Sunday, 21 March 2010

POLICE RESPONSE OFFICERS - A DANGEROUSLY THIN BLUE LINE? (PART 3)


Following on from our previous post and our report on police response numbers we were pleased to see Her Majesties Inspector of Constabulary launch their new "MYPOLICE" website this week at http://www.hmic.gov.uk/mypolice/pages/home.aspx

We have explored the new HMIC site in some detail over the days since its launch. There is a considerable amount of useful detail presented on the site and we shall be referred to it in future posts. First signs though, are that the HMIC have deliivered an excellent new public information resource on policing in England & Wales.

Trawling the site for information in support of our poolice response article, two reports released this week by the HMIC that are of particular interest are :-

The All Force Police Report Card and the Area Comparison on crime rates.

You can see at a glance how each force is performing overall in key areas of policing in the Police Report Card overview, and see the detailed performance information including forces’ prospects of improvement underlying this in the Police Report Card summary.

The Report card compares police force performance in four key areas:-
  1. Local Crime and policing
  2. Protecting the public from serious harm
  3. Delivering confidence and satisfaction
  4. Value for money
 Local crime and policing is subdivided by:-
  • Reducing crime
  • Solving Crime
  • Visible presence in the neighbourhood
  • Neighbourhood policing
Protecting the public is subdivided by:-
  • Investigating major crime
  • Suppressing gun crime
  • Suppressing knife crime
  • Solving serious sexual offences
  • Reducing road death and injury
Confidence and satisfaction is subdivided by:-
  • Public confidence : all agencies
  • Service delivery
  • Satisfactiuon of BME community
  • Public confidence : police
  • Meeting the Pledge standards
  • Perceptions of ASB
Value for money is subdivided by:-
  • Number of police officers and PCSO's
  • Total cost of policing
  • Cost per household
  • Proportion of policing cost met from council tax
HMIC aims to provide information that will help answer some of the questions the public want answered about the police such as, How safe am I? What is my risk of being a crime victim? How well are my police performing? Are they likely to improve and am I getting value for money?

It will be an uncomfortable read for some. Their website press release claims that they aim to be fair in their performance assessments, and that when they compare forces, it is against a set of ‘peers’ – similar forces – taking into account budgets, crime profiles, populations and challenges. Performance grades are based on comparing like with like.

The National Overview by Denis O’Connor Her Majesties Chief Iinspector of Constubulary can be read here.

COMPARING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REPLIES WITH THE HMIC REPORTS

We have taken ur previous findings from the FOI force replies and inserted the relevant HMIC data and measurement gradings alongside each force. The results make for interesting reading.

The diagram below can be clicked to view larger or downloaded directly as a pdf by clicking here

We were particularly pleased to see that the HMIC arrived at similar results to our analysis regarding response numbers.
  • HMIC found that 42.5% of the police resource in Eglangland and Wales is committed to "Frontline" activity.
  • Our analysis had put the "Response" percentage at a maximimum of 42%.
Our report had stated that we felt the 42% was still grossly overstated, as forces had included many operational functions within their response numbers, that are not tradionally viewed as a response function. This is corroborated by the explanatory note from HMIC, which lists the numerous other non response functions included within their frontline 42% number.

From our report on police response numbers the percentage was in fact nearer to 25-30% of the full time equivalent numbers of each force. The report above is sorted in order of the resource committed to purely response duties, with the worst force first in ascending order. It should be remembered that even those forces apparently committing higher numbers to response are subject to revision as those marked with a black arrow contain what we believe to be an overstated response figure.

It is interesting to compare the HMIC figures with the force FOI return percentages. Again it should be born in mind that the HMIC numbers will be based on numbers collated from forces as at 31/3/2009, whereas our FOI dta was collected between January and March 2010.

Part of the HMIC report card measurement process includes a grading for "Visible Police Presence". Again, we thought this weas a useful indicator to view alongside the response numbers. There are many forces graded as good or fair in this area by the HMIC, when there is clearly a low commitment to response policing.

CONCLUDING COMMENTS

Our findings from the FOI research, supported by this weeks release of data from the HMIC, confirm the frontline police blogs that have long since expressed concern about the lack of resources allocated to frontline policing as opposed to administrative, operational and organisational support numbers.

See for yourself the disparities between the FOI findings and the HMIC performance results.

The new information source from the HMIC site will prove helpful in compiling future analysis to determine whether forces actually deliver true value for money in this area. Frontline officers suspect that the allocation of resources to non response activity is grossly disproportionate, meaning that the vast majority of the tax payers contribution to policing pays for office based non response officers and police staff.

The conseqence of misaallocated resources is that frontline policing is exposed to a massive extra burden that is largely unseen. Senior officers and Home Office strategies manipulate crime statistics and detection rates to project the illusion of improved performance.The general public are cheated out of the full delivery of a police service that their taxes entitle them to. Instead, all the signs are, that for many years, billions in taxes have been funding teams of administrators and auditors rather than adequate provision for frontline services that would go a long way toward solving many of the problems facing our communities.

We will look more closely at the other sections of the HMIC force reports in future posts and analysis.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

POLICE RESPONSE OFFICERS - A DANGEROUSLY THIN BLUE LINE? (PART 2)


‘Thin blue line’ - or a very insignificant dot?
PC David Copperfield – “Wasting Police Time”


An investigative report based on freedom of information requests
made of the 43 police forces in England & Wales.

Identifying for the very first time . . . . . . . 

How many police officers are ACTUALLY assigned to “response duties”
attending to calls from the public

A few weeks ago we announced on these pages that we had sent Freedom Of Information requests to each of the 43 police forces in England & Wales. Click the link below to read the introductory article.


