Our inspection assessed how good Gwent Police is in ten areas of policing. We make graded judgments in nine of these ten as follows:
We also inspected how effective a service Gwent Police gives to victims of crime. We don’t make a graded judgment in this overall area.
We set out our detailed findings about things the force is doing well and where the force should improve in the rest of this report.
Important changes to PEEL
In 2014, we introduced our police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) inspections, which assess the performance of all 43 police forces in England and Wales. Since then, we have been continuously adapting our approach and during the past year we have seen the most significant changes yet.
We now use a more intelligence-led, continual assessment approach, rather than the annual PEEL inspections we used in previous years. For instance, we have integrated our rolling crime data integrity inspections into these PEEL assessments. Our PEEL victim service assessment also includes a crime data integrity element in at least every other assessment. We have also changed our approach to graded judgments. We now assess forces against the characteristics of good performance, set out in the PEEL Assessment Framework 2021/22, and we more clearly link our judgments to causes of concern and areas for improvement. We have also expanded our previous four-tier system of judgments to five tiers. As a result, we can state more precisely where we consider improvement is needed and highlight more effectively the best ways of doing things.
However, these changes mean that it isn’t possible to make direct comparisons between the grades awarded in this round of PEEL inspections with those from previous years. A reduction in grade, particularly from good to adequate, doesn’t necessarily mean that there has been a reduction in performance, unless we say so in the report.
The operating context for Welsh forces
It is important to recognise that forces in Wales operate in a different context to those in England. Although policing and justice aren’t devolved to Wales, essential services such as healthcare, accommodation, education and social services are. This means that Welsh police and justice activity take place in unique performance and legislative contexts. In Wales, devolved and non-devolved organisations work in partnership in to provide the best level of service possible to local people. Sometimes this means that forces in Wales will have to comply with both English and Welsh regulatory requirements.
HM Inspector’s observations
I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Gwent Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime, but there are areas where the force needs to improve.
These are the findings I consider most important from our assessments of the force over the last year.
The force needs to improve how it answers and attends calls for service, and how it identifies vulnerable callers
Call handlers don’t answer emergency calls quickly enough. And on many occasions, they don’t carry out thorough risk assessments when crime and incidents are reported to the control room. Too often, the force doesn’t meet its own published time frames for attending incidents and doesn’t give appropriate crime prevention or safety advice to callers who are waiting for officers to arrive.
The force needs to improve how it records its stop and searches and its external scrutiny arrangements
The force’s performance in recording reasonable grounds or its searches of members of the public needs to improve, to show the public that its use of police powers is fair and effective. Gwent Police has external scrutiny panels that need to increase how often officers’ stop and searches and use of force are monitored.
Gwent Police uses novel and promising ways to connect with its diverse communities and to increase public confidence
The force uses varied ways of identifying and communicating with its communities, including those who may not always have trust and confidence in the police. The force uses some promising early intervention initiatives with young people and has invested in novel approaches to help people feel safer in public places.
The force prioritises the prevention of crime and antisocial behaviour and works with partners to solve problems
Neighbourhood policing teams work well with partners, such as housing and health, social services and community safety teams, to solve problems and improve the quality of life for communities. Crime prevention and reduction is based on analysis and intelligence to make sure the force uses its resources effectively.
Gwent Police needs to make sure it has enough staff with appropriate skills to effectively investigate crime on behalf of victims
Too often, investigations of crime aren’t prompt, thorough or effectively supervised. The force doesn’t yet have a realistic and sustainable plan to make sure it has enough qualified investigators to meet its current or future demand.
The force works well with partners to take action against people who pose a risk to children, and to safeguard potential victims
Offender managers work with partners, such as probation, to divert sexual and violent offenders, and domestic abuse perpetrators, away from further or more serious offending. Dedicated staff work to protect children at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation and to disrupt offenders’ behaviour.
The force needs to make sure it has effective processes and enough skilled staff to protect vulnerable victims
Gwent Police doesn’t currently have enough trained staff to effectively meet the demands of keeping victims of domestic abuse safe. Backlogs of information requests for domestic abuse management processes are too high and not effectively risk assessed.
Gwent Police works hard to create a positive and inclusive workplace with good well-being support
The force leadership promotes positive ethical and professional standards and its well‑being support is comprehensive. I am aware of press reports making serious allegations regarding the behaviour of former and current officers of Gwent Police, both about the use of social media messaging and conduct towards colleagues in the workplace. These allegations didn’t form part of our inspection and they are being investigated separately. Future inspections of the force will consider the outcome of that investigation and the extent to which conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of the leadership’s efforts to promote strong ethical standards and acceptable behaviour.
The force should make sure it has an effective strategic planning framework to meet demand and improve performance
Gwent Police rigorously manages the money available to it, despite some funding challenges. But the force could take more prompt and effective action where a lack of capacity to meet demand results in a less effective performance.
HM Inspector of Constabulary
Reducing crime assessment
We have identified seven themes underpinning a force’s ability to reduce crime effectively which, taken together, allow an assessment of the extent to which the force is doing all it can to reduce crime. This is a narrative assessment, as police‑recorded crime figures can be affected by variations and changes in recording policy and practice, making it difficult to make comparisons over time.
Gwent Police aims to bolster its ability to reduce crime by:
- identifying diverse communities and groups of young people and working with them to reduce the likelihood of them becoming victims or perpetrators of crime and antisocial behaviour;
- contributing to multi-agency work to protect children and adults at risk of becoming victims of sex offending and exploitation;
- adopting short and longer-term problem-solving methods and, with partner agencies such as retailers, using evidence-based methods of preventing and reducing theft, robbery and burglary; and
- managing the risk that persistent, violent and serious sexual offenders pose and adopting new ways of working to reduce reoffending.
I am pleased the force is addressing some of the right areas of policing to reduce crime. But the following areas may negatively affect the force’s ability to do this:
- The force doesn’t yet answer or attend calls for service quickly enough, or thoroughly assess the risks to callers, meaning some victims of crime don’t benefit from prompt and appropriate police attendance.
- It doesn’t yet consistently investigate or supervise the investigation of crimes on behalf of victims to an acceptable standard.
- The force doesn’t yet use powers to protect victims of domestic abuse or manage the demands of protecting vulnerable people effectively.
- Gwent Police’s governance arrangements don’t yet allow it to recognise and swiftly improve less effective performance, or make sure that it has enough skilled staff to investigate crime on behalf of victims.
Providing a service to the victims of crime
Victim service assessment
This section describes our assessment of the service Gwent Police provides to victims. This is from the point of reporting a crime and throughout the investigation. As part of this assessment, we reviewed 90 case files.
When the police close a case of a reported crime, it will be given what is known as an ‘outcome type’. This describes the reason for closing it.
We also reviewed 20 cases each when the following outcome types were used:
- A suspect was identified, and the victim supported police action, but evidential difficulties prevented further action (outcome 15).
- A suspect was identified, but there were evidential difficulties, and the victim didn’t support or withdrew their support for police action (outcome 16).
- A suspect had been identified but the time limit for prosecution had expired (outcome 17).
While this assessment is ungraded, it influences graded judgments in the other areas we have inspected.
The force needs to improve the time it takes to answer emergency and non‑emergency calls. Repeat and vulnerable victims aren’t always identified
When a victim contacts the police, it is important that their call is answered quickly and that the right information is recorded accurately on police systems. The caller should be spoken to in a professional manner. The information should be assessed, taking into consideration threat, harm, risk, and vulnerability. And the victim should be given appropriate safeguarding advice.
The force needs to improve the time it takes to answer emergency and non‑emergency calls. When calls are answered, the victim’s vulnerability isn’t always assessed using a structured process. Repeat victims aren’t always identified, which means this information isn’t considered in deciding the response the victim should receive. Call handlers don’t always give victims advice on crime prevention and on how to preserve evidence.
In many cases, the force doesn’t respond promptly to calls for service
A force should aim to respond to calls for service within the timescales it has set, which are determined on the basis of the level of prioritisation given to the call. It should change call priority only if the original prioritisation is deemed inappropriate, or if further information suggests a change is needed. The force’s response should take into consideration risk and victim vulnerability, including any information obtained after the call.
On most occasions, we found the force responded to calls with appropriate resources. But it doesn’t always respond within set timescales. Victims aren’t always informed of delays and so their expectations aren’t always met. This may cause victims to lose confidence and disengage from the process.
