On a police networking site recently, the above question sparked a mass of interesting responses from all ranks and many from outside parties.
Here at http://thinbluelineuk.blogspot.com/ we are asking the same questions. We would be particularly keen to hear from front line officers from all forces with their informed views. Imagine you had the opportunity to have your views heard, without recrimination, by Theresa May and Nick Herbert. We will collate the responses and forward them to Theresa and Nick and let you know the outcome. We will also be asking these questions on other forums such as Police Oracle and would be keen to elicit the support of police blog sites.
To get you started, here are some of the consolidated responses.
1. GOVERNANCE. Sort out the Governance model of policing once and for all. The tripartite model of Home Office, Police Authority & Chief Constable is at best opaque with a mass confusion over roles and responsibilities. Sort out the professional governance of the police service (the whole HMIC / ACPO / APA / HO / NPIA / HMIC / SOCA / 43CC / IPCC etc is a confused mess and needs a shake up). The phasing out of the NPIA and the changes to the SOCA model are an indication that the Coalition are treating the challenges seriously. There are far too many quangos and bureaucratic empires and fiefdoms. The expertise and skills contained within the multitude of departments need identifying and consolidating, applying the value for money formulas for individuals and areas.
The status of ACPO, together with its 349 members needs to be remodeled and repositioned so that its accountability is increased and transparent. For confidence to return, it must start from the top, with a governance structure that makes it accountable to those who fund it, rather than the self perpetuating oligarchy that pervades at present.
Is there a need for 43 different separately governed forces within England and Wales? Make collaboration and mergers really work this time. Beyond a few notable projects - many of which were bank rolled by the Home Office - most of the rest are stuck in quagmire of details.
2. COSTS & CUTS. After years of growth the service is under increasing pressure to demonstrate they are more financially efficient. Shared service and shared procurement are becoming more essential. Without necessarily creating advocating mergers or one national force, many of the proposed cuts and savings could be effectively delivered by smarter volume central purchasing arrangements and sharing of resources. HR is an example. Why do 43 forces have 43 HR departments when massive savings could be achieved with one central HR function.
The same principle should be applied for all areas of procurement. Equipment and services sourced centrally would deliver millions in savings. HMIC predict that £5billion could be saved by better procurement over a ten year period. The challenge is demonstrating that as a public service the police are strong on value and low on waste. Inspection bodies such as the HMIC and Audit Commission are creating more scrutiny on Forces and the Authorities that govern them. STOP paying interim ICT consultants vast sums of money for doing maintenance work or else assembling cases for next piece of spend.
3. RESOURCES. The most effective application of human resources. From the top down, forces must look at the roles occupied by senior officers right down to the management of the front line. Of 143,000 warranted officers, only 11% are at any one time visibly policing the streets. How can ACPO justify 349 ACC ranks and above, when only 220 are engaged directly in force duties. A critical analysis of the rank structure is well overdue. It has been suggested that the Chief Superintendent and Chief Inspector ranks are superfluous to operational needs. Why are there so many supervisory, rather than 'doing' ranks within the service? How many ACPO officers are really needed?
Civilianisation running at 82,000, costing £2.7billion (£62 million in non forecast overtime) people has clearly escalated out of kilter. Box ticking, flow chart creating departments and individuals, many of whom impede the delivery of common sense policing rather than support it, must be justified as truly necessary or not.
Assuming that 40'ish% of warranted officers (allowing for shift patterns and rest days) are assigned to front line roles, this raises the question, "What are the other 85,000 officers doing?" Accepted that some back office functions require a warranted officer, surely there are many thousands that should be redeployed back to directly policing and serving the community. This measure alone would increase visibility and start the process of restoring public confidence and cutting crime.
The PCSO V's Coppers debate. There are those that say this represents everything that is wrong with the system, soft, ill conceived politics playing numbers and lying to the public. Get more coppers out on the street, get rid of 50% of the IT systems within police stations where they are not required and when that is done 50% less time will be spent on emails. Audit just one Force and see how many emails travel through their system each day and how many are work related and could have been performed by supervisors. Inspectors and Sergeants must be freed up to go for a walk, in uniform, and meet with their Constables and do another thing that is lacking in the job today, talking and listening. Introduce far more job flexibility, trust and discretion - How much talent is lost to the service because of out dated and rigid working arrangements that pay little heed to a) public demand and b) preferences of frontline staff.
4. CRIME & DETECTIONS. Reducing crime and increasing detections. The problem here has been the historic one. Set Senior Police Officers a target and hook or by crook they will show that they have achieved it. Connecting performance to senior officer bonuses has whittled away any confidence the public and frontline officers may have had in the crime figures. The practice of "Gaming" exposed by Dr Rodger Patrick, a former DCI with the West Midlands force revealed that Senior Officers either encourage or condone the practices associated with "Cooking the Books" and have done so for many years. Stats may not be critical, but the deceitful manipulative practices are self serving and destructive. The techniques identified by Dr Patrick include:
"Cuffing" – in which officers make crimes disappear from official figures by either recording them as a "false report" or downgrading their seriousness. For example, a robbery in which a mobile phone is stolen with violence or threats of violence is recorded as "theft from the person", which is not classed as a violent crime.
"Stitching" – from "stitching up", whereby offenders are charged with a crime when there is insufficient evidence. Police know that prosecutors will never proceed with the case but the crime appears in police records to have been "solved".
"Skewing" – when police activity is directed at easier-to-solve crimes to boost detection rates, at the expense of more serious offences such as sex crimes or child abuse.
"Nodding" – where clear-up rates are boosted by persuading convicted offenders to admit to crimes they have not committed, in exchange for inducements such as a lower sentence.
The academics call this 'gaming' but police officers would call it fiddling the figures, massaging the books or, the current favourite term, 'good housekeeping'. It is a bit like the police activities that we all thought stopped in the 1970s. Serving police officers confirm that the tricks are still being used and have given examples of how they had been implemented.
In one case, an offender shot at another man at close range but missed and broke a window behind his target. The offence was recorded as criminal damage rather than attempted murder.
In another example, a man robbed in a city's red-light district – an area he had been innocently passing through – was told by officers they would be unable to record the crime without informing his wife he had been the area, leading to the complaint being withdrawn.
One detective, who declined to be named, said: "Name any crime and I'll tell you how it can be fiddled."
Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents front line officers, 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. Dr Patrick found that watchdogs such as Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Police Standards Unit had a "general tendency to underplay the scale and nature" of gaming.
HMIC have failed to tackle the problem. Tere are no examples of chief police officers being publicly criticised by inspectors for this type of crime figure manipulation. Instead, HMIC tended privately to refer examples of widespread gaming to the Home Secretary or the 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 be drawn from other professions rather than solely from senior police ranks.
5. OPERATIONAL PRIORITIES. Refocus the priorities of policing back to the Peelian principles, the main emphasis should always be the protection of life and property, the prevention and detection of crime. Anything else is a distraction.
UPDATE 28th July 2010 A MUST SEE ARTICLE... pop over to Bankside Babble, read an excellent article on the Radical Reforms http://bankbabble.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/reform-lol
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
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