The new detailed reports use, for the first time, a grading system to compare relative performance across a range of core policing activities - including tackling crimes such as burglary, providing a reassuring presence on the streets and handling calls from the public. Each force's achievements have been assessed in one of four bands: Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor.
'No force is good at everything or bad at everything. Inevitably, each force has strengths and some areas for improvement, but a number of forces fared particularly well in the overall assessment while others are shown to be relatively weak performers. Good overall assessments were achieved by (in alphabetical order) Kent, Lancashire, Northumbria, Staffordshire and Suffolk, followed closely by two of the country's largest and busiest forces, Merseyside and West Midlands Police.
'Of these forces only Suffolk is a small, mainly rural force - the type of force which traditionally shows up well in tables based predominantly on volume crime and detections performance, whereas forces with difficult policing environments struggle in conventional rankings. It is significant that three large metropolitan forces fare well from the baseline assessment approach.'
The new grading is based upon quantitative information wherever this exists, supplemented by qualitative judgements and knowledge of the context within which each force is working. Forces which deal with high levels of crime and disorder, and are confronted daily by guns and serious violence, get credit for performing relatively well even though the simple measures of performance - such as what percentage of crimes are solved - may look less impressive than for a neighbouring quieter force.
HMIC commends these forces for an impressive achievement but emphasises that they cannot afford to be complacent - HMIC will look for continuous improvement, and will expect particular efforts to be made in those few areas that were graded less favourably.
A small number of forces attracted more 'Fair' and 'Poor' grades, reflecting the need for substantial improvement to catch up with their peer forces. Five of these are forces have already been identified by the Home Office as in need of support - Cambridgeshire, Cleveland, Humberside, Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire - and in each case this support is beginning to show results. HMIC will work closely with all of these forces to help them get their performance back on track.
An exception to this pattern is Avon and Somerset, a force which has been supported by the Home Office in respect of its volume crime problems for around two years. It fares well in the Baseline Assessment process, attracting very positive grades for community and roads policing in particular.
The country's other forces registered a mixed pattern of strengths and areas for improvement. Certain themes emerge from HMIC's overall assessment. There is an encouragingly high standard nationally in the management of critical incidents and the oversight of police officer integrity, while forces are making impressive contributions to crime reduction work in partnership with councils and other local agencies.
The identification of which forces have emerged well from the assessment, and those with problems to address, is based on the gradings together with a wealth of other information held by HMIC and its professional judgement. It is not possible to create any meaningful 'ranking' of forces from the gradings alone. Although they cover a significant range of policing activity they are not yet comprehensive. HMIC will not use or support any form of 'league tabling' based on these gradings.
Sir Keith continued:
'These reports show that the majority of communities throughout England and Wales are being very well served by their local police, and I congratulate those forces which are performing well across the board. But the public's expectations of the police service continue to rise and forces must work increasingly hard to ensure that they are meeting local needs. I am committed to an open and transparent assessment of how well forces are doing in tackling crime and disorder and providing a reassuring visible presence. It is vital that we identify and learn from successful policing practice and support those who need help to secure better levels of performance.
'This is a new technique for police inspection and our aim is to make it, with the support of the service, the most rigorous, objective and powerful tool yet applied to drive up police performance in the UK.'
The baseline assessments are available here.
1.The creation of this baseline of forces' performance has been a major exercise for HMIC, made possible by the support of individual forces and authorities as well as the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Association of Police Authorities (APA).
2.Forces worked particularly hard to marshall the evidence needed to inform the assessments, and this was then probed and validated by HMIC staff, bringing into play third party evidence (eg, from local auditors and Crown Prosecutors). HMIC intends to build upon this self-assessment approach as it develops Baseline and integrates it with other Home Office performance assessment arrangements.
3.The next full set of baseline assessment reports will be published in autumn 2005.
4.The findings from the baseline assessments will inform HMIC's programme of thematic reviews. Forthcoming thematic reviews will focus on: the way that calls from the public are dealt with; the tracking and arrest of criminals who operate across force boundaries; and the way that police officers and staff are managed.