The force makes sure that investigations are allocated to staff with suitable levels of experience
All forces and constabularies should have a policy to make sure investigations are allocated to suitably trained officers or staff. Its policy should also establish when a crime won’t be investigated further. The policy should be applied consistently. The victim of the crime should be kept informed of who is dealing with their case. They should also be fully informed of the decision to close the investigation.
We found that the force allocated recorded crimes for investigation according to its policy. In nearly all cases, the crime was given to the most appropriate department for further investigation.
The force doesn’t always carry out effective or prompt investigations
Police forces and constabularies should investigate reported crimes quickly, proportionately and thoroughly. Victims should be kept updated about the investigation, and forces and constabularies should have effective governance arrangements in place to make sure investigation standards are high.
The force didn’t always carry out investigations promptly or complete all relevant and proportionate lines of inquiry. Investigations weren’t always well supervised, and not all victims were updated throughout. Victims are more likely to have confidence in a police investigation when they get regular updates.
A thorough investigation increases the likelihood of perpetrators being identified and a positive end result for the victim. The force didn’t always take victim personal statements, meaning victims didn’t have the opportunity to describe how the crime has affected their lives.
When victims withdrew support for an investigation, the force didn’t always consider progressing the case without the victim’s support. This can be an important method of safeguarding the victim and preventing further offences from being committed. In all cases, the force didn’t record whether it considered using orders designed to protect victims, such as a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) or Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN).
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime requires forces to carry out a needs assessment at an early stage to decide whether victims need additional support. The force didn’t always carry out this assessment or record the request for additional support.
The force doesn’t always assign the right outcome type. An auditable record of victims’ wishes isn’t always held
The force should make sure it follows national guidance and rules for deciding the outcome type it will give to each report of crime. In deciding the outcome type, the force should consider the nature of the crime, the offender and the victim. These decisions should be supported and overseen by leaders throughout the force.
When a suspect has been identified and the victim supported police action, but evidential difficulties prevent further action, the victim should be informed of the decision to close the investigation. Victims were always informed of the decision to take no further action and to close the investigation. The force used this outcome incorrectly on a number of occasions.
When a suspect has been identified but the victim doesn’t support or withdraws their support for police action, an auditable record from the victim should be held confirming their decision. This will allow the investigation to be closed. Evidence of the victim’s decision was absent in most cases reviewed. This represents a risk that victims’ wishes may not be fully represented and considered before the investigation is closed.
A crime that can only be prosecuted at a magistrates’ court must have its prosecution start within six months of the offence being committed. A crime can be closed if a suspect has been identified but the time limit has expired. The force used this outcome incorrectly on many occasions.
Engaging with and treating the public with fairness and respect
Gwent Police is adequate at treating people fairly and with respect.
Areas for improvement
The force should improve its recording of reasonable grounds for stop and search, in compliance with force policy and the authorised professional practice
During our inspection, we reviewed a sample of 239 stop and search records from 1 January to 31 December 2021. On the basis of this sample, we estimate that 76.6 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 5.2 percent) of all stop and searches by the force during this period had reasonable grounds recorded. This is broadly unchanged compared with the findings from our previous review of records from 2019, where we found 79.1 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 4.8 percent) of stop and searches had reasonable grounds recorded. Of the records we reviewed on people from ethnic minorities, 14 of 22 had reasonable grounds recorded.
Of the 239 records we reviewed, 23.4 percent didn’t provide recorded reasonable grounds. We considered 20.5 percent of the grounds to be ‘weak’, 33.1 percent were considered ‘moderate’ and 23.0 percent were considered ‘strong’.
Figure 1: Reasonableness of recorded grounds for Gwent Police stop and search cases in the year ending 31 December 2021
This doesn’t necessarily mean that in 23.4 percent of cases there weren’t reasonable grounds to justify the search. But if the officer didn’t record the grounds they relied on when making their decision, that information won’t be available to clarify the justification of the search. And if the person who has been searched asks for a copy of the record, they won’t be able to interpret or understand it. To maintain the trust and confidence of the public, every police force should be able to show that its officers use stop and search powers fairly and effectively.
The force uses positive and novel methods to engage with young people
The Communities and Police Programme is a positive and promising initiative. Community support officers (CSOs) provide a modular learning programme to children who have been excluded from school, including some from immigrant communities. The programme develops learners’ understanding of the role of the police. It also covers what is meant by positive relationships, antisocial behaviour and online safety.
The force has created the role of next-generation police community support officers. These are CSOs that specifically work with young people to encourage positive behaviours and divert them from offending. Next-generation police community support officers support the police cadet and mini police programmes in schools. And most impressively, they use the game Minecraft to connect with and teach young people about online safety.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to treating people fairly and with respect.
Gwent Police works well to identify and gain the view of all its diverse communities
The force gathers the views of its communities in a variety of ways. The annual ‘Your Voice’ public survey helps the force to create its engagement strategy. This is then used to produce local plans to communicate with and provide policing services to the population of Gwent. Communications leads in each local policing area monitor public feedback, making sure that digital communication with communities is two-way.
Engagement CSOs in each local authority area work to identify and involve diverse and newly settled communities in the force area. For example, our inspection learned that in one area the force had placed posters that helped and encouraged the Sudanese community to report crime. This was due to a low level of reporting crime from this community.
We learned that the force had worked in partnership with the local authority in another area to provide smartphones to some community members without access to technology to allow them to access online services.
However, until the 2021 Census of England and Wales data is fully published by the Office for National Statistics, the force relies on its locally based staff to identify and work with its diverse communities.
The force works with partners to address public confidence and safety
The force has used Safer Streets funding to focus on helping the public to feel safer and able to access the police. This project allows police and crime commissioners and local authorities to bid for investment in initiatives to improve community safety. In Gwent, this has included doing surveys on violence against women and girls, and how safe people feel on the streets and in their homes. In a novel approach, the force has purchased three-wheeled tuk-tuk vehicles to be placed in Newport and Abergavenny for the public to use as safe spaces and to report crime. Successful activity, such as an operation to tackle the sexual exploitation of adults, is fed back to the public and crime and disorder partners.
In this way, Gwent Police is able to demonstrate how it prioritises the preservation of public safety and confidence.
The force provides numerous and varied opportunities for the public to support the policing service of Gwent
Gwent Police has an established independent advisory group that advises the force following critical incidents. It also helps make contact with communities to maintain public confidence. The force’s special constabulary, which at the time of the inspection totalled 79 special constables, contributes many hours of voluntary policing. Opportunities for the public to become police support volunteers are easy to find on the force’s website.
The force has established internal processes to scrutinise use of force and stop and search, but not all staff have confidence in their training
The force understands the impact of its use of stop and search and use of force. Sergeants and inspectors review body-worn video and documented records of encounters for lawfulness and fairness. Monthly internal scrutiny boards give feedback to supervisors and practitioners on themes and trends in positive or less positive practice. They also identify any concerning performance or request clarification about the conduct of some stop and search encounters. The force told us that it estimates its officers used body-worn video during stop and searches or where force was used on 95 percent of occasions. These boards can examine comprehensive data to understand whether officers are using force or stop and search powers disproportionately. The public can access this information and minutes from both internal and external scrutiny boards on the force’s website.
Our inspection found that officers are trained in how to use force and stop and search people fairly and appropriately. The force is adopting the new in-person and online training courses approved by the College of Policing. Knowledge and understanding of fair and unfair treatment are included in training products.
In our 2018/19 report, we recommended that the force makes sure that appropriate members of its workforce are trained in and understand unconscious bias. Our inspection found that new recruits have unconscious bias training and it is taught as part of continuous professional development and officer safety training.
The force could take the opportunity to make wider use of some existing communications skills training. For example, the training that contact management staff get to understand the psychology of language could be offered to other staff who have contact with the public. And we found that CSOs told us that they didn’t always feel confident that their officer safety training was enough to keep them safe in situations involving conflict.
Gwent Police has established external panels to scrutinise its officers’ use of force and stop and search, but these powers should be scrutinised more frequently
The force’s external scrutiny panels for stop and search and use of force are made up of members of the public. They are independently chaired and run in partnership with the office of the police and crime commissioner. The panel members are trained to understand how the police use their powers and have watched officers undergoing their training. Cases for their consideration, as well as the body-worn video of the encounters, are selected randomly. The force has also created a youth scrutiny panel.
