Warwickshire, Northumbria and South Yorkshire forces ‘adequate’ at vetting
The Warwickshire, Northumbria and South Yorkshire forces have all been found to be ‘adequate’ at vetting.
However, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found all three required improvement in several areas in its report into the effectiveness of vetting arrangements.
Warwickshire Police has a national responsibility for vetting under its chief constable, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for vetting.
While the force has been using an established vetting IT system for about 15 years, HMICFRS found this does not link to its HR system.
To overcome this, HR sends individual email updates to the force vetting unit (FVU) to notify it of any internal moves, promotions and people leaving the force.
Due to its national responsibilities, Warwickshire Police’s FVU is far larger than FVUs in similar-sized forces, with six vetting supervisors and 55 vetting case officers.
This means the force has enough staff in the FVU to cope with current demand.
The inspectorate found the FVU has “comprehensive processes in place” to predict future demand, including that related to the police national vetting service (PNVS). The force vetting supervisor maintains a plan of predicted recruitment dates for various roles one year in advance. This includes the expected number of officers joining through the Police Uplift Programme.
The FVU considers this information alongside data on future renewals. It brings some renewals forward to keep a more balanced workload throughout the year. The FVU also consults with departments that are planning larger intakes to make sure the vetting process is completed in manageable stages.
As of April 2023, Warwickshire Police had a total of 1,985 police officers, special constables, police staff and police community support officers.
“The force told us there were just two people in post without the correct level of vetting for their roles because it had expired. Both people were on long-term sickness absence,” said HMICFRS.
“The force has a process in place to make sure their vetting is renewed as soon as they return to work.”
The vetting IT system alerts the FVU 99 days before renewals are due, prompting the unit to send out application documents. The force has reduced the renewal periods for recruitment vetting from ten to nine years, with reviews at the three and six-year stages. This is a shorter renewal period than the vetting APP requires.
However, despite this, HMICFRS said the force needed improve its vetting arrangements to make sure that:
- When concerning adverse information has been identified during the vetting process, all vetting decisions (refusals, clearances and appeals) are supported with sufficiently detailed written rationale; and
- When granting vetting clearance to applicants with concerning adverse information, the force vetting unit creates and implements effective risk mitigation strategies, with clearly defined responsibilities and robust oversight.
IT monitoring and counter-corruption arrangements were also reviewed by HMICFRS.
It found the force needed to make sure it introduces IT monitoring so that it can monitor all use of its IT systems to support counter-corruption investigations and proactively gather intelligence.
In addition, the force needed to improve how it collects, assesses, develops and investigates counter-corruption intelligence by making sure that:
- Its annual counter-corruption strategic threat assessment and control strategy have an implementation plan with accountable action owners and that the force uses these processes to identify and manage corruption threats effectively;
- Its counter-corruption unit has sufficient resources and suitably trained staff to meet demand and allow for proactive intelligence collection; and
- It carries out effective assessment and development of intelligence, including routine widening of enquiries into internal improper behaviour and checking of compliance when specific conditions are attached to notifiable associations and business interests.
Like Warwickshire Police, Northumbria Police has been using an established vetting IT system. Although it has been in place for about 13 years, again it does not link with the force’s HR system.
To overcome this, HR mirrors Warwickshire Police by providing individual email updates to the FVU about any internal moves, promotions or people leaving the force.
Although the force has increased staffing levels in the FVU, HMICFRS found it still does not have enough people to cope with current demand.
The inspectorate said the force needed to improve its vetting arrangements to make sure that:
- The force vetting unit has sufficient resources to meet the demand it faces;
- All personnel have been vetted to a high enough level for the posts they hold; and
- All non-police personnel are vetted to the required level for the role they are contracted for.
The South Yorkshire Police FVU introduced a new vetting IT system in January this year, but again it does not link with the force’s HR system.
To overcome this, the head of the FVU attends the monthly workforce deployment board meeting. This helps the FVU to keep track of all staff moves and makes sure that it is updated on current staff postings and any need to review their vetting.
The FVU uses information collated from its vetting IT system to track vetting renewals. Forty-two days before their clearance expires, members of the workforce are sent a vetting renewal form to complete.
“This approach helps the FVU manage demand,” said HMICFRS. “However, we found that the FVU didn’t specify a timescale for returning the form.
“In some of the cases we reviewed, officers and staff hadn’t returned their vetting renewal forms before their vetting clearance had expired.”
The inspectorate concluded that force should improve its vetting arrangements to make sure that:
- It has a clear understanding of the level of vetting required for all posts and that all members of the workforce have been vetted to a high enough level for the posts they hold; and
- It has a clear understanding of the vetting required for all non-police personnel and that they are all vetted to a high enough level for their roles.