Commissioner’s response to HMICFRS thematic inspection of vetting, misconduct, and misogyny in the police service

1. Police and Crime Commissioner’s Comments

I welcome the findings of this report, which are especially pertinent given the recent large scale officer recruitment campaigns that have brought many more individuals into policing, both locally and nationally. The following sections set out how the Force are addressing the report’s recommendations, and I will monitor progress through my Office’s existing oversight mechanisms.

I have requested the Chief Constable’s view on the report, and he has stated:

The HMICFRS thematic titled “Inspection of vetting, misconduct, and misogyny in the police service” was published in November 2022. Whilst Surrey Police was not one of the forces visited during the inspection it still provides a relevant analysis of forces’ abilities to detect and deal with misogynistic behaviour by police officers and staff. Thematic reports offer an opportunity to review internal practices against national trends and have as much weight as more focused, in force, inspections.

The report makes numerous recommendations which are being considered against existing processes to ensure the force adapts and evolves to assimilate identified best practice and resolve areas of national concern. In considering the recommendations the force will continue to strive to create an inclusive culture were only the highest standards of professional behaviour are demonstrated.

The areas for improvement will be recorded and monitored through existing governance structures.

Gavin Stephens, Chief Constable of Surrey Police

2. Next Steps

  • Published on 2 November 2022 the report was commissioned by the then Home Secretary to assess current vetting and counter-corruption arrangements in policing. It makes a compelling case for robust vetting and recruitment practices to prevent inappropriate individuals joining the service. This is then combined with a need for early identification of misconduct and thorough, timely investigations to remove officers and staff who fail to meet the standards of professional behaviour.

  • The report highlights 43 recommendations of which 15 are aimed at the Home Office, NPCC or College of Policing. The remaining 28 are for the consideration of Chief Constables.

  • This document sets out how Surrey Police are taking forward the recommendations and progress will be monitored through the Organisational Reassurance Board and will be scrutinised as part of the force’s HMICFRS inspection of the Anti-corruption Unit in June 2023.

  • For the purpose of this document we have grouped certain recommendations together and provided a combined response.

3. Theme: Improving the quality and consistency of vetting decision-making, and improving the recording of the rationale for some decisions

  • Recommendation 4:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure that, when concerning adverse information has been identified during the vetting process, all vetting decisions (refusals, clearances and appeals) are supported with a sufficiently detailed written rationale that:

    • follows the National Decision Model;

    • includes the identification of all relevant risks; and

    • takes full account of the relevant risk factors described in the Vetting Authorised Professional Practice

  • Recommendation 7:

    By 31 October 2023, chief constables should introduce an effective quality assurance process to review vetting decisions, including routine dip sampling of:

    • rejections; and

    • clearances where the vetting process revealed concerning adverse information

  • Recommendation 8:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure they comply with the Vetting Authorised Professional Practice by analysing vetting data to identify, understand and respond to any disproportionality.

  • Response:

    Surrey and Sussex will implement internal training for Joint Force Vetting Unit (JFVU) supervisors to ensure full reference is made to relevant risk factors and that all mitigations considered are evidenced in their case logs. The training will also extend to PSD senior leaders who complete vetting appeals.

    Introducing a process to complete the routine dip-sampling of JFVU decisions for quality assurance purposes requires independence and therefore initial discussions are being held with the OPCC to explore whether they would have capacity to adopt this into their existing scrutiny process.

    Surrey Police will be moving onto Core-Vet V5 early December 2022 which will provide enhanced functionality to assess disproportionality within vetting decisions.

4. Theme: Updating minimum standards for pre-employment checks

  • Recommendation 1:

    By 31 October 2023, the College of Policing should update its guidance on the minimum standard of pre-employment checks that forces must carry out before appointing an officer or member of staff. Every chief constable should make sure their force complies with the guidance.

    As a minimum, pre-employment checks should:

    • obtain and verify previous employment history for at least the previous five years (including dates of employment, roles carried out and reason for leaving); and

    • verify the qualifications the applicant claims to have.

  • Response:

    Once the revised guidance has been published it will be shared with HR Leads in order that the additional pre-employment checks can be actioned by the recruitment team. The Director of HR has been notified of these anticipated changes.

