In this blog I focus in on the PEEL assessments of England and Wales police forces, including the relevance to you as a promotion candidate. I’ll also share some recent examples from my dedicated YouTube PEEL playlist, providing multiple summary overviews.
What on Earth are Police PEEL Assessments?
“PEEL assessments are conducted by HMIC(FRS) and judge England & Wales police forces on their overall performance.” – Simple definition
So let’s start with the basics of what PEEL assessments are. Put simply, PEEL assessments are how all England and Wales police forces are judged on their overall performance. Whether it’s the Met Police, GMP, West Mids or anywhere else, all forces are subject to this intrusive strategic scrutiny regime.
‘PEEL’ itself stands for Police Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Legitimacy. This acronym in effect summarises the broad themes of scrutiny, however scores are no longer provided along these themes since major changes implemented in 2021. The three themes also allude to the nine timeless Peelian Principles, underpinning today’s ‘policing by consent’ model in the UK.
The assessments are conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS, or more colloquially, ‘the HMIC’). The HMIC itself is the main independent scrutiny body of policing. So like how OFSTED inspects schools, the HMIC inspect police forces.
Note that the PEEL assessments are specific to the 43 England and Wales police forces. HMICS is the equivalent scrutiny organisation for Police Scotland and inspects things according to slightly different themes; naturally things are done a little differently north of the border! For example, here’s the recently-published HMICS scrutiny plans for 2022-25. The England & Wales HMIC however do provide other, non-PEEL inspection reports and scrutiny services to PSNI and nationwide UK police forces.
PEEL assessments are conducted on a continual basis, culminating in a (roughly) annual report for each force. This report details where the force is doing well or can improve, breaking findings down into an array of core themes (see next section).
The HMIC are transparent about the areas of focus, how forces are scored, and even share the bespoke judgement criteria used. In addition, they use a range of qualitative and quantitative information to build their picture of performance. Materials reviewed include policy documents, performance information, your Force Management Statement, dip sampling crimes and incidents, and multiple interviews with force employees at various seniority.
Naturally, the senior leadership and Chief Officers every police force awaits with trepidation when reports are due to publish. Such overarching performance reviews are what Police and Crime Commissioners, the press, and ultimately the public use to assess how well their force is doing beyond basic crime levels. It can often be career-defining for senior officers.
This intense focus by the force’s senior leadership and other stakeholders, combined with the myriad of areas assessed and information requested by the HMIC, translates into a small industry of work for the officers and staff with the unfortunate task of gathering and providing the necessary information. Such work is therefore often coordinated centrally within the ‘Corporate Development’ team of each force.
Smart forces have a system of centrally managing their required improvement recommendations, as part of a continuous improvement culture. Not just those received by the HMIC (albeit these are deemed most important to performance), but also those resulting from other internal/external reviews, audits, inspections, and IOPC investigations. Such things may also pass your desk as a leader, particularly when reaching the Inspector rank, so familiarisation is useful.
What Themes Are Assessed in PEEL Inspections?
The HMIC use the PEEL assessment framework as a comprehensive review of all the important facets of policing for that force. It covers aspects from how the public contact the police, to how crimes are investigated and even how the force treats its people. It also considers the force’s commitments to national objectives and even how it manages its funding.
I summarise the 12 inspection themes in the infographic above, which forms part of my PEEL summaries for each force. Here’s how the HMIC pitch the ‘core questions’ they address in this year’s inspection regime. They’re useful to know, especially for identifying enduring leadership themes and also anticipating CVF-aligned promotion board questions or presentation scenarios. I include some links to example free and relevant leadership content I’ve previously published, if you’d like to delve further…
- How good is the force’s service for victims of crime?
- How good is the force at engaging with the people it serves and treating them fairly, appropriately and respectfully?
- How good is the force at preventing and deterring crime, anti-social behaviour and vulnerability?
- How good is the force at responding to the public?
- How good is the force at investigating crime?
- How good is the force at protecting vulnerable people?
- How good is the force at managing offenders and suspects?
- How good is the force at disrupting serious and organised crime?
- How good is the force at meeting the requirements of the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR)?
- How good is the force at protecting communities against armed threats?
- How good is the force at building, developing and looking after its workforce and encouraging an ethical, lawful and inclusive workplace?
- How good is the force at planning and managing its organisation efficiently, making sure it achieves value for money, now and in the future?
Again, smart forces will dive into the detail behind each question, to anticipate in advance the specific ‘characteristics of good performance’. Though this is probably an unnecessary level of detail for promotion candidates!
How Are Police Forces Graded in PEEL?
Following the inspection and write-up, gradings are provided for the force on each inspection theme. Here’s how performance is graded; it’s similar in some ways to how promotion interview responses are assessed!
Outstanding: Kudos and cakes all round! This is where the people who decide your promotion fate want to be.
Good: Many senior leaders will be perfectly happy to reside here.
Adequate: This is OK in some areas, but distinctly average. Identified good practice is few and far between, while plenty of areas for improvement are required.
