investigation team to manage demand.
In 2017, we judged Kent Police as good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour and at tackling serious and organised crime.
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 2017 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure it progresses cases effectively, even if the victim does not support the investigation, and that officers understand the importance of this.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
The force conducts good investigations that lead to satisfactory results for victims. We reviewed 62 files from recent investigations and found 43 to be of an overall good standard. During our fieldwork, we assessed several investigations that the force had completed over the telephone. We found them to be appropriate for this type of investigation. In our 2017/18 effectiveness inspection report, we identified an area where the force needed to improve. We said the force should make sure that it completes all investigations to a consistently good standard and in a timely manner so that victims receive an appropriate level of service. In this inspection, we found that supervision and the quality of investigation remains broadly good. But some areas of the force provide better investigations and levels of scrutiny. Primarily this is in the specialist departments. Investigations undertaken by uniformed response officers still require improvements. We found instances where supervisors tend to accept rather than challenge and improve the direction of an investigation. Most cases that we reviewed had investigation plans. Officers’ investigation workloads are mostly at acceptable levels, but some officers and teams have excessive workloads.
The implementation of a new ICT system (Athena) throughout the force has created some problems and delays in the allocation of crimes. The force introduced Athena five weeks before our inspection. The implementation experienced difficulties, including several system outages and a gap between switching off the old system and switching on Athena. This caused a backlog of crimes in the incident management unit (IMU) awaiting allocation to divisions and departments. During our inspection there were about 2,000 crimes awaiting allocation, with delays of about 14 days. Previously, the IMU had been able to manage its demand without any noticeable backlogs. We found minimal evidence of any proactive management or of any continuing assessment of these 2,000 crimes. Plans for the IMU’s medium to longer term approach to the effect of Athena were evident. But the force didn’t appear to recognise the need to deal with the immediate problem of the delays and to identify and remove any blockages in processes to reduce the likely effect on victims. We raised this with force leaders during the inspection and they immediately took remedial action and developed a recovery plan to address matters. The plan includes close working between the IMU and divisions. We revisited the force four weeks after the inspection. We found that it had halved the backlog and had the matter under control, including continuing triage of those crimes held within the IMU. We will continue to monitor this issue during our routine engagement with the force.
The force has recorded a 34.7 percent increase in crime over the 12 months to March 2018. This increase is partly caused by improved crime-recording processes. We graded Kent Police as outstanding in how it records crime in our September 2018 crime data integrity inspection. We found it to be 96.6 percent compliant with the National Crime Recording Standards. However, many investigations are being closed early because of evidential difficulties where a suspect has been identified but the victim doesn’t support the investigation. This is called ‘outcome 16’ under the Home Office outcomes framework. The force closed 37,278 investigations using outcome 16 in the 12 months to 31 March 2018. This is an increase from 2016/17, when the force closed 25,963 investigations this way. However, over the same period the force recorded 46,000 more crimes due to improved crime-recording methods. So, in 2016/17, 23.4 percent of all crimes were closed using outcome 16, increasing to 26.4 percent in 2017/18.
The force has undertaken much analytical work to try and better understand why its use of outcome 16 remains high and why some victims don’t support police action. It has completed surveys of domestic abuse and some rape victims to make sure that the victim’s voice is heard. But to date the force hasn’t come to any firm conclusions. It is crucial that the force makes progress with those cases that should go ahead, even if the victim doesn’t support this. Not to do so risks damaging public confidence in the force’s investigative work. The force may wish to consider how it might reassure itself that officers understand the importance of making the right decisions in these cases.
In discussions with officers throughout the force, we found that they are very likely to close investigations if the victim isn’t fully engaging with the investigation. In these instances, crimes are often closed without meaningful further investigation, and sometimes with no contact having been made with the suspect. We found cases where additional investigatory activity and/or action to contact the victim could have been undertaken. However, we also found some good evidence of officers working hard to keep victims engaged. And we found evidence of police-led prosecutions where the victim doesn’t support the prosecution, but the police continue it with the support of the Crown Prosecution Service. Officers we spoke to felt police-led prosecutions were becoming easier due to the increased use and quality of body-worn video camera footage. The force has recently introduced new body-worn video cameras, which are easy to use, of good quality and are quick to download.
