- Welcome and introductions
PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)
Nicci Marzec (NM)
Paul Fell (PF)
Louise Sheridan (LS)
CC Nick Adderley (NA)
DCC Ivan Balhatchet (IB)
D/Chief Supt Paul Rymarz (PR)
Colleen Rattigan (CR)
SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.
- Previous minutes and action log
Minutes of previous meeting were circulated with the meeting papers. No changes have been requested.
Outstanding actions from the Action Log have been updated.
- HMICFRS 2021 PEEL inspection
In February 2022, the Commissioner received a report at the accountability board from the Chief Constable, relating to the HMICFRS PEEL inspection 2021. This paper presented the approach that the Chief Constable intended to take in the period January to December 2022, in responding to the inspection report. The proposal agreed at that meeting was a series of quarterly activities, ending in December 2022 that fully dealt with recommendations and AFI from the report, in preparation for future PEEL inspections.
The Commissioner has received ongoing updates relating to progress but now requires a further report that outlines the progress made against the agreed timelines presented in February 2022, seeking confirmation that all activities have been completed, providing an explanation as to why where this may not be the case and expected completion timescales.
The Commissioner would also expect this report to provide a view and opinion on the Force readiness for the next PEEL inspection, and the Chief Constables view of the position of the Force in terms of improvement relating to it.
Colleen Rattigan provided an overview on progress.
- Since the last update, the PEEL readiness team has completed a further three reviews against the PEEL Assessment Framework.
- All work against the PEEL 2021 Areas for Improvement (AFIs), where the Force has decided to seek additional evidence relating to problem solving has been completed and presented to the forces’ HMICFRS Liaison Officers in anticipation of sign off.
- CR confirmed that in the last quarter a new monitoring framework has been developed and each business lead has provided comprehensive evidence to the Strategy and Innovation Unit.
- 8 out of 9 areas of the new PEEL Assessment Framework have had reviews undertaken and all have an action plan with a set of recommendations.
- CR advised that some of this engagement work has been paused through the New Year but will restart again in April.
- There was a discussion on PAF 7- How good is the force at managing offenders and suspects
- CR confirmed that there has been significant improvement in this area.
- DI Jen Castle has conducted a benchmarking exercise against TVP, Bedfordshire and Leicestershire and discovered that whilst we had many of the same good practices, we had not evidenced it to the inspectorate.
- CR confirmed that the Force is doing much more of that now.
- PR added that there is such a broad range of offenders within this category the challenge has been to work through all recommendations and replicate wherever possible across all the various departments who manage these offenders. For example, CIRV are doing some really great work that wasn’t shared last time around. It is critical to demonstrate that this is not an area where the Force can do everything on its own and that a partnership approach with OPFCC staff and other agencies is key.
- The force is confident that it now has some examples of outstanding practice in PAF 7.
- As with the findings in previous PEEL readiness reports, there have been a common theme of missed opportunities in previous inspections to share GOOD and outstanding practice.
- On PAF 9 – Ethical, lawful, and inclusive workplace CR advised that she is comfortable with progress here with the ethical element being particularly strong. Examples of the Flag It App and the Chief Vlogs add to the evidence base for this assessment.
- Survey work to understand the workforce view is underway.
- There was a discussion on PAF 12 – Understanding forecasting.
- CR advised that there is now an establishment app which is linked to the target operating model.
- PR added that the additional investment the Commissioner had approved in clinical supervision has made an incredible difference with lots of officers taking up the enhanced support.
The Commissioner asked why this area was previously graded as Requires Improvement.
The Chief confirmed that at the time the Force was still developing clear plans and development opportunities and the People and Culture strategy was about to be launched.
Since that time the Operating Model is now under review and there is more support in place for student officers.
There was a discussion about tutor constables. The Chief Constable confirmed the Force is working up a model for consideration of a dedicated tutor unit.
In addition, a talent App has been created which has been tested on the senior leadership team. This will now be validated, tweaked, and then replicated to cover all ranks.
In terms of diversity, the Force is increasing and becoming more representative of females and has a 5% ethnic minority against an 8.5% representative population.
It was accepted that this may change when the new population census data is released.
On PAF 3 – preventing and deterring crime. The Force was previously graded as adequate. Again, there are much better processes in place and the neighbourhood model is more established and better resourced.
There was a discussion about ASB – The Commissioner stated that he believes there will be more focus on this in future HMICFRS inspections and sought assurance from the Chief that he is alive to this.
