Thames Valley PEEL 2018
How legitimately does the force treat the public and its workforce?
Overall, the force treats the public and its workforce legitimately. Ethical behaviour is important to the force leadership and the code of ethics is reinforced through training courses where ethical dilemmas are discussed and through information displayed in police buildings. The force has an ethics board that reviews the ethics in all force policies. But most staff aren’t aware of how they can obtain guidance on ethical issues other than from their line manager.
Staff are very aware of what behaviour is acceptable and the force responds appropriately when those standards are not met. The force can improve on how it identifies the early signs of potentially corrupt activity. Too many of its staff do not have up-to-date vetting. Its counter-corruption plan needs better monitoring systems, and it can do more to establish better links with groups that work with vulnerable people.
In 2017, we judged Thames Valley Police to be good at treating the public and its workforce fairly.
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 102 stop and search records to assess how reasonable the recorded grounds were. We found that 75 percent of those records contained reasonable grounds. (This assessment is based on the grounds recorded 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 hasn’t identified how much find rates differ between those searched from different ethnicities and across different types of searches (including drug possession and supply-type offences). Neither does the force appear to identify the prevalence of possession-only drug searches, or the extent to which these align with local or force-level priorities.
The force publishes the minutes of the independent advisory group (IAG) meeting where the figures relating to this issue, and the potential reasons for it, are discussed. But we did not find evidence that the force had analysed the issue to understand and explain how it arises, nor did we find evidence of any action that had been taken.
The 2017 inspection listed the following areas for improvement:
- The force should ensure that it supports the work of the IAGs by providing training for members and by providing clearly accessible information about their work, and about how to become a member, on the force internet.
- The force should ensure that its arrangements to scrutinise use of force by its staff incorporate greater use of external scrutiny.
- The force should do more to ensure it has made comprehensive arrangements to provide information and support to people who may wish to make a complaint against the police, when they come from a group that might find this difficult or is less likely to engage with the police.
As part of our risk-based approach to inspection we reviewed the progress the force has made in these areas. We found that it has made good progress in some areas, while others aren’t yet fully resolved.
- Information about the work of the IAG is now accessible on the force intranet. IAG members now receive an induction pack to make them aware of the requirements of the role. Training, such as visits to custody suites and accompanying patrol officers, is available and has been taken up.
- Leaflets with information on how to make a complaint have been produced and are distributed through custody suites and enquiry offices. These leaflets are accessible to people with learning difficulties.
- The force now shares data about its use of force with local independent advisory groups on request. It plans to make this a standing agenda item for its strategic IAG so it can fully address this issue.
How well does the force ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully?
Thames Valley Police requires improvement in ethical and lawful workforce behaviour.
Ethical behaviour is an important part of how the force and its staff operate, and ethics and ethical dilemmas feature in its training courses. The chief officer team is seen as ethical and supports a culture of learning, although most staff aren’t aware of how to obtain guidance on ethical issues, other than from their line manager.
Staff are aware of acceptable standards of behaviour and the force responds appropriately when these are not met. It should make sure that its guidance on the types of gifts staff can accept is satisfactory.
Thames Valley Police can do more to identify potentially corrupt activity at an early stage. Too many staff do not have up-to-date vetting for their role.
The counter-corruption strategy would benefit from the inclusion of more information about corruption risks with named leads accountable for each area. The force should review the efforts it has made to create links with organisations that deal with vulnerable people. This would allow them to be informed of potentially corrupt activity at an early stage.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure the anti-corruption Strategic Threat Assessment and Control Strategy are of a good quality, up to date and include current data.
- The force should take steps to make sure that officers and staff are aware of how to raise ethical issues within the force.
- The force should review its policies on accepting gifts and hospitality and business interests to make sure that they are in line with national guidance and best practice and understood by staff.
- The force should reassure itself about the effectiveness of actions taken to raise awareness of external agencies who deal with vulnerable people about abuse of authority for a sexual purpose.
Cause of concern
The size of the vetting backlog within Thames Valley Police is a cause of concern.
- The force should make sure that all staff have received at least the lowest level of vetting clearance for their roles as quickly as possible. And it should work to clear both the vetting backlog and new vetting renewals when they become due, so that it is fully compliant with the national vetting guidelines.
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. The force had the following areas for improvement from that inspection:
- The force should do more to ensure that officers and staff have confidence in the grievance procedure and the new promotion assessment processes.
- The force should refresh the processes and provide more information to the workforce about them.
As part of our risk-based approach to inspection, we assessed what progress the force had made in respect of this area for improvement. We found that the force has fully addressed this area. It has refreshed the promotion process and introduced workshops to provide more information about the process to prospective candidates. It has reviewed how it deals with grievances, placing a greater focus on early resolution. It has trained ten staff members to be internal grievance mediators and provided updated guidance to staff who deal with grievances.