Our inspection assessed how good Merseyside Police is in nine areas of policing. We make graded judgments in eight of these nine as follows:
We also inspected how effective a service Merseyside 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.
In 2014, we introduced our police efficiency, effectiveness 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.
We have moved to a more intelligence-led, continual assessment approach, rather than the annual PEEL inspections we used in previous years. Forces are assessed against the characteristics of good performance, set out in the PEEL Assessment Framework 2023–2025, and we more clearly link our judgments to causes of concern and areas for improvement.
It isn’t possible to make direct comparisons between the grades awarded in this PEEL inspection and those from the previous cycle of PEEL inspections. This is because we have increased our focus on making sure forces are achieving appropriate outcomes for the public, and in some cases we have changed the aspects of policing we inspect.
Terminology in this report
Our reports contain references to, among other things, ‘national’ definitions, priorities, policies, systems, responsibilities and processes.
In some instances, ‘national’ means applying to England or Wales, or England and Wales. In others, it means applying to England, Wales and Scotland, or the whole of the United Kingdom.
HM Inspector’s summary
I am pleased with some aspects of the performance of Merseyside Police in reducing crime and providing victims with an effective service. But there are areas in which the force needs to improve.
I recognise that Merseyside Police has faced significant operational challenges since our last PEEL inspection in 2021. Incidents have included:
- shootings resulting in the tragic loss of innocent life;
- the terrorist attack at Liverpool Women’s Hospital;
- large-scale disorder near premises housing asylum seekers, protest and disruption at Aintree racecourse; and
- the policing of the Eurovision song contest.
All these incidents required effective leadership, the ability to use resources more flexibly, and quick responses to changing situations and level of risk, which the force achieved well.
But Merseyside Police needs to improve the service for the public in some important areas, such as the safeguarding of vulnerable people. The force doesn’t always answer emergency and non-emergency calls in a timely way, and it doesn’t always respond to calls for service as quickly as it should. While the force has tried to address some of these problems, for example, by reopening some rural stations to attend incidents more quickly, it needs to do more to meet the public’s needs.
The force has made some improvements to its attendance to calls for service, but it still isn’t routinely attending incidents quickly enough. If the force doesn’t attend incidents in time, it can cause victims to lose confidence. In more serious cases, this can cause victims to be potentially put directly at risk.
The force has continued to develop its prevention model since our last inspection. Prevention is valued by the force and is viewed as a key strategic priority. There is effective work with partner organisations and communities to tackle local problems, in particular through the Clear, Hold, Build programme to address the threat posed from serious and organised crime. I am pleased to see the value that the force places on preventing crime and antisocial behaviour.
Unfortunately, the force had allowed backlogs to develop in key areas such as processing applications for the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. This was also an issue in our 2019 PEEL inspection. The force needs to assure itself of its governance procedures to prevent this issue in future.
During our inspection, officers and staff said that the force supports them well, has an improving occupational health provision and that there are effective plans in place to retain new recruits.
However, I want to see the force do more to make sure it is fully representative of the communities it serves. In Merseyside, 8.3 percent of the population is from an ethnic minority background, yet just 3.7 percent of its officers identified as being from an ethnic minority background. This is beginning to improve in the recruitment of police officers – as of 31 March 2022, 7.0 percent of all new joiners to the force are from an ethnic minority background. This is encouraging.
I was pleased to find that Merseyside has low levels of disproportionality in its use of stop and search and in its use of force. This means that members of the public can have confidence in how the force uses the powers that can affect them the most.
The force had a change in leadership in the year leading up to our inspection, with the appointment of a new deputy chief constable. The force has also completed a significant review of its operating model through the Community First Operating Review. This has resulted in changes to the way resources are aligned to different business areas and will see an amalgamation of elements of its investigations functions. At the time of our inspection, the force was only just putting these changes in place, meaning they weren’t fully developed. It will take time to have the effect the leadership wants.
I hope the changes to the way the force operates result in improvements that help it better meet the public’s needs. I will be monitoring its progress closely.
HM Inspector of Constabulary
Senior leaders are committed to developing good leadership at all levels. Support is available to officers, police staff and volunteers entering leadership for the first time. This includes helping first-line leaders foster an ethical and inclusive working environment through the Leadership and Me programme.
Police personnel view first-line leaders positively and they model high standards of behaviour as well as providing a supportive and ethical working environment. It is clear that the leadership applied to managing investigations into serious crime, critical and major incidents is of a high standard.
However, Merseyside Police needs to improve some elements of its governance and performance management framework that affect its daily operations. Some areas of the organisation aren’t managed as effectively as they should be. The force is failing to appropriately resource areas of high demand that are causing backlogs and excessive workloads. This has a negative effect on service provision to the public. This was clear in the area of safeguarding and vulnerability. Elements of this were highlighted in our 2019 PEEL inspection.
Processes exist that give staff the opportunity to provide feedback and challenge the organisation, which contributes to staff feeling valued in the workplace.
Senior leaders help to create a culture of well-being, striking a balance between operational needs and looking after people. Leaders understand and value the organisational benefits of diversity, demonstrating a belief in inclusive leadership.
Senior leaders have a number of challenges to deal with, such as high levels of complex demand. Recruiting and retaining officers and staff in some key areas in a competitive job market has also proved difficult. The force has reviewed resource requirements for both responding to and investigating crime effectively at strategic and tactical levels through the Community First Operating Review programme. We will monitor the effect of these changes and report on progress in due course.
Reducing crime assessment
The reducing crime assessment sets out what Merseyside Police is doing to reduce crime and how effective this action is. This assessment doesn’t include police-recorded crime figures. This is because they can be affected by variations and changes in recording policy and practice. This means it is difficult to make comparisons over time.
Problem-solving is a priority for the force and it helps to reduce crime. The force is investing in early intervention to prevent and reduce crime at the first opportunity.
The force works well with other organisations. This helps it develop long-term, sustainable plans to find the root cause of repeat problems and to make changes that will help communities and prevent crime.
The community engagement and neighbourhood policing teams work well with communities to understand and meet their needs. The teams are building trust and confidence with the public. Both teams encourage the public to share information to help deter and detect crime.
The force needs to improve the quality of its investigations and make sure investigators have enough capacity to deal with complex and high-risk cases.
The force must improve the way it processes vulnerable persons referrals to share information and safeguard victims at the earliest opportunity. This will help it better protect vulnerable people and reduce crime in the future.
The force should improve the way it prioritises high-risk safeguarding cases. This will help it reduce crime and provide a better service for victims.
The majority of the recorded grounds for stop and search show that police are using this power proportionately and in line with the legislation. The effective use of stop and search helps the force reduce crime.
The force uses bail well to protect vulnerable victims and reduce further crime.
Merseyside Police shows a good understanding of current and future demand. The force focuses on early prevention and intervention, helping to divert young people from offending.
More detail on what Merseyside Police is doing to reduce crime is included in the main body of the report.
Providing a service to the victims of crime
Victim service assessment
This section describes our assessment of the service Merseyside Police provides to victims. This is from the point of reporting a crime and throughout the investigation. As part of this assessment, we reviewed 100 case files.
When the police close a case of a reported crime, it will be assigned what is referred to as an ‘outcome type’. This describes the reason for closing it.
We selected 100 cases to review, including at least 20 that the force had closed with the following outcome:
Diversionary, educational or intervention activity, resulting from the crime report, has been undertaken and it isn’t in the public interest to take any further action (outcome 22).
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. On most occasions, the force identifies repeat and vulnerable victims
The force needs to improve the time it takes to answer emergency calls and reduce the number of non-emergency calls abandoned by the caller because they aren’t answered. When the force answers calls, it uses a structured process that considers threat, harm, risk and vulnerability. On most occasions, the force identifies repeat victims, meaning that it is usually aware of the victim’s circumstances when considering what response to give. Call handlers don’t always give victims advice on crime prevention or on how to preserve evidence.
In most cases, the force responds promptly to calls for service
On most occasions, the force responds to calls for service appropriately. But it doesn’t always respond within set timescales. It doesn’t always inform victims of delays, meaning that victims’ expectations weren’t met in these instances. This may cause victims to lose confidence and disengage from the process.
The force carries out effective and prompt investigations
In most cases, the force carries out investigations in a timely way, completing relevant and proportionate lines of enquiry. The force supervises investigations well and regularly updates victims. Victims are more likely to have confidence in a police investigation when they receive regular updates.
A thorough investigation increases the likelihood of perpetrators being identified and arrested, providing a positive end result for the victim. In most cases, the force takes victim personal statements, which gives victims the opportunity to describe how the crime has affected their lives.
The force doesn’t always record whether it considers using orders designed to protect victims, such as a Domestic Violence Protection Notice or Domestic Violence Protection Order.