There was a discussion about Community Trigger, a process which allows members of the community to ask the Community Safety Partnership to review their responses to complaints of anti-social behaviour.
This is being addressed through the Observatory.
CR advised that the Force are confident that that 18 out of 19 AFI can be resolved.
The AFI on Problem solving still needs strengthening.
There was a discussion about upskilling the Forces relatively young workforce.
The Chief Constable confirmed that there is a longer-term commitment to them including building in a training day as part of the shift pattern review that is underway.
Proud to be, proud to serve – a dedicated comms campaign was launched on 8th February Throughout the next eight months, the new Strategy and Innovation Unit will provide support to all officers, staff, and senior leaders as the Force prepares to showcase the very best of Northamptonshire Police to HMICFRS at the next PEEL inspection.
A bi-monthly leadership day, starting in April for Superintendents and above will ensure that there is a tight focus on the overall improvement strategy.
This will be followed by a series of roadshows around the County to ensure everyone gets the same opportunity to hear key messages and be given regular updates and briefings on the lead up to the inspection.
The Chief Constable confirmed that he is content with the work that is already in train and will be continued. Work on standards continues, Investment into Neighbourhood Policing continues, and the workforce becomes more experienced every day.
The Commissioner received a comprehensive update concerning the progress made by the Force relating to AFI from the 2021 HMICFRS PEEL inspection and preparations for the next inspection process.
The Commissioner was impressed and assured with this new approach. He stated that he felt that preparations and responses were better than at any time he had seen in his tenure as PFCC and thanked the Chief Constable for this.
He was further assured that there was a high level of confidence that following a recent visit to the Force from HMICFRS liaison officers a number of the AFIs were likely to be signed off ahead of the next PEEL inspection.
While it was accepted it was never possible to predict the exact findings of HMICFRS in any inspection, the Commissioner felt that the Force was well prepared for the future inspection.
- HMICFRS inspection into burglary, robbery, and acquisitive crime
In August 2022 HMICFRS released a report relating to burglary, robbery and acquisitive crime and police forces response to it. It contained 2 recommendations to be implemented by all Forces by March 2023.
The Commissioner requires a report that highlights the Force position in relation to these two recommendations, whether they were already compliant or, if not the action taken to make sure that this is the case. If the Force is compliant then the paper should provide the evidence to demonstrate this.
He also requires the report to demonstrate that the Force have used this report as a process map to assure itself that it is as effective as possible in the recording of and response to these types of crime.
D/Chief Supt Paul Rymarz provided an update on the two recommendations.
Forensic Head of Operations, Ian Bailey has assessed the five regional forces against recommendation 1.
A full breakdown was provided which gave a comprehensive assessment and description of the role that EMSOU FS and CSI play in the management of volume crime.
PR confirmed that the Crime Scene Manager for Northants has worked with the CID forensic lead and the CI for the Force Control Room to review monthly attendance at both commercial and home invasion burglaries to identify any weakness in processes and drive-up attendance rates.
A review of robbery commissioned by the Serious Violence Working group has also resulted in amendments being made to the FCR question set, which now specifically includes consideration of forensic scene recovery.
All new call handlers receive scene preservation training from a CSI as part of their foundation skills. They also receive crime prevention training from the crime prevention team.
In addition to this, call scripts (question sets) prompt relevant and appropriate advice to be given during the initial call.
PR confirmed that when CSIs are deployed, and forensic opportunities exist there is framework to ensure consistency across the region in terms of practices and processes.
For any scene visit request that is deemed not suitable for attendance or does not meet the attendance criteria/THRIVE assessment, the staff update the logs on force systems. This log is then reviewed by the CSI Ops Managers to ensure the decision was correct.
PR confirmed that what the paper does not cover is the crimes scenes that are not attended.
This will be addressed at the March Accountability Board where he will provide an update on the processes for CSI crime scene attendance for commercial burglary, to ascertain if improvements can be made to that process.
There was a discussion about THRIVE assessments.
All incidents receive a THRIVE assessment as part of the initial risk assessment process.
Depending on the nature of the crime or the likelihood of an evidential hit, CSI are requested by the Forces tasking system to attend.
All CSI staff in the region have had an input on THRIVE and apply it to the scene visit requests that are received.
The Commissioner asked what the rationale behind CSI was for undertaking a second THRIVE assessment.
PR advised that FCR operators are not as experienced as CSIs who may establish that there is nothing they can do at a scene. For example, if the homeowner has tidied up after a burglary or if the weather has been particularly inclement and the chances of recovering any forensic material have greatly reduced.