5. Theme: Establishing better processes for assessing, analysing, and managing risks relating to vetting decisions, corruption investigations and information security

  • Recommendation 2:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should establish and begin operation of a process to identify, within their vetting IT systems, vetting clearance records where:

    • applicants have committed criminal offences; and/or

    • the record contains other types of concerning adverse information

  • Response:

    The Core-Vet system operate by the JFVU currently captures this data and is available and interrogated by the Surrey Anti Corruption Unit to enable them to assess and formulate appropriate responses to officers of concern.

  • Recommendation 3:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should take steps to make sure that, when granting vetting clearance to applicants with concerning adverse information about them:

    • vetting units, counter-corruption units, professional standards departments, and HR departments (working together where necessary) create and implement effective risk mitigation strategies;

    • these units have enough capacity and capability for this purpose;

    • responsibilities for implementing specific elements of the risk mitigation strategy are clearly defined; and

    • there is robust oversight

  • Response:

    Where recruits are accepted with adverse traces e.g. financial concerns or criminal relatives, clearances are issued with conditions. For officers and staff with criminally traced relatives this may include restricted posting recommendations to avoid them being posted to areas frequented by their relatives/associates. Such officers/staff are subject of regular notification to HR to ensure their postings are appropriate and all criminal traces are updated annually. For those officers/staff with financial concerns more regular financial credit checks are undertaken and appraisals sent to their supervisors.

    Currently the JFVU has sufficient staff for current demand, however any increase in responsibilities may require a reassessment of staffing levels.

    Where appropriate the subject’s supervisors are advised of the restrictions/conditions so that they can be more effectively managed at a local level. All conditional officers/staff details are shared with PSD-ACU for cross referencing with their intelligence systems.

    The ACU wouldn’t have sufficient capacity to significantly increase routine monitoring of all those with adverse intelligence.

  • Recommendation 11:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables who have not already done so should establish and begin operation of a policy requiring that, at the conclusion of misconduct proceedings where an officer, special constable or member of staff has been issued with a written warning or a final written warning, or been reduced in rank, their vetting status is reviewed.

  • Response:

    PSD will need to add to the existing post-proceedings checklist to ensure that the JFVU are notified on conclusion and provided with the adjudication result so that the impact on current vetting levels can be considered.

  • Recommendation 13:

    By 31 October 2023, chief constables who have not already done so should establish and begin operation of a process to:

    • identify the required vetting level for all posts within the force, including designated posts requiring management vetting; and

    • determine the vetting status of all police officers and staff in designated posts. As soon as possible after this, these chief constables should:

    • make sure that all designated postholders are vetted to the enhanced (management vetting) level using all the minimum checks listed in the Vetting Authorised Professional Practice; and

    • give continued assurance that designated postholders always have the requisite level of vetting

  • Response:

    All current posts across both forces were assessed for their appropriate vetting level at the time of Op Equip which was an exercise to improve HR data and processes ahead of introducing a new HR IT platform. As an interim approach, HR refer all ‘new’ posts to the JFVU for assessment of the relevant vetting level.

    In Surrey we have already implemented a process for any role that has access to children, young people or the vulnerable to be vetted to Management Vetting level. JFVU run periodic checks on MINT against known designated vetted departments and cross reference the staff listed with the Core-Vet system.

    HR have been requested to notify the Joint Vetting Unit of any internal moves into designated roles. In addition, JFVU monitor Routine Orders weekly for listing of moves into designated vetted departments and cross reference those individuals listed with the Core-Vet system.

    It is hoped that planned developments in HR software (Equip) will automate much of this current solution.

  • Recommendation 15:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should:

    • make sure that all police officers and staff are made aware of the requirement to report any changes to their personal circumstances;

    • establish a process through which all parts of the organisation that need to know about reported changes, particularly the force vetting unit, are always made aware of them; and

    • make sure that where a change of circumstances creates additional risks, these are fully documented and assessed. If necessary, additional risks should lead to a review of the individual’s vetting status.

  • Response:

    Officers & staff are reminded of the requirement to disclose changes in personal circumstances via regular entries in routine orders and periodic internet articles. The JFVU processed 2072 changes of personal circumstances over the past twelve months. Other parts of the organisation such as HR are aware of the need for such disclosures and routinely inform officers and staff of the requirement to update the JFVU. Any additional risks highlighted during the processing of a ‘Change of Circumstances’ will be referred to a JFVU supervisor for assessment and suitable action.

    There is a need to link this recommendation to annual integrity checks / wellbeing conversations to ensure all relevant questioning and reminders are consistently and regularly delivered.