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime requires forces to carry out a needs assessment at an early stage to establish whether victims need additional support. The force usually carried out this assessment and recorded the request for additional support.
The force usually assigns the right outcome type to an investigation. It considers victim’s wishes and the offender’s background but doesn’t always hold an auditable record of victim’s wishes
The force isn’t consistently providing the level of service to make sure that it achieves appropriate outcomes for victims of crime. The force doesn’t always close crimes with the appropriate outcome type. It records a clear rationale for using a certain outcome and this is usually effectively supervised. It seeks victims’ views when deciding which outcome type to assign to a closed investigation. When required, an auditable record of the victim’s wishes wasn’t always obtained. The force did inform victims of what outcome code was assigned to the investigation.
Police powers and treating the public fairly and respectfully
Merseyside Police is good at using police powers and treating people fairly and respectfully.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to police powers and treating people fairly and respectfully.
The force has a good understanding of how to use police powers fairly and respectfully
In the year ending 31 March 2022, the force carried out 46,059 stop and searches. This is a slight reduction from 48,818 in the previous year. This data represents 31.9 searches per 1,000 population, making Merseyside Police the highest user of stop and search in England and Wales.
In the year ending 31 March 2022, the force recorded 10,440 use of force incidents. This compares to 7,589 incidents in the previous year and represents a 37.6 percent increase.
When estimating levels of recording we would expect the number of use of force records to exceed the number of arrests in a force. In the year ending 31 March 2022, Merseyside Police recorded 10,440 use of force incidents compared to an estimated 26,781 incidents we would have expected to have been recorded, based on the number of arrests the force made. This is therefore indicative of under-recording. The force’s decision to deviate from National Police Chiefs’ Council guidelines and not record compliant handcuffing will contribute to this. This is currently under review. Without an accurate picture of how this power is being used, the force is missing opportunities to improve its application and reassure the public of its fair and effective use.
We found that officers understand how to use stop and search powers fairly and respectfully. The force has adopted the new public and personal safety training programme. It also gives stop and search refresher training through the Hydra training system. This system allows officers to observe scenarios in a protected learning environment. They can comment on and discuss each scenario in a group setting and learn from those interactions. This learning covers legislative powers, communication skills and safe search techniques.
During our inspection, we reviewed a sample of 201 stop and search records from 1 January to 31 December 2022. On the basis of this sample, we estimate that 85.1 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 4.9 percent) of all stop and searches by the force during this period had reasonable grounds recorded. This is broadly unchanged from the findings in our review in 2021 when we found 89.0 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.6) of stop and searches had reasonable grounds recorded. Of the records we reviewed for stop and searches on people from ethnic minority backgrounds, 10 out of 15 had reasonable grounds recorded.
The force makes effective use of body-worn video when using police powers
Body-worn video is a useful tool in providing an accurate record of interactions between police and the community. The use of body-worn video is mandatory for officers when using stop and search powers. Internal and external forums review body-worn video footage as part of the scrutiny process. This review of video footage helps those in the process to see and hear firsthand what happened during the interaction. As such, reviewers can comment on specific elements that may otherwise have been missed. Effective scrutiny makes sure interactions were carried out fairly and respectfully and makes sure the instances are lawful. This also helps to identify learning and good practice, which the force shares across the organisation to develop policy and improve practice.
The force needs to improve its understanding of stop and search outcome rates
The linked find rates should proportionately mirror the force’s high levels of stop and search use. The linked find rate is where the stop and search results in finding a particular item or items that formed the officers’ suspicion and grounds for the interaction in the first instance. In the year ending 31 March 2022, Merseyside Police found the item that was the subject of the search (the ‘find rate’) in 16.0 percent of stop and searches. This find rate for all forces in England and Wales during the same time period was 22.2 percent. The force would benefit from exploring its data in greater depth to understand the reasons behind this disparity to make the use of stop and search more effective.
The force needs to improve the consistency of use in the supervisor quality assurance process
While internal scrutiny of police powers is effective, the force would benefit from its line managers using its internal quality assurance process more consistently. There is an effective digital process for completing quality assurance. This allows the force to gather relevant data and identify positive instances of use as well as those that may need developmental feedback.
But in our inspection, we found that sergeants used the quality assurance process inconsistently. The force would benefit from improving this position to obtain more consistent data and help it to better understand its use of stop and search as well as the use of force.
In its scrutiny of data, the force has previously relied on quantitative data and would benefit from increased use of qualitative data. This would help the force to understand its use of powers in greater detail. This would improve its use of powers and increase public confidence as a result.
The force has low levels of disproportionality in its use of powers
When examining disproportionality data for stop and search rates between people from ethnic minority backgrounds and White people, a value of less than 0.8 shows that a person from an ethnic minority background is less likely than someone who is White to be stopped and searched. A value higher than 1.25 shows that someone from an ethnic minority background is more likely to be stopped and searched.
In Merseyside, Asian or Asian British people were 0.3 times as likely to be stopped and searched compared to White people. Black or Black British people were 1.1 times as likely, people from multiple ethnic minority backgrounds were 0.7 times as likely, and people from other ethnic minority backgrounds were 0.8 times as likely. The likelihood of a person who is Black or Black British being stopped across England and Wales is 4.8. This shows that Merseyside Police has low levels of disproportionality in its use of stop and search powers.
The use of force by officers also shows low levels of disproportionality. In the year ending 31 March 2022, 4.4 percent of all use of force incidents were against people from a Black or Black British background and 1.3 percent against those from an Asian or Asian British background. This is in comparison to the England and Wales figures of 13.6 percent for Black or Black British and 6.9 percent for Asian and Asian British.
There is governance, oversight and internal scrutiny of the use of powers through the force’s Public Encounters Group meeting. The group meets monthly and helps the force to understand the use of powers by officers. The meeting uses informative data and analysis to examine issues such as the legal powers used and their success rates. Importantly, the meeting also identifies and examines the levels of potential disproportionality in the use of stop and search that may have an effect on community relations.
External scrutiny of stop and search and use of force is good
The force ‘fairness in policing’ team uses the established Merseyside independent advisory group and public scrutiny panels to examine incidents of both stop and search and use of force. The independent chair of the panels randomly selects the incidents brought to the panels. Representatives of these forums use the body-worn video footage to observe the officers’ actions, listen to the communication skills used and examine the documentation submitted to comment on the quality of the interaction. We found that panel members reviewed the circumstances of each case thoroughly and offered appropriate challenges.
The ‘fairness in policing’ team makes effective use of technology to gather feedback comments during the meetings and examine those in detail at a later date. As with internal scrutiny, this provides feedback that the force uses to improve and develop officer training and its practices. The force gave examples of how it had adapted training programmes to meet specific needs. For example, in its training course on communicating with people whose first language isn’t English, topics included how poor communication skills can have a negative effect on communities.
Preventing and deterring crime and antisocial behaviour, and reducing vulnerability
Merseyside Police is good at prevention and deterrence.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to prevention and deterrence.
Prevention is a key strategic priority for the force
The force has invested in this area by creating a specific business area for prevention, led by a chief superintendent. The prevention strand has brought together different elements and functions under one umbrella. This provides a cohesive approach to the prevention of crime and antisocial behaviour.
This approach will provide a more efficient and effective service. It will address the issues of high demand placed on the organisation more effectively. The force view prevention as the key element in reducing demand, preventing crime and safeguarding communities.
An example of this approach is Project Nova – a support programme for ex-armed services personnel who encounter the police and criminal justice system. A constable in the community engagement team manages the programme. It provides personalised engagement packages to individuals with a focus on early intervention, support and diversion to prevent offending and address their vulnerabilities. Merseyside Police has established partnership programmes that provide support to vulnerable veterans.
Merseyside Police communicates well with communities. The force listens, understands and responds to what matters to local people.
The force listens to and responds well to the local community
The force has a comprehensive strategy to get local communities involved that follows the College of Policing Neighbourhood Policing guidelines. It provides a clearly defined purpose for engagement activities, which complements local policing activity. The primary responsibility for engagement sits with the community engagement team based at Merseyside Police headquarters.
Community engagement allows effective two-way communication and provides communities with the ability to influence policing in their local area and to set local priorities.
The force evaluates its engagement activity to find out which styles work best with different communities. The activity is recorded on a live tracking facility. This helps the force to learn and identify the best forms of communication to use with different communities in varied situations. Each member of the community engagement team is also a single point of contact for the different identified communities. This provides continuity and helps to build trust.
‘Powerful Beyond all Measure’, a hate crime support group for women, is an example of how the force actively works with the public. It is a diverse group of women of different nationalities who come together to support each other and work with partner organisations and police to combat hate crime. This group, with regular support from the community engagement team, have identified ‘hotspot areas’ where they have been made to feel uncomfortable due to comments or the behaviour of others that police were unaware of. This has led to effective work with local policing teams and partner organisations to counter the risks and work to diffuse tensions.
