Monday, 30 May 2011


As regular visitors to these pages will know, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have, by their arrogance and prior actions, provided plenty of negative fodder for the media machine. To see our previous articles simply type ACPO in the search box above. It will not surprise many to hear that the ACPO articles are the most read on these pages. 

Following in the wake of the police federation conference, ACPO have yet again missed a vital opportunity to forge closer bonds with the rank and file officers they are meant to lead. In these difficult times, one would ave thought that common sense and the desire to protect the service as a whole would have been in evidence from the illustrious leaders. Sadly, yet again, they have shown what a self serving, arrogant bunch they are. No slight is intended against any individual chief, no doubt many perform a valuable function for their respective forces. Ask them to comment or contribute as a group and it all goes pear shaped.

Such is the rank and file anger and discontent with ACPO, that a no confidence motion was tabled at the conference, spearheaded by the Metropolitan Police Federation.

An open letter has been sent to Sir Hugh Orde, the President of ACPO, to express concern at his non-attendance at the Police Federation Conference in Bournemouth, passing the opportunity to listen and respond to officers and representatives of the government.

Conference passed an emergency motion instructing the Joint Central Committee of the Police Federation of England and Wales to write this letter to the Association of Chief Police Officers stating that the Police Federation of England and Wales has no confidence in ACPO acting in the best interests of British Policing.

An open letter to the professional body from Fed Chairman Paul McKeever and General Secretary Ian Rennie said members were disappointed by the President's (Sir Hugh Orde) lack of show – particularly at such a tough time for policing.

The letter, which followed a motion of no confidence in ACPO from conference delegates, also accuses the professional body of being "in thrall to the government".

And it adds that certain ACPO members seemed unwilling to directly challenge ministerial assertions that 20 per cent cuts to policing are manageable.

In pressing home their attack in the letter, the senior Fed officials said there had been "dissatisfaction and anger" in the Federated ranks during the conference.

The letter added: "It was clear that officers believe that ACPO is in thrall to this government and certain members appear unwilling to endanger their future prospects of employment by challenging the government's contention that 20 per cent cuts in the policing budget are perfectly manageable.

"Disappointingly, ACPO seem intent on supporting the reduction in police officers' pay and conditions which has provided them with the most flexible workforce in the country.

"We currently have the perfect storm in policing resulting from Winsor's attack on pay and conditions, Neyroud's proposals on promotion and leadership and Lord Hutton's proposals on pensions. Policing and Crime Commissioners will potentially change the political dynamics in the Service and there is a move to remove police officers from the protection of health and safety legislation.

"Regrettably, it is being left to the Police Federation to voice the concerns that should be raised by senior officers in the Service and, in particular, by you as the President of ACPO."

The response from Sir Hugh will have disappointed the Federation and their rank and file membership for its arrogance and lack of real empathy for the plight of the junior ranks. 
27 May 2010
Paul McKeever
Police Federation
Federation House
Highbury Drive
KT22 7UY

Dear Paul and Ian,

The strength of ACPO lies in the collective knowledge, experience and endeavour of the leadership of the police service, across all forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Your role is to represent your members – ours is to lead. I can say with absolute certainty that every chief officer team is working tirelessly within their force, bearing in mind the very difficult financial situation we are presented with, to cut budgets while preserving the critical service we deliver to the public.

The reality is that this is extremely challenging: and a number of forces have had to take drastic action to balance budgets. We must be entirely clear about this with our public, with government and with all those who work within the service. Each force is impacted in different ways and many chiefs have articulated this both in public and in private. Without question, the service overall will suffer and reduce. As chief officers our job is to lead policing through these difficult times, remaining focussed on keeping communities safe from harm.

We all share a passion for the British model of policing, admired and imitated across the world; it is a model you and I seek to preserve. With this in mind we continue to inform and engage during the passage through Parliament of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. In our professional view, clear and strong checks and balances are a crucial element of any reform, in order to preserve impartiality, the freedom to deliver policing without political interference, and the Office of Constable which we consider so precious.

We are mindful always of the painful impact of budget cuts on our workforce. The Winsor, Neyroud and Hutton recommendations are all subject to consultation and we are determined that the outcomes of these processes should recognise and reward officers fairly for the difficult, dangerous and critical job that they do. I feel we can best do this by recognising our different roles but more importantly reinforcing our desire to serve our communities.

ACPO was very strongly represented at your conference by Peter Fahy, Mick Creedon, Adrian Lee, Phil Gormley, Francis Habgood and Nick Gargan on the agenda and many others in attendance. In our many conversations beforehand, in response to my question, you clearly indicated that my own unavailability was not of particular concern to you. Having had the privilege to stand toe to toe with the outstanding members of the Service I led in Northern Ireland, I find some of your personal comments disappointing and unnecessary. As President, I have never declined an invitation when possible to meet and engage with you and your members, and I restated that commitment in my letter to you of 12 May, which I requested that you share with your members.

I therefore repeat the suggestion I made then of an early meeting, with you and as many of your colleagues as you would like to be present.

I have shared this letter with chiefs and commissioners across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who have elected to add their signatures. We speak with one voice, and will continue to lead this great institution with huge pride.

Yours sincerely

Sir Hugh Orde OBE, QPM

President of ACPO

Signatories to Sir Hughs' ACPO Response

"The strength of ACPO lies in the collective knowledge, experience and endeavour of the leadership of the police service, across all forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Your role is to represent your members – ours is to lead".

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds condescending and patronising? An unwarranted slap-down even? Your role etc etc ... completely ignores the comments made by Paul voicing the concerns of the members. Yes, I'm pretty sure Paul is fully aware what his role is, it would just make a nice pleasant change, for once to receive a reply that even hints at the ACPO oligarchy being genuinely albeit slightly interested in the rank and file, their fears and concerns at this difficult time.

The remainder of the letter comes across as insincere platitudes. Only yesterday, we posted an atricle about how Whitehall Civil Servants have created a tangled web of self protecting, self serving policies, procedures and contrary edicts that obfuscate and obstruct well intended ministers from achieving much needed reforms as well as forging a culture of selfish protectionsim.

ACPO as an organisation seems cast from the same mould as these manipulative Whitehall departments. One only has to remind ourselves of a few of the Yes Minister favourite scripts to put us in mind of how the ACPO oligarchy has in itself become a vast political animal. As Paul Mckeever rightly put it: "Officers believe that ACPO is in thrall to this government and certain members appear unwilling to endanger their future prospects of employment by challenging the government's contention that 20 per cent cuts in the policing budget are perfectly manageable".

