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Kent PEEL 2018


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

Last updated 02/05/2019

Kent Police treats the public and its workforce legitimately.

It is good at behaving ethically and lawfully. Force leaders model this and support a culture of learning. The force encourages officers and staff to think about how they would respond to ethical dilemmas.

The force has an anti-corruption plan. But it needs good monitoring systems to support this. And it needs to have more people working in this area. The force is making better links with groups that work with vulnerable people. This will help it manage corruption better.

In 2017, we judged Kent Police as outstanding at treating the public and its workforce fairly.

Questions for Legitimacy


To what extent does the force treat all of the people it serves 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. However, we reviewed a representative sample of 103 stop and search records to assess the reasonableness of the recorded grounds. We found that 80 percent had reasonable grounds recorded. Our assessment is based on the grounds recorded on the record 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.

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 between 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 were unable to find analysis it had carried out to understand reasons for disparities or an explanation of 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 its counter corruption unit:
    • has sufficient capability and capacity to be effective in its proactive approach to counter corruption; and
    • 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.
  • The force should ensure it builds effective relationships with the groups and organisations that support and work with vulnerable persons.

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

Kent Police leaders continue to promote the Code of Ethics. It makes sure its workforce receives advice and extensive training on ethical decision-making. As a result, officers and staff have an excellent understanding of ethical policing. All officers spoken to during our inspection were aware of the importance of ethical decision-making and were able to give examples. The force has well-established culture boards in place and an ethics committee. These continue to provide the force with a solid base for its ethical developments.

The force has introduced a monthly ethical dilemmas section on its internal website. This is generating debate among the workforce, especially as it asks the reader to make a judgment on the dilemma. The force publishes the results as percentages, thereby encouraging further ethical discussions. All staff we spoke to during our inspection were aware of and engaged in this initiative. The last dilemma was about sexual contact with a vulnerable victim some months after professional contact had ceased.

Force leaders act as role models for ethical decision-making. This includes encouraging individual and organisational learning rather than assigning blame. A video called ‘understanding the boundaries’ has been used to further underpin the workforce’s understanding of acceptable behaviours, including abuse of authority for sexual purpose. There is an established and well-used process for the workforce to refer difficult ethical issues. The force acts on learning and provides feedback to the workforce.

The force met its national vetting deadline target of 8 December 2018. It has now re-vetted all but three of its workforce (with the three cases, there are either outstanding enquiries or the applicant is long-term sick). Vetting renewals are now business as usual, identified by a ‘bring forward’ on the force’s system. However, the recent large recruitment campaign has seen an increase in demand, with an additional 200 officers and 82 police staff requiring vetting. This means that backlogs are beginning to appear. The force is aware of this and has recruited additional staff to deal with the problem. The force monitors the results of its vetting decision-making to identify any differences between groups. The director of human resources receives a report that details the reasons for rejections, including for BAME candidates.

The force complies with its duty to notify the College of Policing about members of the workforce who are under investigation for gross misconduct, or who have left while under investigation, or who have been dismissed for gross misconduct to prevent them from working within law enforcement. Officers and staff understand the expected standards of behaviour. They know about the policies on business interests, reportable associations and gifts and hospitality. The force has effective ways of clarifying and reinforcing acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. It publishes the results of discipline cases and emerging themes, especially about inappropriate contact with victims of crime. The professional standards department (PSD) also produces and publishes a ‘lessons learnt’ bulletin. The force’s very positive and open culture means that the workforce is fully aware of the risks of not adhering to the standards. 

Tackling corruption

The force has an effective anti-corruption strategic assessment. It subjects this to a satisfactory governance and refresh process. The strategy is comprehensive, but because of limited capacity the counter-corruption investigation unit (CCIU) can’t address all the strands within it. For example, the force doesn’t use the information that it holds on its workforce, such as who individuals associate with, that might identify those who may become a corruption risk. As a result, it is unable to put effective interventions in place to support those individuals. Plans are in place to arrange a meeting between the main departments to identify those who are at risk of corruption and then make interventions.

The force has made good progress in the last few months against the outstanding areas of our 2016 legitimacy national recommendation. The review of CCIU capacity is continuing and the force expects to create new posts in 2019. The new Athena IT platform should help the force to protect the information contained within its systems. The work required to create effective links with external organisations has been slow to make progress. This work aims to create relationships with groups and organisations that work with vulnerable people, so that the force can gather any potential intelligence related to officers abusing their position for a sexual purpose. Although progress has been slow, recent activity directed by the head of the PSD is beginning to create the desired links and relationships.

The force has adopted and complies with the national strategy on the problem of officers abusing their position for a sexual purpose. The workforce’s understanding of this type of abuse of authority, and the unacceptability of such activities, is strong. Everyone we spoke to during our inspection understood this. Coupled with the workforce’s knowledge of how to report such types of behaviour, this means the force is in a healthy position in this area.

Summary 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.