Wednesday, 9 September 2009

More from Lex Ferenda

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.


  1. ".....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 true, in fact I think this could apply to most `bright ideas`. If you stay in the job long enough you will eventually see the same, or very similar, good ideas come round in an ever so slightly different guise under a different name and being driven by the next shooting star. I found that 6 or 7 years was about the norm. When the `same` scheme comes around for the 5th time, you know you're a dinosaur and its time to retire - almost no need to set your watch.

  2. My sergeants have to spend a certain amount of hours each month telephoning members of the public our officers have interacted with. If they're dissatisfied with any element of the service given, it's recorded and sent off somewhere. No one knows where or who does what with that information. I've a better idea though. Instead of sergeants sitting in an office telephoning victims to see what constables did wrong, how about the sergeants NOT being required to sit in an office but being able to have the time to go out and patrol, actively supervise and observe their constables as they interact with the public?

    It'd never work.

  3. I think the investment should be made into frontline policing as you say. The more police that are visible the better as this must be much more effective than CCTV or random campaigns for cofidence. Keep up the good work.

  4. I can tell you which members of law abiding (they are by definition people without convictions and trustworthy) members of public the Police are rapidly losing the confidence of and that is the people who lawfully shoot firearms in the countryside.
    Too many incidences of over reaction, due to a complete lack of knowledge, lack of familiarity of firearms, lack of knowledge of what takes place in the countryside when people are lawfully, with valid permission game/pigeon/rabbit/hare/fox/vermin shooting and they are confronted with several armed Police officers, Police dogs and Force helicopters who think that because they are in a field shooting, they have to be criminals.
    Any Bobby who knows their patch would realise that so and so was out shooting, but now that bond between the lawful shooting public and Police is slowly being broken by the Police and with every foul up when lawful pigeon shooters are arrested, handcuffed and frogmarched off a field where his plastic pigeon decoys were there for all to see, by several heavily armed AR officers does little to instil any confidence in the Police.
    In the not too distant future I can see an over reaction by the Police ending in the death of a lawful, sporting shooter, because of the gung ho attitude disproportionately applied to an lawful shooting situation where any sane person would know that the lawful shooter is not a threat to anyone, except the pigeon he hopes to make into a pie.

  5. BTW. I am an ex bobby who legally shoots and whilst in the job took the firearms off people whilst on my own when I thought they were not complying to the conditions of their certificates, or would stop and speak to men in fields with their dogs knowing they were out legally rough shooting and on two occasions disarmed people with no valid reason for having them in a public place. All undertaken with no drama, no ARU, no helicopters, just common sense.

  6. I think the laziness and outright refusal of the police to protect the overwhelming decent majority in this country means that it's far too late for them to glean any satisfaction. The police have treated the general public as a 'detection-cow' for so long now, and whilst the plan has been a success in terms of the figures, it's a disaster in as much as the police have alienated massive amounts of people, in addition to letting criminals flourish.

    It's not rocket science; target criminals, leave the rest of us alone.

  7. >Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime.

    Still, what did Peel know about policing? Bloody amateur.

  8. Views of a MOP:

    I had a questionnaire through the door about 18 months ago, asking me to rate my local "beat manager". As I'd never seen him...

    @Hogday - it's just the same in larger private sector organisations. Perhaps one will eventually kick this into touch and will verily prosper.

    @Insp Hobbs - why don't they also report positive reactions as well as the negative? As a volunteer with the ambulance service, I find our blue uniformed colleagues damn good.

    @Anon - last time I bought rabbits from a farm I sometimes use (no, I don't shoot but I do like wild food) I was informed of a situation with AR & helicopter just like you described. Although the ARU parked all the way up the lane to the farm, no one went to ask if they had anyone out shooting.

    @Hibbo - Foxtrot Oscar, please chuck. You are simply a relatively mild-mannered troll.

  9. @ Insp Hobbs - we used to have to ring 'customers' and get feedback and put it on a spreadsheet. Most supervisors just rang people they knew had had a good service. You don't have time to call someone you know is going to moan for an hour and then make a complaint or demand further action you don't have time to deal with. The rest of us just made up the responses. As you say, far better to actually be with the officers and observe them in action. Hopefully we will get back to that.

    @ Anon - you are right and it supports my argument to some extent. Rural areas always had local beat officers and they were generally available and could tell you if shooting was likely to be legitimate or poachers. Now the rural beat officers cover huge areas and probably don't know themselves. We are not joined up and the control rooms and response teams rarely think to ask the neighbourhood teams, who may know the answer.