References to "Politician" have been exchanged for "Chief Officers" , "ACPO" or policing equivalents. See how well the substitution works wihout distorting any of the original meaning....

"ACPO speeches are not written for the audience to which they are delivered. Delivering the speech is merely the formality that has to be gone through in order to get the press release into the newspapers."
"It is axiomatic in policing that hornets' nests should be left unstirred, cans of worms should remain unopened, and cats should be left firmly in bags and not set among the pigeons. Chief Offficers should also leave boats unrocked, nettles ungrasped, refrain from taking bulls by the horns, and resolutely turn their backs to the music."
"Policing is about principles. And the principle is, never act on principle."
"A Chief Officers dilemma. He must obviously follow his conscience, but he must also know where he's going. So he can't follow his conscience, because it may not be going the same way that he is."
"Police strategic management could be defined: Manipulation, Intrigue, Wire-pulling, Evasion, Rabble-rousing, Graft."
"Wearing two hats is not difficult for those who are in two minds. Or have two faces."
"The history of the world is the history of the triumph of the heartless over the mindless."

"We dare not allow politicians to establish the principle that senior police officers can be removed for incompetence. We could loose dozens of our chaps. Hundreds maybe. Even thousands."

Asking Police Chiefs to abandon Bureaucracy and obfuscation will be like asking a mother to abandon its child.

ACPO as an organization is in on the ropes, both financially and in terms of its integrity as a so called professional body. The rank and file have lost all confidence in them. The public and media mistrust them. Accusations of scurrilous disloyal conduct have been too many and too visible to ignore. The Coalition merely tolerate them. The Conservative Shadow cabinet under David Camerons direction accused ACPO of giving “political cover to the Labour Government repeatedly and consistently” and engaging in “gratuitous photocalls” with Gordon Brown and other ministers. It went on to say it “showed almost no criticism of the current Government”.


It should not be down to the Federation to be the only voice of sense in this malaise. Whilst ACPO is allowed to continue, despite their weak protestations to the contrary, the "Us and Them" culture will pervade. Many times this has been evidenced in the private sector, where powerful Governing bodies have been able to "divide and conquer" opposing views from organisations. The police service is no different. Whilst ACPO play the political game, (yet all the time insisting they want to rid the service of politicisation), every Government will use the division between the ranks as a lever to extract what THEY want from the situation. Only when the division no longer exists and the service is once again united, will it regain its strength and bargaining power.

Other popular ACPO articles:


It is over a year now since the Coalition came to power. Police Reform was high on the Conservative Party pre election agenda. On these pages and others that write frequently about policing and criminal justice matters, we frequently look at the initial stated aims of politicians, measuring them against what they actually achieve.

With thanks to the "All Copped Out" blog which served as inspiration, in this article we look at the often negative effect of Whitehall and the Civil Servants on achieving much needed reforms.

Home Secretaries of all political colours through the years have battled with the bureaucracy and hidden agendas of the Whitehall brigade. It will be interesting to see if Theresa May proves any more effective than her predecessors in driving reforms through. 

 SOMETIMES, fiction is the best guide to reality. Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister accurately depicts the real life warped relationship between a politicians and servants, who spend much of their time thwarting well intended plans and turning reforming politicos into pathetic creatures of the establishment.

Yet what is astonishing is that whilst the series’ ran between 1980 and 1988, the themes and issues remain incredibly contemporary. History is repeating itself; the coalition has learnt nothing from the failures of previous governments. But it is not all as it was in the 1980s. The series’ fictional permanent secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby, was a brilliant man. The fact that Appleby spent all of his time sabotaging reform, openness and his minister Jim Hacker’s political goals – Appleby is the real boss, with Hacker tolerated as a passing nuisance – didn’t detract from his competence. The problem was one of incentives – bureaucratic empire building was the primary objective, not improving the country – not ability.

While the incentive mismatch remains a lethal issue today, an added tragedy is that the quality of the civil service has also deteriorated, as testified by the fact that so much government legislation is riddled with errors, internal inconsistencies and other problems. The bureaucracy has lost much of its competence. The “Rolls-Royce” (yet deeply flawed) civil service of yore no longer exists. The situation is even worse in quangos; the biggest problem is a lack of managerial ability among senior people. Few of those in positions of power have real, private sector operational knowledge.

Many intelligent, altruistic and principled people work for the state. But the average competence of civil servants is in decline. Our antiquated and over-centralised system now resembles a cross between Yes, Minister and the Thick of It, a modern-day, coarser and horribly plausible satire developed by Armando Iannucci, where the political-spin-doctor-civil service establishment is depicted as idiotic, gutless, incompetent and power-hungry.

One problem is that so much power has been transferred to the European Union. The last thing clever graduates want to spend their time doing is to become implementers of somebody else’s legislation. Another force halting reform is that government decisions are now all constantly subject to litigation and judicial review. Civil servants routinely take lawyers into meetings with ministers; their first reaction to any proposed change is that it is illegal. Often, this has to do with European legislation or human rights. There is also a fresh dimension: the Labour-imposed requirement to perform Equality Impact Assessments on all policies, with any deemed to discriminate against a “disadvantaged” group automatically open to legal action. These EIAs are a complete disaster and have given officials as well as pressure groups carte blanche to kill off all change – including the entirety of the austerity programme. Unless the coalition acts fast, it will be soon be overwhelmed.

Some of the best bits from YM and YPM say it all really . . . .

Jim Hacker takes office - In the first ever episode, Jim Hacker is made Minister for Administrative Affairs and meets his Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley, and Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby.

Bernard shows the Minister round his office: “It used to be said there were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of ministers: one sort that folds up instantly and the other sort that goes round and round in circles.”

Political animals - Hacker meets animal rights protesters. Activist: “There is nothing special about man, Mr Hacker. We’re not above nature. We’re all part of it. Men are animals too, you know.” Hacker: “I know that, I’ve just come from the House of Commons.”

Negative discrimination - Inspired by his wife, the Minister decides to do something about the number of women in the Civil Service.

