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South Yorkshire PEEL 2018


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

Last updated 27/09/2019

South Yorkshire Police treats the public and its workforce legitimately.

The force is outstanding at developing and maintaining an ethical culture. The chief constable and force leaders act as role models. The workforce knows and believes in the moral and ethical high standards expected of them. The force has a no-blame culture and it uses an organisational justice model to guide its decision making.It follows national vetting guidance and routinely monitors vetting decisions to identify and address any issues.

The force is outstanding at tackling corruption. It has conducted a full assessment of its corruption threats and has a clear strategy to tackle them. It takes early action to support people who may be at risk of corruption, and monitors information systems to identify corrupt behaviour.

The force is good at treating its workforce fairly. It works to understand the issues of fairness affecting its people and has a range of ways for staff to voice their concerns, and for leaders to seek and act on feedback. Where the force identifies unfairness, it works to reduce this. It has a positive action strategy to encourage more diversity in its workforce.

Wellbeing is a priority for the force. Leaders understand and promote this. We found a good range of self-help tools available for officers and staff. The force takes timely action to support its people, but its occupational health support needs to be more accessible.

The force manages the performance and development of its staff well. It has a good understanding of performance across its workforce and monitors for fair treatment. It has a good process for identifying talent. Its promotion processes are accessible, clear and open.

In 2017, we judged South Yorkshire Police as good at treating the public 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.

Summary for question 1

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


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

South Yorkshire Police is outstanding in the way in which it has developed and maintains an ethical culture. The expected behaviours come from the chief constable and force leaders who set the tone and act as role models. The force’s plan-on-a-page states, “We will ensure we deliver in line with the code of ethics with particular emphasis on our values of integrity, openness, fairness, respect, honesty, courage and teamwork.”

The chief constable promotes the code of ethics through a contract with staff called ‘the pledge’. All supervisors and managers have attended sessions with the chief constable where he has spoken about the importance of their role as ethical leaders within the organisation. He describes his expectations of them and the challenges they may face and must overcome in their roles. At the end of these sessions, the chief constable asks each member of the workforce to commit to and sign up to the force expectations. We consider this positive practice.

The chief constable requires five objectives of the workforce. The first objective (the code of ethics) is to “insist on the high standards of professionalism that the people of South Yorkshire expect and deserve”. The workforce supports these standards and understands what the chief constable expects of them. The force further promotes the code of ethics through a range of media including its intranet ‘ethics portal’, its policies and procedures, and training courses where staff discuss ethical dilemmas. Student officers receive training in ethics, values, the national decision model, and equality and diversity.

The force has established processes into which the workforce can refer difficult ethical issues. It acts on any learning and feeds this back to the workforce. Its internal ethics committee has good representation from all areas of the force. It meets quarterly to discuss ethical questions submitted by the workforce either through representatives on the committee or through the ethics portal on the force’s intranet site. Feedback from the recent staff survey was positive regarding the workforce ‘having an ethical voice’. Officers and staff feel that they can speak up about ethical issues and feel supported.

The force receives good independent support with its ethical decision making. The office of the PCC arranges two independent panels that scrutinise and advise on ethics: the ethics panel and a protest panel. This ethics panel meets five times a year and its purpose is to help the PCC and chief constable build the trust and confidence of the public and partners in South Yorkshire. The panel also advises on ethical decisions and encourages a culture of lessons learnt. The protests panel advises the force on how to deal with protestors and communities in an ethical way.

The force’s leaders act as role models and encourage a no-blame culture. It has an organisational justice model, which assists in its decision making when a member of the workforce has done something wrong. The model uses a sliding scale to determine the extent of wrongdoing by the individual and whether it was an intentional act with unintended consequences or behaviour that the individual should have known would not be tolerated by the force. The force uses this model to help with the initial and final assessments of any wrongdoing. It ensures that action taken is proportionate and appropriate.