PR confirmed that our CSIs are exceptionally keen and want to recover evidence when it exists.
The Commissioner asked if CSIs get to scenes quickly enough
PR confirmed that can be a frustration but added that crime scene protection, particularly when a really serious crime has occurred is particularly good.
Secondary THRIVE assessment is more about priority of attendance not just about CSI’s not going to them.
PR advised that recommendation 2, is part of the broader improvement work to all volume crime and the development of a holistic, long-term, and sustainable plan.
For all recorded crime, the case is assessed for solvability factors against the Proportionate Investigation Policy. It is then allocated to the appropriate team for ongoing investigation in accordance with Crime Allocation Policy.
The Crime Allocation policy has recently been re-written to provide a robust and victim focussed approach to crime investigation.
There was a discussion on the rise in auto crime.
PR confirmed that most vehicles stolen are off road motorcycles and mopeds.
CI Scott Little is the lead for Auto Crime and current stats show that this type of crime is not out of kilter when compared to our MSG.
Successful outcome rates remain low, this is because off road bikes have no number plate to track and high value cars are often stolen to order, given false plates and then shipped abroad.
The Commissioner asked what attendance rates were for TOMV and TFMV.
PR agreed to check but was keen to point out that he would not want to skew the THRIVE processes unnecessarily adding that he still believes that following the THRIVE process is critical.
With the increasing number of Neighbourhood Police Officers, TFMV can be better owned within local teams where it is most likely to be a local person(s) committing the offences.
There was a discussion about officer workloads and PR confirmed much work is being done on this including surgeries where Detective Sergeants are going into Response and going through officer workloads with the Response Sergeants.
There was a discussion about the Crime Allocation Policy and the Right Person, Right Place initiative from Humberside Police which will see a new approach to welfare calls. Whilst this is not directly linked to discussion it does fit into a wider strategy to ensure that the right person with the right skills, training and experience will respond.
There was a discussion about the harm caused by Serious Acquisitive Crime (SAC)
PF commented that whilst he accepts that the Force does not have the capacity to investigate all crimes, the context of the HMICFRS report was that too many Forces ignore the harm caused by SAC.
PR confirmed that the Proportionate Investigation process is robust but the Force has to screen crime out as it does not have the capacity to investigate every single crime, particularly those where there is no evidential trail to follow.
As the NPT grows, SAC including crime on a local estate should be their ‘bread and butter’.
On robbery, much of the growth here is youth related with a small group of young people casing the most harm.
CIRV, YOS and the OPFCC Youth Team now better resourced to work with schools to tackle this.
On burglary. PR confirmed he is content with the Forces response to burglary with dedicated burglary teams in place.
Work on robbery offences is improving but TOMV and TFMV will take some time to catchup, but the Force is on a positive journey.
There was a discussion about the Commissioners investment into a pilot with the Northamptonshire Business Crime Partnership.
The trial on tackling shop lifting offences in the north of the county has been running for 12 months.
During the trial there has been a 270% increase in detections as opposed to just 28% in the West where this additional post did not exist.
This increase in detection rates has improved the Forces’ ranking from 42nd to 18th. This would improve further if the trial were to be extended to include the west of the county.
The Commissioner asked if there was a similar initiative into the detection of vehicle crime.
PR agreed to raise with CI Scott Little if a similar investment opportunity was available.
Action – PR to talk to CI Little about what could do to improve detection rates for vehicle crime
Following receipt of this paper the Commissioner was largely assured that the Force could demonstrate compliance with the two recommendations that arose from the report it related to. He acknowledged the improvements that had been made in relation to the management of offences of burglary.
The Commissioner felt that compliance with Recommendation 1 was stronger then with Recommendation 2 and expressed some concern about the levels of vehicle crime and robbery and the recent response to the latter. He stressed the point made by PF that the report was about the harm caused by SAC offending; an area where most Forces did a poor job. He awaits with interest, for improvements, as neighbourhood teams expand further and respond to these offences as described.
The Commissioner stated that he would await the linked paper in relation to CSI attendance at the March accountability board meeting before deciding whether to ask for a follow up on this paper.
- Police Firearms Licensing report
The Commissioner has previously received reports from the Chief Constable in relation to the backlogs in the firearms licensing department.
In September 2021 he received a formal paper relating the following:
- the workload of the firearms licensing department and how this might have changed over the last 3 years.