Sir Humphrey: “Surely there aren’t all that many?”
Bernard: “The Minister thinks we need more.”
Sir Humphrey: “But we’re up to quota on typists, cleaners and tea ladies.”
Hacker: “I’m talking about senior civil servants. We need female mandarins.”
Bernard: “Sort of satsumas?”

Drinks Cabinet - The Home Secretary is arrested for drink-driving after causing a lorry loaded with nuclear waste to crash.
Hacker: “He’ll have to resign.”
Sir Humphrey: “Alas, yes.”
Hacker: “What on earth will happen to him?”
Sir Humphrey: “Well, I gather he was as drunk as a lord, so after a discreet interval, they’ll probably make him one.”

A matter of honours - Bernard explains the abbreviations for various Foreign Office honours.
Bernard: “Of course, in the service, CMG stands for Call Me God. And KCMG for Kindly Call Me God.”
Hacker: “What about GCMG?”
Bernard: “God Calls Me God.”

Lies, damned lies…
The Minister is interviewed by the BBC.
Hacker: “This government believes in reducing bureaucracy.”
Ludovic Kennedy: “Well, figures that I have here say that your department’s staff has risen by 10 per cent.”
Hacker: “Certainly not. I believe the figure is much more like 9.97.”
Kennedy: “How are you going to meet the challenge of reform?”
Hacker: “It’s far too early to give detailed proposals. After all, I have just come here direct from Number 10.”
Kennedy: “From Number 9.97, perhaps?”

Briefs encounter - Hacker is about to face a Select Committee hearing. Sir Humphrey has prepared copious briefing notes for him.
Hacker: “Why can’t ministers go anywhere without briefs?”
Bernard: “It’s in case they get caught with their trousers down.”

Industrial language - Sir Humphrey secretly encourages health workers to go on strike.
Union official: “But what about the Minister?”
Sir Humphrey: “The Minister doesn’t know his ACAS from his NALGO.”

Better out-tray than in-tray - When the Minister is inundated with correspondence, Bernard offers to take it off his hands by sending “official replies”.
Bernard: “I’ll just say, ‘The Minister has asked me to thank you for your letter’ and something like ‘The matter is under consideration’, or even ‘under active consideration’.”
Hacker: “What’s the difference?”
Bernard: “Well, ‘under consideration’ means we’ve lost the file, ‘under active consideration’ means we’re trying to find it.”

The Euro-sausage - The Minister has been in talks with the European Commissioner about standardising the names of foodstuffs.
Bernard: “They can’t stop us eating the British sausage, can they?”
Hacker: “No, but they can stop us calling it a sausage. Apparently it’s got to be called the Emulsified High-Fat Offal Tube.”
Bernard: “And you swallowed it?”

OPEN GOVERNMENT - "If people don't know what you're doing, they don't know what you're doing wrong."
"It is sometimes difficult to explain to Ministers that open government can sometimes mean informing their Cabinet colleagues as well as their friends in Fleet Street."
"Minister's language: 'We have decided to be more flexible in our application of this principle' means 'We are dropping this policy but we don't want to admit it publicly'. "

OFFICIAL VISIT - "A career in politics is no preparation for government."

ECONOMY DRIVE - "Asking a town hall to slim down its staff is like asking an alcoholic to blow up a distillery."
"Politicians must be allowed to panic. They need activity. It is their substitute for achievement."
"The argument that we must do everything a Minister demands because he has been 'democratically chosen' does not stand up to close inspection. MPs are not chosen by 'the people' - they are chosen by their local constituency parties: thirty-five men in grubby raincoats or thirty-five women in silly hats. The further 'selection' process is equally a nonsense: there are only 630 MPs and a party with just over 300 MPs forms a government and of these 300, 100 are too old and too silly to be ministers and 100 too young and too callow. Therefore there are about 100 MPs to fill 100 government posts. Effectively no choice at all."

"Seven ways of explaining away the fact that North-West region has saved £32 million while your department overspent:

1. They have changed their accounting system in the North-West.
2. Redrawn the boundaries, so that this year's figures are not comparable.
3. The money was compensation for special extra expenditure of £16 million a year over the last two years, which has now stopped.
4. It is only a paper bag saving, so it will have to be spent next year.
5. A major expenditure is late in completion and therefore the region will be correspondingly over budget next year. (Known technically as phasing - Ed)
6. There has been an unforeseen but important shift in personnel and industries to other regions whose expenditure rose accordingly.
7. Some large projects were cancelled for reasons of economy early in the accounting period with the result that the expenditure was not incurred but the budget had already been allocated."

"There has to be a nuclear bunker in Whitehall. Government doesn't stop merely because the country has been destroyed. Annihilation is bad enough. Without anarchy to make it even worse."

"The press described the Prime Minster as 'overwrought' today. In fact he was overwrought as a newt."

BIG BROTHER - "Stalling Cabinet Ministers: the 5-stage formula

1. The administration is in its early months and there's an awful lot to do at once.
2. Something ought to be done but is this the right way to achieve it?
3. The idea is good but the time is not ripe.
4. The proposal has run into technical, logistic and legal difficulties which are being sorted out.
5. Never refer to the matter or reply to the Minister's notes. By the time he taxes you with it face to face you should be able to say it looks unlikely if anything can be done until after the election."

"The Opposition aren't really the opposition. They are only the Government in exile. The Civil Service are the opposition in residence. "

WRITING ON THE WALL - "Civil Service language: 'Sometimes one is forced to consider the possibility that affairs are being conducted in a manner which, all things being considered and making all possible allowances is, not to put too fine a point on it, perhaps not entirely straightforward.

Translation: 'You are lying'."

"The Prime Minister doesn't want the truth, he wants something he can tell Parliament."

THE RIGHT TO KNOW - "Almost anything can be attacked as a failure, but almost anything can be defended as not a significant failure. Politicians do not appreciate the significance of 'significant'. "

"The emotions of the environmentalist lobby are rooted more in Thoreau than in anger."

"If Civil Servants did not fight for the budgets of their departments they could end up with departments so small that even the Ministers could run them."

"Private Secretaries have divided loyalties - to their Minister and to the Civil Service. Whose side are they on when the chips are down? It is their job to see the chips stay up."

JOBS FOR THE BOYS - "The Official Secrets Act is not to protect secrets, it is to protect officials."

The perfect representative on a government committee is a disabled black Welsh woman trades unionist."

