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Pooling resources: Tri-force anti-corruption and vetting

In the wake of the Casey review and amid calls to make Professional Standards more independent, Police Oracle takes a look at the blended approach to misconduct and vetting taken by Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

The tri-force approach to professional standards taken by Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire means that misconduct is investigated collaboratively - reducing any risk of bias.   

A blended department, made up of officers and staff from all three forces, has been in place for over a decade and sees officers from different forces investigating the same cases and conducting vetting. 

Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire had initially collaborated on professional standards in 2009, ahead of Cambridgeshire joining in 2012. 

The department consists of over 100 people, including a chief superintendent, a superintendent and three chief inspectors (who run thematics) and is designed to sit independently of the three forces. 

Split into four key areas - investigations, anti-corruption, vetting and business support - the department covers the three forces as well as the shared tri-force units, including firearms, and the Eastern Region Serious Organised Crime Unit. 

DCC Jane Gyford is the Chief Officer governance lead for the three forces. 

She told Police Oracle: “The department was initially started to make sure we provide the opportunity for the three forces to harness good performance - and that remains the case today. 

“It brings together well-developed and strong working practices into a single and resilient operating structure for professional standards. It also helps strengthen anti-corruption and vetting.

“If you had a Cambridgeshire case go in there, for example, it doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t have Cambridgeshire officers working on it, but most of the time there will be a blend of officers from each of the forces.” 

In addition to the collaborative approach, the department also uses other measures to ensure its investigations are robust. 

These include the use of external scrutiny panels who look at redacted cases and give their views before final decisions are made. 

They have further applied the 4 Ps approach to professional standards. Within the ‘Prevent’ strand, for example, they have developed a ‘heatmapping’ initiative. For this, they look at areas and districts within a force area against test criteria including business interests and complaints. 

If the mapping comes back and shows either a particularly high or particularly low concentration then that will be reviewed. 

DCC Gyford explained that the department isn’t seeing the high turnover of staff that has been mentioned in other parts of the country. 

However, regarding the length of investigations, they’re “in the same space as everyone else”. She pointed to uncontrollable factors including that CPS and IOPC investigations that need to take place first, as well as issues that are affecting all investigations including increases in digital evidence. 

The department places an emphasis on two-way communication and there are monthly business meetings between the PSD and the three chief officer teams as well as weekly meetings between HR and PSD (including on vetting and employment relations scrutiny). 

Part of the two-way communication looks to ensure that supervisors aren’t just putting things through to the department that they could deal with themselves. 

For DCC Gyford: “Sometimes communities won’t understand so much that you have this independent collaborative function because what they’re interested in is that when they make a complaint someone deals with it. 

“I think there is more weight in the internal confidence it builds – if there’s someone in any of our three forces that wants to whistleblow, they feel more assured that a Chief Inspector from a different force area will pick it up.

“It reduces bias and increases independence by being collaborative and it brings impartiality to the investigations - what that encourages is more people coming forward, there's a safer space for them to talk to us.”

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