The panels meet every three months but examine the use of stop and search or use of force at alternate meetings. For the public to be confident that officers’ use of powers is independently considered in an appropriate quantity and frequency, the force should make sure that stop and search and use of force are each scrutinised every three months.
The main adult panel membership should also be developed to include people who have some lived experience of being searched or subjected to use of force.
Preventing crime and anti-social behaviour
Gwent Police is good at prevention and deterrence.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to prevention and deterrence.
The force has a neighbourhood policing strategy that focuses on preventing crime and antisocial behaviour and protecting vulnerable people
The force neighbourhood policing strategy focuses on evidence-based prevention and problem-solving activity by its neighbourhood policing teams. Its priorities are consistent with those of the Gwent Police and Crime Plan 2021–2025. The plan was developed after talking to the diverse communities of Gwent to understand which issues are important to them.
The strategy is used to create local priorities. Inspectors chair twice-daily and fortnightly briefings where they review current crime and disorder data. They also review ongoing and planned initiatives to set neighbourhood teams’ priorities and patrol plans. Officers and staff can also access prioritised patrol plans and briefings on the force intranet to direct neighbourhood teams’ work.
The force understands neighbourhood policing demand well by using analysis and sharing data with partners
Dedicated analysts within the problem-solving hub use a personal circumstance mapping tool based on police and partner agency (such as social services) information about factors that may influence a person’s risk of being involved in crime or being exploited. This allows neighbourhood policing teams to better understand and intervene quickly to reduce threats and risks posed by dangerous and vulnerable people in their area. But the force should make sure that more neighbourhood staff know how to use the self-service QlikView analysis tool to access information from the force crime and incident recording system. This would reduce their reliance on analysts. Some staff told us they weren’t confident or trained to use QlikView.
Crime and disorder reduction officers meet with agencies such as housing and health; social services; community safety teams; and voluntary agencies supporting people with homelessness and substance misuse. They share information about vulnerable people, prolific and high-risk offenders, and locations where crime and disorder may be happening. In this way, partners can jointly plan and prioritise their activity.
Inspectors chair tasking meetings every two weeks with local authority, emergency services and voluntary sector partners. These meetings decide inter-agency responsibility for actions to reduce crime and disorder. Information from these processes is used by crime and disorder reduction officers and supervisors to fill out an electronic ‘briefing wall’ and ‘patrol diary’ to direct and update patrol and problem-solving activity.
In this way, neighbourhood policing staff can be directed to help protect the right people and locations.
The force works to understand and act on what matters to its communities but should record and use its community engagement activity more effectively
CSOs work with the communities the force serves by holding surgeries at places such as community centres and cafés. It also does this through school liaison visits and via social media. This helps neighbourhood teams to learn about concerns more quickly than waiting for the results of the yearly Your Voice surveys. The force should make sure that accounts are managed to allow concerns raised through these channels to be addressed quickly and consistently.
A spreadsheet is currently used to record details about the nature and quality of involvement that neighbourhood teams have with the public. But it isn’t easy to access or link this information to problem-solving or crime prevention activity. To address this, Gwent Police is creating an electronic engagement portal in collaboration with a neighbouring force. Gwent Police is developing its ability to electronically track the presence and movement of staff and vehicles in neighbourhoods so that it can understand and show how effectively it is acting on community concerns. This improvement work isn’t yet finished and needs to be evaluated to understand its effect on reducing crime and improving public confidence.
Gwent Police has a positive and effective approach to evidence-based policing and problem-solving
We Don’t Buy Crime is a force initiative to prevent, target and reduce burglary, handling stolen goods, thefts from petrol stations and the harm that results from this type of crime. It does this by sharing a range of information and knowledge with community, industry and law enforcement partners. The We Don’t Buy Crime team provides retailers and rural businesses with tailored crime prevention advice and literature. Police and partners’ information and intelligence about offenders and stolen property are gathered, shared and used to get search warrants and arrest criminals.
We Don’t Buy Crime was initially a pilot initiative using Safer Streets funding. It is now a permanent team after the force evaluated its effectiveness through analysis of crime outcomes, the amount and value of property recovered, and the positive impact on public confidence.
The force problem-solving lead, based in the problem-solving hub, advises on previously successful tactics. All staff can find examples of problem-oriented policing plans, together with a tactical tool kit and operational information, on the force intranet. This information includes how to get civil orders, tactics to reduce rural crime, and local and national positive practice examples.
Problem-oriented policing plans audited by our inspection were based on sound scanning and analysis. They had been regularly updated and reviewed by supervisors. Completed plans were evaluated and rated and feedback was given to local policing area leaders to promote improvements.
The force needs to make sure that it understands and mitigates the impact of demand and organisational change on neighbourhood policing
The force permits neighbourhood officers and other staff to support response policing when demand is high. But neighbourhood officers we spoke to told us they were frequently given the job of meeting response demand. This meant that they couldn’t concentrate on engagement and problem-solving activity for their communities, even when deployed to incidents in their area. Staff and supervisors told us that there is no method of measuring how often staff are deployed to perform tasks that take them away from their neighbourhood policing work. They also told us that there is no method to measure the impact of this.
Several CSOs told our inspectors of a lack of consistent leadership within neighbourhood policing teams. For example, some staff reported having 4 new supervisors in 18 months, requiring them to constantly familiarise new sergeants with their roles. And unsuccessful police officer applicants are sometimes given an opportunity to become CSOs on an interim basis, with a view to reapplying to become officers in the future. Some CSOs told us that this made them feel their role was devalued.
Some police officers told us they hadn’t had recent training on relevant legislation or problem-solving for their role. CSOs told us that they don’t benefit from the same quality of continuing professional development or problem-solving training as their police officer colleagues. Although the force told us it has recently started to do so, it should make sure it completes its adoption of the All Wales neighbourhood policing training programme.
Responding to the public
Gwent Police is inadequate at responding to the public.
Cause of concern
The force needs to improve how it answers calls for service, identifies vulnerability at first point of contact and attends incidents within its published time frames.
Within three months, Gwent Police should:
- make sure a structured triage approach is used to assess risk and consider the needs of the victim;
- improve the process of risk assessing callers to identify those that are vulnerable or at risk;
- make sure that vulnerable and repeat callers are routinely identified, and that this is recorded; and
- make sure that call takers give appropriate advice on the preservation of evidence and crime prevention.
Within six months, Gwent Police should:
- make sure it can answer a greater proportion of non-emergency 101 calls so that caller attrition levels are reduced and kept as low as possible; and
- attend most calls within its published time frames and update victims if there is a delay.
In cases reviewed by our victim service assessment, call handlers completed a structured triage assessment of risk for 7 of 55 calls. Of cases we reviewed, checks to identify repeat callers were conducted in 33 of 56 cases, and checks to assess if a caller was vulnerable in 45 of 60 applicable cases. Based on the information obtained about the incident by the call handler, the grading was correct on 62 of 68 occasions.
Our victim service assessment found that, of the cases we reviewed, call handlers gave appropriate advice about how to preserve evidence prior to the arrival of an officer on 7 of 23 occasions. And 18 of 32 callers were given advice about crime prevention, where this would have been appropriate.
A failure to give advice on the preservation of evidence means that evidence gathering opportunities may be lost and investigations compromised. When callers aren’t provided with appropriate advice on crime prevention prior to officers attending, victims may be placed at risk of further offending.
On 31 May 2022, the Home Office published data on 999 call answering times. Call answering time is the time taken for a call to be transferred to a force, and the time taken by that force to answer it. In England and Wales, forces should aim to answer 90 percent of these calls within 10 seconds. We have used this data to assess how quickly forces answer 999 calls. We note that this data was published recently. As such, forces may need time to consider any differences between the data published by the Home Office and their own.
According to this data, the force hasn’t always been able to answer 999 calls promptly. Between 1 November 2021 and 30 September 2022, the force answered 77.8 percent of 999 calls received within 10 seconds, which is below the target of 90 percent in 10 seconds.
Forces in England and Wales with a switchboard should aim for fewer than 10 percent of 101 calls to be abandoned by callers. The force told us that 42.2 percent of non-emergency 101 calls were abandoned by callers.
If calls for service aren’t answered promptly, police officers may not be despatched to protect victims of crime quickly enough. Callers who decide to hang up because of delays in answering their calls might not receive the service they deserve. And Gwent Police may not then understand the true volume and seriousness of crime and disorder affecting the public.