"Conjurors offer the audience any card in the pack and always get them to take the one they want. This is the way we in the Civil Service get Ministers to take decisions."

"It is my job to protect the Prime Minister from the great tide of irrelevant information that beats against the walls of 10 Downing Street every day."

THE COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY - "People do not want to know how welfare money has actually been spent. Nobody asks the priest what happen to the ritual offering after the ceremony."

"Why should we close a hospital because it has no patients? We don't disband the Army just because there isn't a war."

DOING THE HONOURS - "'This would create a dangerous precedent'. Translation: 'If we do the right thing now, we might have to do the right thing again next time'."

"Avoiding precedents does not mean nothing should ever be done. It only means that nothing should ever be done for the first time."

"The Letters JB in capitals are one of the highest Commonwealth honours. They stand for Jailed by the British. The order includes Gandhi, Nkrumah, Makarios, Ben Gurion, Kenyatta, Nheru, Mugabe and many other world leaders."

"No one really understands the true nature of fawning servility until he sees an academic who has glimpsed the prospect of money or personal publicity."

"The surprising things about academics is not that they have their price, but how low that price is."

THE DEATH LIST - "Ministers have an enviable intellectual suppleness and moral manoeuvrability. Translation: You can't trust them further than you can throw them."

THE GREASY POLE - "It is only totalitarian governments that suppress facts. In this country we simply take a democratic decision not to publish them."
 "How to discredit an unwelcome report:

Stage One: Refuse to publish in the public interest saying
1. There are security considerations.
2. The findings could be misinterpreted.
3. You are waiting for the results of a wider and more detailed report which is still in preparation. (If there isn't one, commission it; this gives you even more time).

Stage Two: Discredit the evidence you are not publishing, saying
1. It leaves important questions unanswered.
2. Much of the evidence is inconclusive.
3. The figures are open to other interpretations.
4. Certain findings are contradictory.
5. Some of the main conclusions have been questioned. (If they haven't, question them yourself; then they have).

Stage Three: Undermine the recommendations. Suggested phrases:
1. 'Not really a basis for long term decisions'.
2. 'Not sufficient information on which to base a valid assessment'.
3. 'No reason for any fundamental rethink of existing policy'.
4. 'Broadly speaking, it endorses current practice'.

Stage Four: Discredit the person who produced the report. Explain (off the record) that
1. He is harbouring a grudge against the Department.
2. He is a publicity seeker.
3. He is trying to get a Knighthood/Chair/Vice Chancellorship.
4. He used to be a consultant to a multinational.
5. He wants to be a consultant to a multinational."

"To suppress an internal government report, rewrite it as official advice to the Minister. Then it is against the rules to publish it, so you can leak the bits you want to friendly journalists."

"Going from Commons to the Lords is like being moved the animals to the vegetables."

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW - "The Common Market: We went into it to screw the French by splitting them off from the Germans. The French went in to protect their inefficient farmers from commercial competition. The Germans went in to purge themselves of genocide and apply for readmission to the human race."

THE QUALITY OF LIFE - "If you are not happy with Minister's decision there is no need to argue him out of it. Accept it warmly, and then suggested he leaves it to you to work out the details."

A QUESTION OF LOYALTY - "A good political speech is not one in which you can prove that the man is telling the truth; it is one where no one else can prove he is lying."

"Politicians speeches are not written for the audience to which they are delivered. Delivering the speech is merely the formality that has to be gone through in order to get the press release into the newspapers."

"Ministers do not believe they exist unless they are reading about themselves in the newspapers."

"It is our job to tell Select Committees the truth and nothing but the truth. But it would be profoundly inappropriate and grossly irresponsible to tell them the whole truth."

"Ministers must never go anywhere without their briefs, in case they get caught with their trousers down."

PREFACE - "Any statement in a politician's memoirs can represent one of six different levels of reality:

a. What happened.
b. What he believed happened.
c. What he would have liked to have happened.
d. What he wants to believe happened.
e. What he wants other people to believe happened.
f. What he wants other people to believe he believed happened."

"Civil Servants need great flexibility. They have to be constantly prepared to change horses in mid stream, as politicians change what they are pleased to call their minds."

"The Civil Service must always have the right to appoint the best man for the job, regardless of sex."

"Too much Civil Service work consists of circulating information that isn't relevant about subjects that don't matter to people who aren't interested."

THE MORAL DIMENSION - "Terms for describing bribes when drawing up contracts:

1. Below £100,000
- Retainers
- Personal donations
- Special discounts
- Miscellaneous outgoings
2. £100,000 to £500,000
- Managerial surcharge
- Operating costs
- Ex-gratia payments
- Agents' fees
- Political contributions
- Extra-contractual payments
3. £500,000 +
- Introduction fees
- Commission fees
- Managements' expenses
- Administrative overheads
- Advance against profit sharing"

"Politicians' language:
- Special development areas = marginal constituencies.
- Assistance to areas of economic hardship = pouring money into marginal constituencies.
- Descentralisation of government = moving government offices into marginal constituencies."

BED OF NAILS - "All governments departments are lobbies for the pressure groups they deal with. The Department of Education lobbies the government on behalf of teachers, the Department of Health lobbies for the doctors and hospital unions, the Department of Energy lobbies for oil companies and so on. Each department of State is actually controlled by the people it is supposed to be controlling."

"The Civil Service is neither right wing nor left wing. Political bias varies from department to department. Defence, whose clients are military, is right wing, where as Health, dealing with health unions and social workers, is left wing. Industry, dealing with employers, is right wing; Employment, dealing with unions, is left wing. The Home Office - police, prison warders, immigration officers - is right wing. Education - teachers and lecturers - is left wing. The result is a perfectly balanced and neutral Civil Service."

"Leak enquiries are for setting up, not for conducting."

THE WHISKEY PRIEST - "Reorganizing the Civil Service is like drawing a knife through a bowl of marbles."

"Government is not about morality, it is about stability; keeping things going, preventing anarchy, stopping society falling to bits. Still being here tomorrow."

"It is axiomatic in government that hornets' nests should be left unstirred, cans of worms should remain unopened, and cats should be left firmly in bags and not set among the pigeons. Ministers should also leave boats unrocked, nettles ungrasped, refrain from taking bulls by the horns, and resolutely turn their backs to the music."

"A minister who finds out that the government is doing something illegal does not have to tell the Prime Minister. Just because he's caught something nasty, he doesn't have to go round breathing over everyone."