Merseyside Polonia Forum is a dedicated community advisory group for the Polish community. The forum is managed by a Polish member of the community engagement team. It gives key members of the Polish community and police partners an opportunity to share experiences, good policing practice and discuss how to improve the levels of service for the Polish community in Merseyside. There are approximately 50 members, representing organisations including education, social services, domestic abuse charities and homelessness. The forum meets quarterly at different locations in the community.
There is good governance and oversight of community engagement
There is good governance and oversight of community engagement through the force’s community engagement and user insight board. The board examines data from the Public Perception survey and the National Victim Satisfaction survey as well as information from the Merseyside independent advisory group and community action groups. This includes data on victim satisfaction across ethnic minority backgrounds, for victims of crime and users of other policing services. The force examines data to make sure that communities whose voices aren’t often heard, and where communication is the most difficult to achieve, are recognised and valued.
The force has recently invested in SOLV technology. This technology allows the force to effectively target communication, through digital media, to specific locations and communities. This means it can share focused and informative messages that are impactful and relevant.
While the force is still new to using it, there is recognition of the wider potential of this method of communication, for example in circulating information on missing persons.
The force has an effective approach to problem-solving
The force has an established problem-orientated policing team based centrally at its headquarters. The team is made up of a sergeant and six constable tactical advisers, each trained in effective problem-solving. The team oversees problem-solving plans and provides advice and guidance to officers and staff across the force.
The work of the missing persons unit is an example of effective problem-solving. The team works with Ofsted to keep children safe in unregulated settings. Unlike children’s homes, which are registered with Ofsted and regularly inspected, there is no legal minimum standard for unregulated accommodation. Ofsted doesn’t regulate this type of housing. The missing persons unit helps the force in addressing any concerns arounds standards of reporting missing children and the suitability of accommodation in these settings.
Staff work closely with care home providers to prevent children from going missing. They offer diversionary options for children in this setting. The aim is to support young people to make positive choices, now and in later life, and prevent them from being drawn into crime through early intervention.
The force also makes effective use of problem-solving in addressing issues around serious acquisitive crime, such as theft, robbery or burglary. An example of this relates to incidents of thefts from motor vehicles over a six-month period in a car park. Staff completed a full assessment of the problem and created a problem-solving plan to address the issue. Actions to address the issue were recorded. As a result, a suspect was arrested. The force obtained a criminal behaviour order against the individual and had CCTV installed around the car park. This provided a sustainable reduction in crime at the location.
Merseyside Police historically viewed problem-solving as a local policing role when addressing community priorities. The force is now using problem-solving techniques to also improve internal systems and processes to make it operate more efficiently and effectively.
The force has a good understanding of antisocial behaviour and vulnerability and makes effective use of powers in prevention
In the year ending 31 March 2022, Merseyside Police recorded 22,678 incidents of antisocial behaviour. This is a reduction on the 46,285 incidents recorded in the year ending 31 March 2021. This is a rate of 15.9 per 1,000 population and is similar to other forces across England and Wales.
In the year ending 31 March 2022, the force issued 34 community protection notices, 125 criminal behaviour orders and used 91 dispersal powers. Through its effective problem-solving and good working relationships with partner organisations, such as local authorities, Merseyside Police is tackling the underlying causes of antisocial behaviour.
The force is effective at identifying high-harm crime, supporting victims and reducing reoffending
Using the Cambridge Harm Index, the force makes effective use of data to understand and identify high-harm and high-crime hotspots.
The force was an early adopter of Clear, Hold, Build and is actively working with partner agencies, such as the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, local councils, and housing associations, as well as the Home Office to implement this across selected areas of the force.
Clear, Hold, Build focuses on reducing the activity and effect of serious and organised crime (SOC) in an area while improving community safety and confidence in the police.
Clear, Hold, Build is designed to tackle the threat from SOC within a given area and involves partner agencies, community groups and the community itself working together in a co-ordinated, targeted and proportionate way. The three-phase approach designs and provides interventions to target organised crime group members, their networks, business interests and criminality. Subsequent use of interventions, counter measures and contingency plans consolidate and stabilise the area. This provides an effective approach to build community resilience and tackle the drivers of crime, exploitation and vulnerability.
Each of the five local policing areas across Merseyside has a police hate crime co‑ordinator who collaborates closely with partner organisations, sharing data and information.
The co-ordinators work alongside the protecting vulnerable people teams and those investigating hate crime. Staff are committed to supporting repeat victims, locations and partnership problem-solving.
The force undertakes a problem-solving approach and provides support for victims through the Wirral Hate Crime multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC), which is linked directly with wider community policing in the Wirral. The force shares data on the Inter-Agency Monitoring Form council database, which each partnership agency has access to. This helps the provision of prompt advocate support.
Responding to the public
Merseyside Police is adequate at responding to the public.
Area for improvement
The force needs to make sure it answers emergency calls quickly enough
In the year ending 31 March 2023, Merseyside Police answered 74 percent of 999 calls within 10 seconds. This was lower than the standard expected of forces in England and Wales, which is to answer 90 percent of 999 calls within 10 seconds.
Figure 1: Proportion of 999 calls answered within 10 seconds by forces in England and Wales in the year ending 31 March 2023
Call answering time is the time taken for a call to transfer to a force, plus the time taken by that force to answer it. The average time it took the force to answer an emergency call during this period was 14.75 seconds. This performance is against a backdrop of increasing demand levels of emergency calls received by the force.
In the year ending 31 March 2023, Merseyside Police received 195 calls to 999 per 1,000 population. This was higher than expected compared to other forces in England and Wales.
The force has recognised this as an issue. It is recruiting new and additional staff for the force control centre but must make sure that it improves in answering emergency and non-emergency calls.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force responds to the public.
The force needs to reduce the number of non-emergency calls that the caller abandons because they aren’t answered
The force told us that 14.7 percent of calls to its non-emergency 101 facility in the year ending 31 March 2023 were abandoned. This abandonment rate is higher than the expected standard of 10 percent for forces without a switchboard in England and Wales.
This is an improvement on the previous rate of 25 percent of calls abandoned in the year ending 31 March 2020. But it still falls short of the 10 percent requirement. The force admits that it needs to improve further. It is carrying out a piece of work to better understand why and at what point in the process members of the public are abandoning attempts to call the police. At the time of inspection, the force had no clear understanding of whether callers hang up due to waiting times or because they choose to use an online option. This work should help the force to improve the service to the public and identify the extent of use and effectiveness of alternative options to report incidents, such as the Single Online Home service.
Call handlers in the control room communicate effectively with callers and treat callers politely and with respect
Call handlers undertake a ten-week initial training course followed by six weeks of mentoring to develop effective communication and listening skills. When we observed staff in their roles and as part of our victim service assessment review, it was clear that they had developed these skills.
In all 67 cases we reviewed, we found that call handlers acted politely, appropriately and ethically. They used clear, unambiguous language without apparent bias. Staff receive annual refresher training in these skill areas as part of their continuing professional development.
The force identifies and understands risk well and carries out a structured initial triage when receiving calls for service
When answering calls for service, force control room staff complete a risk assessment examining THRIVE criteria. They ask the caller questions to assess the level of risk and threat, which helps staff to decide what response grade to assign the call. As part of our victim service assessment, we found that the force effectively completed the THRIVE risk assessment in 55 of the 57 cases we reviewed. In all these 55 cases, this structured triage record was an accurate reflection of the circumstances of the call.
We found that call handlers accurately provide an initial grading of reported incidents. The initial prioritisation grading of the call was appropriate in 68 of the 69 cases we reviewed.
The force needs to make sure it routinely identifies repeat victims
However, the force should make sure that it routinely identifies repeat victims in its initial risk assessment of each incident. We found that there was evidence of a check for a repeat victim in 52 out of 62 cases. As such, the force is missing opportunities to reduce repeat victims at the first point of call. However, when a repeat victim was identified, this was clearly recorded on the incident log in all 21 cases.
The force has seen a steady increase in the number of recorded incidents flagged as repeat callers since September 2021. The number of incidents flagged as repeat callers increased from 73,231 in the year ending 30 September 2021 to 113,320 in the year ending 30 September 2022. This suggests that the force has improved performance in this area and can provide an improved level of service to callers as a result.
The force needs to improve the consistency of providing crime prevention and scene preservation advice to callers
The force needs to make sure that call handlers give appropriate advice on the preservation of evidence and appropriate crime prevention advice to help and reassure the caller. We found that call handlers gave appropriate advice on the preservation of evidence in 24 of the 34 cases we reviewed. We found that they gave appropriate advice on crime prevention in 30 of the 40 cases we reviewed. This means that the force is potentially missing opportunities to help secure evidence at scenes of crime or evidence of antisocial behaviour that might help investigations.