Only 27 of 57 incidents we reviewed were attended within the force’s own published time frames. Callers were updated about delays in 5 of 30 relevant cases we reviewed. Also, the force told us that from 1 January to 31 August 2022, it attended 45.7 percent of emergency incidents within its target of 15 minutes. This is well below the estimated performance within the force management statement of 84.4 percent.
If officers don’t attend incidents quickly enough, they may not be able to effectively protect victims from harm or gather evidence to make it likely that criminal investigations on behalf of the public can be thoroughly carried out.
UPDATE: Between 25 and 29 September 2023, we revisited the force to review progress against this cause of concern.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force responds to the public.
Gwent Police is improving how it uses technology to help reporting and initial investigation of crime and incidents
The recently created 24-hour digital desk uses technology to respond to members of the public who contact the force using Single Online Home, Twitter, Facebook and emails in Welsh and English. Information is used to create crime and incident reports and decide the most appropriate response. The newly established virtual response team (VRT) uses GoodSam video conferencing technology to take reports of crime. This allows victims and witnesses to share their location and live video with the VRT using their mobile devices. This means that the force can still quickly gather valuable information about crime and incidents, despite a police officer not being physically present.
The force anticipates that the VRT will help to make sure that response officers will be deployed only when their physical presence is needed. This will, in turn, improve how promptly and effectively officers attend incidents. While promising, the effectiveness of the VRT in managing demand while making sure crimes are investigated on behalf of the public appropriately is yet to be rigorously evaluated.
Gwent Police understands and manages its daily demand of responding to incidents well but often has too few available staff or vehicles
Our inspection found that the force understands and manages daily response demand well through daily management meetings. Calls for service, the safeguarding of vulnerable and missing people, and arrest of suspected offenders are all prioritised by the flexible deployment of response officers and staff from other departments.
But many response teams we spoke to told us they were operating with around half the number of the force’s recommended minimum deployable officers. In some locations our inspection visited, staff told us that there were too few vehicles available, with officers needing to patrol or respond in pairs instead of separately. This could affect how many incidents the force could attend promptly. The force has invested in technology to help it understand the most efficient allocation of its vehicle fleet.
The force has been slow to tackle some of the factors preventing it from providing a timely service to the public. The force hasn’t promptly addressed some areas where it could improve its response to incidents, despite having data readily available that showed the issues. In light of our feedback, the force has created a daily management meeting and improvement plan to monitor and improve how it responds to the public and how quickly it attends incidents. However, this improvement work didn’t start until after the findings of our victim service assessment. At the time of our inspection, it hadn’t resulted in substantial, consistent or sustained improvements.
Gwent Police requires improvement at investigating crime.
Areas for improvement
The force should make sure that it has the capacity and capability to effectively investigate crime on behalf of the public, and that its governance and scrutiny arrangements result in improved standards of investigation
The force has several layers of governance and scrutiny. But these haven’t led to effective standards of investigations, nor made sure there are enough trained investigators.
For example, the operational performance board, scrutiny executive board, investigations standards board and criminal investigation department succession planning meeting discuss crime data integrity compliance, capacity, demand and trends, outcome rates and investigation timeliness. But, despite the force’s own audits indicating that supervisors weren’t making good-quality decisions for some months prior to our victim service assessment report, this scrutiny doesn’t appear to have acted as a catalyst for improvement activity.
The shortage of qualified investigators and supervisors is a chronic area of pressure for Gwent Police. As of 31 March 2022, Gwent Police had 65 percent of its 257 accredited investigator posts filled by either qualified staff or those working toward being qualified to professionalising investigations programme 2. This is the minimum level of competence for investigators of serious and complex crime recommended by the College of Policing. Our inspection found examples of public protection teams operating with half the number of staff they should have. Our inspection showed that on 5 of 29 days between 1 November and 31 December 2022, there was no reactive detective sergeant scheduled to be on duty overnight. This role should be available to be called out to supervise scenes of serious crime if needed. The force told us that the correct figure for this period was 13 of 29 days, but that the data isn’t always accurate. The force should make sure it is making deployment decisions based on the correct data.
Senior leaders understand the detective skills and capabilities the force needs, with the help of comprehensive data about current staffing and future workforce movements. But the force hasn’t yet clearly identified a realistic way of increasing its numbers of trainee or qualified investigators to effectively deal with current or anticipated future demand. Direct entry detectives, who were due to start their training in January 2023, aren’t expected to become operationally effective until the beginning of 2024. Campaigns the force has run to recruit transferee detectives from other forces or to encourage serving officers to train as investigators have had little interest.
Unless investigators and supervisors are recruited, trained and developed appropriately, the force will be less likely to investigate crime on behalf of victims to an acceptable standard. Investigators will also need to rely more heavily on the support of supervisors and will be less likely to stay in their roles.
Areas for improvement
The force should make sure investigation plans are created where applicable, with supervisory oversight and direction throughout
As part of our victim service assessment, we found that 31 of 42 cases we reviewed had appropriate investigation plans in line with College of Policing guidance. Effective supervisory oversight to provide direction and advice to investigators was evident in 55 of 77 cases we reviewed.
The force has responded quickly to our findings by creating a daily management meeting chaired by a senior officer to monitor the progress of improvement work. However, as yet, this added level of scrutiny has resulted in limited improvement. For example, on 1 December 2022, the force told us that, in the previous 28 days, no supervisor review template had been added to 20.9 percent of rapes and 44.0 percent of other sexual offences under investigation, as they are required to be. The force states this doesn’t mean that a supervisor review hadn’t taken place within that period. But, if the required template isn’t used, the force can’t accurately tell which investigations are being effectively supervised often enough, which in itself is an issue.
If investigations aren’t planned and supervised effectively, victims of crime are less likely to receive an appropriate level of service.
Areas for improvement
The force should make sure investigations are completed without unnecessary delays and that all proportionate and relevant investigative opportunities are taken
Our victim service assessment found that appropriate investigative opportunities had been taken from the outset and throughout investigations in 68 of 87 cases we reviewed. We found too many examples of investigations into serious offences against children and other vulnerable victims that had drifted for months without action or supervisory direction.
Areas for improvement
Where a victim has decided to withdraw support for police action, the force should ensure that there is an auditable record of this decision. This should include the reason why the decision was made. The force should make sure it documents whether evidence-led prosecutions have been considered in all such cases
When a suspect is identified, but there are evidential difficulties and a victim withdraws support for an investigation (outcome 16), the force should get a record of their decision, such as a signed statement. This is important to explain the victim’s wishes and the reasons why they don’t wish to support a prosecution.
Victims’ wishes were recorded in 2 of 20 cases we reviewed. The force progressed or tried to progress an evidence-led approach to pursue prosecutions without the support of the victim in only 9 of 24 cases we reviewed.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force investigates crime.
Gwent Police is working to improve the organisation of its criminal investigation teams, but it isn’t clear if this will result in improved standards of investigation on behalf of the public
The force is reorganising its investigation teams, using analysis of workforce and demand data to understand how many trained staff it needs to investigate crime effectively.
Gwent Police is now participating in Operation Soteria, a new approach that aims to make investigations into rape and serious sexual offending more thorough and effective and reduce the likelihood of reoffending. The new specialist rape investigation team works with criminal justice partners with the aim of achieving better access to justice for victims. The effectiveness of the service provided by the rape investigation teams, and whether they are appropriately resourced, has yet to be fully evaluated.
Our inspection found response officers responsible for making progress with high numbers of criminal cases, including drug possession and robbery offences, while still needing to respond to emergency calls for service. Supervisory advice was sometimes missing. Officers expressed a lack of confidence in their training to compile casefiles and fulfil their obligations to disclose material gathered during the course of investigations in accordance with the attorney general’s guidance.
To help increase the likelihood of successful prosecutions on behalf of victims, the force has expanded its pilot domestic abuse casefile building team to include all non‑complex crime investigations. The new team is intended to be part of an investigation hub staffed by police constables, detectives and police staff investigators. It is intended to reduce demands on frontline officers. But, as the force doesn’t have the resources to be able to implement a fully functional hub until the summer of 2023, the effect on improving the quality of service provided to victims of crime can’t yet be assessed.
The force should make sure that its positive work to support victims of crime is consistent
The victim care unit works well to make sure that the force fulfils its obligations regarding the Victims’ Code. Victims of crime are kept informed of developments, referred to external agencies where needed and supported through the criminal justice process. The force conducts surveys to understand how satisfied victims of crime are with their experience of each stage of the investigation process. Survey results are then considered in governance meetings.