The organisational justice model seeks to promote a culture of learning and development as opposed to blame and punishment. The force encourages the reporting of genuine errors and mistakes to identify learning opportunities. It emphasises that standards and integrity are important in serving the public, and supports staff who make honest mistakes, with a focus on individual and organisational learning. We consider this positive practice.

South Yorkshire Police complies with the national vetting code of practice and authorised professional practice. It processes vetting renewals promptly, meaning it doesn’t need to restrict the roles of people who are waiting for their vetting to be renewed. The force routinely monitors vetting decisions to identify any disparities and consider mitigating actions. It reports these to its equality, trust and confidence board and gives an annual report to the independent ethics panel.

The force’s vetting manager analyses applications where individuals with a protected characteristic have had their clearance refused. The force’s equality lead reviews these decisions. Where a decision to refuse clearance indicates possible unconscious bias against any protected characteristic, the vetting manager reviews and reverses the decision, unless there is substantive reason not to. The vetting manager contacts any applicant who has failed vetting, to ensure that they have understood how to complete the forms correctly. The force also analyses information to determine if there are any differences in its treatment of officers and staff who are subject to complaint and misconduct allegations.

The force complies with its obligation to create flagstone records and notify the College of Policing if someone should be on the barred list.

The force communicates the clear standards of professional behaviour it expects of its police officers and staff. The chief constable speaks to them directly about his expectations of them as leaders. Standards are also communicated via briefings by the head of professional standards, via the publication of misconduct cases and lessons learnt, and via intranet updates. Supervisors and line managers reinforce these standards through a formal integrity health check, which is part of the annual performance review for all staff. It discusses professional boundaries, business interests and secondary employment, and notifiable associations (including self-reporting). Both the employee and their line manager must sign the health check. This ensures that the force makes these relevant checks with staff every 12 months and that staff read and understand them. We consider this positive practice.

Tackling corruption

South Yorkshire Police is outstanding in the way in which it tackles corruption. It has a comprehensive assessment of its counter corruption threats, and a clear strategy that identifies its priorities. It takes early action to support members of its workforce who may be at risk of corruption. The force proactively monitors its information systems to identify corrupt behaviour and works with external organisations to help them to identify and report inappropriate and corrupt behaviour.

The force manages the risk of corruption well, by analysing a range of information that provides early indication of corrupt behaviour. It also identifies members of the workforce who may be vulnerable to corruption. The force has regular meetings to discuss people, intelligence and other information. This information includes a range of data such as complaints, sickness, social media, poor performance, business interests and inappropriate associations. It also receives information from its confidential reporting line. This line works well; staff know about it and trust it.

The force’s counter corruption unit is well resourced. It has dedicated intelligence and investigative resources and equipment, makes good use of the surveillance capacity within the region, and has good analytical support. It has the skills required to act promptly and investigate reports of corruption.

The force works well to prevent officers and staff abusing their position. In 2016, we made a national recommendation for forces to implement a plan to achieve the capability and capacity required to seek intelligence on potential abuse of position for sexual purposes. The force has acted on this recommendation. The chief constable and head of professional standards launched the ‘protectors not predators’ campaign via a video linked communication to all staff. The campaign raised staff awareness of abuse of position for sexual purposes and we consider it positive practice. When we asked the workforce about their understanding of the issue, it was clear they had understood the message. Supervisors have received guidance on the warning signs to look for.

The force engages well with external organisations to seek intelligence to ensure officers and staff are not abusing their position for sexual purposes. It runs conferences with its partner agencies to raise awareness of this type of abuse. This is particularly for those organisations that work with victims. Its last conference included 80 delegates from different organisations as well as individuals who work with the force. The force encourages its partner agencies to find out the victim’s experience of the police and how they were treated. As a result, partners know what to look for and how to report any unacceptable behaviour. The force also has confidential reporting lines in place where the workforce, partners and victims can contact the police discreetly to report this type of behaviour. We consider this positive practice.

Summary for question 2

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


Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure it has effective governance arrangements in place to analyse a range of workforce data and information to identify the greatest threats to wellbeing and take effective action to address them.
  • The force should ensure that it analyses and understands disparities and patterns in its grievance and local resolution arrangements.
  • The force should improve its provision for physical and mental health referrals through its occupational health provision.

