Our thanks go to the latest post from Inspector Gadget for drawing our attention to this one.
Over half of the 43 police forces of England and Wales have simply ignored the Home Secretary and carried on bullying officers to meet the Policing Pledge and Public Confidence targets, that she formally abolished on 29th June. Over 200 contributors have commented on this article, reporting the examples of forces whose Chief Officers are openly defying the instruction from the Theresa May, effectively sticking their fingers up to the Government.
As far back as November 08, Jacqui Smith, then Home Secretary was congratulating Essex as the 1st force to publicly roll out the pledge.
From the outset, many common sense coppers agreed with the statement that the pledge was a “costly charade” doomed to fail, that would waste public money and valuable police resources administering the latest Government & Chief Officers flight of fancy. Visionary commentators, from both inside and out of the service felt it was “stating the blindingly obvious”.
There are few better examples than the pledge to illustrate how excessive political interference in operational policing, both exposes the naivety of many Chief Officers and reveals how costly and dangerous a little knowledge can be.
The origins of the initiative can be found in three key documents – the Flanagan Review of Policing, the Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime report by Louise Casey, and the Government’s Policing Green Paper. Ms Casey, who previously led Nu Labour initiatives on homelessness, anti-social behaviour and respect, recommended that all forces across England and Wales should put in place “a local police commitment in every neighbourhood” based on the ten approaches identified by the public in her report. She called for the commitments to be put in place by the beginning of 2009.
Many saw Gordon Browns endorsement of the pledge as the beginning of the end when he described it as the start of “a new era of policing”.
At the time Jacqui Smith said “I passionately believe that empowering the public to get a good deal through the Policing Pledge will play a powerful role in driving up the quality of policing for our citizens and in our communities”.
Embarrassingly now perhaps, that enthusiasm was shared both by ACPO and by the Essex Chief Constable, Roger Baker. Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence, ACPO’s lead on citizen focus, said that chief officers were “unswervingly committed to a visible, accessible, responsive and familiar policing style, focused on the expectations and needs of local people,” and added: “I hope the national Policing Pledge will help reassure the public that policing is responsive to their needs.”
Twelve months and £3.5million worth of media advertising later, the Advertising Standards Authority ordered that the adverts were misleading by promising that patrols would be visible 80% of the time. The adverts were withdrawn. The HMIC added fuel to the flames when they announced that the majority of forces were failing to deliver on the commitment.
And yet, the tenacity with which the unelected defend their privileges never ceases to amaze us. Under a Labour administration the Police chiefs were digging in every bit as stubbornly as Eurocrats, and for the same reason: they hate the idea of having to answer to the rest of us, to accept that their precious pledge was the flop that the front-liners and police bloggers predicted it would be.
The pledge, along with all the other performance targets such as the nebulous single measure of public confidence, dodgy crime statiticss reporting and fudged detections have served as a convenient cloak for Chief Officers to hide behind and screw the system for their bonuses.
To quote the refreshing Theresa May:
‘We want to let you get on with policing without Government constantly sitting on your shoulders telling you how to do it. I know that some officers like the Policing Pledge, and some, I’m sure, like the comfort of knowing they’ve ticked boxes. But targets don’t fight crime; targets hinder the fight against crime. In scrapping the confidence target and the Policing Pledge, I couldn’t be any clearer about your mission: it isn’t a 30-point plan; it is to cut crime. No more, and no less.’
And therein lies the rub. Stripping out all the potty projects and targets will expose the managerial weaknesses of many Chief Officers, who “Just don’t get it”.
Many of these Chiefs are so out of touch with real policing and have never “fought crime” on the street as the front-liners do 24/7. Their biggest fear must surely be that they will no longer be able to hide behind the latest fad project, pretty power-point presentation or yet another form that is “essential”.
How will they cut crime?
Well it would be brilliant if they would face up to the truth that the figures have been fudged for political and financial gain for donkeys years, but no doubt they will continue to “Cook the Books”.