However, the positive work of the victim care unit must be balanced by the findings from our victim service assessment and other inspection activity. We found that officers achieved good victim engagement in 49 of 60 cases we reviewed, with inconsistent frequency of victim contact.
Unless all victims of crime feel supported and informed throughout investigations, they may lose confidence, withdraw their support for prosecutions at any stage and may be reluctant to report crime against them in future.
Protecting vulnerable people
Gwent Police requires improvement at protecting vulnerable people.
Areas for improvement
The force should make sure that its governance and scrutiny arrangements provide enough capacity and capability to effectively protect vulnerable people
Our inspection found that, although Gwent Police has a vulnerability strategy, its governance arrangements for protecting vulnerable people have been treated as a sub-category of criminal investigation. A consequence of this has been a lack of focus and structure for improvement work, including making sure that the force has enough skilled staff.
For example, the force has been audited by the National Policing Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme in relation to how it has adopted recommendations of the national vulnerability action plan. This is nationally accepted positive practice. But the force couldn’t demonstrate that it had made progress with any associated improvement work since at least May 2022. This means that the force can’t yet judge whether it is improving how well it protects vulnerable people.
The force has also acknowledged that the staffing in public protection units is low enough to be regarded as critical. It has recruited some additional temporary staff to manage demand within safeguarding hubs, but overtime is being used to reduce backlogs.
Staff use basic research to decide with health and social services colleagues what urgent action is needed to protect children and vulnerable adults. But more in-depth research requests are triaged and placed in an email queue. Although more efficient research processes had reduced backlogs, in November 2022, our inspection found that 180 cases dating back up to two months had initially been triaged, but not reassessed. This means that the force couldn’t be confident that threats to the safety of victims hadn’t changed.
Important roles have remained vacant. We learned that the force had been unable to recruit a temporary stalking harm reduction officer for some time. An officer employed to make sure that crime disclosed during multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) referrals from partner agencies was properly recorded had left and hadn’t been replaced.
Areas for improvement
The force needs to improve how effectively it meets national standards in relation to the use of the domestic violence disclosure scheme
We found many examples of the domestic violence disclosure scheme applications where a decision hadn’t yet been made about whether information needed to be given to potential victims of domestic abuse. In one area of the force, 49 of 82 applications where disclosure decisions hadn’t yet been made were older than the 35 days completion period recommended for all forces in England and Wales. There were examples where the potential danger posed to the applicant hadn’t been reassessed, even where a change in circumstances could have increased the likelihood of them suffering serious harm. If potential victims of domestic abuse aren’t given information promptly, they can’t make an informed decision about their safety and may unknowingly remain in danger.
Areas for improvement
The force should make sure it appropriately manages MARAC demand to reduce the risk of serious harm to high-risk victims of domestic abuse
In the year ending 30 June 2022, the force discussed 1,705 MARAC cases, above the 960 recommended by SafeLives based on the size of the force’s local population. There has been a continuous increase in MARAC cases since the year ending 31 March 2020.
Figure 2: Number of MARAC cases discussed by Gwent Police compared to the SafeLives recommended number between the year ending 31 March 2020 and the year ending 30 June 2022
As part of the MARAC demand management plan, a cohort of multi-agency partners (such as children’s social care, health and probation) is supposed to check MARAC referrals to discuss their appropriateness. However, the safe and effective operation of this process relies on all partners having the capacity to access referrals on a SharePoint site. To manage demand and prevent delays, sometimes only six months of research about victims and perpetrators is done before cases are discussed at a MARAC. This could mean that MARAC partners aren’t made aware of some incidents that don’t result in a crime being recorded but that nevertheless might highlight a rise in danger to the victim. Therefore, on some occasions, not enough information may be available to allow police and partners to devise an effective risk management plan.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force protects vulnerable people.
Gwent Police works well to protect children and adults who are at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation and modern slavery
The force has a dedicated team of officers to protect children and vulnerable adults from being sexually or criminally exploited. The team uses victims, offenders, locations and themes analysis. This helps it pursue and disrupt offending activity and decide how to protect children with partner agencies as part of the multi-agency child exploitation panel. Partner agencies commented positively about the frequency and quality of information-sharing arrangements, which allow all professionals to comprehensively understand the risks to vulnerable people. Although case numbers were high for most officers, risk management plans were found to be regularly updated and well supervised.
The force is participating in a promising pilot involving the national referral mechanism. This involves reports of people suspected as victims of modern slavery being discussed by the force and safeguarding partners. This means that cases are likely to be investigated and vulnerable victims protected from further exploitation more quickly.
The force has established, dedicated teams to protect domestic abuse victims, which could be better staffed. Some staff lack a comprehensive understanding of vulnerable victims
The domestic abuse safeguarding team reviews new domestic abuse reports and creates a safety plan tailored to the needs of the victim. The team adds warning markers to the force crime and incident recording system and gives follow-up work to staff to keep the victim safe. The domestic abuse safeguarding team also dip samples and quality assures the appropriate risk assessment of some domestic abuse incidents. However, we learned that the team was operating with four investigations standards officers instead of its full capacity of six. This increases the workload for individual members of staff.
We found that the force believed that officers and sergeants generally judged the seriousness of risk to victims correctly. However, they sometimes fail to recognise factors that may increase the danger to victims, such as indicators of coercive and controlling behaviour or recent separation from an abusive partner. And some control room staff weren’t able to demonstrate to our inspectors an understanding that vulnerable people are categorised more widely than children and victims of domestic abuse.
The force is continuing to train officers and staff to be able to recognise and understand vulnerability. But unless officers and staff effectively identify cases of domestic abuse, they may be unable to prevent victims suffering serious harm.
Gwent Police needs to improve how it records and manages reports of missing children
The force missing persons policy is generally consistent with practice recommended by the College of Policing authorised professional practice, although it doesn’t use the ‘no apparent risk’ category for children reported missing without there being any apparent risks to their safety. Instead, such reports are held on the command‑and-control system as a ‘concern for safety’. However, our inspection found that the force hadn’t given control room staff any standardised guidance to check when or if those children had returned home, or whether they were now at risk. Therefore, children could be exposed to serious physical, emotional or sexual harm for some time without checks being made about their well-being.
Also, the force wasn’t able to accurately report the initial risk assessment categorisation for 14.1 percent of the 2,725 incidents involving missing children in the year ending 31 March 2022. If the force doesn’t know the seriousness of risks to missing children, it can’t be confident that it took appropriate steps to keep them safe. It also can’t use its data in relation to the number of missing children to forecast how many staff it needs to meet its future demand.
Gwent Police needs to improve how effectively it uses powers to protect victims of domestic abuse
The domestic violence disclosure scheme ‘right to know’ allows the police to proactively disclose information to individuals about their partner’s previous history of domestic abuse, where doing so would help potential victims make decisions about their personal safety. However, in the year ending 31 March 2022, Gwent Police had a low ratio of 0.2 domestic violence disclosure scheme disclosures to applications for ‘right to know’ cases.
In addition, as part of our victim service assessment, we found that in the eight cases where a protective order, such as a DVPN, DVPO or a Stalking Protection Order, could have been obtained to help keep victims safe, the opportunity wasn’t taken. To support its existing intention to train staff from October 2022, the force has acted on these findings with daily focus on increasing the number of authorised DVPNs. However, the conversion rates of DVPNs, which protect victims for up to 48 hours, to DVPOs, which are granted by a court and last up to 28 days, have fallen. In the year ending 31 March 2022, the force converted 76 of 77 authorised DVPNs to DVPO applications. The force told us that between 1 September and 30 November 2022, it converted 34 of 53 authorised DVPNs to DVPO applications.
Unless DVPNs are consistently and effectively converted to DVPOs, their deterrent value may reduce, emboldening perpetrators and damaging the confidence and support of victims.
Managing offenders and suspects
Gwent Police is good at managing offenders and suspects.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force manages offenders and suspects.
Gwent Police uses its established processes to prioritise the arrest of suspected offenders well
As part of our victim service assessment, we found that in 27 of 29 cases we reviewed, an arrest was made in an appropriate time frame. Daily management meetings review and prioritise the arrest of suspected offenders, using staff from all departments responsible for day-to-day operational policing to make sure arrests are carried out quickly. Criminal investigation department teams use a handover list of suspects, which is a function of the crime and incident recording system. And the force has improved its guidance to staff for circulating the identity of wanted suspects on the Police National Computer.