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

South Yorkshire Police works well to understand the issues its people have about fairness at work. It has a range of ways for staff to voice their concerns, and for leaders to seek feedback including staff surveys, the ethics committee and the chief constable’s road shows.

The workforce has a good awareness of the channels open to them. The force’s staff associations are complimentary about the force’s willingness to listen to them and the people they represent.

The force has a range of staff networks who represent the workforce and provide feedback to the force. This range of representation has increased since our last legitimacy inspection and now includes the following groups: black and minority ethnic, Muslim, Christian, disability, women, and 4D (dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia). The individual groups come together as part of ‘the hub’, which gives them a stronger voice in the force and allows them to influence change positively.

The force acts on feedback and uses the ‘My SYP’ portal on the its intranet site to communicate to staff. This includes publishing minutes of meetings and updates. The workforce clearly values the chief constable’s visibility and presence at roadshows and at the colleagues panel. The force has recently completed a full evaluation of its constable-to-sergeant promotion process, using feedback about the fairness of the process as well as exit interview feedback to inform future processes.

Where it identifies differences in the treatment of people, the force works to reduce this. For example, it has a positive action strategy to encourage people of all backgrounds to work for the force. In its latest recruitment of officers, it increased its percentage of BAME candidates. The force has also increased its recruitment of female officers. Women now represent 32.6 percent of the force and are represented well at all ranks. Through its ‘mind the gap’ event, the force has encouraged female officers to apply for roles where they were poorly represented.

The force is improving its approach to more formal concerns about fairness raised by the workforce through its grievance procedure. In 2018, the force commissioned independent auditors to review this process. They made several recommendations, which the force has since implemented. The force has now published a revised procedure which has been well publicised.

The force has effective processes in place to scrutinise workforce information and data to identify differences in recruitment, retention and progression of the workforce. It oversees this data through its diversity, confidence and equality board chaired by the chief constable, and this is further scrutinised by the PCC’s trust and confidence board. The board also examines information about disparities in misconduct procedures. However, the force does not have a good enough understanding of its grievance data following the recent implementation of its new process.

Supporting workforce wellbeing

In our 2017 legitimacy inspection, we said the force needed to improve the way it prioritises and communicates matters of wellbeing to the workforce. We are pleased to find that wellbeing is a clear priority for the force, and leaders understand and promote this well. It features as a priority in the force’s plan-on-a-page, and the force recognises that valuing its people underpins its ability to achieve its policing priorities. Since our last legitimacy inspection, the force has introduced a wellbeing strategy, reviewed its provision and understanding of wellbeing and changed its approach. It has a new governance structure in place, with a wellbeing executive meeting having oversight, a wellbeing board containing practitioners, and wellbeing groups in its districts and departments.

The force takes account of good practice, guidance and accreditation. It has assessed itself against the blue light framework, which the University of Lancaster has evaluated. This, along with other force information, has identified priority areas for action including personal resilience and early intervention for stress.

The force has also used the roadmap to excellence A common goal for police wellbeing from the NPCC, Home Office and College of Policing to inform its approach.

Leaders play a positive role in raising the awareness of wellbeing needs. In the six months prior to our inspection, the force held two wellbeing conferences for staff, led by a chief officer; these were well received. The force’s operational wellbeing lead gives an input at street skills training days and conferences to keep staff informed about what’s available and what’s new. A dedicated page on the force intranet promotes wellbeing, with useful links, upcoming events, contacts and a blog – the force describes this as a ‘one stop shop’ for wellbeing. The force has 170 wellbeing champions. It has recently refreshed their role and responsibilities and given them further training to achieve more consistency across the force.

We found a good range of self-help tools available to support the wellbeing of its people. These include a health and wellbeing toolkit, telephone counselling, and a wellbeing zone on the force intranet.