SOME BACKGROUND TO THE NEW REPORT


Frontline police response numbers is a very emotive subject, both to the officers engaged in that role and to the public in receipt of the service they provide from limited resources.

As a former serving police officer and having seen many media articles on the subject, the topic really hit home when we read “Wasting Police Time” by PC David Copperfield (Stuart Davidson, formerly of Staffordshire Police), now resident in Canada,  who still authors his blog at http://coppersblog.blogspot.com/

Inspector Gadget is responsible for a response team of officers and is among the best qualified and most experienced officers, with a gift for directly addressing the flaws and inadequacies of the present resource allocation strategy.

In his book “Perverting The Course Of Justice” he comments:-

“Thousands of officers who could and should be on the streets deterring and nicking criminals are employed behind desks ‘auditing’ crime reports and managing detection figures. I am concerned that our insane obsession with largely irrelevant targets will eventually cost lives. It probably already has".

Both books make compelling reading, and there are others out there now too in a similar vein. Police blogs we view every day are littered with hundreds of examples, from officers of every force, detailing the impact of real life situations worsened by a critical lack of resource in this essential area of response policing.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS

Early in January 2010, we sent an FOI request to each of the 43 police forces asking the questions:

1. Please provide the total numbers of officers by rank within your force for 2009
2. How many of those officers were assigned to response duties in 2009
3. What are the non response administerial departments within your force?
4. How many police officers are assigned to each of these departments, by rank?

All requests were submitted via the website http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/ which sends automatic e mail updates when a force has replied.

All but five forces have now sent responses :-

• City of London
• Dyfed-Powys
• Gwent
• Lancashire
• Merseyside

 
The responses from 38 police forces are now in. Front line response police officers will not be surprised with the results, facing as they do,  the problems of the job every shift.
 
To read or download the report now click here A copy will also be placed in the "View Our Reports" sidebar to the right of this page.
 
Response Officers know only too well the practical issues surrounding the lack of resources forces assign to this vital role. What they may not know, are the ACTUAL numbers of officers in admin roles -vs- response roles within their force.
 
This report is the first of its kind to explore the problem in depth and report the facts force by force here and now.
 
When the station car park is rammed full between 9 - 5 and looks like the Mary Celeste as darkness falls, you must have asked yourself the questions "Just how many people are tied up behind desks in this force?" and "How many response officers do we actually have in our force area, and how many members of the public are we responsible for?" and finally, "How does our force compare with the other 42?"
 
All of these questions and more are asked and answered in the report and the supportive documents we will be posting on these pages over the weeks to come.
 
The report finally blows the lid off the "Response" scandal. Yes, that's what it is, a scandal, that officers safety has been allowed to be compromised by dangerously low levels of resource, not to mention the members of the public who have been conned for so long about police forces never having had so many officers. Yes, police force strength is the highest it's ever been, but that advantage has been wasted up to now, with so many officers sitting behind desks, auditing other officers, making plans or filling in more forms.
 
The findings in this report are a "must read" for officers and members of the public alike.  
The report contains two spreadsheets that illustrate :-

• The actual number submissions from each force
• An adjusted model, taking into account “overstated submissions” (where forces have stated either Operational totals as response levels, or included non response functions in the response totals). [YES, they did try this!]

Each set of findings are accompanied by explanatory notes, referring to the individual force useful notes in the appendices, and our observations and conclusions.

TASTERS FOR YOU FROM THE CONCLUDING SUMMARY

• Of the 144, 469 FTE officers returned by the FOI requests, at best, 60,181 officers, just 42% are committed to response activity.
• From evidence disclosed by the forces, the more realistic number is in the region of 30% - 43,341 officers.
• Divide that number by four to account for shift patterns and rest days, leaves 10,835 officers to police a population in excess of 54 million.
• Factor in annual leave of 25 days per annum per officer reduces the number still further.
• Factor in sickness at 3.7% and course attendance and you start to get the picture.
• Police officers are spending no more time on the street now than they were two years ago, despite a series of initiatives intended slash paperwork and get them out of stations.
• Home Office figures show that in 2007-08 officers spent just 13.8 per cent of their time on patrol, which does not include attending incidents, down from 15.3 per cent in 2004-05. That is the equivalent of one hour in an average eight-hour shift, or fewer than six in a 40-hour week. Front liners tell us the situation has only got worse since 07-08.
• By contrast, officers spent more than a fifth of their time on paperwork (21.7 per cent), up from 18.4 per cent over the same period and the equivalent of more than eight hours in a 40-hour week.

We take a detailed force by force look at the real population to officer ratios, NOT the fairy tale told to the public by the Home Office.

We look at the Policing Pledge and ask if the promises it contains are sustainable in light of the dangerously low response team levels. (As response teams carry most of the burden of delivering it).  We ask the question... "Would it not have been money better spent putting 131 new police officers on the streets than this wasteful PR exercise that will only service to dash expectations and damage public confidence still further?"

A NOTE FOR POLICE OFFICERS . . . . .
You will find your force response rates on this report, and the population to response officer ratios. Please feel free to comment anonymously about the report, but we would ask you not to make reference publicly about a specific force. We want to ensure your anonymity is protected on these pages and would not wish to see any officer compromised by commenting on their own force.

My contact e mail address is contained within the report and many of the police bloggers and visitors are happier sending their cooments and observations in this manner. Either way, we will not do anything that might compromise your position within your force.

Media sources will be viewing the repport over the coming weeks and we hope that it will keep this important issue in the spotlight and prompt initial steps for the reforms that you want to see.

With best wishes

Steve

Crime Analyst
Nice 1 Limited   

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