This means that staff concentrate on apprehending suspected offenders on behalf of victims and can use information systems to make colleagues promptly aware of individuals who need to be arrested.
The force has clear governance, policy and scrutiny to ensure the appropriate use of pre-charge bail, released under investigation, and voluntary attendance of suspected offenders
The bail and released under investigation (RUI) working group uses a comprehensive set of data to make sure that supervisors examine both the justification for granting bail and duration of time that suspects remain on bail. The force crime and incident recording system prevents investigations being finalised unless custody records have been closed. This helps to make sure that suspected offenders don’t stay on bail or get released under investigation for longer than needed.
All staff involved in the investigation of crime and management of bail we spoke to were able to explain the processes for authorising and renewing the use of bail and RUI. This means that if staff and supervisors meet their obligations to use legal powers to manage suspects, victims of crime will be sufficiently protected and receive an appropriate service.
Gwent Police should make sure that investigators follow its processes for the appropriate use of bail, RUI and voluntary attendance
Dedicated custody inspectors authorise the release of suspects on bail during the daytime and evening. This means that decisions about the use of powers to manage suspects to protect victims are often made by the most knowledgeable and experienced supervisors.
The force has comprehensive and efficient processes for recording the voluntary attendance of suspected offenders at police stations to be interviewed about criminal offences. Prior to a suspect’s attendance, investigating officers must complete an assessment so that any risk of harm the suspect may pose to themselves or others can be understood and managed. This includes making sure that healthcare professionals are available if needed. Suspects have their presence in a police station recorded on the force custody system, and their legal entitlements are explained by a custody sergeant. To make sure the procedures are used appropriately, an inspector’s authority is needed if it is expected that a suspected domestic abuse perpetrator will be voluntarily attended rather than arrested.
A dedicated team uses a bail diary and sets up reminders for officers in the case on the force custody system. A bail calculator and guidance documents are available for officers to use to make sure they understand and meet their obligations to make sure that bail is being used appropriately.
However, we learned of numerous examples where arrested suspects had returned on bail without investigators having followed lines of inquiry. We were also told about cases where the officers weren’t available to explain the progress of the investigation. Custody officers would then have no option other than to allow bail to lapse into RUI. This means that victims, including victims of domestic abuse offences, are no longer protected from the suspect by bail conditions.
Gwent Police works well to protect victims by managing offenders who commit neighbourhood crime and domestic abuse, using some promising initiatives
Gwent Police uses the offender group reconviction score method to decide which offenders’ risks of reoffending are likely to be reduced through supportive integrated offender management. In some areas, integrated offender management teams work with probation to manage offenders who pose a high or very high risk of harm to victims, through Wales Integrated Serious and Dangerous Offender Management.
Gwent Police is one of six forces participating in the pilot Acquisitive Crime GPS tagging project for serious offenders of theft, robbery and burglary who have been released from prison. Offenders’ movements can be mapped against these types of crimes being investigated, so that they can be deterred from reoffending or considered or regarded as potential suspects.
The force works with the Youth Offending Service and Probation in a Y2A (Youth to Adult) transition meeting to discuss any offending children who are at or about to reach 17 and a half years of age. In this way, the continuing risk of children committing further or more serious offences as they transition to adult criminal justice arrangements can be considered.
The Multi-Agency Tasking and Co-ordination trial analyses the recency, frequency and gravity of domestic abuse crime and incidents. This means that the force can identify the domestic abuse perpetrators in each local policing area most likely to cause further or more serious harm to victims. Perpetrators are then offered diversionary programmes intended to reduce their offending. Although promising, the initiative hasn’t been evaluated and it is too early to judge how effective it will be in reducing the risk of reoffending.
The force manages the most serious offenders in line with national standards. It should make sure the quality of supervisory oversight is robust so that overdue work is addressed quickly
The force assesses and manages the potential threat to the public from sexual and violent offenders through the use of active risk management. We found that most risk management plans were up to date, detailed and thorough, with few active risk management assessment backlogs. But our inspection also found that there had been a recent concentration of visit activity by offender managers. Before this, several visits to offenders had been overdue.
We learned that neighbourhood policing teams were well briefed about registered sex offenders, dangerous offenders and pending prison releases. Field intelligence officers and crime and disorder reduction officers give the briefing. Neighbourhood staff can use this information to protect their communities.
The force’s police online investigation team investigates offenders suspected of accessing indecent images of children. The unit has manageable caseloads with small backlogs of work. But the force should establish set timescales for how often reviews of the risks presented by backlogged cases take place. Without regular, scheduled reviews, the potential for offenders being able to commit serious offences against vulnerable people may increase.
The police online investigation team pursues suspected offenders by executing search warrants and using powers of arrest and bail appropriately. Digital media investigators are deployed to make sure that digital content from electronic devices can be accessed and downloaded as evidence when warrants are executed. In this way, the police online investigation team can make sure that they get information and evidence to bring offenders to justice and to protect victims as quickly as possible.
Non-urgent examination requests to the digital forensic unit can take five to six months to complete, but high-risk cases can be dealt with in a matter of days.
On a monthly basis, the force’s victim identification officer manages the child abuse image database system, as well as the Internet Crimes Against Children Child On-line Protection System peer-to-peer file sharing identification software. The child protection system is reviewed at least twice monthly. In this way, the force can effectively use all information systems to support investigations into, and protect the victims of, online child sexual abuse.
Sexual harm protection orders are sought on conviction for all cases and are drafted by detective sergeants in the management of sexual offenders and violent offenders team to ensure good-quality, consistent and tailored prohibitions for those posing a sexual risk to the public. This increases the likelihood that orders that effectively protect potential victims will be given.
Referrals to social services are completed at an early stage and then again after getting and executing warrants. This makes sure that partners can help to manage the ongoing safeguarding of persons at risk.
We did find that supervision could have been more assertive in making sure that offender managers got access to offenders’ homes without delay. Our inspection found that some visits had been announced in advance. Although this wasn’t prevalent, it is something the force should seek to avoid becoming commonplace.
Force records we examined appear to show visits to registered sex offenders may be made by lone offender managers. The force told us that sometimes the identities of all staff involved in those visits hadn’t always been recorded. This is inconsistent with the positive practice recommended by authorised professional practice. These lone visits were found to be interspersed with those carried out by double-crewed offender managers. However, apparent single-crewed activity was noted on every record our inspection audited, which indicates this is frequent practice. It is important that the force considers national best practice for offender management to protect the reputation and well-being of staff and vulnerable offenders.
Disrupting serious organised crime
We now inspect serious and organised crime (SOC) on a regional basis, rather than inspecting each force individually in this area. This is so we can be more effective and efficient in how we inspect the whole SOC system, as set out in HM Government’s SOC strategy.
SOC is tackled by each force working with regional organised crime units (ROCUs). These units lead the regional response to SOC by providing access to specialist resources and assets to disrupt organised crime groups that pose the highest harm.
Through our new inspections we seek to understand how well forces and ROCUs work in partnership. As a result, we now inspect ROCUs and their forces together and report on regional performance. Forces and ROCUs are now graded and reported on in regional SOC reports.
Our SOC inspection of Gwent Police hasn’t yet been completed. We will update our website with our findings (including the force’s grade) and a link to the regional report once the inspection is complete.
Building, supporting and protecting the workforce
Gwent Police is adequate at building and developing its workforce.
Areas for improvement
Gwent Police should demonstrate that it can use its understanding of factors contributing to sickness and absence to improve the well-being of the workforce
The force has access to workforce data and the results from its internal surveys. It also has access to surveys carried out by the Police Federation, Unison and the National Police Well-being Service. This allows it to identify themes that show why staff are either unwell at work or absent from work because of ill health.
The force monitors officers’ working hours and time off that is yet to be taken. A demand data ‘trigger’ to identify response staff and investigators with high workloads can be used by supervisors to provide preventative well-being support.
The people strategy board scrutinises health and well-being data, including self‑assessment returns for high-risk roles, compliance with return-to-work processes, and how much staff are accessing well-being services. Our inspection learned that from October 2022, the force was able to use QlikView data to identify sickness absence and staff who have deployment restrictions in different areas of the force.
However, despite its access to staff well-being data, as of 31 March 2022, Gwent Police had 3.1 percent of full-time equivalent police officers on long-term sickness. This is high compared with other forces in the same year.