The force has a variety of options through which people can make contact
The force has the range of options now in place under the Single Online Home facility. This facility allows people to contact the force through non-traditional means and digitally report incidents such as a crime, domestic abuse, road traffic incidents, missing persons or antisocial behaviour. The force told us that this facility has increased demand on the organisation by 35 percent. The force provided examples where victims had reported incidents through those channels and had stated they wouldn’t have reported them by other, more traditional means.
The force also uses social media channels to allow people to make contact. The force monitors Single Online Home and social media functions 24/7 in the control room. These are subject to a THRIVE risk assessment to make sure incident reports received in this manner are swiftly identified and recorded with an appropriate incident grading and resource allocation where necessary.
The force needs to attend calls for service in line with its published attendance times
In 12 of the 64 cases we examined, we found that the response to the incident wasn’t within the required attendance time (whether downgraded or not). This delayed response can lead to the force missing opportunities to safeguard victims or preserve available evidence. Failure to attend incidents in line with assigned incident gradings can cause victims to lose confidence in the force and disengage from further action. Victims may be put at risk and evidence may be lost.
Merseyside Police publishes a response attendance time of ten minutes for its emergency calls. The force has an incident grading of ‘priority’. From receipt of the call, this requires attendance within 60 minutes.
Incident response times were identified as an area for improvement for the force at the previous PEEL inspection in 2021 and this was still the case during our latest inspection. But the force has improved the management and oversight of incidents that it hasn’t yet attended. The force reviews its original risk assessment if there is any delay in attendance or change in circumstances relating to an incident – for instance, if it receives another call about the incident or finds additional information about the alleged offender. This is to make sure that the level of incident response is, whenever possible, appropriate to the level of risk of the situation. Initial incident grading levels will increase, if necessary, where any change in circumstances increases the level of perceived risk. In general, we found that the force was attending incidents involving vulnerable people within the graded response target times.
Merseyside Police is adequate at investigating crime.
Area for improvement
The force needs to make sure it has enough trained staff and resources within its specialist investigation functions
We found that staff working in some specialist investigation functions have excessive workloads. The force has a unity team that investigates rape offences which are complex and demanding. During our inspection, we found that resourcing of qualified, experienced detectives was below the required levels.
The force told us that some of these investigators were each overseeing more than 25 live investigations of serious sexual offences, with some supervisors overseeing over 100 cases.
High caseloads for officers results in high caseloads for supervisors. We found supervisors’ reviews that weren’t within required timescales and that were copied from other investigations with no meaningful value added to the investigation as a result.
The force must make sure it understands the resource levels needed to meet that demand. Staff with high caseloads will find it difficult to provide an effective investigation on each individual case. As such, they won’t give victims a quality service and outcome.
Area for improvement
The force doesn’t consistently achieve appropriate outcomes for victims
The force isn’t always achieving acceptable outcomes for victims of crime. It has low numbers of crimes that are solved following investigations. The force needs to understand the issue and work to achieve better outcomes for victims.
Figure 2: Percentage of victim-based crime recorded by Merseyside Police and all forces in England and Wales by selected outcome types in the year ending 31 December 2022
||Merseyside outcome rate
||England and Wales outcome rate
|1 – Charged/summonsed
|2 & 3 – Caution – youths and adults
|8 – Community resolutions
|9 – Prosecution not in the public interest (CPS decision)
|10 & 21 – Prosecution not in the public interest (police decision)
|14 – Evidential difficulties (suspect not identified but the victim declines or is unable to support)
|15 – Evidential difficulties (suspect identified; victim supports police action)
|16 – Evidential difficulties (suspect identified; victim doesn’t support or withdraws support)
|17 – Prosecution time limit expired
|18 – Investigation complete – no suspect identified
|20 – Action undertaken by another body/ agency
|22 – Diversionary, educational or intervention activity
Between the year ending 31 December 2022 and the previous year, the proportion of victim-based crimes assigned outcome 16 (evidential difficulties: suspect identified, victim doesn’t support further action) by Merseyside Police, remained constant at approximately 30.8 percent. This value is higher than expected compared to other forces in England and Wales.
Figure 3: Proportion of victim-based crimes assigned outcome 1 (charged/summonsed) by Merseyside Police between the year ending 31 March 2015 and the year ending 31 December 2022
In the year ending 31 December 2022, the force assigned 5.1 percent of victim‑based crimes a charged/summonsed outcome. This was a decrease from 14.2 percent in the year ending 31 March 2015.
We found the force didn’t comprehensively audit and scrutinise disposal outcomes. This means that leaders can’t be confident they fully understand what directs specific outcomes, whether the outcomes are appropriate, and the improvements needed to provide justice for victims.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force investigates crime.
The force needs to make sure it is using outcomes appropriately, so it complies with force and national policies and give victims satisfactory results
Forces are accountable for the decisions they make on closing and disposing of reported crime, which should follow the national crime recording standard. This includes recording outcome codes when cases are closed. The record should also reflect the victim’s concerns and views. Prior to closing a crime investigation, the force should make sure they talk to victims and let them know that the crime case is being closed.
We found inconsistencies in the processing and application of crime outcome codes to closed investigations. Our victim service assessment found that crime finalisation had effective and appropriate supervision in 72 of 88 cases. The force applied the correct outcome in 68 of 86 cases and there was a clear rationale recorded for the outcome in 73 of 85 cases.
The force pursues evidence-led prosecutions on behalf of victims whenever possible
In our victim service assessment audit, we found evidence that the force considered evidence-led prosecutions when victims don’t support police action but it wants to achieve good results. Investigators aim to make best use of all evidential opportunities, such as CCTV, witness testimony, body-worn video footage and initial call recordings.
We dip sampled ten cases that classed as high-risk domestic abuse cases and in nine of those, officers had considered evidence-led prosecution. Officers and staff told us of successful prosecutions where victims of domestic violence had been too frightened to provide a witness statement or go to court. We found that staff pursue evidence-led prosecutions whenever possible in order to safeguard victims and reduce crime.
The force generally carries out thorough investigations but it needs to make sure this is consistently achieved
During our inspection, we found that some of the force’s investigations weren’t carried out to an acceptable standard.
Our audit found that staff completed appropriate investigation plans in line with College of Policing authorised professional practice guidance in 47 of 61 cases. This means that staff weren’t always identifying evidential opportunities from the start of an investigation. The force should make sure staff create investigation plans in line with authorised professional practice where applicable, with effective supervisory oversight. This will make sure that the force pursues all proportionate investigative opportunities available.
In 77 of 88 cases, there was evidence that staff take all proportionate investigative opportunities from the start and throughout the investigation. We judged 82 of 94 investigations to be effective. However, when an appropriate investigation plan was in place, staff followed and updated this in all 47 cases. Arrests were made at the earliest opportunity in 14 of 15 cases.
The force has improved how it completes and records victims’ needs assessments
Under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, a force should complete an initial victim needs assessment to determine if a victim needs support. The assessment should also establish the type of support needed, assess whether a victim is vulnerable or intimidated and if they are entitled to enhanced rights, such as those who are victims of domestic abuse or hate crimes.
Investigators carried out an initial victim needs assessment in 68 of 74 cases we reviewed. However, we found that the force doesn’t always consider enhanced services to support people, such as those who are vulnerable, intimidated or persistently targeted, or are victims of serious crime.
In our last inspection, we told the force this was an area of improvement. It needs to do more to make sure call handlers routinely ask victims during the initial call about the support they need and record this effectively.
However, we found that the force has improved how it supports victims in the majority of its investigations.
The force consults with victims and keeps them up to date on the progress of the investigation
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime requires an investigator to maintain contact with the victim of a crime and update them on the progress of any enquiries. In our inspection, we found that there was effective victim contact in place in all 71 cases we reviewed. There was a good level of victim service provided in 96 out of 99 cases.
In our last PEEL 2021/22 inspection, we told the force that it should improve how it records victim decisions and its reasons for withdrawing support for investigations. We told the force to make sure it documents the consideration of evidence-led prosecutions in all such cases.
In general, the force complies with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. Officers and staff know it is important to keep victims updated. We found that victims were consulted prior to the outcome being given in 59 of 66 cases. And in 64 of 69 cases, the victim’s views were considered. But an auditable record of the victim’s views wasn’t always recorded.
Protecting vulnerable people
Merseyside Police requires improvement at protecting vulnerable people.
Area for improvement
The force needs to make sure it has enough trained staff and resources so the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme function complies with the required legislative processes and timescales
The force doesn’t have enough trained resources in place in order to meet the legislative requirements of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS). The DVDS team is a small team made up of a detective sergeant, two safeguarding officers and two researchers. The two officers complete the DVDS disclosures on behalf of the whole force. At the time of our inspection, the force told us there were 457 applications at various stages of research and decision-making, and there are often delays in disclosures to applicants.