    These do not take place consistently and are not centrally recorded by HR – engagement with and direction from HR Lead will be engaged to progress this solution.

  • Recommendation 16:

    By 31 December 2023, chief constables should make routine use of the Police National Database (PND) as a tool for revealing any unreported adverse information about officers and staff. To help this, the College of Policing should:

    • working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for counter-corruption, change the Counter-Corruption (Intelligence) APP to include a requirement for the PND to be used in this way; and

    • change the PND Code of Practice (and any subsequent code of practice concerning the Law Enforcement Data System) to include a specific provision that allows for the PND to be used in this way.

  • Response:

    Awaiting clarification from the NPCC and the proposed changes to the Counter-Corruption (Intelligence) APP.

  • Recommendation 29:

    With immediate effect, chief constables must make sure that forces use Regulation 13 of the Police Regulations 2003 for underperforming officers during their probationary period, rather than the Police (Performance) Regulations 2020.

  • Response:

    Regulation 13 is widely used within Surrey Police in line with this recommendation. To ensure it is consistently considered any potential misconduct investigation it will be added to the investigators checklist for formal consideration when scoping potential misconduct.

  • Recommendation 36:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should establish and begin operation of an improved system of mobile device management, with accurate record keeping concerning:

    • the identity of the officer or staff member each device is allocated to; and

    • what each device has been used for.

  • Response:

    Devices are attributed to officers and staff with capability within force to conduct lawful business monitoring.

  • Recommendation 37:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should:

    • convene, and hold on a regular and continuing basis, people intelligence meetings; or

    • establish and begin operation of an alternative process to support the presentation and exchange of corruption-related intelligence, to identify officers and staff who may present a corruption risk.

  • Response:

    The force has limited capability in this area and needs to develop a broader stakeholder base for such meetings which are focused on prevention and proactivity. This will need to be explored and developed.

  • Recommendation 38:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure that all corruption-related intelligence is categorised in accordance with the National Police Chiefs’ Council counter-corruption categories (and any revised version of these).

  • Response:

    The force is already compliant in this area.

  • Recommendation 39:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure they have a current counter-corruption strategic threat assessment, in accordance with the Counter-Corruption (Intelligence) Authorised Professional Practice.

  • Response:

    The force is already compliant in this area.

  • Recommendation 41:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should strengthen their business interest monitoring procedures to make sure that:

    records are managed in accordance with policy and include cases where authorisation has been refused;

    • the force actively monitors compliance with conditions that are attached to the approval, or where the application is refused;

    • regular reviews of each approval are carried out; and

    • all supervisors are properly briefed about business interests held by members of their teams.

  • Response:

    The Surrey & Sussex Business Interests Policy (965/2022 refers) was revised earlier this year and has well established procedures for the application, authorisation, and rejection of business interests (BI). A supervisor is advised of any BI conditions as they are ideally placed locally to monitor compliance. If any adverse information is received that a BI may be carried out in contravention of either the policy or specific restrictions this is passed to PSD-ACU for action as necessary. BI’s are reviewed bi-annually with supervisors being sent reminders to hold appropriate conversations with their staff as to whether the BI is still required or needs renewal. Supervisors are notified of a successful BI application and any conditions attached to it. Similarly, they are advised of BI rejections in order that they may monitor compliance. Evidence of breaches being investigated and dismissal available.

    The force needs to explore and strengthen its proactive monitoring of BIs.

  • Recommendation 42:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should strengthen their notifiable association procedures to make sure that:

    • they are compliant with the Counter-Corruption (Prevention) Authorised Professional Practice (APP) and that the obligation to disclose all associations listed in the APP is explicit;

    • there is an effective monitoring process to make sure that any conditions imposed are being complied with; and

    • all supervisors are correctly briefed on the notifiable associations declared by members of their teams.

  • Response:

    The Surrey & Sussex Notifiable Association policy (1176/2022 refers) is owned by PSD-ACU and incorporates the obligation to disclose all associations listed in the APP. However, the notifications are initially routed via the JFVU utilising the standard ‘Change of Circumstances’ form, once all relevant research is complete the results are shared with the ACU. Any monitoring of conditions imposed would be the responsibility of the individual’s line manager overseen by PSD-ACU staff. Currently it is not routine to brief supervisors on disclosed notifiable associations unless they are deemed to pose a significant risk to the officer or the Force.

  • Recommendation 43:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure that a robust process is in place for completing annual integrity reviews for all officers and staff.