Senior leaders in Kent Police have worked hard to increase the numbers of skilled detective staff and the level of accredited detective officers continues to improve. In the force’s detective establishment of 831 posts, 527 (63.42 percent) are held by accredited detectives, while over 300 officers are on the detective career pathway. The force provides excellent support to candidates entering the detective career pathway, such as a crammer course, mock exams, and access to online question sets. The force is talent-spotting officers who might be effective detectives. It assesses its student officers to see whether they might be suitable for training as a detecti
ve. These officers work in several detective roles during their probation. This includes being posted into the vulnerability investigation teams for 12 months once they have reached about 15 months’ service. This is to enhance their investigation skills and give them a better understanding of vulnerability. The force stresses the importance of the detective role in several ways. This includes inviting all successful officers to a graduation ceremony. Officers now recognise the detective role as something to which they can aspire.
Crime allocation decisions are reasonably consistent throughout the force. The force allocates most crimes to officers who have the required skills. However, the force is restructuring its operational model in response to changing demand projections. As part of this, it is moving a large number of officers into investigative roles. Some of these officers may not have all the required skills and abilities to investigate the crimes they are allocated. In these cases, the force expects that more experienced and senior colleagues will support these officers. We found evidence of this happening in many but not on all occasions.
The force’s IMU does telephone investigations for crimes that have limited investigative opportunities. During our fieldwork, we assessed several of these investigations. We found them to have been appropriate for this type of investigation and the investigations themselves were of a good quality. However, the force had introduced the new Athena ICT platform a few weeks before our inspection, and this had caused large backlogs throughout all parts of the unit’s work. The force uses an evidenced-based investigative tool (EBIT). This uses research it has done with the criminology faculty at Cambridge University to help prioritise investigations that are statistically more likely to result in a positive outcome for victims. The force currently only applies EBIT to four crime types. In addition, it doesn’t use EBIT for any crimes arising from domestic abuse or hate incidents, or any crime involving a vulnerable victim. An officer will always investigate these sorts of crimes.
Kent Police generally provides victims of crime with a good service and usually updates them regularly as investigations progress. In our case file review, we judged that in 52 out of the 62 files there had been good victim care. The Athena ICT system automatically supports compliance with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and this should help the force to provide an appropriate level of care to victims.
The force is good at pursuing and managing offenders who are a risk to the public. It understands and effectively uses post and pre-charge bail. The process of quickly locating and arresting suspects continues to improve throughout the force. The force pays close attention to the number of outstanding suspects and the speed with which they are being circulated and arrested. All three policing divisions hold a monthly performance review meeting. The force has a daily ‘most-wanted’ offender, who features on the daily briefing so that all officers on duty are aware of that person. The force directs proactive teams of officers to locate and arrest outstanding offenders. It also makes use of its community policing teams (CPT) for this work. The CPT officers have good local knowledge and are effective in helping to locate offenders.
The force has created a bail decision-making model to help custody officers. The model has guidance on the current bail legislation including the Police and Crime Act 2017 and has clear references to how the Code of Ethics feeds into the decision-making model. It also details the considerations they should make about the nature of the offence and the vulnerabilities associated with the offender and the victim. The force can track the number of suspects released under investigation (RUI). It has a framework in place to examine those who have been released using the RUI process since the changes to bail legislation were introduced. It presents reports to divisions that contain data on the use of bail and RUI.
Kent Police has 2,759 people recorded who are wanted for one or more offences or who they wish to trace for other reasons not related to them being offenders, but who aren’t circulated on the police national computer (PNC); 2,686 have been wanted for up to six months. This means that the force may not be bringing these suspects to justice as quickly as they might otherwise be. The force is aware of this problem and is working through the cases and circulating details of the suspects manually on the PNC if appropriate. This means that other police forces can help to find or arrest these people, and thereby reduce the risk to the public.
The force continues to work closely with Immigration Enforcement to check foreign offenders’ identity and nationality, as well as to consider options to remove or deport people who have committed serious crimes or who pose a threat to communities. These strong links aren’t surprising given the presence of the country’s busiest port at Dover, where Immigration Enforcement has its own detention centre. The force monitors its performance in relation to foreign national offenders. It has established a foreign national offenders board, which meets every three months to discuss performance and to address any problems. The force processes 31,500 detainees per year, of whom 8–9 percent are typically foreign national offenders. It reports that it is currently achieving a 79 percent accuracy rate on all ACRO checks. The Athena ICT platform automates the ACRO process, which should help the force further improve its compliance.