The force has, importantly, increased publicity around this scheme. But it hasn’t increased its permanent resources to meet additional applications and instead relies on the use of temporary agency staff. This isn’t sustainable.
We carried out a dip sample of ‘right to know’ applications received but awaiting review. The oldest dated back more than 90 days, yet the force is required to make any disclosure within 28 days.
The force should make sure it provides appropriate information to potential victims of domestic abuse or sexual offences promptly. Without this, the force can’t make an informed decision about the victim’s safety, and they may unknowingly remain at risk.
We previously identified this as an area for improvement for the force in our 2019 inspection, which it had successfully achieved in 2021 by clearing the backlog. It is disappointing that the issue has now returned.
Area for improvement
The force needs to make sure that it has safeguarding systems and triage processes with enough trained resources in the vulnerable persons referral unit to meet demand, prioritise the risk contained within the vulnerable person referral forms awaiting assessment and make timely referrals to partner agencies
While the force does effectively identify and record vulnerability at the first point of contact through either call handlers or initial response officers, the force has delays in processing the vulnerable persons referral forms then submitted. The unit is resourced to manage an average of 200 referrals a day. At the time of our inspection, we found backlogs of over 1,200 unprocessed forms. The incidents in the backlog were up to 14 days old and were a mixture of vulnerable adult referrals and incidents of domestic abuse. This backlog accumulated in the six months prior to the inspection with no process for escalation of resources to address the issue until the backlog hit 1,000.
The force lacked clear processes and policies for the prioritisation of risk to those whose referrals were waiting for processing. The processes and policies should focus on the identification and timely referral to partner agencies of vulnerable adults and on all occasions when there is a concern for the welfare of a child.
We also found no recognition of cumulative risk. If there were multiple calls for service from the same people in a brief period, staff weren’t considering this when allocating a risk level to that situation.
We found that staff were unclear of the process in place for the prioritisation of risk in managing the backlog. This delayed any notification to partner agencies and left vulnerable people, children and victims of crime at risk through the delays in appropriate safeguarding notifications and actions.
Area for improvement
The force should increase its consideration and use of preventative orders to safeguard vulnerable people in all appropriate cases
Our inspection found that there is evidence of staff considering ancillary orders, such as Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs), Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) and Stalking Protection Orders, where appropriate in 4 of 13 cases we reviewed. Also, in a second dip sample of closed high-risk domestic violence investigations we found that where cases that had been finalised using outcome 16, there was no consideration for a DVPN recorded in 9 of 10 cases.
The force allocates an officer to domestic violence courts to make sure they apply for restraining orders when appropriate.
In November and December 2022, the force provided training to staff in on DVPOs and DVPNs. This was part of the force’s domestic abuse intensification period to improve performance.
The force has introduced additional processes to improve this area of performance. Staff make DVPN applications to an officer of superintendent rank where an investigation of domestic abuse will result in no further action being taken against the suspect and where there was violence involved. The force highlights any lack of an application. This is discussed at the investigations daily management meeting when not applied for. This means that an officer now needs to justify why they don’t complete an application for a DVPO. These measures should lead to an increase in the use of preventative orders. These orders are important because the force has a high number of crimes related to domestic abuse. A high proportion of these crimes have been assigned an outcome 16. In the year ending 30 September 2022, Merseyside Police identified 33,354 crimes related to domestic abuse, which equated to 23.4 crimes per 1,000 population. This was greater than the England and Wales rate of 16.0 per 1,000 population in the same period. And in the year ending 31 March 2022, 68.8 percent of crimes related to domestic abuse for Merseyside Police were assigned an outcome 16, compared to 52.8 percent for forces across England and Wales.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force protects vulnerable people.
The force doesn’t have an evidenced-based vulnerability strategy that improves public safety
The force doesn’t have a vulnerability strategy to guide operational practice. The force needs clear plans to improve this.
There is a governance framework to oversee and improve the force’s response to the 13 strands of vulnerability, each of which has a named lead. It holds regular meetings that bring together vulnerability leads to examine, support and understand force performance in this area under the strategic vulnerability board.
The strategic vulnerability board has a specific aim to use the National Police Chiefs’ Council national vulnerability action plan, instead of a strategy to inform and support it to effectively deal with vulnerability. However, we found at the time of inspection that the national vulnerability action plan was out of date, and strategic governance of some key operational threats wasn’t clear.
The force needs to improve how it works with others to keep vulnerable people safe
Multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) units are well structured and co-located with partners, which creates an effective working relationship. Processes are well understood, with suitably trained staff and timely safeguarding practices for the protection of adults and children.
The force has established processes within the MARAC function, with a good range of partner organisations attending meetings to develop harm reduction plans to protect high-risk victims and children and manage perpetrator behaviour.
However, in the year ending 31 March 2023, the force discussed 4,840 cases at the MARAC, which was more than double the number (2,350) recommended by SafeLives based on the size of the local population. The force needs to make sure it has enough resources to meet the increasing demand.
We found that while MARAC governance meetings were taking place at a local level, there were no force-wide strategic governance meetings with partner agencies. As such, overarching governance was lacking. This means the force or wider strategic governance arrangements don’t consider the increasing MARAC demand as part of the multi-agency response to domestic abuse.
The force uses IT to identify and provide support to children at risk
The force has created and developed an information management system that uses Merseyside Police data to identify children living in the force area who are vulnerable to criminal exploitation. The force assesses children by risk of harm on an individual basis. The system also uses police data to identify people who are exploiting children in Merseyside. It allows the force to share risk index data with safeguarding partners for the completion of exploitation assessments and the appropriate referrals, prevention, interventions, diversionary and/or educational measures to be put in place. The system improves data quality and has undergone a recent pilot scheme. It is now under academic review to evaluate and refine, with plans for it to be rolled out force-wide to relevant roles in 2024.
Operation Encompass is a police and education early information safeguarding partnership helping schools to offer immediate support to children experiencing domestic abuse. The force has an automated notification process for schools when officers attend domestic abuse incidents as part of Operation Encompass. The force told us that this process has made more than 9,500 notifications to designated safeguarding leads for children of school age. In three of the five local authority areas, there is also an early years notification process. The force has also included out-of-area schools that are near its border to improve safeguarding opportunities.
The force has introduced a victim hub comprising of specially trained victim care officers
The principal aim of the victim hub is to provide victims with practical and emotional support to cope with and recover from their experiences, regardless of whether a crime is reported. This replaces the victim support service.
The force told us that it had identified 4,219 victims eligible for support at the hub between 3 October 2022 (the date it went live) and 31 October 2022.
An automated notification process was able to send a text or email to 3,238 of those identified (77 percent). The text or email gives victims the crime reference number and tells them about their right to support and where to get it. The victim can then choose to self-refer via the victim care management website or by using a free telephone number.
Victim care officers proactively reviewed and contacted 1,378 victims out of the 4,219 victims eligible for hub support and those suitable for potential support. They also completed 661 victim needs assessments and put 650 care plans in place.
At the time of our inspection, 9,932 victims were eligible for hub support and victim care officers had proactively carried out 1,587 victim needs assessments.
The force works with victims and partner agencies to improve the service it provides to vulnerable people
The force has introduced lived experience forums to educate front line officers in victim experiences of domestic abuse. The forums are an opportunity for survivors of domestic abuse to share their experience with Merseyside Police to officers and staff, including any positive or negative feedback.
Officers we spoke to who attended these forums found the experience valuable. They had identified learning that would help them to better support victims in the future.
The force also makes use of specialist and partner feedback to improve services for victims of domestic abuse. The force holds a biannual independent domestic violence adviser workshop. Independent domestic violence advisers are trained specialists who provide a service to victims at high risk of harm from intimate partners, ex-partners or family members, with the aim of securing their safety and their children’s safety.
These advisers provide client feedback and identify themes from experiences of interactions with the police. The force collates this and uses it to improve service provision. The force also works closely with partners and gets feedback from local authority victim forums. One service that has improved as a result is that the force no longer sends out no further action updates by text message. This is now done in person.
Operation Blackbird is a pilot initiative in the force. This is a police and local authority response to support and work with victims of domestic abuse. A first response police officer will deal with a victim of domestic abuse with an independent domestic abuse advocate. Effective communication with a victim of domestic abuse at an early stage provides support and can increase the chances of the victim supporting a prosecution.
The multi-agency response to threat, harm and risk is a monthly partnership meeting to safeguard children and focus on perpetrators of child exploitation. Partners share data on vulnerable victims, offenders and locations for child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation to support actions to disrupt offending. Each partner agency shares information to identify actions for change, either independently or with other partners.
During our interviews and audit activity, we identified that the voice of the child was being inconsistently recorded by officers at domestic abuse incidents. There was evidence in referrals that officers weren’t recording the lived experience directly from the child whenever possible. This can have an effect on understanding the child as a victim in their own right. It may also affect the support or referrals that are made for the child or children.