- the average times taken for all applications, renewals and other licensing activity and how this has changed over 3 years. The recovery plan to rectify the identified issues with clarity over the ambition for timescales for firearm processes and timescales for clearing any existing backlogs to achieve these.
The Commissioner was assured that backlogs would be reduced to pre Covid levels by December 2021.
He now requests a further additional paper relating to this matter that covers the current position relating to 1 and 2 above as well as backlog levels at this point and back to and inclusive of 2019.
Following national interest in this matter the Home Secretary has requested all PCC to provide additional data to the Home Office each 6 months from January 2023 on the following questions. Arrangements are already in place for this information to be provided to the PFCC for January 2023, but this paper should also include the answers to these questions.
- How many people with expired certificates are still in possession of their firearms? 2
- How many of these have applied for renewal whose cases have yet to be decided?
- How many of those who have applied for renewal have been issued.
DCC Balhatchet provided an overview
There have been several challenging aspects to the workload over the past three years which have had an impact on the backlog and turnaround times.
Long term staffing issues have had a significant impact on the Unit with the FEO Team not being at full strength throughout 2022. This has now been resolved and a number of champions have been trained across the Force to work on the backlog.
It has been essential to focus on renewals to ensure existing license holders were not in possession of firearms without a valid license. The Unit have prioritised the management of risk throughout this period.
This prioritisation of renewals has negatively impacted grant applications, which saw an increase throughout 2020 & 2021. Whilst firearms grants have decreased over the past year, most applications are for shotguns and the turnaround time for shotgun grant applications has continued to increase.
This is due to the demand of shotgun applications locally, and Northamptonshire being a predominantly rural area, which has a greater demand for this type of licence rather than any other type of firearm.
A recovery plan is in place, and the backlog is now being processed at pace.
Given that Northants is a predominantly rural county the Commissioner asked if the Force had considered increasing the number of Officers in the Rural crime team who could then conduct some of the visit’s whist out patrolling in rural areas.
IB advised that one of findings coming out of the Plymouth inquiry is that very junior officers were doing the checks. This may lead to more stringent conditions and a requirement for more highly qualified and vetted staff.
Following the tragic Plymouth shooting in August 2021, the Force have commissioned a peer review. This will start in April 2023, and a term of reference has been drafted.
The aim of this review will be to provide an assessment to the Chief Constable of the effectiveness of the Firearms Licensing Department and to provide recommendations as to how things might be further improved.
Recent events at Epsom College in Surrey further support the need and urgency to review current practices to ensure that the force is doing all that it possibly can to ensure that every opportunity has been taken to test the robustness of the force’s current practices to safeguard from any such incident locally.
In the meantime, focus remains on clearing the backlog within the Unit which will lead to normal working processes and turnaround times for all license types.
A further piece of demand analysis will be delivered to better understand future demand spikes, and to ensure that the risk of a future backlog is mitigated.
Better planning for the future and managing peak demand will ensure the Unit is better prepared to manage demand, which will enhance the service provided and prevent complaints, which derive from extensive delays and create unnecessary work.
Lessons have been learned from continuing to accept new applications throughout the Pandemic, where other forces did not do this, which was further compounded by staff shortages and legislative changes for antique firearms.
The force is confident that the completion of the recovery plan and new working practices can prevent this challenge reoccurring in the future.
IB reiterated that have to prioritise the renewals over new applications as it would be indefensible if make wrong decision.
Since January, the team have revoked licences for 9 firearms and 33 shotguns.
There have been 71 refusals in past 2 years with four appeals, all of which were found in favour of the Force having made the correct decision.
Returning to the rural crime team support, the Chief Constable confirmed that once the peer review has been completed and he has their recommendations he may accept the Commissioners offer of additional money to invest in the rural crime team.
There was a discussion about opportunities around the better use of technologies specifically Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
There was a discussion about the reluctance of some GPs on providing medical information.
The Commissioner was keen for this to be built into the review as the OPFCC can influence health partners to address this.
Given that medical records are now stored electronically, if a person seeking a firearms licence has given their consent to medical records check it should be easy to simplify a process for sharing this information.
The Force provided an explanation as to why a backlog still existed in the processing of licences along with assurances from the Chief Constable that this matter was now gripped with a target of eliminating backlogs by early April 2023.
The Commissioner reminded the Chief Constable that he was given a similar promise in September 2021, and this had not materialised.
He welcomed the peer review and the transparency that this would provide.
The Commissioner requested a further update on this matter and a presentation of the peer review findings at the June accountability board meeting.
No further business was raised.