Kent Police is working hard to ensure that it discharges its disclosure obligations in criminal investigations effectively. The disclosure process in criminal prosecutions provides a crucial safeguard to ensure fairness within the system. Police investigations must follow all reasonable lines of enquiry, even if they point away from the suspect. Prosecutors must provide the defence with any material that undermines the case for the prosecution or assists the case for the accused. Proper disclosure is vital for a fair trial. The force has fully engaged in the joint national disclosure improvement plan. It has created a disclosure portal on the force intranet for officers, which has numerous resources and clear pathways for escalating concerns about disclosure. It has also provided training, seminars and master classes that have included speakers from the head of the rape and serious sexual offences unit, and a barrister from a London Chambers. At the time of our inspection, about 40 percent of the workforce had undertaken the National Centre for Applied Learning Technologies package. The pressures of the mandatory Athena training roll out has had a negative effect on the completion rate of the current disclosure training. But now that this training is complete, the force expects that the completion rate for the disclosure training will rapidly increase.Summary for question 2
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Areas for improvement
- The force should within three months review its use of THRIVE within the control room and the incident management unit (IMU) and ensure that staff understand the importance of correctly assessing incidents.
- The force should, within three months, review its incident management unit recovery plan to ensure it gives victims an appropriate service.
- The force should review demand and capacity in its police online investigation team (POLIT) and reduce the backlogs in the department.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Understanding and identifying vulnerability
Kent Police has a clear definition of what vulnerability is. It has an effective strategy for protecting vulnerable people, which it communicates well. Officers and staff have a good understanding of the strategy. But we found some examples of officers and staff applying the THRIVE model poorly. The force has a comprehensive understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability. It has developed this with other organisations, such as local authorities and mental health professionals.
Officers and police staff take proactive steps to uncover ‘hidden’ forms of harm such as vulnerable people being trafficked or subjected to forced labour. The force recorded 192 cases of human trafficking and modern slavery in 2017. It has dedicated vulnerable adult intervention police community support officers (PCSOs) whose role is to identify victims in their communities. The police and crime commissioner has introduced an anti-slavery partnership co-ordinator, who has provided training to frontline officers and staff, and engaged with partner agencies to build a co-ordinated approach across all organisations. In addition, all frontline officers and staff attend a three-day public protection course that includes training on human trafficking and modern slavery.
The force is good at identifying vulnerable people at first point of contact, including repeat victims, victims of domestic abuse and people experiencing mental health ill health. The incident management system (Storm) and crime management system on Athena both have markers to identify a victim as vulnerable. We found that staff are using these consistently. Staff within the control room have used the THRIVE model of risk assessment for several years. However, while experienced staff understand the process and use it well, the high turnover of staff means that some incidents are subject to a poor THRIVE assessment by some newer staff members who are still developing their skills in this area. This means that the force may not always be managing risk as well as it should be.
Responding to incidents
Force control room staff generally answer calls promptly. Significantly, the force has reduced its 101-abandonment rate from 18 percent in 2017, to the current 7 percent. This has improved the service it provides to the public. It has done this by a range of measures that include targeted overtime and maintaining experienced staff numbers within the force control room. The force is working with a consultancy firm to undertake a full review of the control room and its contact management structures. This is to improve services further and ensure the sustainability of its processes. We found that officers attend incidents involving vulnerable people quickly enough to keep them safe. We reviewed several incidents and found that staff had graded them correctly and allocated the appropriate resource. We saw evidence of supervisors upgrading incidents involving vulnerability and other higher-risk issues (if they assessed the initial grade as incorrect or if the circumstances of the incident changed) to ensure a quicker response by patrol officers. Supervisors review incidents and the force incident manager monitors those that are more serious.
Frontline staff follow a clear process when assessing risk and addressing the nature of a victim’s vulnerability. Officers identify safeguarding needs using the DASH risk-assessment process for all domestic abuse incidents. Officers know they need to record the details of children within the household, whether they are present at the scene or not, to help with the consideration and safeguarding of their needs. Supervisors scrutinise DASH forms to ensure accuracy. The force is proactive in seeking initiatives that will improve policing. With the support of the College of Policing, the force has designed a domestic abuse offender risk-assessment product (DA PRISM). This places the focus on the offender and the risk that they pose and then directs activity to reduce or remove the risk. The force is piloting this in Medway.
We do not have the mandate to inspect police and crime commissioners (PCCs). However, the force is in a unique position for improving how the police deal with mental health. Kent’s PCC is the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners national lead for mental health and the police service. This means that he seeks to improve the police service’s approach to mental health problems by leading and commenting on national discussions and supporting initiatives. At a local level, the chairs a quarterly Kent mental health oversight board that includes police and partners. This forum allows members to discuss and address issues, which is important given the amount of demand for mental health services in the county.