"Government is about principles. And the principle is, never act on principle."

"A Politician's dilemma. He must obviously follow his conscience, but he must also know where he's going. So he can't follow his conscience, because it may not be going the same way that he is."

MIDDLE CLASS RIP OFF - "Politics, as defined by Roget's Thesaurus: Manipulation, Intrigue, Wire-pulling, Evasion, Rabble-rousing, Graft."

SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD - "Administration is about means, not ends. The only ends in administration are loose ends."

"The three most unreliable things in public life: Political Memoirs, Official Denials and Manifesto Promises."
"It is possible to remove everything of significance from a file released under the 30-year rule by saying that it is complete except for:
a. A small number of secret documents.
b. A few documents which are part of still active files.
c. Some correspondence lost in the floods of 1967.
d. Some records which went astray in the move to London.
e. Other records which went astray when the Department was reorganized.
f. The normal withdrawal of papers whose publication could give grounds for an action for libel of breach of confidence or cause embarrassment to friendly governments."

PARTY GAMES - "To watch a Cabinet Minister in action is to watch the endless subordination of important long-term issues to the demands of urgent trivia."

"As long as there is anything to be gained by saying nothing, it is always better to say nothing than anything."

"The first rule of politics: never believe anything until it's been officially denied."

"'The Government's position' means 'the best explanation of past events that cannot be disproved by available facts'."

"If asked if he wants to be Prime Minister, the generally acceptable answer for a politician is that while he does not seek the office, he has pledged himself to the service of his country, and that should his colleagues persuade him that that is the best way he can serve, he might reluctantly have to accept the responsibility, whatever his personal wishes might be."

"Solved problems aren't news. Tell the press a story in two halves - the problem first and the solution later. Then they get a disaster story one day and triumph story the next."

"If any sentence in a television broadcast has more than twenty words, when it gets to the end most people have forgotten how it began. Including the person speaking it."

"Things don't happen just because Prime Ministers are keen on them. Neville Chamberlain was keen on peace."

"If a job's worth doing, it's worth delegating."

"Politician's logic:
We must do something.
This is something.
Therefore we must do it."

"The problem of the Ministry of Defence is that in peace time the three armed forces have no one on whom to vent their warlike instincts except the cabinet or each other."

"If we cannot refute the arguments in a paper, we simply discredit the person who wrote it. This is called playing the man and not the ball."

THE KEY - "It is important to put political advisors in rooms as far away as possible from the Prime Minister. Influence diminishes with distance."

"Our job is to see that the PM is not confused. Politicians are simple people; they like simple people; they like simple choices and clear guidance."

"We do not have to accept a political advisor just because the PM likes her. Samson liked Delilah."

A REAL PARTNERSHIP - "In government, many people have the power to stop things happening but almost nobody has the power to make things happen. The system has the engine of a lawn mower and the brakes of a Rolls Royce."

"When anybody says 'It's not the money, it's the principle' they mean it's the money."

"Being an MP is a vast subsidized ego-trip. It's a job that needs no qualifications, it has no compulsory hours of work, no performance standards, and provides a warm room, a telephone and subsidized meals to a bunch of self-important windbags and busybodies who suddenly find people taking them seriously because they've go the letters 'MP' after the their name."

"The Prime Minister is much more worried by discontent among back-benchers than among nurses and teachers. Nurses and teachers can't vote against him until the next election. Back-benchers can vote against him at 10 o'clock tonight."

"The Prime Minister wants Cabinet papers circulated earlier. But there are grave problems about circulating papers before they are written."

"Wearing two hats is not difficult for those who are in two minds. Or have two faces."

"A Civil Service computer strike would bring government to a standstill if it were not for the fact that it is already."

"Since Cabinet Ministers are incapable of understanding a paper more than three pages long, we put a one-page summary on the front. The Janet and John bit."

"If you do not want Cabinet to spend too long discussing something, make it last on the agenda before lunch."

"It is unthinkable that politicians should be allowed to remove civil servants on grounds of incompetence. Of course some civil servants are incompetent but not incompetent enough for a politician to notice. And if civil servants could remove politicians on grounds of incompetence it would empty the House of Commons, remove the Cabinet, and be the end of democracy and the beginning of responsible government."

"Foreign policy is made in the Foreign Office. Therefore the Cabinet cannot pursue it's own foreign policy unilaterally. The country cannot have two foreign policies."

"There was nothing wrong with appeasement. All that World War Two achieved after six years was to leave Eastern Europe under a Communist dictatorship instead of a Fascist dictatorship. That's what comes of not listening to the Foreign Office."

"Britain should always be on the side of law and justice, so long as we don't allow it to affect our foreign policy."

"It was a good idea to partition countries like India and Cyprus and Palestine and Ireland as a part of their independence. It keeps them busy fighting each other so we don't' have to have a policy about them."

"Diplomacy is about surviving to the next century. Politics is about surviving until Friday afternoon."

"The public aren't interested in foreign affairs. All they want to know is who are the goodies and who are the baddies."

"Foreign policy must be made in the Foreign office. It cannot be left to fools like Fleet Street editors, back-bench MPs and Cabinet Ministers."

"Ministers are ignorant not because we do not give them the right answers but because they do not ask us the right questions."

"It is well known that in the Foreign Office an order from the Prime Minister becomes a request from the Foreign Secretary, then a recommendation from the Minister of State, finally just a suggestion from the Ambassador. If it ever gets that far."

"Press statements are not delivered under oath."

"The Foreign Office is a hotbed of cold feet."

"A somewhat unorthox procedure means The act of a gibbering idiot."

THE SMOKE SCREEN - "Politicians are like children; you can't just give them what they want - it only encourages them."

"Any unwelcome initiative from a minister can be delayed until after the next election by the Civil Service 12-stage delaying process:
1. Informal discussions
2. Draft proposal
3. Preliminary study
4. Discussion document
5. In-depth study
6. Revised proposal
7. Policy statement
8. Strategy proposal
9. Discussion of strategy
10. Implementation plan circulated
11. Revised implementation plans
12. Cabinet agreement"

"The Treasury does not work out what it needs and then think how to raise the money. It pitches for as much as it can get away with and then thinks how to spend it."

"Government is not a team. It is a loose confederation of warring tribes."

"There is a moral principle involved in the government's attitude to smoking. But when four billion pounds of tax revenue is at stake, we have to consider very seriously how far we are entitled to indulge ourselves in the rather selfish luxury of pursuing moral principles."

"The history of the world is the history of the triumph of the heartless over the mindless."

"Pontius Pilate would have made very good Civil Servant."

"You can't put the nation's interest at risk just because of some silly sentimentality about justice."

"The Foreign Office never expect the Cabinet to agree with any of their policies. That is why they never explain them. All they require is that the Cabinet acquiesce in their decisions after they have been taken."

"The Foreign Office are not spineless. It takes a great deal of strength to do nothing all the time."

THE BISHOP'S GAMBIT - "Getting the PM to choose the right bishop is like a conjuror getting a member of the audience to choose a card. With the Church of England the choice is usually between a knave and a queen."

"The bench of bishops should have a proper balance between those who believe in God and those who don't."

"Bishops tend to live a long time, perhaps because the Almighty is not all that keen for them to join him."

"In Arab countries women get stoned when they commit adultery. In Britain, they commit adultery when they get stoned."

"We cannot leave the appointment of Bishops to the Holy Ghost, because no one is confident that the Holy Ghost would understand what makes a good Church of England bishop."

"An atheist clergyman could not continue to draw his stipend, so when they stop believing in God they call themselves 'modernists'."

"The Church of England is primarily a social organization not a religious one."

"Nowadays bishops only wear gaiters at significant religious events like the royal garden party."

"The plans for a new church in South London had places for dispensing orange juice, family planning, and organizing demos, but nowhere to celebrate Holy Communion."

"Theology is a device for helping agnostics to stay within the Church of England."

"The Queen is inseparable from the Church of England. God is an optional extra."

"The Foreign Office aren't there to do things. They're there to explain why things can't be done."

"People have said a lot of unpleasant things about the Foreign Office, but no one has ever accused them of patriotism."

ONE OF US - "Irregular verbs:

I have an independent mind
You are an eccentric
He is round the twist"

"If you believe the security of the realm is at risk you don't hold a security enquiry, you call in the Special Branch. Government security enquiries are only used for killing press stories."

"Giving information to Moscow is serious. Giving information to anyone is serious. Some information would do Britain less harm if given to the Kremlin than if given to the Cabinet."

"We dare not allow politicians to establish the principle that senior civil servants can be removed for incompetence. We could loose dozens of our chaps. Hundreds maybe. Even thousands."

The last one just about sums it up!

Asking Whitehall to abandon Bureaucracy and obfuscation will be like asking a mother to abandon its child.

Best of luck Theresa. If you can cut through the crap of Whitehall, ignore the self serving proposals of ACPO, believe more of what you hear from the rank and file and show REAL support and concern for those that matter most and side step the deflections from outside agencies, perhaps, just perhaps, the service may see some improvements during your term in office. As the title suggests, we won't be holding our breath.  

Friday, 27 May 2011



Appointment of the boss of the National Crime Agency has been put on hold - because the £140,000 salary isn't enought to tempt applicants away from their existing Chief Officer roles. 

Top candidates for the post have been put off by the massive pay cut they would have to take. 

The NCA replaces the Serious Organised Crime Agency next year with a salary cap placed on the Chief Executive's job. This is to ensure he or she is not paid more that prime minister David Cameron who earns £142,500 a year. 

Home Secretary Theresa May was expected to announce the appointment on Monday but, after the wrangle over the salary, the decision has been postponed. 

The main candidates for the job are all paid salaries of at least £150,000. They are thought to be Sara Thornton, the £150k-a-year Chief Constable of Thames Valley, Cressida Dick, Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police on at least £180,000 and Bernard Hogan-Howe the HM Inspector of Constabulary who is believed to earn more than £150,000. 

Police minister Nick Herbert apologised for the delay in a speech to the Serious Organised Crime forum last week. He said an announcement about who was to occupy the post was 'imminent'.

The people in the running already earn more than £140,000, so obviously this is a sticking point. It has been said that anyone willing to take a pay cut for that kind of pressure would need their heads examining.

As well as organised crime, the NCA will be responsible for some aspects of border policing and protecting children from exploitation.

In a previous article, we asked the question whether the top 10 highest paid Chiefs were worth their salary and revealed that:

* 14 Chief Officers are paid a basic of £150,000+ 
* 6 Chief Officers are paid between £140 to £150,000 per annum
* 26 Chief Officers (inc Met Deputies) are paid between £130 and £140,000 per annum.

When the Government started applying the fiscal scalpel to policing, they should have started at the top.




What's the betting the NCA boss won't come from this little lot either . . . . .

So, Home Secretary, we wonder if there is a suitable candidate among the remainder . . .

Rank and file officers feel justified in venting their anger at ACPO after feeling "badly let down" by the senior officers' body.

Peter Smyth, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said that members felt the Association had failed to address key issues and had not put its case strongly enough to government.

He maintained that decision of his branch to bring an emergency motion at the Federation annual conference, tabling a vote of no confidence in ACPO, showed the true depth of feeling.

Following endorsement of the motion by members, an angry open letter has been sent and is expected to land on the desk of President Sir Hugh Orde imminently.

Mr Smyth told "We feel that ACPO has let us down by failing to fight our corner strongly enough with the Comprehensive Spending Review. The leaders of the Armed Forces and the National Health Service, in comparison, were quite vociferous and they managed to put their position across. We also felt that ACPO submissions about the Winsor Report were damaging."

Meanwhile the ACPO President Sir Hugh Orde has come under fire again for failing to attend the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth – and heading to an event in Canada instead.

An open letter to the professional body from Federation Chairman Paul McKeever and General Secretary Ian Rennie said members were disappointed by the President's lack of show – particularly at such a tough time for policing.

The letter, which followed a motion of no confidence in ACPO from conference delegates, also accuses the professional body of being "in thrall to the government".

And it adds that certain ACPO members seemed unwilling to directly challenge ministerial assertions that 20 per cent cuts to policing are manageable.

In pressing home their attack in the letter, the senior Federation officials said there had been "dissatisfaction and anger" in the Federated ranks during the conference. The letter added: "It was clear that officers believe that ACPO is in thrall to this government and certain members appear unwilling to endanger their future prospects of employment by challenging the government's contention that 20 per cent cuts in the policing budget are perfectly manageable.

