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Sussex PEEL 2018


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.

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 inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 legitimacy inspection has been carried over.

However, we reviewed a representative sample of 282 stop and search records to assess how reasonable the recorded grounds were. We found that 85 percent had reasonable grounds. Our assessment is based on the grounds recorded by the searching officer and not the grounds 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.

The force has complied with some of this recommendation. But it doesn’t monitor how far find rates vary between people from different ethnicities and across different types of searches. This includes separate identification of find rates for drug possession and supply-type offences.

It isn’t clear that the force monitors enough data to identify how often possession-only drug searches happen, or how much these match local or force-level priorities.

We reviewed the force’s website and found no obvious mention of its analysis to understand and explain the reasons for inconsistencies, or any action taken.


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


Sussex Police has built an ethical culture. The force has clear and accessible policies around ethics. It also refers to the Code of Ethics in training and communication with its staff. However, there is limited evidence that supervisors pass on these messages to the workforce.

The force’s confidential reporting line is used a lot. This clearly demonstrates that staff are confident using the system. The PSD gives bi-annual updates through the internal force intranet on acceptable standards of behaviour. It also offers case studies to communicate the correct standards. 

Sussex Police is good at tackling potential corruption. It treats abuse of position for sexual purpose as serious corruption. Staff have had mandatory training on this. However, few people could remember what signs to look for, despite this being in the training.

The force now has ‘focused conversations’ rather than performance development reviews. There is no formal recording process. So the force can’t be confident that supervisors are reminding staff of duties such as notifiable associations or business interests (personal links that might influence their work). Because the conversations aren’t monitored and demand is high, some supervisors openly say that they have either not taken place or are not a priority.

Areas for improvement

  • The force should take steps to make sure that officers and staff are aware of how to raise and refer ethical issues within the force. Learning outcomes should then be shared with the workforce.
  • The force should improve its workforce’s knowledge and understanding of the abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
  • The force should ensure it has full information technology (IT) monitoring to effectively protect the information contained within its systems.

Detailed findings for question 2


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


The force has mixed results for fairness at work. It encourages suggestions to improve things that are important to staff. But staff say they don’t always get feedback on
their ideas.

Staff mainly trust grievance procedures. The force meets timescales, manages outcomes and captures any learning from grievances. This has helped make the promotion process fairer. People with caring responsibilities (for children or parents, for example) are now given priority in promotions.

Workload pressures have caused high levels of stress leading to sickness absence. Staff on investigation teams are often taken away from their work to support planned events, which adds to the stress.

Some staff were very positive about mentoring and development, and felt that selection processes were fair. Others were less aware of them. These included female staff despite the reach of the Evolve network (a networking group for female officers and staff). The force also seeks the views of candidates following each promotion process to get feedback on the process.

The force has wellbeing champions who work hard to support staff. For example, there are initiatives supporting people to successfully complete the fitness test. Sports and social opportunities for taster sessions in sports are also well received.

Areas for improvement

  • The force needs to provide a more consistent preventative approach to wellbeing and prioritise the health of its staff by identifying and supporting staff who are struggling and taking any necessary action.
  • The force should improve how it records and monitors its ‘focused conversations’ to ensure they are consistently applied across the force and effectively capture issues such as poor performance.
  • The force should ensure that it has a talent programme that is open to everyone and consistently applied.

Detailed findings for question 3