  • Response:

    Currently the JFVU complies with the APP and appraisals are only required of those in designated posts with enhanced levels of vetting twice over the seven- year period of the clearance.

    This requires wholesale review once the new vetting APP is published.

6. Theme: Understanding and defining what constitutes misogynistic and predatory behaviour in a policing context

  • Recommendation 20:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should adopt the National Police Chiefs’ Council sexual harassment policy.

  • Response:

    This will be adopted by the force prior to the launch of the new College of Policing training packages on sexual harassment. Discussions are currently underway to agree departmental ownership across the Surrey and Sussex collaboration.

    As an organisation Surrey Police has already taken considerable steps to challenge all forms of misogyny as part of the “Not in my Force” campaign. This was an internal campaign calling out sexist behaviour through published case studies and testimonies. It was supported by a live streamed debate. This format and branding has been adopted by many other forces nationally. The force has also launched a Sexual Harassment Toolkit which provides advice and guidance to the workforce on recognising, challenging and reporting unacceptable sexist behaviour.

  • Recommendation 24:

    By 31 October 2023, chief constables should make sure their professional standards departments attach a prejudicial and improper behaviour flag to all newly recorded relevant cases.

  • Response:

    This will be actioned once the required changes are made by the NPCC Lead for complaints and misconduct to the national professional standards database.

  • Recommendation 18:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure that there is a robust response to any criminal allegation made by one member of their force against another. This should include:

    • consistent recording of allegations;

    • improved investigation standards; and

    • sufficient support for victims and compliance with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales.

  • Response:

    PSD always have oversight of criminal allegations against officers and staff. They are typically managed by divisions, with PSD pursuing conduct elements in parallel where possible or holding subjudice where not. In cases where there is a sexism or VAWG offences there is a clear and robust policy for oversight (including at DCI level and by AA who must ratify decisions).

  • Recommendation 25:
  • By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure their professional standards departments and counter-corruption units routinely carry out all reasonable wider inquiries when dealing with reports of prejudicial and improper behaviour. These inquiries should ordinarily include (but not be limited to) sampling the following, in relation to the officer under investigation:

    • their use of IT systems;

    • incidents they attended, and incidents they are otherwise connected to;

    • their use of work mobile devices;

    • their body-worn video recordings;

    • radio location checks; and

    • misconduct history.

  • Response:

    Investigators do consider all lines of enquiry which include technical enquiries alongside more conventional methods. Conduct histories are connected to investigations on Centurion so are readily available and do inform Assessment and Determinations decisions.

    Ongoing PSD CPD inputs will ensure this is considered in Terms of Reference on an ongoing basis.

  • Recommendation 26:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure their professional standards departments:

    • produce and follow an investigation plan, endorsed by a supervisor, for all misconduct investigations; and

    • check all reasonable lines of inquiry in the investigation plan have been concluded before finalising the investigation.

  • Response:

    This is an ongoing action within PSD to improve overall investigative standards with a dedicated departmental learning SPOC. Regular CPD is organised and run across the team to develop investigative skills which is supported by a series of small “bite size” teaching products for specific, identified areas of development.

  • Recommendation 28:

    By 30 April 2023, in the forces where we have not carried out fieldwork during this inspection, chief constables who have not already carried out a review of all allegations relating to prejudicial and improper behaviour, should do so. The review should be of cases from the last three years where the alleged perpetrator was a serving police officer or member of staff. The review should establish whether:

    • victims and witnesses were properly supported;

    • all appropriate authority assessments, including assessments which didn’t result in a complaint or misconduct investigation, were correct;

    • investigations were comprehensive; and

    • any necessary steps are taken to improve the quality of future investigations. These reviews will be subject to examination during our next round of inspections of professional standards departments.

  • Response:

    Surrey have written to the HMICFRS to seek clarity on the search parameters used to replicate this exercise in force.

  • Recommendation 40:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure their counter-corruption units:

    • produce and follow an investigation plan, endorsed by a supervisor, for all counter-corruption investigations; and

    • check all reasonable lines of inquiry in the investigation plan have been concluded before finalising the investigation.

    • Improving the way the police collect corruption-related intelligence

  • Response:

    All ACU Investigators have completed the CoP Counter Corruption Investigation Programme and supervisory reviews are standard practice – however, continuous improvement works are underway.