Managing offenders and suspects
Merseyside Police requires improvement at managing offenders and suspects.
Area for improvement
The force should make sure that it shares safeguarding information with local authorities at the earliest possible opportunity, and prior to enforcement action, to effectively safeguard children from serious harm
The force doesn’t have clear governance or oversight in place to manage the risks posed by online child abuse offenders. There are unnecessary delays in consulting with social services to start safeguarding children. The force should make sure it completes a referral to social services at the earliest possible opportunity when it believes a suspect has access to children. This would allow information sharing to begin between the two services and would help them build an accurate picture of any risk the suspect poses. Unless the force shares information at an early stage, there may be a delay in safeguarding children.
Area for improvement
The force should make sure that any backlog of work is subject to an intelligence refresh process to determine if there has been any change in risk level during the intervening period prior to enforcement action. This refresh process should be aligned with Kent internet risk assessment tool (KIRAT) guidance timescales
The force has no measures in place to review the intelligence picture and continually risk assess the cases that aren’t yet allocated or are awaiting enforcement action. There isn’t enough capacity within the online child abuse investigation team to assess and respond to risk quickly. The team doesn’t have robust processes in place to allow regular review and risk assessment of cases either under development or awaiting action.
At the time of inspection, the force told us that it had 43 cases in the backlog awaiting enforcement action, such as arrest or to execute a warrant. The oldest cases in the backlog were four medium-risk cases, which were each two months old, and two low-risk cases, which were each four months old. Due to the lack of intelligence refresh processes, the force can’t identify if the risk in these cases has increased, which would lead to faster enforcement action.
However, the force has brought forward the planned introduction of additional staff. An additional detective inspector and a detective sergeant are now in place. This will lead to monthly governance meetings to review backlogs and allow capacity for more regular and meaningful case reviews, which were lacking. A tactical and safeguarding support group has also been introduced. This is made up of five uniformed officers to assist with the execution of search warrants. This will release detectives to undertake investigative work.
Area for improvement
The force should develop a performance framework that helps it to understand the context of its backlogs in active risk management assessments, risk management plans and supervisory reviews. This means understanding how overdue the work is and the risk level of the offenders within those backlogs
The force doesn’t track the number of outstanding active risk management (ARMS) assessments.
ARMS is a key tool used to help identify risk and set actions to address that risk. Without this assessment, the force isn’t fully informed of the risk posed by a registered sex offender or whether any safeguarding interventions are needed.
Monitoring ARMS assessments is important. We found registered sex offenders who hadn’t been subject to an ARMS assessment for several months, meaning the force didn’t accurately know their current risk.
While the force has now improved its alignment with national guidance on this, previous deviations has led to the backlogs in ARMS risk assessments.
The force previously worked outside national guidance by not completing an ARMS assessment for low and medium-risk offenders. It would only carry out an assessment if there was considerable change in the person’s circumstances. The force completed assessments for high and very high-risk cases in line with the guidance.
The force now follows national guidance. It reviews all risk levels annually and will be completing ARMS assessments for all cases. However, the force still has a backlog to address. Our inspection found that the quality of completed ARMS assessments was good. They were detailed and thorough, accurately assessing the risk.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force manages offenders and suspects.
The force has clear policies regarding arresting wanted suspects
The force has clear and appropriate policies on the pursuit of people who are wanted and showing them as wanted on the Police National Computer. This allows officers in other forces across the country to see if a person is wanted when carrying out interactions such as stop checks or making arrests.
The force uses local daily performance meetings to monitor how it pursues suspects. It briefs staff effectively at the start of their shift with details of people who are wanted. Higher-risk suspects, such as those involved in domestic abuse incidents, are escalated so that further action can be taken if they aren’t apprehended swiftly. This helps to make sure victims are safeguarded at the earliest possible opportunity.
The force has a clear understanding of exactly how many wanted people it has outstanding at any one time. This includes how long they have been wanted for and the nature of the offence they allegedly committed.
The force proactively pursues offenders and effectively manages outstanding suspects and high-risk offenders to protect the public
There are effective processes in place to prioritise the arrest of the highest-risk offenders to protect the public. The force monitors high-risk suspects daily and assigns officers to locate and arrest them. In the case of high-risk domestic abuse offenders, for example, arrest attempts are monitored each shift and recorded for review. The force has a proactive policing team, Operation Hunted, that can be tasked with apprehending offenders.
The force effectively uses bail as a safeguarding tool to protect vulnerable victims
Bail is a tool used by police to protect and safeguard vulnerable people and locations through the imposition of conditions. For example, officers can use a wide range of bail conditions to impose restrictions on a suspect or offender, including to prevent suspects from approaching or contacting victims and prevent them from entering particular locations. This helps prevent further crime being committed and safeguard vulnerable people.
The force has good governance and oversight of its use of bail. It has a good understanding of performance through its performance management system and dashboard.
The force monitors the use of police bail to make sure that its officers are making full use of the recent changes in the bail legislation. It has seen an increase in the use of police bail with a corresponding decrease in the use of released under investigation.
The force has a criminal justice co-ordination team that oversees bail across the four custody suites. The team consists of two sergeants (one is an acting inspector) and three police staff members. One of the sergeants was part of a national team for the introduction of the 2022 bail legislation changes, meaning the force was at the forefront of the new national programme. Part of the team’s role is dealing with requests for bail changes by suspects. Suspect requests for bail changes require liaison with the officer in the case and their supervisor on the suitability of any changes.
The force records breaches of bail on force information systems. There is a positive approach to arresting suspects who have breached their bail conditions, enabling enhanced safeguarding of victims.
The force collaborates with partner agencies to manage risk
The sex offender learning and desistance programme is a collaboration between the Probation Service and Merseyside Police at both operational and strategic levels.
The programme identifies and manages the highest-risk individuals convicted of sexual offences in Merseyside.
The initiative makes sure that ARMS assessments are carried out jointly by the police and the Probation Service who are co-located at relevant stations. The co-location allows for faster information sharing and closer working between the agencies. There is a clear focus on identifying and addressing safeguarding concerns as well as collaborating on training.
This programme is at an early stage and its benefits are yet to evaluated.
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.
Each force works with regional organised crime units (ROCUs) to tackle SOC. 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 SOC 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.
Merseyside Police is part of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit. Read the latest report for this ROCU, published on 10 November 2023.
Building, supporting and protecting the workforce
Merseyside Police is good at building and developing its workforce.
The force provides effective support to officers and staff who have been assaulted
Operation Hampshire is the nationwide strategy with processes and guidance to help police forces understand, support and respond more effectively to assaults on police officers and staff.
Merseyside Police was one of the first forces to accept the offer of in-person supervisor training from the National Police Wellbeing Service, which was well attended and received by staff. Strategic oversight and governance of Operation Hampshire is through the force police covenant board chaired by the assistant chief constable lead for people services and well-being. The aim of the board is to prevent assaults, as well as understand and improve the experiences of officers and staff if they become an assault or hate crime victim.
The board examines force data that identifies which officers and staff have been assaulted, the business area they work in, the location of the assault and the time and day of the week. This helps to understand any trends or reasons why assaults are happening. Importantly, the board considers what support victims need and how assaults can be prevented.
The force effectively analyses assault data, including the use of heat maps to see where assaults are occurring, and then uses this analysis to make improvements. The force identified custody as a key location and carried out work to assess root causes and trend. This has led to reductions in assaults in this area. The force effectively incorporates learning from analysis into organisational practice, for example, through making amendments to officer safety training programmes.
The force extends support for new recruits to include their families
The force has a dedicated chief inspector lead on the support for new recruits. This has been extended to include their families. The force researched and identified a book, ‘The Wolf That Was Not Sleeping’, that was written for children aged three to seven years who may be concerned about their parents going to work as police officers.
The force has bought copies of the book for new recruits with children of the appropriate age. They will be given the book at the attestation ceremony along with a welcome pack. The force plans to make the book into a video format to allow families to download it at home.
This initiative shows the force’s aim for wider inclusivity, looking after its police family, well-being and the support for its recruits and workforce.
Further support developments include inviting families to observe level 2 public order training to provide reassurance of the quality of training provided.
Area for improvement
The force should improve how it manages individual performance so that it can effectively understand, monitor and prioritise the development needs of its workforce. It should make sure reviews are consistently and fairly applied across the workforce and valued by all
We found inconsistencies in the completion of the performance appraisal process for the workforce. Police officers told us that unless a person is looking for promotion in rank or a transfer into a specialist posting, they see little value in the process. Police staff had a similar view and described little opportunity for development.
While the force monitors the number of completed performance appraisals, we found that some members of the workforce were yet to begin the process. Line managers described how elevated levels of demand influenced their ability to complete this process formally. They said they did have regular conversations with staff but on an ad-hoc basis.
