Kent Police has been graded as ‘Outstanding’ for legitimacy in an annual assessment by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS).
The grading means Kent is the only police force in England and Wales to achieve the grade three years in a row.
According to the PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) annual assessment of police forces by HMICFRS, Kent Police is efficient and effective and is policing the county ‘by consent’.
Her Majesty’s Inspectors focused on four main areas for their assessment:
- How legitimate is Kent Police at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
- To what extent does Kent Police treat all the people it serves with fairness and respect?
- To what extent does Kent Police ensure that its workforce behaves ethically and fairly?
- To what extent does Kent Police treat its workforce with fairness and respect?
Inspectors found that officers and staff have a clear understanding of the importance of treating everyone with respect and making fair decisions, as well as being friendly and approachable.
It recognises that Kent Police has a clearly defined vision and set of values and has invested in extensive training to ensure the workforce know what is expected of them.
The report concluded that the leadership of Kent Police demonstrates a very positive ethical approach to policing which is reflected throughout the force.
At the time of the report there were 5,583 Kent Police staff made up of 3,259 officers, 287 PCSOs and 2,037 other staff. Female staff accounted for 28% of officers, 50% of PCSOs and 63% of other staff.
Stop and search
Part of this year’s PEEL report reassessed the use of stop and search powers.
The report shows the force carried out 7,965 stop and searches in 2015/16. The report says: “During our 2017 inspection, we reviewed 200 stop and search records. Five records did not have grounds recorded that we considered reasonable.
“It is important to note that a lack of reasonable grounds on the stop and search record does not necessarily mean that reasonable grounds did not exist in reality at the time of the stop and search. In 77 of the 200 records we reviewed, the item searched for was found. This is an important measure – confirming or allaying an officer’s suspicions is the primary purpose of the powers. Finding the item searched for is one of the best indications that the grounds for the suspicions are likely to have been strong.”
In 2015 14 out of 100 searches were deemed as not having reasonable grounds compared to 64 out of 200 in 2013.
The report did raise some issues. Among these was vetting of staff. Inspectors said Kent Police “was not complying with all aspects of the national vetting standards. It was not reviewing open source information such as that found on the internet – for example, via search engines and social networking sites.31
“During this year’s inspection we assessed the force’s plan for addressing these matters, and found that it is now reviewing open source information for all new recruits and will extend this to its re-vetting procedure for current staff. We also found that the force is actively reducing its current backlog of about 400 staff awaiting re-vetting. The force’s plans to resolve these matters are well developed and credible.”
The data showed that on 31 January 2017, 91 percent of officers, 76 percent of PCSOs, and 91 percent of staff had up-to-date security clearance.
The report also highlighted the need to keep complainants updated. It stated: “We found that out of 25 complaint files recorded by Kent Police, only ten contained evidence that all these legal requirements had been complied with.
“ Once a public complaint investigation has started, forces have a statutory duty to keep complainants informed of its progress every 28 days. Updates should contain enough information to make them meaningful – including, for example, information about the stage reached in the investigation, what has been done, what remains to be done and, where applicable, a summary of any significant evidence obtained.
“Updates should also give the likely timescale for completing the investigation and any revisions to this. It is clear from evidence provided by the force that officers who are allocated complaints for investigation are made aware of these requirements.
“We found that only seven of the 25 complaint cases we reviewed, recorded regular updates to complainants, but that these seven were found to be sufficiently informative. This means that even though the force may be handling complaints well, complainant satisfaction is likely to be lower because the force does not appear to be providing complainants with the information which the law entitles them to, or keeping them updated.”
Chief Constable Alan Pughsley said: ‘To have our legitimacy graded as “outstanding” is magnificent news and an endorsement of our work to provide a first class service to the people of Kent.
‘This is down to the determined hard work of every officer and member of staff throughout the organisation and is genuinely a great team effort.
‘In spite of the challenges and demands faced by the police today, we have achieved this by focussing on the things that matter the most and doing the right thing.
‘We’ve invested in our leadership teams and given them the tools to ensure officers and staff are valued and treated with fairness and respect, so they in turn treat the communities they serve day-in and day-out with the same consideration.
‘This approach helps to ensure we remain effective and efficient with high levels of public support and engagement, while we have a growing number of people willing to get involved as volunteers including our Special Constabulary, Police Cadet Scheme, Neighbourhood Watch and Community Speedwatch.
‘Our challenge now is to build on this success, maintain the high standards already achieved and look for opportunities to constantly improve the service we provide.’
Matthew Scott, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, congratulated the force, saying: ‘Legitimacy, or policing by consent, is vital. The more that people trust our local police force the more likely it is that victims will seek help, witnesses will come forward with evidence, and members of the community will get involved in volunteering and community safety initiatives which make us all Safer in Kent.”
Last month HMICFRS announced it had found Kent Police to be good in terms of efficiency. The last of its three reports, on Kent Police’s effectiveness, will be published in early 2018.