The force has a mature triage process and other mental health support options in place. Health service partners are available in the control room to assist staff and patrol officers with advice and guidance. The force reports that over the past 12 months there has been a gradual improvement of services provided by mental health partners, but there are still problems in A&E. The force has started joint mental health training with Kent and Medway NHS and the Social Care Partnership Trust, based on the two-day College of Policing course.
Mental health incidents equate to 8.4 percent of all recorded incidents in Kent. This is the second highest rate in England and Wales. Kent Police also has one of the highest rates for the use of section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 at about 1,450 a year. The force has scrutinised the use of this power and believes that officers are using it correctly. In those cases that we reviewed, officers had used the power appropriately. There are concerns within the force that mental health partners are struggling to cope with their demand and that this is placing further pressure on the force. This issue is the subject of discussion between senior members of the force and mental health partners. We reviewed 65 mental health cases dealt with by the force and found that in most cases the action taken was appropriate and effective.
The Kent Social Care Partnership Trust provides a county-wide street triage service whereby a mental health nurse is available to support officers on the ground. A mental health nurse works within the force’s control room to give advice to officers and on occasion to speak directly to those in mental health crisis who have telephoned the force. Triage cars are also available in the Medway area and in Thanet. This service runs three nights a week and with set hours (selected after reviewing police mental health data in both Medway and Thanet). Because of the increasing demand, the force and its partners have reviewed the mental health triage service in Medway and Thanet. This found that despite overall mental health demand, the force was only referring two to three cases to the service per shift. During the period of the review, 79 referrals were diverted to alternative services, thereby avoiding section 136 detentions. Kent and Medway’s sprawling mix of urban and rural geography poses a significant challenge for a local response. This is reflected in the low number of triage referrals. Service demand fluctuates, but because the service needs to be available to respond, the triage car cannot support other activities, and this inevitably leads to periods of downtime. However, the review concluded that a full seven-day service would provide a better service. The force is currently considering this option with its partners.
The force makes appropriate use of voluntary attendance at police stations by suspects to protect victims, but it doesn’t use voluntary attendance for domestic abuse cases. In Kent, the force attends almost three-quarters of domestic abuse incidents as an emergency or priority call. It makes an arrest at about 50 percent of domestic abuse incidents, which is higher than the rate for England and Wales. This means that victims are more likely to feel supported by Kent Police.
Supporting vulnerable victims
The force is good at supporting vulnerable victims and has been reducing its use of RUI in domestic abuse cases (down from 24.21 percent in the first quarter of 2017/18 to 21.52 percent in the fourth quarter) in favour of pre-charge bail (up from 8.19 percent in the first quarter of 2017/18 to 11.07 percent in the fourth quarter). This means that the force is likely to be reducing the risk to victims more effectively.
Community policing team officers have knowledge of, and some responsibility for, vulnerable victims. They have some safeguarding responsibilities, including for the elderly, those suffering with mental ill health and repeat victims of domestic abuse. Officers in Margate are part of a homeless forum alongside local authority and mental health partners. This group has implemented initiatives such as ‘dementia pebbles’ that are placed in sufferers’ pockets to aid identification and confirm that they are suffering with dementia. In Chatham, officers conduct home visits to vulnerable people with families’ officers from the council and there are numerous active youth initiatives. The force has introduced specialist PCSOs, such as the vulnerable adult intervention PCSOs, whose purpose is to identify victims of modern slavery and human trafficking in their communities. Other specialist PCSOs work with vulnerable adults, missing children, victims of domestic abuse and young people. The introduction of 40 trained sexual offence liaison officers is likely to improve support for victims and the force’s approach to serious sexual offences.
The force is making effective use of protective powers and measures to safeguard vulnerable victims. However, the number of domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs) has decreased from 237 in 2017 to 156 in 2018. The force has reviewed this decline and has identified reasons for this. Not all domestic violence protection notices (DVPNs) go ahead due to the poor quality of applications. In some cases, the force’s legal services have assessed that there is insufficient evidence for a charge and so the force has withdrawn the application. The force also identified that the courts are refusing to grant repeat DVPO applications, as this isn’t their intended purpose.
The level of ‘right to know’ and ‘right to ask’ (Clare’s Law) disclosures remains reasonably constant, which means that the force continues to offer victims and potential victims information to keep them safe. The number of disclosures made has increased from 3 to 4 under right to ask but decreased from 37 to 27 under right to know. The number of right to ask applications has reduced however from 94 to 47. This may reflect a reduced public awareness of the scheme and the force should consider how to address this.
