The Chief Constable Chris Noble shares his reflections on his recent appearance at a meeting in London to share our progress to address areas of accelerated concern.
I wanted to write to update you on the feedback we received at our latest meeting with stakeholders at the Police Performance and Oversight Group (PPOG), which was held last month.
This meeting, attended by myself and Ben Adams, the Police, Crime and Fire Commissioner, is a checkpoint meeting with police stakeholders to assess our progress in tackling our ‘accelerated causes of concern’ (ACoCs) as part of our ‘Engage’ status. We were placed in ‘Engage’ by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) last year, when two ACoCs were identified: how we respond to the public and the quality of investigation.
Reviewing our progress at PPOG were representatives from HMICFRS, the College of Policing, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and the Home Office. It’s the fourth time we have met since entering Engage status.
Firstly, let me start by saying that the mood of the meeting was positive, and echoes the feedback I received from Inspectors who have visited the force during the late summer to review our progress and approach, and to meet with staff to ‘reality test’ our progress with frontline officers and staff.
Our HM Inspector, Ms Wendy Williams, provided an overview of how HMICFRS has assessed our progress against our ACoCs. Looking at initial contact, Ms Williams talked positively about the sustained and embedded improvements HMICFRS were noting, not least in call answering times, and in the use and quality of the ‘Threat Harm and Risk’ (THRIVE) assessments we make on contact with the public. She also noted a recognisable performance culture in force contact. While still relatively new, HMICFRS felt that the model we use to grade incidents was well understood by officers and staff.
HMICFRS recognised the hard work we had done to tackle underlying issues in responding to the public at first point of contact, and the improvement in our performance. This will be confirmed, I hope, this month when HMICFRS undertake a further round of on-site inspection. This is positive news, and reflects our own view of the improvements we have made. Despite seeing a significant increase in the volume of calls, we have substantially increased the speed of our response, now ranking sixth out of 43 forces in the percentage of 999 calls answered within 10 seconds, while improving the quality of our assessment of these calls to ensure that we better understand the threat, harm and vulnerability of the caller.
However, there is still more to do and I am keen that the force continues to drive up performance – as every improvement means a better service to victims and increases our ability to protect the most vulnerable.
Ms Williams talked about progress they have seen in improving the second of our ACoC: the quality of our investigation of crime. She talked positively about our increasing use of data to underpin our decision making. She highlighted our own internal audit processes as clearly identifying strengths and weaknesses and areas for improvement. This was contributing to an improving performance culture, increased supervisory input, and is beginning to translate into better quality investigation plans which will lead to improved outcomes for victims. However, HMICFRS also highlighted that there is still much work to do in this area to see improved outcomes for victims, which I recognise.
My input into PPOG was to provide more context about our current and future plans to support our improvement journey, and to set out how the plans we are implementing can give our stakeholders confidence that out improvement is sustained and embedded.
I talked about our investment – for example in uplifting key areas of the force, and in improving leadership and supervisory skills. I talked about our aspirations to continually improve, to learn best practice from other forces and organisations, and to continue to put in the hard yards necessary to make us, once again, an outstanding local police force.
There was a positive response to my presentation, and the mood music at the end was one of confidence that we have made significant improvements in many areas.
My message was amplified by the Commissioner. He talked passionately about the improvements he had observed since attending his first PPOG meeting in July 2022, in particular how the public were feeling the difference when contacting Staffordshire Police. This is reflected in the increased satisfaction and confidence reported through our public surveys.
The Commissioner also spoke about the real improvements being felt by those reporting crime and our increased arrest rates. He welcomed positive comments from our police stakeholders about the Staffordshire Police approach to tackling the accelerated causes of concern, stating that we are seeing sustained results in contact already and should soon be seeing the same for investigations.
I will update you further on our progress out of Engage in the near future. In the meantime, please do contact me if you have any questions.