Figure 3: Proportion of full-time equivalent police officers on long-term sickness across forces in England and Wales as of 31 March 2022
The force must translate its understanding of well-being data into effective action. Otherwise, it is likely that staff will continue to be absent from work or may leave. The force will then lack the capacity to give the public an acceptable service.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force builds and develops its workforce.
The Gwent Police leadership works hard to promote strong ethical standards and acceptable behaviour, including the importance of reporting misconduct
The force’s confidence and culture strategy is produced in partnership with the office of the police and crime commissioner. The strategy sets out how it will work to improve the confidence of the public and its workforce that Gwent Police is an ethical, fair and safe organisation to work in. The force’s standards are promoted by the senior leadership, and reinforced in messaging, governance meetings and training. Almost all staff we spoke to were aware of the behaviour expected of them and spoke positively about the commitment of the force leadership.
The force has an established culture board. It also has both internal and external ethics committees with an independent membership. They offer advice and guidance to the chief officer team about issues facing the force. We found an inconsistent awareness of the committees’ functions among some members of the workforce.
The force is working to increase its use of reflective practice and we learned of some examples where a ‘lessons learned’ approach had been used to debrief staff after incidents. The professional standards department provides training to help managers understand how occasions where officers’ behaviour was below expected standards should be treated as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than resorting to misconduct procedures. But the force has more to do, both to make sure the workforce consistently operates ethically and that all staff consider this to be the case.
The force has worked with the Fair Play charity, Chwarae Teg, to run workshops with staff. This is in an effort to understand how the force values, treats and communicates with its diverse workforce. Chwarae Teg also surveys staff on this topic. The 2021 survey results, published in the spring of 2022, contained high favourable ratings for fairness and inclusion, including working relationships. But concerningly high numbers of police officers and staff reported witnessing or being subjected to inappropriate behaviour at work, or being treated less favourably because of their gender.
Most staff we spoke to knew how to use the confidential reporting system for misconduct matters. Staff also told us that information about the expected standards of diversity, equality and inclusion was easy to find on the force’s intranet. The majority of staff we asked told us that they were confident to report inappropriate behaviour, and of being supported by supervisors. The force also told us that it had provided training sessions intended to give staff and supervisors the knowledge and confidence to report wrongdoing. Reports of misconduct had increased since those sessions were run.
The force should gain a better understanding of how valued and included the whole of its workforce feels
Most staff we spoke to were aware of and spoke positively about the Ignite scheme, which encourages employees to make suggestions about how to improve the way the force works. They were also aware of and spoke positively about the Be Proud reward and recognition scheme. Staff networks, such as the Police Federation, Unison and those concerned with supporting the interests of staff in relation to their gender, sexual orientation, minority ethnic backgrounds, faith or disability, told us that they felt valued, included and listened to by the force leadership.
The force also carries out cultural perception surveys with joiners to understand the experience of younger in-service staff. These are followed up at six-month intervals. This supports the force’s aim to help new joiners feel prepared for a police career and make sure that improvements can be made that may prevent them wishing to leave.
Chwarae Teg has also carried out Fair Play surveys. The force told us that the 2020 survey attracted a 21 percent response rate and the 2021 edition had feedback from 18 percent of the workforce. More than a quarter of respondents indicated a lack of confidence in the fairness and transparency of promotion processes, and in flexible working opportunities. The force should consider these findings and how to encourage a higher response rate to get representative results.
The force continues to work with Chwarae Teg to act on workshop and survey results. The force recently gained a silver Fair Play award from the charity for gender equality as recognition for its work to create an inclusive workplace. The force hasn’t run a recent general staff survey to understand the confidence of the workforce that Gwent Police is a safe place to work.
Unless the force has a good understanding of the culture and views of its workforce it is unlikely to be able to promote effective organisational change.
Gwent Police needs to take effective steps to encourage or allow staff to stay working for it
In the year ending 31 March 2022, Gwent Police had a 13.1 percent joiner rate of full‑time equivalent (FTE) police officers. This was the second-highest joiner rate across all forces and notably above the England and Wales average of 9.2 percent.
Figure 4: Police officer joiner rate across forces in England and Wales in the year ending 31 March 2022
Note: The joiner rate is calculated by dividing the number of joiners throughout the financial year by the total number of officers at the end of the financial year
In the year ending 31 March 2022, Gwent Police had a 6.3 percent increase in the total FTE size of its workforce. This was the highest proportional increase in FTE workforce size of all forces in England and Wales that year. This means that a high proportion of its officers are inexperienced. This in turn may mean that fewer experienced staff are eligible or inclined to move into specialist roles, such as becoming detectives or applying for promotion. The force also needs to understand why people want to leave, and then encourage them to stay. For example, in the year ending 31 March 2022, 40 percent of FTE police officer leavers from Gwent Police were female. This was the second-highest proportion of female leavers of all forces across England and Wales. Police staff in specialist roles, such as analysts, also leave the force, meaning that important support roles are vacant. The force offers all staff who leave or indicate that they may leave, a face-to-face interview to understand their reasons for doing so. But this understanding hasn’t yet translated into improved staff retention.
The force needs to maintain a stable, skilled and experienced workforce to allow it to provide a consistent, high-quality service to the public.
The force is taking effective action so that its workforce better reflects its communities
The force joint strategic equality plan and positive action plan provides the force with the direction it needs to recruit and retain a workforce that accurately represents the local population of Gwent. Workforce data helps the force to understand the proportions and diverse characteristics of its existing staff, as well as newly recruited police officers and staff. The positive action team and staff associations representing members of the workforce with protected characteristics hold community recruitment events. They also support and mentor new recruits and serving staff to develop their careers.
This activity has seen some success. In the year ending 31 March 2022, 3.6 percent of Gwent Police’s FTE officers were from ethnic minority backgrounds. This was close to the proportion of the resident population in Gwent from ethnic minority backgrounds of 3.9 percent.
But the force is also aware that it can’t yet attract enough applications from females. In February 2022, the force told us that only 26.7 percent of its applicants were female. As of 31 March 2022, female representation for police officers (FTE) in Gwent was 34.8 percent, which was higher than the England and Wales rate of 33.5 percent. But, in the year ending 31 March 2022, 32.5 percent of police officer joiners were female. This is lower than the rate across England and Wales of 41.1 percent.
Gwent Police provides the workforce with comprehensive health and well-being support, but some staff doubt its effectiveness
The force has recently been reviewed by the national police well-being service and judged to generally provide a good service.
Staff we spoke to were generally positive about the well-being and occupational health provision offered by the force. Staff reported few delays when they had been referred to the occupational health and well-being department, which also provides advice to supervisors. The force uses Care First, an online service to help officers and staff cope with stress, anxiety and depression. This complements the face-to-face support offered.
Comprehensive information about initiatives, including dedicated support volunteers, is available on the force intranet. For example, well-being walks are promoted, as is the national charity Papyrus for suicide prevention. Well-being champions, including those who support colleagues with particular well-being needs such as those dealing with the menopause or endometriosis, are allowed duty time to do so. The force operates well-being passports to help employees explain to colleagues and supervisors their neurodiversity needs, such as dyslexia.
Most staff we spoke to told us of the empathic and personal approach that senior officers took when staff had experienced trauma or assaults. Trauma risk management is well understood and offered promptly to staff. Operation Hampshire, which requires supervisors to make sure that support is put in place for officers and staff who have been assaulted, is used appropriately. To help the workforce to manage their own health, the force has provided trauma resilience training.
But many staff felt that some well-being initiatives were superficial and that, while well meant, don’t mitigate the causal factors of sickness. Staff in most departments, but in particular in response, public protection and custody, told our inspectors of their concerns about high workloads and low staff numbers. This resulted in fewer opportunities to take annual leave, low morale and a lack of feeling valued.
Additionally, the force has made the decision to pay officers who had elected to take time off in lieu of overtime hours worked if they hadn’t taken that time off in lieu within three months. While it is legitimate to make such payments to compensate officers for working long hours, it means they won’t have the opportunity to take time away from the workplace to rest and recover.
If the force doesn’t effectively tackle the factors that the workforce believes have a detrimental impact on their health, even a comprehensive well-being provision may not stop staff from becoming unwell.