The force works with a range of partner organisations to ensure bespoke specialist safeguarding arrangements are in place for vulnerable people. There are two multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASHs) – one at Medway and a central referral unit (CRU) based in Ashford that operates as a MASH. The police and social services partnership within the CRU operates 24 hours a day, every day. Other partners (such as child services and probation) are available during office hours. The CRU is therefore able to complete real-time assessments and referrals. The Medway MASH is still developing. It has recently implemented early help arrangements, and there is a new multi-agency governance structure for tackling domestic abuse. Medway is yet to implement Operation Encompass. This is the notification by the police to schools of domestic abuse incidents affecting their pupils within the previous 24 hours. Schools in Sandwich and Deal are engaged in the scheme and the next stage is for Medway to begin using the scheme in autumn 2019. The force is currently engaging with Medway to ensure that everything is ready to introduce Operation Encompass smoothly.
The force is part of an established and effective multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) process. The force and statutory voluntary agencies refer all high-risk cases of domestic abuse to one of the 13 MARACs operating in the county. There is little variation in the proportion of referrals received from the various organisations, but the volume has fallen in the 12 months to June 2018, for almost every agency except children’s social services (which has increased from 37 to 51 referrals). Housing referrals have reduced from 67 to 44. Over the same period, the rate of repeat referrals to the MARAC reduced from 839 to 751. The force and its partners are constantly assessing the numbers and types of referrals to understand the changing nature of demand.
The force regularly seeks and uses feedback from vulnerable victims and service users to improve services. It has engaged with victims of crime to seek their views on the service provided. This includes victims of domestic abuse and some victims of rape. The force has been proactive in engaging with victims who haven’t supported its investigations and shares the results with partner organisations at forums such as the MASH.
Kent Police manages the risk of registered sex offenders (RSOs) effectively, minimising the risk to the public. The force manages 2,451 RSOs living within the county. To deal with this demand there are dedicated teams in each of the three divisions, made up of well-trained and qualified officers and police staff. Each officer has responsibility for between 36 and 70 individual RSOs. RSOs feature in the shift briefings and the force expects response officers and CPT staff, including PCSOs, to know who the RSOs are in their area.
The force is proactive in its approach to identifying those who share indecent images of children online. It has achieved positive results in the past from the cases initiated by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP). But the police online investigation team (POLIT) that completes this work is currently experiencing increased demand. This has affected their ability to manage their workloads and has created backlogs in their cases awaiting action. Demand from paedophile-hunter cases is increasing. In 2017, there were 30 investigations instigated in this way. These cases require an immediate response from the POLIT, as the paedophile hunters will only contact the force once arrangements are in place and they are travelling to meet the suspect and the risk of confrontation and the risk to the suspect are high. The force is aware of the capacity problems within the POLIT and has plans to increase the numbers of staff in the unit to meet demand.
The force routinely uses preventative or ancillary orders to protect the public from dangerous and sexual offenders. In the 12 months to 31 March 2018, the force issued 151 sexual harm prevention orders (SHPOs). This is a slight increase on the 147 issued in the previous 12-month period. The force actively manages breaches of such orders. It reports that it dealt with six SHPO breaches in the 12 months to March 2018. In the same period, the force issued four sexual risk orders, with two of these being breached.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
The force 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 matters of interest. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently to maintain the right levels of armed capability and capacity.
Kent Police also has a good understanding of the armed criminals who operate in its communities, the likelihood of terrorist attacks and the venues that may require additional protection in times of heightened threat.
All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. There are different standards for each role that armed officers perform. Most of the armed incidents in Kent are attended by officers trained to an armed response vehicle (ARV) standard. Kent Police has sufficient ARV capability. It is one of several forces that has received Home Office funding as part of a programme to boost armed policing in certain parts of England and Wales. We established that the force has fulfilled its commitment to the programme by increasing the availability of ARVs.
Incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and specialist capabilities of more highly trained officers. We found that Kent Police has good arrangements in place to mobilise specialist officers should their skills be required. Tried and tested procedures are in place to draw on the support of the regional counter terrorist unit or neighbouring forces should these capabilities be required.
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. Consequently, 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.
This is an area where Kent Police performs well. Close working between Kent Police and neighbouring forces means that armed officers can deploy quickly and efficiently in the region. Kent Police, together with forces in the East of England, is planning to strengthen collaborative arrangements. As well as making savings, these plans aim to standardise training and improve the availability of firearms officers throughout the region.
We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Kent are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. Also, the force has an important role in designing training exercises with other organisations that simulate these types of attack. 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 found that Kent Police 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