Without regular one-to-one meetings, staff can’t discuss and have their performance and development or well-being needs recorded. Those who need support may not be identified.
The workforce should be having formal professional development reviews involving a series of conversations for individuals and their line managers to plan and subsequently review their professional development over a 12-month period. These should be seen as effective and valued by the workforce.
The force should consider how it can improve the perceived value and benefits of the professional development review system so that it can better manage the performance and development of all staff, including volunteers.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to how well the force builds and develops its workforce.
The force provides an inclusive and supportive environment for new recruits to develop
The force recognises the importance of retaining new recruits and has initiatives in place to make sure that happens. Focus groups are held with students at various stages of their career to understand any specific challenges they faced on joining the organisation.
The force responds to this feedback to make sure new recruits don’t face the same challenges as their predecessors. This has included working with Liverpool John Moores University to make academic support available. Also, the number of written assessments required has been reduced. Feedback has seen the introduction of a student council so that concerns can be raised and considered in a formal setting.
A ‘Call it Out’ campaign has been communicated force-wide and with student officers regarding how to raise concerns around colleagues’ standards of behaviour. Trauma-informed training is also given to better equip student officers with the tools needed to mentally cope with their new role.
New recruits are complimentary of the support shown by their tutors and line managers. One example of this was a line manager making a referral to occupational health for a dyslexia assessment. Measures put in place include computer software to help those with dyslexia complete written reports.
The force makes new recruits aware of the occupational health unit provisions available and the wider support on offer to themselves and to their family members. This includes access to legal and financial advice.
The force also has an armed forces network to support those coming into policing from military backgrounds.
Through its Police Covenant meeting and the inclusion programme board, the force has effective governance, oversight and a good understanding of the requirements of its diversity, equality and inclusion provision.
The inclusion programme board, chaired by an assistant chief constable, focuses on the four workstreams from the Police Race Action Plan as well as the priorities in the national diversity, equality and inclusion toolkit. It examines issues and themes for new recruits such as attraction, recruitment, retention as well as progression, well‑being and fulfilment.
As part of our PEEL inspection, we carry out a workforce survey with staff across the whole force. This survey is anonymised and provides an insight into the thoughts and feelings of staff. We received 1,078 responses to the PEEL workforce survey, which we estimate to be around 16 percent of the force’s total workforce.
Of those surveyed, the results regarding diversity, quality and inclusion showed that:
- 88.7 percent agreed that their line manager challenges discriminatory behaviour;
- 88.4 percent agreed that their line manager creates an ethical working environment;
- 84.8 percent agreed that their line manager creates an inclusive working environment;
- 83.5 percent agreed that their line manager models high standards of behaviour; and
- 74.3 percent agreed that their line manager nurtures an environment of trust and confidence.
The force provides a good range of preventative and reactive well-being measures
Staff we spoke to describe a supportive position on the level of support provided by the occupational health unit. This is much improved from our previous inspection. Staff were complimentary of the preventative measures now in place, which included both health and financial advice and well-being guidance and services.
The force has a psychological support team that receives referrals from staff needing support. The team includes a full-time chartered practitioner psychologist and four full‑time psychological therapists. The force also works with the University of Manchester to offer two long-term placements for trainee counselling psychologists. It currently has an additional two full-time counsellor posts for a period of 18 months. The team reviews referrals to establish the most appropriate level of support needed. This includes access to counselling if appropriate. The force has carried out a comprehensive self-assessment of its occupational health provision and collaborates with the National Police Wellbeing Service to raise standards.
‘Walk in my Shoes’ blogs and sessions give members of the force a chance to share their individual experiences more widely and how they dealt with those situations. These are supported by senior officers and staff and help to create a culture where people feel open to share any well-being concerns and show how others can access support.
The force gives extra support to officers and staff in high-risk roles, and those experiencing potentially traumatic incidents
The force has a comprehensive policy and process to screen those in high-risk roles and raise their awareness of the issues they may face.
The force has developed a high-risk role psychological support programme within the people strategy. The programme involves a combination of interactive psycho‑educational workshops, a set of psychometric questionnaires and psychological assessments, and therapy when identified.
Under the different programmes, psycho-educational workshops are offered on either an annual or bi-annual basis, according to the high-risk role psychological support programme calendar.
The workshops are provided by the force psychologist and cover understanding trauma, psychological flexibility, compassion fatigue, burnout, sleep, mindfulness and anxiety.
The aim of these workshops is to proactively and pre-emptively inform individuals of common psychological issues that may be relevant to their roles (identified as carrying an extra psychological risk).
The force also sends out a psychological screening questionnaire to every individual in a high-risk role.
Members of the workforce in high-risk roles told us they felt well supported and described regular one-to-one meetings; stress, trauma and risk assessments; and regular psychological screening.
However, for staff not in high-risk roles, the force would benefit from clarifying its post‑incident trauma debrief process so all are clear on the process and its application. The force should produce clearer guidance for supervisors on when to refer an individual with a list of incidents or situations where a support referral is expected.
The force has recognised the ever-increasing complexity of work that staff carry out. As such, it is doing a full review of all roles across the organisation to make sure all those seen as potentially high risk are recognised and offered extra support. This review will assess over 2,000 roles and will give the force a good understanding of the future needs for extra support.
The force is carrying out collaborative research on well-being issues affecting high-risk roles. Collaborative ‘action-research’ between the force’s psychological support unit, the National Police Wellbeing Service and Liverpool John Moores University is taking place. This involves wearable technology (Whoop Bands) to help officers and staff in identified psychological high-risk roles to pre-emptively look after themselves using the biometrics measured by the wearables regarding strain, recovery and sleep.
The force is making effort to retain its new recruits
Merseyside Police has processes in place to understand why new recruits leave or are considering leaving the force. It carries out regular surveys and holds focus groups to check on the satisfaction of new recruits. These surveys and focus groups identify concerns early and discuss how the force can encourage people to stay. The force has an open and transparent exit interview process.
The force uses a range of data and information to identify retention patterns and trends. It uses this specifically to understand the challenges for new recruits from underrepresented groups. There is a good understanding of the attrition and retention rates of its workforce, helping it to identify and address its ‘leaving points’.
Senior leaders regularly monitor progress at the inclusion programme board meeting.
The force examines resignation reasons given by leavers and can identify those that the force can influence to prevent attrition. These areas include:
- job satisfaction
- personal reasons
- other alternative employment locally
- career break.
The force helps new recruits to discuss the factors that can positively or negatively affect well-being during their training and throughout their careers. They also have access to a toolkit of support.
Working in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University, the force actively supports learners’ development needs when identified or flagged. The force gives opportunities for these needs to be discussed and makes support or resources available.
The force uses external agencies, such as Zero Suicide Alliance, for direct-access information sources designed to aid student officers with their well-being. It also runs a functional mindfulness programme designed and implemented by an external provider. This provides student officers with effective mindfulness measures, practices and processes to allow them to enhance and develop their mental well-being.
As part of their training programme, tutor constables will receive a session from the inclusion, well-being and engagement team. This focuses on diversity, equality and inclusion, including building an inclusive environment for student officers by highlighting staff networks and other support groups available.
The force provides good opportunities for people from underrepresented groups to develop and progress
The force has a professional development and action learning sets programme. The aim is to provide support and development opportunities for people with protected characteristics who are underrepresented in the force. This comprehensive, personalised training programme includes workshops, action learning sets and mentoring. Its overall aim is to develop and maximise the candidate’s potential and make sure they achieve their own personal developmental goals.
Staff networks in the organisation play an important part in helping underrepresented groups. The networks understand specific needs and provide good support. For example, during Ramadan, they make sure staff have their needs met, such as fasting from food and drinks from dawn to dusk, reciting daily prayers and participating in daily readings of the Quran.
The force has completed a review of its processes and has identified potential barriers that may prevent people from underrepresented groups progressing or applying for promotion. Participants were asked their opinions and experience of the promotion process and the level of support offered in terms of their personal development. The force also holds informative data on the stage of a promotion process that applicants fail. This is broken down into protected characteristics of age, sex, sexual orientation, disability and ethnicity. This provides detail to help make the process supportive to all applicants.
The force is working with the Anthony Walker Foundation to give antiracism training to all staff. The training package, developed by the foundation and Merseyside Police, has been designed to make sure all officers and staff have a better understanding of the origins of racism, the effect of systemic racism in UK society and how this effects the relationship between the Black community and policing. The sessions started in April 2023 and are still being rolled out. The force has commissioned the Institute for Educational & Social Equity to provide independent academic scrutiny of the training programme and its impact. This will establish next steps and future integration of antiracism themes within leadership training.