The force has provided staff with ‘back up buddy’, which is an application officers and staff can download to their personal or work phone. This provides 24/7 advice on how to tackle the mental health challenges of policing. It has been developed with police officers, for those working in a policing environment. The force has also started to refurbish its wellbeing rooms under the guidance of a specialist consultant, and further rooms are to be completed.

The force takes prompt action to support its people. However, it should improve the timeliness of its occupational health provision. The force’s sickness levels for both police officers and staff are slightly below the England and Wales force average. Preventative measures are in place through occupational health providing mandatory assessments for those officers working in traumatic or difficult policing areas, and referrals for those who have experienced trauma. However, we found that the occupational health unit can’t cope with the demand it is experiencing.Its referral-to-appointment time is lengthy. This means that between January 2018 and December 2018 officers and staff had to wait an average of 38 days for a mental health referral and 44 days for an appointment for physical injury.

The force is working with its officers to provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to be able to help themselves. It is trialling and adapting its wellbeing sessions using external experts. These sessions are relevant to the specific challenges the workforce faces. For example, it is working with an external company to provide training on personal resilience for those working in traumatic and high-stress environments. This aims to provide staff with a toolkit to help improve their resilience and be better able to manage stress.

Managing performance and development of officers and staff

South Yorkshire Police manages the performance and development of its staff well. Its people strategy has a five-step approach to define, identify, target, develop and realise talent. It identifies talent, through its performance development processes.

The force uses the national electronic PDR system to assess the performance of its staff, and does this in line with the national competency and values framework. We found the force had an 85.3 percent PDR completion rate. Officers and staff must complete PDRs annually, on the anniversary of joining the force. The focus of the force’s performance development is about the individual’s competence in their role as well as their potential to progress. While the workforce considers the PDR process to be fair, some feel that it is mainly for people who are seeking promotion.

The force has developed and supported supervisors to conduct fair and effective assessments through masterclasses on managing and assessing performance. Officers and staff feel that the process is fair, but some told us that supervisors don’t always address poor performance. The force has people on improvement plans but needs to make better use of unsatisfactory performance procedures where appropriate. The force is aware of this. It has been running workshops to improve supervisors’ confidence in moving staff from supported management action into formal action.

The force has a good understanding of performance across its workforce. A career services team quality assures PDRs through dip sampling. This identifies themes for general improvement, feedback on completion, and where the force needs to take formal action to address underperformance. At district and departmental level, quarterly performance reviews examine the overall results from PDRs. The staff engagement panel also complete ‘health checks’ of PDRs to check for quality and fairness. The panel challenges senior managers to ensure they are using the full range of grades appropriately. The chief constable demonstrates a keen interest in the PDR review process to ensure consistency across the organisation.

South Yorkshire Police has a comprehensive and well-publicised process for talent management. The force identifies talented individuals as part of its PDR process. The focus of this is on maintaining their current competency level as well as identifying potential. The force has found that this approach encourages constructive conversations enabling people to further develop in their role. A ‘My CPD’ record on the intranet allows staff to record what they have achieved. Line managers and mentors can access this, if appropriate. This information can be used to guide the PDR process, development opportunities, and succession planning.

The force’s promotion processes are accessible, clear and open. It provides candidates with useful information regarding the process, including feedback to improve their performance. The force requires district and departmental heads to endorse any applications for promotion. Those who have been through the process consider it fair and accessible. The force has completed a full review of its constable-to-sergeant process. This was done due to a decreasing number of constables seeking upwards progression compared with the level of known vacancies. Following this review, the force has developed a promotion support programme.

The force also has 11 dyslexia assessors in place who mentor staff day-to-day and during promotion processes. In addition, each district has a development board that all staff can attend. The force’s staff networks are positive about these approaches.

All promotion processes involve a panel of three assessors, to ensure fairness and independence. The force invites the police federation to observe and provide feedback. External partners take part in the promotion processes for chief superintendents and police staff equivalents. All the officers we spoke to during the inspection felt that the promotion process is fair and open.

Summary for question 3