The Home Secretary announced last year that the last policing targets were being scrapped and the sole objective of the police is to cut crime. She also stated that red tape was going to be cut to give the police more time to focus on that task.
My force and the Police Authority recently announced its policing targets for 2012/13. These include:
1. Confidence and Satisfaction
Ensuring 85% of the public have confidence in the police.
Ensuring 82% of victims of serious incidents are satisfied with the overall service they received.
Ensuring 76% of victims of anti social behaviour are satisfied with the overall service they received
2. Reducing crime
Reducing serious acquisitive crime by 3% compared to the previous year.
Detect 20.6% of serious acquisitive crime.
Dismantle or disrupt 16 organised crime groups
Arrest and charge/caution 500 offenders for supplying Class A and B drugs
3. Value for Money
Ensure that at least 90% of all officers and staff are available to deliver and support policing in the force.
Underneath all these targets are dozens of measures that have to be recorded and analysed to try and ensure we keep on track. This includes, for example, targets around attending incidents in good time. So the Home Secretary may have directed that we focus solely on reducing crime but police forces are still ignoring this and thousands of hours are being spent on collating statistics and measuring all sorts of others.
There are two main issues regarding this target setting. Firstly, many of the functions we carry out have no impact on the reduction of crime. If we are only measured on crime reduction then either those other functions should become the responsibility of other organisations or resources will be focused away from those other functions so they are not carried out properly. In the last week, half of my teams time has been taken up with incidents that have no impact on crime reduction. For example, we have dealt with a missing teenager who was felt to be at serious risk of self harming. That took six officers the entire shift, plus dogs and helicopter for about half the shift. Five officers took almost the entire shift dealing with a fatal traffic collision and there will be dozens of hours of follow up enquiries and possibly inquest and court. I have dealt with three complaints against police. Each one has been made so that it can be stated in mitigation. The complaints are frivolous and will be withdrawn after he court case. Add to this all the 'missing' people that walk out of hospitals and children's homes. Those responsible simply ring the police and thereby pass the buck. If anything happens to their charges it becomes our responsibility. I could go on.
The second issue I have is how can we be held to account for crime levels when we only play a small part in the justice system? We arrest and report offenders and put them before the court. The Youth Offending Team and Probation are almost totally ineffective rehabilitating offenders who continue to offend. The sentencing guidelines ensure that persistent offenders are never properly sentenced by the courts. The Courts simply provide a revolving door for persistent offenders to continue with their recidivist behaviour. Deterrent sentencing disappeared until the riots last summer, when there was a wake up call. Outside of those offenders, sentencing is ineffective business as usual. Eventually some of these persistent offenders commit an offence so serious that they are incarcerated for a long time. That is why the prisons are bursting at the seams. The police cannot be doing a bad job considering how useless the rest of the system is.
The worry is that police morale is falling and when the police start giving up there is nothing left in the justice system to protect the public.
The opinions and views expressed here are mine, and mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect the policies and views of the Utopian Police Force nor the City of Utopia.
The stories I tell here are all true but my purpose is not technical accuracy. My purpose is to illustrate the nature of policing in an educational and entertaining way.
I have tried to respect the privacy of the citizens of the city and to relate specific facts without identifying individuals. I believe I succeed in this but if you do recognize yourself and believe others will too, please contact me and I shall rectify it.