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Sussex 2018/19

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This is HMICFRS’s fifth PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Sussex Police. PEEL is designed to give you information about how your local police force is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable both across England and Wales, and year on year.

Sussex Police was inspected in tranche three and we found:

the extent to which the force is effective at reducing crime and keeping people safe is good.

the extent to which the force operates efficiently and sustainably requires improvement.

the extent to which the force treats the public and its workforce legitimately is good.

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PEEL: Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy 2018/19 – Sussex Police

Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary


HMI's observations

I am satisfied with most aspects of the performance of Sussex Police. But the force needs to make improvements in how it deals with vulnerable people. It also needs to improve its efficiency if it is to provide a consistently cost effective service to the public.

The force has a good track record of taking positive action following our inspections. I commend the force for the way it has improved how it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour. There has been an investment in neighbourhood policing. And there is a clear plan as to how these resources will be used to support local communities and prevent crime from happening. The force also investigates crime well.

Despite these positives, I am disappointed that the force has not responded to our previous concerns and recommendations as to how it safeguards vulnerable people. It does not consistently assess the risks or respond to them in a timely manner, which means that people at risk may not always be adequately protected.

The force is struggling to meet demand for its services. It should gain a better understanding of how it uses and prioritises resources to meet current demand. This knowledge, along with a more detailed assessment of its workforce capabilities, should help it to develop strong and sustainable plans for its future.

The force continues to uphold an ethical culture and promote standards of professional behaviour well. It treats its workforce fairly and has improved how it supports staff wellbeing since our last inspection.

Given the force’s previous track record and ability to respond positively to our inspection findings, I am confident that it will take the necessary steps to ensure that these issues are resolved quickly.


How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?

Last updated 20/01/2020

Sussex Police’s approach to neighbourhood policing has improved but it could do more to understand the threats facing its communities. The force identifies opportunities to work with local communities to understand them better. But they are limited to certain groups at present. When community problems are identified, prevention officers and staff work effectively with partner organisations to find solutions.

The force continues to improve its ability to identify vulnerable people. Once officers and staff arrive at an incident, they assess victims’ vulnerability well. The force is good at managing offenders who are a risk to vulnerable people. These include registered sex offenders and people sharing indecent images of children online.

The force is getting better at uncovering hidden harm. For example, it identified a record number of honour-based incidents this year. Also, we were pleased to see it has improved its arrest rate for perpetrators of domestic abuse considerably since 2017.

However, the force needs to improve its management of risk. Increased demand is affecting the force’s ability to attend incidents and investigate crimes promptly. A lot of callers to its non-urgent police 101 number hang up. Risks to victims during these delays aren’t always managed as effectively as they could be.

View the five questions for effectiveness


How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?

Last updated 20/01/2020
Requires improvement

Sussex Police has a good understanding of public demand. The force uses specialist software to understand the nature and complexity of the crimes it deals with and how these shape demand.

However, the force’s approach to managing demand isn’t working as it expects. For example, officers gave examples of inefficiencies in their roles. These included travelling long distances to deal with prisoners in custody who could be dealt with by officers nearby. Also, officers work in isolation, which may mean they are duplicating the work of other staff.

The force is under pressure. Officers face high levels of stress and sickness. Calls are being missed. For example, in March 2019, 45 percent of calls transferred to 101 were abandoned.

The force is good at working with outside partners like the ambulance service to make sure it can support vulnerable people who repeatedly contact the emergency services.

The force will recruit an extra 100 PCSOs to expand its prevention teams and help manage local priorities. Change programme governance has improved and management of low-risk incidents is now good.

Sussex Police is good at planning future demand using innovative technology. It is working hard to understand future demand and how its complexity will shape its response.

View the two questions for efficiency


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

Last updated 20/01/2020

The force needs to work on its communication – especially between staff and senior leaders. For example, it has started to pose ethical dilemmas to staff on the intranet to get their comments and improve decision making. However, these dilemmas don’t come from the staff themselves.

The professional standards department (PSD) is mainly effective at communicating lessons about ethics to the wider workforce. It would benefit from being more visible to encourage more communication between the PSD and staff.

Sussex Police treats abuse of position for sexual purpose as serious corruption. Staff have mandatory training on the subject. But few could remember what signs to look for, despite this being part of the training.

Staff mainly trust grievance procedures. The force meets timescales, manages outcomes and captures any learning from grievances.

The force is much better at supporting staff wellbeing than in our last inspection. It has achieved this through the work of wellbeing champions and offering activities to support mental and physical health.

Despite this, officers describe their workloads as high. Plus, teams across the whole force report high levels of stress. Sickness rates are high too. The force has the fourth highest sickness absence rates in the country (5.2 absences per officer).

High workloads are mainly caused by demand and a lack of staff in key positions. This is reflected in the force’s significant overtime spend. For example, in the SIUs, the option of working double shifts is relatively common among people who feel they can. So there is still more that the force can do to improve wellbeing.

View the three questions for legitimacy

Other inspections

How well has the force performed in our other inspections?

In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMICFRS carries out inspections of a wide range of policing activity throughout the year. Some of these are conducted alongside the PEEL inspections; others are joint inspections.

Findings from these inspections are published separately to the main PEEL reports, but are taken into account when producing the rounded assessment of each force's performance.

Key facts – 2019/20

Force Area

1,462 square miles


1.72m people
up8% local 10 yr change


87% frontline police officers
92% national level
3.13 per 1000 population
3.69 national level
down1% 10yr change in local workforce
down5% 10yr national change

Victim-based crimes

0.05 per person
0.06 national level
up7% Local 5 year trend
up9% National 5 year trend


49p per person per day local
59p per person per day national

Points of context provided by the force

  • The area covers the rural and urban counties of East and West Sussex and the city of Brighton and Hove. The force works closely with Surrey Police.
  • Sussex has millions of visitors each year from the UK and overseas, including 39 million passengers travelling through Gatwick Airport.

Police and crime plan priorities

A PCP sets out the police and crime commissioner’s (PCC’s) priorities for policing and the resources the PCC has allocated to the chief constable for achieving these priorities.