The force has achieved Navajo Accreditation. The Navajo Merseyside and Cheshire LGBTIQA+ charter mark is an equality mark sponsored by In-Trust Merseyside and supported by the LGBTIQA+ community networks across Merseyside. This is a signifier of good practice, commitment and knowledge of the specific needs, issues and barriers facing LGBTIQA+ people in Merseyside.
While the force does have a positive action strategy, it doesn’t have a positive action plan or a plan to develop and progress underrepresented groups in place. These groups would benefit from this to make sure activity is taken forward.
The force has a good understanding of sickness levels
Force data is provided to the inclusion board meeting and gives a detailed picture of the reasons for sickness among police officers and police staff.
The force told us that the largest percentage of sickness hours lost for police officers in the year ending 31 March 2023 was due to stress, accounting for 24.9 percent of all sickness hours. This is a similar position for police staff, where stress accounted for 24.2 percent of hours lost.
This information is used by the force to provide specific preventative measures for staff to help reduce and prevent sickness.
Vetting and counter-corruption
We now inspect how forces deal with vetting and counter-corruption differently. This is so we can be more effective and efficient in how we inspect this high-risk area of police business.
Corruption in forces is tackled by specialist units, designed to proactively target corruption threats. Police corruption is corrosive and poses a significant risk to public trust and confidence. There is a national expectation of standards and how they should use specialist resources and assets to target and arrest those that pose the highest threat.
Through our new inspections, we seek to understand how well forces apply these standards. As a result, we now inspect forces and report on national risks and performance in this area. We now grade and report on forces’ performance separately.
Merseyside Police’s vetting and counter‑corruption inspection hasn’t yet been completed. We will update our website with our findings and the separate report once the inspection is complete.
Leadership and force management
Merseyside Police’s leadership and management is adequate.
The force effectively tracks and analyses the benefits of its business cases
Merseyside Police has introduced a benefits officer role aiming to effectively track and analyse the benefits resulting from business cases that have been made for specific projects. This is to make sure that projects are reviewed, stay on track and that they are achieving what was set out.
The force has invested in a small team that is responsible for managing the business process. There is good governance in place to make sure that benefits are tracked and any opportunities to improve are recognised. The force has and is developing the data sets that sit behind understanding benefits. Benefits are reinvested when achieved. The process also reviews historical business cases and programmes of work to see if they achieved what was set out or if they are still in progress. This also provides data and information with a rationale for or against continuance.
For example, the force told us it invested a total of £329,181 in staff uplift in its response to gun crime. The anticipated benefits were efficiency improvements, service improvements and collaborations. The department tracked improvements in partnerships including with the National Ballistics Intelligence Service. This included adopting best practice for investigation and prevention. The force achieved 100 percent National Ballistics Intelligence Service compliance. The operational element saw £1.8m in cash seized, with the force benefiting from the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and receiving a percentage of the amount recovered. The force plans to reinvest this funding into community work to reduce offending/criminality. The force can also track demand reduction through reduced firearms discharges. In January 2023, it achieved zero reports of firearms discharges for the first time.
The practice is already being shared with other forces in the region.
Area for improvement
The force should make sure that it uses its investment in technology to understand demand and resources to improve productivity
We found that the force has made good progress through its investment in technology and data systems such as Microsoft Power BI. However, during our fieldwork, we found that while the force had access to many apps, these weren’t providing effective support. The high volume of apps was causing confusion and required clarity. In addition, a lack of investment in vehicle telematics meant that the force was unable to show a detailed understanding of its fleet and use.
While there was some good work in understanding demand, it wasn’t clear that the force had fully assessed the effect of driving savings through reducing police staff numbers. It also wasn’t clear that it had fully mapped out the transfer of demand that a reduced workforce would create in other areas of the force.
The force is introducing a new operating model to improve the service it provides and to meet its demand and financial challenges. It should make sure that it uses its data and systems to provide a more detailed picture on the productivity of its wider resources. This will allow it to optimise systems and processes to improve services to its communities at a time of restricted funding and change.
In this section we set out our main findings that relate to leadership and management.
The force has an effective strategic planning framework, making sure it tackles what is important locally and nationally
The force governance arrangements show effective use of data covering all aspects of its performance. This includes call handling, neighbourhood policing and satisfaction measures. The performance data is detailed and covers year-on-year comparisons. The measures are aligned to the police chief constable’s three pillars for a safer Merseyside. The understanding and implementation of priorities are supported by the community engagement and user insight board.
The force is in the process of introducing its new operating model. The first phase of planned implementation was in place at the time of inspection. The design of the model is supported by good data and planning. Investment has helped to support the how policing operations are provided through widening the use of its estate and to improve leadership resilience across its policing functions.
There is a good level of investment in leadership
The force is rolling a community-first operational review as its new operating model. There are five strands to this work. The first module focuses on improving leadership across the organisation. The detail provided within the business case is commendable. In-depth analysis and benchmarking have informed the new leadership structure with sound rationale for increasing supervision aligned to costs and benefits.
The force is supporting its leaders and has developed a training programme called Leadership and Me to provide its workforce with the skills and support it needs to be effective. The framework sets out expectations and a well-supported mentoring and coaching programme is in place across the force.
The force clearly focuses on leadership investment. At the time of inspection, the initial phases of training had been provided. These were well received, with positive comments from participants on support given. However, some officers and staff at operational level felt that, at times, leadership support wasn’t effective and more visibility was needed. This was identified in the community-first operational review planning and will be addressed as the effect of the investment takes place and the next phase of Leadership and Me is provided.
The force understands its demand and is planning to make sure it has the resources in place to meet future needs
The force makes effective use of data and information to understand current demands and to help it prepare for future demand and resourcing. The community-first operational review suite of business cases are comprehensive. They show awareness of resource, cost, demand and workforce pressures. The force must make sure that any reverse workforce modernisation is fully understood in relation to future demand and costs. It also must make sure that any role filled by a police officer has a review process to make sure that it is providing value for money and is effective.
The force collaborates to improve services and has a strong focus on continually evaluating the benefits
The force has a good history of collaboration as part of the northwest collaborations group. It actively seeks wider collaborations to improve services and reviews current collaborations to make sure they are providing what was originally agreed. The force is currently reviewing its firearms training provision as Greater Manchester Police have given notice to withdraw from the agreement.
Merseyside Police has invested in its Microsoft Power BI product. It is using data effectively to make change and to understand how productive its assets are. There are areas that would benefit from further investment. For example, the fleet isn’t using telematics data effectively across all vehicles. We found that the workforce sometimes struggled to find enough vehicles to manage daily demand effectively.
The investment in benefits analysis is promising practice.
The force’s financial plans, including its investment programme, are affordable and will support it to continue to meet future demands
The force shows effective financial management. It makes the best use of the finance it has available. Its financial plans are both ambitious and sustainable. The total funding made available by the Government to the police and crime commissioner is £399.7m, an increase of £21.4m (5.7 percent) from £378.3m in 2021/22. The increase is made up of £17.1m to help the force meet its officer recruitment targets. This also includes the precept increase of £4.7m, minus the reduction in capital grant of £0.4m.
In 2022/23 the force identified required savings of £2.9m. It estimates that further savings of £13.7m will need to be made over the medium term to balance the budget and maintain current service levels.
Merseyside Police has benefited from a maximum increase in precept. Despite this, it still estimates a budget deficit of £2.3m. The police and crime commissioner office has used reserves to offset the savings requirement for two years. This is to allow the force to plan effectively and to make savings that are sustainable. This will effectively push the savings required into future years, but it does give the force more time to identify and carry out the necessary savings plans.
The financial forecasts within the mid-term financial plan are based on realistic assumptions about future funding and expenditure. The force needs to make savings and has identified the areas where they will be made. The force is confident that the required savings are achievable. The force holds reserves in the region of 3.2 percent, which is considered an adequate amount.
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.
Data on 999 calls is provided by BT. Call answering time is the time taken for a call to be transferred from BT to a force, and the time taken by that force to answer the call. This data is provided for all 43 police forces in England and Wales and covers the year ending 31 March 2023.
We took data on crime outcomes from the April 2023 release of the Home Office police-recorded crime and outcomes data tables.
Total police-recorded crime includes all crime (except fraud) recorded by all forces in England and Wales (except BTP). Home Office publications on the overall volumes and rates of recorded crime and outcomes include British Transport Police, which is outside the scope of this HMICFRS inspection. Therefore, England and Wales rates in this report will differ from those published by the Home Office.
Police-recorded crime data should be treated with care. Recent increases may be due to forces’ renewed focus on accurate crime recording since our 2014 national crime data inspection.
For a full commentary and explanation of crime and outcome types please see the Home Office statistics.
Data on experienced or witnessed anti-social behaviour is taken from the ONS Crime in England and Wales publication. Due to Covid-19, recent iterations of the Crime Survey in England and Wales were telephone operated (TCSEW). This data was not collected as part of the TSCEW and so data is only available up to 2019/20.