An HMIC spokesman said former chief constable Lynne Owens provided ‘strong leadership’ and was both ‘visible and approachable’
BY ELEANOR DAVIS
The former chief constable of Surrey Police has been praised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) for demonstrating “strong leadership” in the same year the force was ranked ‘inadequate’ in protecting vulnerable victims.
HMIC’s annual PEEL, police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy, review for 2015, which was published on Thursday (February 25), included a review of each force’s leadership.
The findings analysed how well a force understands and develops its leaders, if it has a clear and compelling future direction and how well the workforce are motivated.
Kevin Hurley said he was ‘deadly serious’ in taking steps to dismiss the chief constable
However, the inspectorate said they found Mrs Owens and the chief officer team “demonstrated strong leadership by swiftly and effectively addressing issues that resulted in an historic underinvestment in skills and capabilities in some areas of the force”.
“We found an ethical style of leadership across the organisation, while the chief officer team is viewed as approachable by the workforce,” said the report.
Although HMIC said the force did not have a good understanding of its overall leadership capacity and capability in all levels of the organisation, it revealed the chief constable met with newly-promoted officers and explained her expectations of them.
The inspectorate found “good quality leadership” had resulted in a “stronger focus on improving the legitimacy of the force, in the way it keeps people safe and reduces crime”.
Surrey Police was also found to have a good understanding of how leaders are perceived throughout its workforce, through the use of staff surveys and the chief constable’s blog, which she used to answer questions.
“The workforce feels the force listens to and acts upon its views,” said HMIC in its report.
The inspectorate also praised the force as being effective as managing staff performance and for being committed to the wellbeing of its workforce, including occupational health support and a mental health support group available.
HMIC’s Zoë Billingham said: “HMIC found some areas of serious concern in the performance of Surrey Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime.
“In view of these findings, I was in regular contact with the chief constable and I was reassured by the extremely positive way in which the force has acknowledged and responded to the issues we have raised.
“The chief constable, who has now left the force to take up a national position in policing, provided strong leadership and was both visible and approachable.
“The chief officer team has worked to make ethics an important part of the force’s everyday culture and is committed to the wellbeing of the workforce, responding positively when pressures were apparent in some front line areas.”
“In the year ahead, I will be particularly interested to see how the force maintains the existing strong preventative neighbourhood policing approach with the planned reduction of officers.
“I will also be interested to see how the force improves its service provided to vulnerable victims, particularly involving children who are victims of abuse or missing from home.
“I will also be monitoring how the force improves the way it tackles serious and organised crime.”
In response to the latest report, Kevin Hurley maintained Mrs Owens was to blame for the force’s poor results.
“In the past three months, Surrey has received six reports from HMIC relating to important operational issues such as protecting vulnerable people, management of serious crime and efficient operational deployment of resources,” he said.
“In the case of Surrey, many of them are unsatisfactory or worse. They have confirmed my findings last year of poor performance and a failure to protect the most vulnerable of our victims in Surrey.
“I concluded last year that there was a failure of the operational leader, the chief constable. I made it clear to her then that I do not blame the workforce of Surrey Police – in my view, the responsibility for poor operational results rests ultimately with the chief.
“This is an organisation made up of brave, dedicated and passionate police officers and staff,” he said.
On the run up to the General Election in 2015 we sought comments from various key individuals – the former Chief Constable Lynne Owens provided a good article and on another occasion reacted swiftly and effectively to a complaint raised by a local resident – who happened to be me. But in the same tone PCC Kevin Hurley also provided a robust article for our website.