The force understands and is working to meet the development needs of the workforce
The force appraisal system, Perform, is used to identify talented staff who want to develop their careers or who need support to maintain or improve their performance. The staff our inspection teams spoke to shared mixed views about this, with some describing Perform as a useful development tool and others describing it as a valueless, tick-box exercise.
The force has decided that appraisal meetings between staff and supervisors should be held every six months rather than every three months. However, the force told us that in November 2022, of 1,973 check-in forms, 1,579 had been completed (82.5 percent).
If check-in appraisal meetings are delayed or don’t take place, opportunities to identify well-being and development needs or to manage and improve performance, may not be taken.
Gwent Police has a three-year rolling workforce training programme to make sure that learning and development capacity can meet the continuing professional development needs of the force. The programme is devised with departmental leaders to make sure that training meets the needs of the workforce.
The force has recently started a two-year leadership development framework that concentrates on developing ethical, inclusionary and compassionate leaders. This features a five-day course for newly promoted, acting and temporary supervisors. The course develops the knowledge, understanding and skills to lead staff, manage conflict and performance, have difficult conversations, and develop resilience. And the force is providing funding for staff to study and prepare for sergeants’ promotion processes to try to interest more officers in becoming promoted.
While promising, the effectiveness of the programme in improving standards of leadership is yet to be evaluated.
Strategic planning, organisational management and value for money
Gwent Police is adequate at operating efficiently.
Areas for improvement
The force should make sure it has an effective strategic planning framework to tackle important issues
The plans and structures of Gwent Police are aligned with its priorities and reflect the police and crime commissioner’s plans and community needs. But we found that the force’s performance wasn’t effective in several areas, which is harming its provision of service.
The force doesn’t yet have effective processes to assure itself that performance is supported throughout the organisation. Examples include governance, supervision and ownership. Comprehensive performance data packs allow the force to identify areas where service to the public needs to improve. They also allow the force to recognise the risks of not doing so. But staff we spoke to felt that the performance packs are too large and often unmanageable. This could mean that indicators of potential service failure, such as several consecutive months of low compliance with published incident attendance times, don’t create the urgent attention needed for prompt improvement work to start.
While the force is aware of the challenges it faces, it isn’t identifying solutions or effectively supporting and monitoring performance throughout the organisation. This is resulting in lower standards of investigations, call handling and incident attendance in particular.
The force should review its performance framework and governance structure to assure itself there is clear responsibility and direction driving its plans and priorities.
Areas for improvement
The force should make sure it can effectively manage current demand, with the resources available to it
The management of demand is affected by a lack of understanding of how the force can make best use of its current capability and capacity. There is work in progress to improve this, but it isn’t clear how the force will build the capacity needed to meet its demand effectively. We found that the force was slow to react to the data and information it held. And governance processes weren’t effective in managing the demand reported.
This failure is affecting how the force manages wider current demand and it doesn’t have a detailed oversight of failures in service. This is resulting in workforce pressures and ineffective placement of resource.
Solutions put in place to manage demand should be reviewed at an early stage to make sure that they can provide what was expected or envisaged. The force should assure itself that its operating model can support the force in providing effective services to the public. And it should also make sure that it understands its workforce in enough detail to support effective management of current demand.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force operates efficiently.
The force makes fair use of the money it has available, and its plans are ambitious, but there are funding challenges to address
The force is rigorous in managing its finances and has developed sophisticated approaches to budgeting with strong governance in place. The force has a good structure in place for allocating its available funding and investment effectively. It regularly reviews its wider assets, which include fleet and technology, to make sure the investment is supporting the provision of services effectively. The public can be assured that Gwent Police manages its finances efficiently.
But there are challenges the force needs to address. The current estate needs investment and the estates strategy has significant challenges in terms of legacy estate and affordability. The desire to create modern facilities that will improve efficiency presents a significant funding challenge.
There is also a financial gap identified of £6.8m over the next two years of the medium-term financial plan. While the force has enough reserves to manage some aspects of this gap, it is reliant on the use of precept and further efficiency savings to support its future ambition. But the impact of this is mitigated by the fact the senior officer with responsibility for managing resources has clarity on the challenges the force faces, and there is a clear understanding of the affordability of future plans.
The force is committed to improving services through effective collaboration and seeks opportunities to work with others
The force is committed to collaborative working and seeks opportunities to improve its services by working with the All Wales Policing Group and Welsh Government.
The collaborations the force have in place show strong governance, supported by structured reviews and audits. These allow the force to understand the benefits of collaboration. This is supported by comprehensive data and management information.
We found positive examples of collaboration including the Collaborative Strategic Resource Planning arrangements, which the force has devised with South Wales Police. These are used to co-ordinate the Police Uplift Programme across both forces. The system allows the force to support its staff more effectively, understanding hours worked, overtime, rotation and succession planning. The force also has a clear understanding of training requirements and skills held within the organisation.
The force improves productivity through technological solutions, but should make sure data is used to improve the management of demand
The force is committed to making savings and finding more efficient ways to work wherever possible. It has invested in its IT and provides its workforce with up-to-date technology, such as laptops, to improve productivity.
The force has also invested in its data systems and is developing how it uses data to improve performance. This includes the introduction of apps that give information to the frontline and performance analysts. This is supported by a good awareness of the benefits that this investment can bring. But the data system needs to mature further and should be supported by effective analysis to improve the management of demand. The force has begun to do this, particularly with regard to developing its approach to prioritising projects. This has made clear what the force needs or expects to be achieved against what it can reasonably achieve with its available resources.
The force should also make sure that the implementation of IT systems is reviewed, and that officers and staff are using new systems consistently and effectively. This will make sure that systems are providing what is expected through effective use.
About the data
Data in this report is from a range of sources, including:
- Home Office;
- Office for National Statistics (ONS);
- our inspection fieldwork; and
- data we collected directly from all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
When we collected data directly from police forces, we took reasonable steps to agree the design of the data collection with forces and with other interested parties such as the Home Office. We gave forces several opportunities to quality assure and validate the data they gave us, to make sure it was accurate. We shared the submitted data with forces, so they could review their own and other forces’ data. This allowed them to analyse where data was notably different from other forces or internally inconsistent.
We set out the source of this report’s data below.
Data in the report
British Transport Police was outside the scope of inspection. Any aggregated totals for England and Wales exclude British Transport Police data, so will differ from those published by the Home Office.
When other forces were unable to supply data, we mention this under the relevant sections below.
The dotted lines on the Bar Charts show one Standard Deviation (sd) above and below the unweighted mean across all forces. Where the distribution of the scores appears normally distributed, the sd is calculated in the normal way. If the forces are not normally distributed, the scores are transformed by taking logs and a Shapiro Wilks test performed to see if this creates a more normal distribution. If it does, the logged values are used to estimate the sd. If not, the sd is calculated using the normal values. Forces with scores more than 1 sd units from the mean (i.e. with Z-scores greater than 1, or less than -1) are considered as showing performance well above, or well below, average. These forces will be outside the dotted lines on the Bar Chart. Typically, 32% of forces will be above or below these lines for any given measure.
For all uses of population as a denominator in our calculations, unless otherwise noted, we use ONS mid-2020 population estimates.
Survey of police workforce
We surveyed the police workforce across England and Wales, to understand their views on workloads, redeployment and how suitable their assigned tasks were. This survey was a non-statistical, voluntary sample so the results may not be representative of the workforce population. The number of responses per force varied. So we treated results with caution and didn’t use them to assess individual force performance. Instead, we identified themes that we could explore further during fieldwork.
Victim Service Assessment
Our victim service assessments (VSAs) will track a victim’s journey from reporting a crime to the police, through to outcome stage. All forces will be subjected to a VSA within our PEEL inspection programme. Some forces will be selected to additionally be tested on crime recording, in a way that ensures every force is assessed on its crime recording practices at least every three years.
Details of the technical methodology for the Victim Service Assessment.
Cases discussed and recommended cases to discuss at multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARAC)
This data was obtained from SafeLives. SafeLives may have updated these figures since we obtained them for this report.
Workforce figures (including ethnicity)
This data was obtained from the Home Office annual data return 502. The data is available from the Home Office’s published police workforce England and Wales statistics or the police workforce open data tables. The Home Office may have updated these figures since we obtained them for this report.
The data gives the full-time equivalent workforce figures as at 31 March 2022. The figures include section 38-designated investigation, detention or escort officers, but not section 39-designated detention or escort staff. They include officers on career breaks and other types of long-term absence but exclude those seconded to other forces.