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HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland: Annual Report (2007/08)

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Chapter two: The work of HMICS in 2007-08

A different approach to inspection

Last year, I indicated my intention to review existing inspection arrangements. This has subsequently been informed by The Crerar Review: The Report of the Independent Review of Regulation, Audit, Inspection and Complaints Handling of Public Services in Scotland4 and the Scottish Government's subsequent response 5 to the findings of that report. The revised process that we now have in place consists of two main elements. First and in line with Professor Crerar's view that service providers should be able to demonstrate compliance and performance to service users, is the introduction of self-assessment for forces.

Our approach to self-assessment is predicated on the European Foundation of Quality Management ( EFQM) business excellence model. Various aspects of the model had previously already been adopted by several Scottish police forces, and in our former inspection process, but not in a consistent way across the country. Working with Quality Scotland and in collaboration with the service, we have now developed a single, bespoke model for the entire service. It has already been piloted in two forces and, following refinement, will be implemented across the service during 2008. Its introduction is being supported by an extensive training programme, funded by the Scottish Police Services Authority ( SPSA) and delivered by Quality Scotland.

Through self-assessment we aim to reduce the burden of external scrutiny by placing the onus on police forces and services to identify good practice and areas for improvement. The evidence that these exercises produce should, we believe, assist both forces and their respective authorities/boards in their statutory duty to achieve Best Value. Our role will be to review their findings and to identify themes of individual or collective concern. The results will inform subsequent inspection activity, thereby creating a more proportionate and risk-based approach than was previously possible.

We have also streamlined our inspection activity. By engaging in shorter, more sharply focused thematic inspections of significant aspects of policing we aim to be quicker in identifying areas for improvement, targeting outcome focused areas that will be of benefit to users of the service. At the outset of our thematic inspection programme for the year 2007-08 we consulted widely with stakeholders, including those working in the service, giving them the opportunity to suggest areas that would benefit from rigorous inspection. Each of the identified themes was then evaluated for relevance, risk and impact, so allowing us to prioritise our activity.

In addition to making these two major changes we also re-examined and refined our inspection methods. For example, where traditionally we have only been able to engage directly with a small proportion of force staff, we have begun to make use of an on-line survey tool to reach a wider audience. Using this technique during our inspection of the productivity of police officers, we were able to gather the views of 2,440 police officers and police staff. Although this equates to just 10% of the police workforce in Scotland, it nevertheless provided us with a much broader insight into staff opinion than had previously been possible.

A further modification is apparent in the way in which we now publish our reports. In the interests of the environment we no longer automatically print copies for general distribution. Instead we only reproduce reports electronically, making them available on our website. We have also simplified their visual format, no longer including photographs or unnecessary graphics. In this way we have made the reports more readily accessible and significantly reduced both our publication costs and our carbon footprint. Unless there are compelling reasons for not doing so we will continue to apply this policy. This approach notwithstanding, we are keen to ensure that our reports remain accessible to everyone and will provide printed copies on request.

One important element that has not changed is our commitment to collaborative working. The seconded officers and staff who make up a significant proportion of HMICS staff reflect the willingness of forces and police agencies to work closely with us. However, beyond the service we continue to engage in joint inspections where possible, and during the course of the year we worked with a number of partner inspectorates and scrutiny bodies.

Our inspection of serious fraud towards the end of the year under review saw our first secondee from a private sector enterprise, the Royal Bank of Scotland. We benefited greatly from the professional expertise of our temporary colleague, whose involvement also enhanced the lay element of this particular piece of work. Conversely, a member of our team continues to be seconded on a full-time basis to the Services for Children joint inspection team led by HM Inspectorate for Education ( HMIE).

Members of HMICS are participant observers in the meetings of Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland ( ACPOS) business areas. This mutually beneficial arrangement allows us to monitor developments at first-hand whilst keeping ACPOS updated on our own activities. At times our involvement may extend to more active contributions, as in the development of the Scottish Policing Performance Framework ( SPPF) in which we participate together with the Scottish Government, ACPOS, the Scottish Police Conveners' Forum, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) and Audit Scotland.

Inspection activity carried out during 2007-08

During the year we completed and published three thematic inspection reports. The areas that we inspected and reported on were as follows:

Operation Contest: examining police engagement in the 'prevent' aspect of multi-agency efforts to counter international terrorism in the UK. The nature of the subject matter means that the report is considered as being 'Restricted' under the Government Protective Marking Scheme and as such prevents us from openly publishing this report, but we have shared its content with all forces and relevant partner agencies.

Selection for promotion in the Scottish police service6: examining how forces and services have applied the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland's ( ACPOS) People Strategy. Launched in August 2003, the Strategy sets out a ten-year modernising agenda for the police service in Scotland, specifically in relation to leadership, people management and development.

Scottish Crime Recording Standard7: examining the progress made by police forces in applying the Scottish Crime Recording Standard since our last inspection of this area in 2005.

Looking at our findings over the past year, several common themes have emerged. Broadly speaking, areas for improvement tended to centre on inconsistencies in policy, structure and approach, particularly in relation to the following:

  • Service standards
  • Resource capacity and capability
  • Training
  • Availability and use of information
  • Consultation with service users
  • Governance and accountability

We also discovered and highlighted a great deal of good practice, most notably in the areas of efficiency, systems thinking, new technology and new ways of using police resources to maximise benefits for communities.

Finally in this chapter, as part of the transition to our new process, we considered the status of recommendations from previous inspection activities and identified a small number that merited our continued attention. Forces have since been notified of our intention to re-examine their progress in discharging these throughout 2008-09 and 2009-10.