The rot in recorded crime and detections goes back many years. It was interesting to see the retired West Midlands Detective Chief Inspector, Dr Rodger Patrick confirming these practices are still prevalent in the Telegraph article :-
“Cuffing” “Stiching” “Skewing” and “Nodding” are all familiar terms to both the front line and Chief Officers, as methods of manipulating the numbers to perpetuate the illusion of falling crime. We know from our front line contacts that the practices remain endemic across the forces. Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation said: “This research demonstrates that senior officers are directing and controlling widespread manipulation of crime figures. The public are misled, politicians can claim crime is falling and chief officers are rewarded with performance-related bonuses.”
Denis O’Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, published an official report into the way police record violent crime and admitted the figures may be skewed by “perverse incentives” around government performance targets.
As Dr Patrick discovered though, the HMIC and Police Standards Unit have displayed a general tendency to underplay the scale and nature of the practices. It certainly begs the question as to why there are no examples of Chief Officers being brought to book, or even publicly criticised for this type of crime figure manipulation. Apparently, the HMIC refer examples of widespread gaming to the Home Secretary or police authority, rather than “hold the chief constable to account” because of the risk of political embarrassment.
HMIC inspectors should be made accountable to Parliament rather than the Home Office, and should also be drawn from other professions rather than solely from senior police ranks.
The months leading up to the end of the financial year are particularly challenging within police circles for reporting crime. In particular, the challenges and pressure are aimed at the front line rank and file. These months see a marked increase in pressure from Chief Officers cascading down through the ranks, urging officers to “censor” the crimes that are reported. The reason for this is clear. The Chiefs are massively financially remunerated with bonuses for decreased crime and increased detections and this is the quarter when they can exert pressure down the line to protect their “gravy train” from derailing.
One police blogger drew attention to the increased pressure exerted by Chief Officers until the end of the financial year. To quote an e mail from his Senior Officer from his article:-
“They (front line officers) must not, under any circumstances, get out on the street and find any more crime. Not until the next financial year anyway. All their accumulated leave is to be taken between now and April. It’s best to have them out-of-the-way, they just can’t be trusted to stay indoors”.
How crooked the system intended to prevent and detect crime has become. You only have to read some of the officers comments on these blog pages to see that the pressure and corrupt practices are rife. Ms May and her colleagues face a mammoth challenge unraveling this pernicious conspiracy and web of deceit that has been foisted upon the tax payer.
Not surprising that front line officers feel they are doing the dirty work of the Chiefs, betraying the public trust and feeling pressured into compliance.
Even less surprising is the Chief Officer resistance to let go of the pledge and other doubtful projects that have disguised their incompetence’s and failings for so long.
Poice bloggers are forced to hide behind a cloak of anonymity, in fear of the career reprisals that Senior Officers will impose in the event of their identities being discovered. The officers we have contact with are loyal and committed both to the service and to the reforms advocated by Theresa May. All they want is to play their part in delivering the objective, of truly cutting crime, not cooking the books or manipulating numbers, but in restoring public confidence in the best way possible, by visibly protecting life and property and improving the quality of our society. No one wants to make political statements or be seen to support one politician or another. All they want is a return to common sense policing, a fair and effective delivery of justice.
In support of these frontline officers, we name and shame those forces that, as of today, are openly resisting this opportunity to scrap a project that simply didn't work in practice. We will leave the reader to draw their own conclusions as to their motives.
FORCES THAT REFUSE TO SCRAP THE FAILED POLICE PLEDGE
16th August 2010 : I have today received a reply to two e mails sent to the Home Secretary concerning the forces that have failed to withdraw the Policing Pledge.
The key paragraph reads :-
"The Home Secretary has made it clear to all Chief Constables that the Policing Pledge has now been scrapped, along with the last remaining Home Office target set on the police. Police forces must tailor their service to the needs of local communities rather than following central targets and diktats, which have served to create an increase in bureaucracy. It is now for each police force to determine how best to cut crime and deliver on the priorities that matter to local communities in their area. In future, it will be down to the Police and Crime Commissioner for each force to set priorities locally and for the public to hold them to account for performance".