12. My Commitments as PCC (CJS responsibilities cont)
Hold to account Kent Police:
One of my key duties is to secure an efficient and effective police force by holding the Chief Constable to account.
Accountability arrangements must be visible and accessible to build and maintain trust and confidence. My governance arrangements are outlined below:
Key Principles: dynamic & risk-based; takes account of, & has due regard for each parties distinct role
Spontaneous discussions between the OPCC & Kent Police.
Joint PCC & Chief Constable Briefing
A closed briefing which enables dialogue & discussion on a routine frequent basis.
Performance & Delivery Board
Held in public & enables me to formally hold the Chief Constable to account for delivery of the priorities & related matters.
Joint Audit Committee
Combined committee with Kent Police. Scrutinises internal processes, spending & risk management policies.
Kent & Essex Collaboration Oversight Meeting
Co-chaired by myself & the Essex Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner. Keeps collaboration under review & holds both Chief Constables to account.
The OPCC conducting checks / audits
Feedback from Independent Custody Visitors
My completion of the Chief Constable’s PDR
Regular meetings with public bodies & inspectorates
Objective assessments by HMICFRS
As my principle means of holding the Chief Constable to account, Performance and Delivery Board meetings were held on 8 June, 31 October, 30 November and 15 March 2023. Examples of topics discussed include:
Crime and ASB: Compared to the previous year, in 2022/23 the force recorded a 2.9% decrease in victim-based crime (4,455 fewer offences). This was predominantly driven by a decrease in violent crime of 7.8% (7,169 fewer offences).
In 2022/23, Kent Police recorded a 15.4% decrease in ASB incidents compared to the previous year, equating to over 5,000 less incidents across the county.
Call handling: During the year, Kent Police’s 101 non-emergency call handling performance deteriorated, with an increase in unanswered calls and the time callers were waiting. Primarily the result of staff leaving the FCR and an increase in 999 emergency calls which will always be prioritised, I received regular updates and challenged the Chief Constable on how it was been addressed. Activity including the posting of police officers into the FCR was prioritised and as a result, 101 non-emergency call handling performance improved. Longer term, I am reassured there is a programme of strategic transformation underway that will build a FCR which delivers a first class service whilst meeting future public demand.
I have made it clear to the Chief Constable that I expect 999 and 101 call handling performance to be maintained and will continue to receive updates at my Performance and Delivery Board.
The number of 999 emergency calls received by Kent Police in 2022/23 was 382,689, an increase of 27,802 on the previous year. The number of 101 non-emergency calls received was 312,321, a reduction of 47,860. The percentage of 999 calls answered was 98.7% and the average answering time 18 seconds – compared to 98.6% and 16 seconds the previous year. For 101 calls, 66.6% were answered and the average answering time was 7 minutes 19 seconds – compared with 79.4% and 4 minutes in 2021/22.
The use of digital channels of communication continued to increase in 2022/23, with 70,523 Live Chats and 48,728 ‘Report a Crime’ submissions (up 61% and 23% respectively on the previous year).
Officer recruitment: Through the Government’s national uplift programme, Kent Police continued to recruit police officers in 2022/23.
Whilst some of those recruited replaced officers that left during the year, officer strength (i.e. actual number of officers) as at 31 March 2023 stood at 4,203 Full Time Equivalent (FTE)1.
As a result of the national uplift programme and funding raised through the Council Tax precept, the force now has the highest number of officers in its history and 1,021 more full-time officers than when I came into office in spring 2016. This is a fantastic achievement and I would like to congratulate the Chief Constable and thank all the officers and staff involved for their dedication and hard work.
PEEL 2021/22: In holding the Chief Constable to account I do not judge progress on arbitrary targets; whilst cognisant of data, I consider independent assessments of performance equally as important.
His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) independently assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire & rescue services in the public interest. In April 2022, HMICFRS published the Kent PEEL 2021/22 inspection report – an overview of the graded judgements is below:
Recording data about crime
Treatment of the public
Developing a positive workplace
Good use of resources
Protecting vulnerable people
Responding to the public
While the force were to be commended on some elements such as its outstanding performance in the recording of crime, other findings were disappointing, particularly those in respect of DA and the investigation of crime.
In response, the force developed an Improvement Plan and I received regular updates on progress at each Performance and Delivery Board. In addition, the meeting on 31 October focused specifically on the force’s response to the report enabling me to robustly hold the Chief Constable to account.
I am pleased to report that over the course of the year, significant improvements were made by the force and I am reassured that all areas of concern identified by HMICFRS have now been addressed.
Wider CJS: 2022/23 was my fifth year as chair of the Kent Criminal Justice Board (KCJB). The Board brings together chief officers from criminal justice agencies and wider partners and has responsibility for overseeing criminal justice across Kent and Medway with the purpose of delivering effective, efficient and fair justice.
The CJS in Kent continued to see outstanding case numbers rise and delays in justice. The main issue remained a lack of resource across agencies with shortages in Judiciary, Magistrate Court Legal Advisors, Prosecution, Defence Counsel and Court Probation Officers all contributing to a lower than required number of courts sitting and case adjournments. Not as acute, but neighbouring counties including Sussex and Surrey faced the same issue. The Southeast remains an expensive place to live and as such, many much needed practitioners choose to work in London.
The delays impacted on the force’s Victim & Witness Care unit. The need for them to continue updating victims and witnesses whilst also seeing an increase in new cases created additional pressures. With Kent Police having the highest number of officers in its history, the number of prosecutions will continue to grow increasing the pressure on an already overburdened CJS.
Through the KCJB, work continued to deliver efficiency improvements including maximising the use of Out of Court Disposals where appropriate, delivering early guilty pleas, making sure cases entering the system needed to be there and that cases reaching court proceeded effectively. Work also focused on ensuring rehabilitation programmes and other work delivered positive outcomes to prevent further offending.
As PCC and Chair of the KCJB I continued to lobby and meet with senior government ministers and personnel within the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to raise the recruitment issue here and across the Southeast including the need for a Southeast allowance. I am hopeful that national and local recruitment campaigns will see some success in the future.
However, unfortunately the reality is until the staffing shortages are addressed, the level of outstanding cases and therefore delays to victims and witnesses will not improve.