  • Recommendation 32:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure that:

    • all intelligence concerning possible sexual misconduct by officers or staff (including abuse of position for a sexual purpose and internal sexual misconduct) is subject to a risk assessment process, with action taken to minimise any risk identified; and

    • rigorous additional oversight arrangements are in place to monitor the behaviour of officers subject to the risk assessment process, especially in cases assessed as high risk.

  • Response:

    ACU manage intelligence relating to sexual misconduct by officers & staff. The NPCC matrix is used to assess individuals risk based on the information known. All reports made to the ACU (whether related to sexual misconduct or other categories) is subject of assessment and discussion both at DMM and fortnightly ACU meeting – both meetings chaired by SMT (head/deputy head of PSD)

  • Recommendation 33:

    By 31 March 2023, chief constables should make sure that counter-corruption units (CCUs) have established relationships with external bodies that support vulnerable people who may be at risk of abuse of position for a sexual purpose, such as sex-worker support services, drug and alcohol and mental health charities. This is to:

    • encourage the disclosure by such bodies, to the force’s CCU, of corruption-related intelligence relating to the sexual abuse of vulnerable people by police officers and staff;

    • help the staff from these bodies to understand the warning signs to look for; and

    • make sure they are made aware of how such information should be disclosed to the CCU.

  • Response:

    The ACU has a partnership working group with external stakeholders in this area. During these meetings the signs and symptoms have been shared and bespoke reporting routes established. Crimestoppers provides an external route for reporting in addition to the IOPC confidential reporting line. The ACU are continuing to develop and strengthen relationships in this area.
  • Recommendation 34:

    By 30 April 2023, chief constables should make sure that their counter-corruption units actively seek corruption-related intelligence as a matter of routine.

  • Response:

    Regular intranet messaging has been used to promote the force confidential reporting mechanism, which is managed by the ACU, to seek corruption related intelligence. This is supported by inputs to new recruits / joiners, newly promoted officers, and staff as well as thematic presentations on a need basis.

    Force DSU staff are briefed regarding the forces corruption priorities to maximise the opportunity of CHIS coverage to report corruption.

    Divisional and HR colleagues have been contacted to ensure they notify JFVU of individuals being managed locally for matters which would not ordinarily require PSD oversight. Work will be undertaken to increase the external intelligence reporting methods into the ACU.

  • Recommendation 35:

    By 31 March 2023, to protect the information contained within their systems and help them to identify potentially corrupt officers and staff, chief constables should make sure that:

    • their force has the ability to monitor all use of its IT systems; and

    • the force uses this for counter-corruption purposes, to enhance its investigative and proactive intelligence gathering capabilities.

  • Response:

    The force can covertly monitor 100% of desktop and laptops. This drops to approximately 85% for mobile devices.

    Procurement is currently underway to review the current software used against other commercially available platforms that might enhanced force capability.

7. AFIs from the vetting, misconduct, and misogyny in the police service inspection

  • Area for improvement 1:

    Forces’ use of vetting interviews is an area for improvement. In more cases, forces should interview applicants to explore adverse information of relevance to the case. This should help with assessing risk. When they carry out such interviews, forces should maintain accurate records and give copies of these to interviewees.

  • Area for improvement 2:

    Automated links between force vetting and HR IT systems are an area for improvement. When specifying and procuring new IT systems for these purposes, or developing existing ones, forces should seek to establish automated links between them.

  • Area for improvement 3:

    Forces’ understanding of the scale of misogynistic and improper behaviour towards female officers and staff is an area for improvement. Forces should seek to understand the nature and scale of this behaviour (like the work carried out by Devon and Cornwall Police) and take any necessary action to address their findings.

  • Area for improvement 4:

    Forces’ data quality is an area for improvement. Forces should make sure they accurately categorise all items of sexual misconduct intelligence. Sexual misconduct cases that don’t meet the definition of AoPSP (because they don’t involve the public) shouldn’t be recorded as AoPSP.

  • Area for improvement 5:

    Workforce awareness of corruption-related threats is an area for improvement. Forces should routinely brief police officers and staff on the pertinent and sanitised content of their annual counter-corruption strategic threat assessment.

  • Response:

    Surrey accepts the AFIs highlighted in this report and will undertake a formal review to develop an action plan to address.

    In relation to AFI 3 Surrey has commissioned Dr Jessica Taylor to conduct a cultural review in respect of everyday sexism and misogyny. The findings of her review will be used to inform further force level activity as part of our ongoing “Not in my Force” campaign.

Signed: Lisa Townsend, Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey