Targets! Here we go again.
Policing in the Utopian Force is taking a worrying turn.
I am a great fan of neighbourhood policing and the idea of local officers tackling problem people and places in their communities with the help of partners and public is something I have worked with and supported for many years.
I am sure many of you remember the bad old days (sic) when performance was measured largely by crime and detection rates. Now, one thing the police service is good at is meeting targets. Set us almost any target and it will be met by hook or by crook. Some Forces didn't bother recording crime and most massaged the detection rates. Catching the teenage graffiti artist and getting them to clear up 100 other offences bumped the detection rate up a couple of percent. It was easier to focus on minor crime and get detections rather than spend a lot of resources trying to detect one burglary.
OK, I am not naive and I know that detection rates are still a performance measure in many forces, but now the focus is all about public confidence and satisfaction. The Home Office were convinced that focusing the efforts of the police on a number of specific measures was skewing resources towards those areas. Policing is such a vast portfolio, it is impossible to measure all activity and results effectively. What we needed was the one target of public confidence and satisfaction. This would ensure that we were providing a good all round service to the public. Sold! To the mug in charge of the Home Office.
What everyone hoped to see was a steady rise in public confidence and satisfaction as crime rates dropped, more offences were detected and problem people and places were eliminated. The problem is that senior managers are not prepared to wait five or ten years for the investment in neighbourhoods and elsewhere to take effect. The next career progression is measured in much shorter terms.
So, in Utopia, what is happening now is that we have droves of staff monitoring and collecting data regarding confidence and satisfaction. We have project teams dreaming up new ways of pushing up levels of public confidence and satisfaction. It is not all bad and there have been some useful improvements around keeping victims of crime updated. In neighbourhoods we are asking our teams to spend their days knocking on peoples doors to introduce themselves and ask what the local problems are. When they are not doing that they are holding 'surgeries' throughout their areas. Tackling the problems in the community is not a priority and not getting done. This might result in short term gains in confidence as the public gets to see their local officer, but in the medium term it will fall. Next time they knock on someones door they will be told that there is no point anyone telling them who is doing what as they do nothing with the information they already have.
I wish that instead of wasting resources on projects and promoting neighbourhood policing, instead we put those resources into the front line and produced real long term results. Short term gains to help careers progress are not sustainable and will result in a drop in confidence and satisfaction rates in the medium to long term. Never fear, I guess that will be the opportunity for the next tranche of senior managers wishing to move ever onwards and upwards.
7 months ago