Requires Improvement: This creates a hard time for senior officers to explain and can dent public confidence in local policing. Not an ideal place to be, but at least it’s not…
Inadequate: This rating is politically damning for senior leaders and can severely damage public confidence. The HMIC even colour-code in a deep, maroon red. If you can identify way’s you’ll help your force get out of this marooned rut, you’ll have an edge over other candidates with what your interview board ALSO look for!
HMIC in 2021/22 introduced a new scoring comparison for the gradings of forces against each inspection theme, replacing previous overall gradings applied to each theme of Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Legitimacy. However, it can be helpful to directly compare forces and common themes, as I’ll show later. All the inspection themes attract gradings, expect for the Strategic Policing Requirement and Armed Policing themes.
In addition to overall gradings on each theme, the report details more specific findings. This includes identifying any areas of concern, recommending where improvements can be made, and providing examples of good practice which other forces can learn from:
Innovative Practice: Highlights and praises areas of good practice found, from which other forces may learn. These are also things the force can boast about!
Areas for Improvement: Where forces can do better. Every force will have these, even those with overall better gradings (e.g. Durham Constabulary 2022 report).
Cause for Concern: These are serious failings Chief Officers aim to avoid and local/national media organisations love to emphasise. In turn, these are accompanied by areas where the HMIC identifies the force must improve.
Why is PEEL Relevant to Police Promotion?
As an aspiring police leader and promotion candidate, your job is simply to identify where you can help the force improve. Whether that’s moving the organisation away from pain and risk, or towards nationally-recognised good practice (‘innovative practice’). Both will be welcomed by those deciding your fate.
In addition, the initiative you show in being strategically aware of the issues facing your force and where performance improvements must be prioritised will stand you in good stead for forward-facing questions, presentation scenarios, and questions aligned to the CVF behaviours of ‘public service’ and ‘deliver, support and inspire’.
Sergeants aspiring to Inspector will do particularly well to take notice, as knowledge of PEEL and other such reports is important to developing your strategic awareness at this more strategic rank. This is something I expand upon in my comprehensive Inspector and Chief Inspector promotion toolkit, because although the CVF levels don’t differentiate the ranks, there are massive differences!
How do Forces Compare on their PEEL Assessments?
The new scoring regime unfortunately doesn’t automatically create league tables or other force comparisons… until now! I assigned each rating a simple score, from ‘0’ for ‘Inadequate’ to ‘4’ for ‘Outstanding’. This allows us to make valuable overall comparisons between the forces, something I know cops at all levels love to do!
For example, overall England and Wales forces could be interpreted as performing ‘Adequately’. Distinctly average. West Yorkshire, Durham, and Leicestershire are performing well and have many ‘Innovative Practices’ to boast and share. Conversely, Northants, Gloucestershire, and particularly GMP have some improvements to make. This is where you as an aspiring police promotion candidate come in!
The scoring also allows comparisons of the various inspection themes, identifying common areas in which forces are struggling or excelling at.
As displayed below, forces reported so far are generally performing poorly in their service to victims, responding to the public, and crime investigation. Workload supervision, investigation plans, vulnerability risk management, and crime prevention / scene preservation advice for victims are some common improvement areas I’ve noticed being raised. In my blog, ‘Investigating the Future’, I previously outlined how you can positively contribute to improved crime investigations in your future police leadership aspirations.
For those that like to dig into the details, here’s how I’ve translated the scores by each of the 14 forces reported up to April 2022 so far. I’ll be sure to update this in a few months’ time when other forces 2022 inspection reports get published, for example the Met Police and Devon and Cornwall.
Where Can I Find Simple Summary PEEL Reports?
I understand cops are busy, time is precious, and after a long shift the last thing you might want to do is read a 30- or 40-page report. Hence why over the last year or so I’ve been summarising the key points from various forces’ PEEL assessments for free on my YouTube channel. In the last week, I uploaded all five most recent examples, covering Cumbria, Kent, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and TVP.
As previewed in the montage above for the Thames Valley Police PEEL, you’ll notice I not only pick out the key areas for improvement and good practice. I also provide infographics on key stats about the force (officer and staff numbers, budget, area covered, population, and calls for service), comparisons with other forces with my bespoke scoring system (like a league table), information on your force’s vision and strategic objectives, and relevant further reading. All of these are useful for your strategic awareness about your own force, and of course may help when responding to promotion interview questions!
I believe these unbiased video summaries will also be of interest to other members of the public, who are interested more generally in their police force. This is because when reported and shared elsewhere, it’s hard to get a fair appraisal. The press (predictably) zone in on any negative aspects, picking out one or two ratings that sound bad. Conversely, the force’s press releases tend to do the opposite and focus solely on the good aspects.
Whatever angle you view these summaries from, I hope you find them helpful…
Kind Regards, Steve
If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend or download my Police Promotion Masterclass, or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast, plus free blog content both here and via my Police Hour guest articles.