Wednesday, 28 July 2010

WHAT ARE THE 5 BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING POLICE FORCES TODAY?

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

Monday, 26 July 2010

BBC News - Theresa May: 'Police have become disconnected'

BBC News - Theresa May: 'Police have become disconnected'

To watch the Home Secretary deliver the radical proposals to the House of Commons click here

To read or download the Home Office document "Policing in the 21st Century: Reconnecting police and the people" click here

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

IT'S OFFICIAL : THE DANGEROUSLY THIN BLUE LINE OF POLICE IS NOW A DOT . . . .

Readers will be aware that HMIC together wiuth the Audit Commission, have issued two reports this week, confirming what front line response officers have know for a long time, that regardless of the increase in police strength over recent years, that the civilian and support staff to frontline officer ratio is completely out of kilter.

The frontline numbers have progressively reduced to a point where it risks the safety of those visible officers and the general public too.

Our latest report, takes the HMIC and Audit Commission reports much further, exploring the officer to population and officer to recorded crime ratios, which have previously been massively understated by the Home Office under the previous administration. 

The consequences are dire to say the least, with officers dealing with ten times the population size and ten times the crime incidents previously disclosed. To see our report click here.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's report 'Valuing the Police', Policing in an Age of Austerity, published yesterday, shows that only 11% of the police are visibly available to the public. HMIC warns that with looming budget cuts, the availability of the police to the public will be even further reduced, unless there is a total redesign of the police. Also yesterday, the Audit Commission and the Wales Audit Office published a joint report with HMIC - 'Sustaining value for money in the police service'.

In our previous reports on response numbers part 1, part 2 and part 3 we have warned about the low frontline officer numbers. Now that the HMIC & Audit commission reports have confirmed that the actual “Visual” officers available for frontline policing is as low as 10% of the total warranted officer numbers, we have taken the percentages provided by HMIC and applied them to population and crime incidents to arrive at the real picture of police officers available to respond to public calls for assistance.

The findings are alarming.

To see our latest report, taking the HMIC and Audit Commission report further click here.

The report looks at each of the 43 police forces, the population within their area, the policing strngth and latest recorded crime figures.

Previous Home Office publications have suggested that each police officer is reposbile for 376 members of the public (on a national basis) and deals with 30 recorded crimes. Multiply these numbers by ten and you would be closer to the real story revealed in this report. Applying the "visible" officer numbers to the population and recorded crimes reveals the frightening true picture of policing in the UK in July 2010.

HMIC must have had notice of this information well in advance and observers may question the timing of the release shortly after the departure of the out of favour Labour administration, and that its release at this time is intended to curry favour with the Conservative/Liberal Government.

In truth, there is no problem with that providing the new Government do something about protecting the frontline numbers. Provided they do, it will be job done.

We published a report a few months ago after we issued Freedom of Information requests to all forces asking for frontline response numbers. Some of the replies were unbelievable, with one force even categorising their Assistant Chief Constable as a “response reource” because he’d been involved in an arrest during the year! Clearly officers not available for frontline visual response duties as part of their normal tour of duty are not usually available to deal with calls from the public.

The 42% of warranted officers for the frontline number we arrived at initially, matched that released by the HMIC a month or so later. The 42% was overstated though, including posts not normally associated with response duty. We whittled it down, giving forces the benefit in some cases to around 20%. So to see that only 10% of warranted officers are “visible” was a heck of a drop, yet more in line with what frontline officers and police bloggers had been saying all along.

The implications for public and officer safety at these numbers are serious and frightening on a national level.

Having taken the HMIC numbers a stage further the conclusions reflect what a shambles of a legacy the NuLabour and Senior Officer coalition have left to clear up.

The consequences of the low “visible officer” numbers are a perfect example of what front line officers have been saying, that the way the numbers have been presented have misled the public and the media for years.

What this illustrates most clearly, and is alluded to by Sir Denis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary is that the quality of senior management must be reviewed with urgency. That Senior Officers, knowing their resources and results, sat back and let it happen is a disgraceful example of how out of touch, oblivious, self serving and reckless they have been, in allowing officer and public safety to be compromised to these frightening levels.

Times are changing thankfully, and regardless of HMIC timing, the can is slowly being prized off the can of worms. Senior Officers clinging on to the threads of hope they believe the pledge contains for them is an example of how they will defend their previous actions and strategies. The lid will well and truly be off once the scandal of SMT bonuses hits the press properly and subject to the coalition Government holding its nerve in exposing the rot.


A few highlights from our previous report about the cuts are increasingly relevant:- 
  • Police Force Governance – consolidating ACPO, APA & NPIA SAVE ??? Millions
  • Police Force Mergers – saving predicted by HMIC £2.25billion (over 10 years)
  • Chief Officer Restructuring – consolidation of ACPO ranks SAVE £11million
  • Chief Officer Restructuring – consolidation of SMT ranks SAVE £80million
  • Remove Chief Supt & Chief Inspector ranks (alternative to mergers) SAVE £12million
  • Increase constable to manager ratio (recruitment cost savings) SAVE £169million
  • Increase sergeant to inspector ratio SAVE £178million
  • If ratio of 1 frontline staff to every officer of management rank SAVE £1billion
  • Police staff levels halved through mergers SAVE £1.3billion
  • Police staff overtime halved by mergers or tighter control SAVE £31million
  • Return 25% of office based police officers to frontline (recruitment savings) SAVE £670million
  • 25% reduction in police staff support numbers SAVE £500million
Any one or combination of these measures are achievable WITHOUT touching front line resources. Any one of them would return hundreds if not thousands of officers to the front line where they are needed most.

Yes there will be pain, but far better that than continue to risk the lives and safety of over stretched officers and members of the public who actually deserve a better quality of service.

The first challenge for the new Home Secretary and her team, is to root out those senior officers who have been singing off their own self serving hymn sheets for far too long.

Monday, 19 July 2010

CHIEF CONSTABLES DEFY THERESA MAY OVER POLICING PLEDGE


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 :-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/6736505/Police-force-tricks-to-fiddle-crime-figures.html

“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



POSTSCRIPT :-

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".

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