"Disappointingly, ACPO seem intent on supporting the reduction in police officers' pay and conditions which has provided them with the most flexible workforce in the country.

"We currently have the perfect storm in policing resulting from Winsor's attack on pay and conditions, Neyroud's proposals on promotion and leadership and Lord Hutton's proposals on pensions. Policing and Crime Commissioners will potentially change the political dynamics in the Service and there is a move to remove police officers from the protection of health and safety legislation.

"Regrettably, it is being left to the Police Federation to voice the concerns that should be raised by senior officers in the Service and, in particular, by you as the President of ACPO."

With all this going on, it may be that Chief Officers have decided to "stay put and keep their heads down" choosing to avoid the critical spotlight and protect their already fat salaries and perks.

How the service has changed. It used to be that officers rose to the highest ranks for the honour, privilege and responsibility of such a prestigious role. In yet another example, the Chiefs have shown that honour has been surplanted by sheer GREED.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


As regular visitors will know, I have almost completed the latest Thin Blue Line analysis on police detections. Before uploading the report to the site, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Inspector Simon Guilfoyle of West Midlands Police to the world of blogging.

Simon has recently launched his own blog which can be viewed here. I will let Simon introduce himself . . . . . .

"I am a West Midlands Police Inspector, in charge of seven neighbourhood policing teams and a proactive team covering the North East area of Wolverhampton, West Midlands. The areas covered are: Wednesfield, Heathtown, Fallings Park, Low Hill, Bushbury, Pendeford and Oxley.

I am a practical, fair and upfront person. I care deeply about the area I am responsible for and am passionate about policing and doing the right thing. I have a big problem with unnecessary bureaucracy, numerical targets and anything else that stops my officers from providing the best service they can.

I joined West Midlands Police in 1995 and with the exception of 15 months at headquarters I have always been a frontline uniformed officer. This is the job I joined to do and I am proud of it. Even my 15 months at HQ was spent implementing new working practices designed to make frontline policing more ‘common sense’ orientated for my colleagues out there.

Most of my time is spent running my sector, but I also provide Duty Inspector cover for the shift on 24/7 duties and am a public order trained officer (PSU Commander) so I get to work a lot of football, demonstrations, large events etc.

I’ve recently figured out how to use Twitter and am doing my best to embrace social media, hence this blog. I consider myself to be a systems thinker and try to apply this philosophy to real world policing. I also like catching the bad guys".

Simon has written an excellent article about police recorded crime and detections, "Crime In Progress: The Impact Of Targets On Police Service Delivery", the content of which is so relevant to the report I am compiling, he has given kind permission for it to be reproduced here. You can read his report here, or continue to scroll down this page.

Over to you Simon . . .

A Very Brief Intro

This article looks at the effect of numerical targets in public services, with a particular focus on the police in the UK. For those of you who do not wish to read over 6,000 words, the article can be summarised as follows:

■Priorities are important.
■Performance measurement (when done properly) is useful.
■Numerical targets are bad.

Simon Guilfoyle,

April 2011

What is ‘Good’ Police Performance?

Good police performance means different things to different people. From the perspective of a victim of crime, good performance might mean a prompt police response and competent investigation. A police manager may judge good performance by counting the number of arrests or detected offences recorded by individual officers. A local politician may consider that a reduction in the overall crime rate indicates good performance. Others may have different interpretations.

So what is ‘good performance’ and how should it be measured? A helpful definition of good performance is:

“A combination of doing the right things (priorities), doing them well (quality) and doing the right amount (quantity)”. (Home Office, 2008a)

If we take these three elements of good performance as a starting point, it becomes apparent how difficult it is to quantify ‘quality’. Numerical data relating to response times, arrest figures and crime rates is comparatively easy to measure, and in the absence of scientifically robust qualitative measures, it is argued that the police service has become heavily dependent on quantitative measures to assess performance.

From the outset it is appropriate to make the distinction between priorities and targets. Aims such as catching criminals and working to prevent crime are clearly appropriate priorities for a police force. ‘Priorities’ is one of the three features of the Home Office’s definition of good performance, and it would be difficult to argue that the police should not strive to prevent crime or prosecute offenders. The rub comes where a priority is fixed to a numerical target.

Before embarking on attempting to deconstruct the argument that numerical targets can ever be appropriate or useful, it is also necessary to voice strong support for the proper application of performance measurement – as long as it is used proportionately, the data is interpreted intelligently, and most of all, numerical targets are never a feature, performance measurement can be a valuable tool for understanding the system and improving service delivery.

Performance measurement can assist managers in recognising areas that require improvement and provides a solid evidence base for identifying weaknesses in the system. This enables action to be taken to make systemic adjustments, redirect resources, or address poor performance. Managers can interpret the data obtained from the performance measurement system to understand how the organisation is performing and monitor improvement or deterioration over time. The transparency achieved through effective performance management also has the benefit of enhancing accountability. This is particularly important in the public services arena.

There are, however, a number of caveats. Bouckaert and van Dooren (2003) argue that “…performance measurement is only useful if it improves policy or management” (2003, p.135), and this is the test that should be applied when determining whether a particular performance measurement system is necessary or appropriate.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Reliance on numerical outputs as a measure of performance can be traced back to Taylor’s Theory of Scientific Management. (1911) This involved measuring relatively simple inputs and outputs, such as time taken to complete a unit of work, or the number of items produced. The methodology was originally intended for application in work environments such as in factories; units produced per hour would be measured and this would act as a benchmark for all the workers. Taylor’s approach resulted in the standardisation of working practices, and in the right conditions increased efficiency, but is limited to those environments where it is easy to measure performance by using numerical performance indicators. His methodology does not easily translate into more complex performance environments such as policing, where it is often difficult to accurately measure activity.

As numerical performance measurement systems are incapable of recognising quality, there is the danger that if a large number of poor quality units were produced it would still give the appearance of good performance. This is despite resultant product failure, rework, additional cost and ultimately a reduction in efficiency. This would occur whilst achieving numerical output targets and under the veneer of apparently good performance.

A particular limitation associated with numerical performance data is that it is difficult to establish a causal link between the number of outputs and whether the job gets done well. This is particularly relevant where managers are forced to rely on a proxy measure of performance, for example measuring the number of potholes filled in a day. The intention would be to establish if a highway repair team was performing well, but variables such as the size and depth of potholes, amount of traffic management required at each site, and distance travelled between sites would all affect the number of repairs a team could complete within a given time. Aside from the quality argument, this system would be biased towards a crew who have a large number of small potholes to repair on quiet roads within a compact area.

In the public sector, accurate performance measurement is even more problematic. Pollitt (1999) argues that this is because many public service activities are geared towards dealing with variable circumstances that do not lend themselves to producing simple outputs. Caers et al (2006) also argue that unlike the private sector, it can be difficult to measure the outputs generated by public services. Furthermore, it is notoriously difficult to establish a causal link between a specific activity and an eventual outcome.

For example, in a policing context, the output measured may be the number of arrests made, but the intended outcome could be increased feelings of safety within the community. The number of arrests made does not necessarily equate to increased feelings of safety, and may even indicate that officers are being over-zealous, or that crime has increased. In either case, this could actually alarm the community and drive down perceptions of safety. It is therefore proposed that simply measuring the number of arrests is meaningless.

Since the 1990s, targets have proliferated within the public sector. A series of top-down targets introduced in 1997 marked the intensification of the target-driven performance culture within the police service. Over subsequent years, the focus has shifted between detection and reduction targets, crime types, to public satisfaction rates and others.

Such targets include:
■Reducing the overall levels of crime and disorder.
■Reducing the levels of specified offence types (e.g. vehicle crime).
■Reducing the fear of crime.
■Increasing the number of detections per officer.

Many of these targets include prescriptive numerical measures (e.g. 30% reduction in vehicle crime over 5 years). Comparative information on how police forces performed against the targets is publicly disseminated, and league tables have been published that attribute success or failure based entirely on numerical data.

Whilst the ever-growing list of targets pertains to much policing activity that one would rightly expect to be prioritised, it does not take into account the myriad of external factors that can affect data outputs. For example, the overall crime rate can be affected by economic cycles, unemployment and social issues such as deprivation, substance abuse or poor personal security. None of these factors are directly within the gift of the police to directly control.

Furthermore there has never been any obvious science behind why a target would be set at for example, 30% instead of 32%, 27%, or 80%. Some targets appear to have been set purely because they are slightly higher than whatever was achieved during the previous period. This is purely based on the unenlightened assumption that the last period’s performance must have been ‘normal’. In some cases, crime detection targets appear embarrassingly low; for example the target for robbery detections in one police force is 13%. Why? Would the public think that this was impressive? Would the average police officer try harder (or conversely, expend less effort in catching robbers) if the target was 12% or 14% or 47%? Of course not. What is wrong with trying one’s best to catch as many robbers as possible, or in other words, to strive to achieve 100% all of the time?

Naturally, because of various external factors (e.g. lack of forensic evidence or no identification by witnesses) it is obvious that every single robber will not be caught, but it is argued that there is absolutely no benefit in setting an arbitrary numerical target in these circumstances. There is even less sense in feeling a great sense of achievement if 13.1% of robberies are detected one month, or a sense of failure if 12.9% are detected during the next.

In both the public and private sectors, a further consideration relevant to performance measurement is the cost involved in setting up and maintaining the system. (Pidd, 2005) Both internal and external performance measurement systems involve additional processes, overheads and staff. This has the effect of building in additional cost to the original activity and risks generating a burdensome and disproportionate audit and inspection culture. Power (1996) observes that such regimes have proliferated to such an extent in recent years that he has coined the term ‘The Audit Explosion.’

Not only does audit and inspection increase costs in financial terms, but there is the very real consequence of human cost, in terms of damage to morale and strained relationships. Clarke (2003) for example, notes the effect on morale, pointing out that the “…high cost / low trust mix…” of a “…competitive, intrusive and interventionist mode of scrutiny creates potentially antagonistic relationships”. (2003, pp.153-154) Argyris (1964) warns that control through performance measurement can be counterproductive, especially in the case of those individuals who are predisposed to work hard, as it can adversely affect motivation and lower productivity. Western (2007), drawing on Weber (1930, 1947) also warns of the damage to morale and the dehumanizing effects of Taylorist methodology.

Control Freakery

It is argued here that the real danger with performance management systems is when they are used as a means of control, and specifically where numerical targets are introduced into the system. Deming (1986) exhorted against the use of numerical targets, arguing that they are often used as a poor substitute for leadership and proper understanding of the system. Amongst his set of fourteen key principles he urged: “Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals”. (1986, p.24)

As Simon Caulkin (2004) puts it, “Targets are only useful as long as you do not use them to manage by”. The danger of target-based performance measurement systems is that they not only measure performance, but they affect performance. The absolute pinnacle of inappropriate application of such regimes is within the public service environment. Here, the imposition of target-based performance management results in severe consequences, ranging from inefficiency, poor service delivery, and a demotivated workforce.

Goodhart’s Law warns that, “Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes”. (Goodhart, 1975) In other words, the activity being measured will be skewed towards meeting targets, which results in an inaccurate picture of what true performance looks like. If sanctions are likely to result from failure to meet targets, then workers will ‘cheat’ to meet them, and the greater the pressure to meet the target, the greater the risk of gaming or cheating. (Bevan and Hood, 2006; de Bruijn, 2007; Seddon, 2003, 2008)

Not only does inappropriate use of performance measurement result in the creation of perverse incentives and behaviours, but it also diverts effort away from the task in hand, as well as from other equally important activities that do not happen to be subject of performance targets. This is inherently inefficient, and also results in systemic failure, as some areas are ignored whilst others receive disproportionate attention. Furthermore, the inflexible, process-driven approach that results from target driven performance management restricts innovation, constrains professionalism, and turns the workforce into virtual automatons. (de Bruijn, 2007)

Bevan and Hood (2006) identify three main types of gaming that occur in target-based performance measurement systems:

■‘Ratcheting’ – where next year’s targets are based on the current year’s performance, and there is a perverse incentive for the manager to under-report current performance in order to secure a less demanding target for next year.
■‘Threshold effects’ – where performance across different functions is reported as a whole, thereby disguising departmental failure. In effect, the departments that exceed their targets vire their surplus across to the poorly performing sections. This also has the perverse incentive of encouraging those who exceed targets to allow their performance to deteriorate to the norm.
■‘Output distortions’ – where targets are achieved at the expense of important but unmeasured aspects of performance.

(Adapted from Bevan and Hood, 2006, p.9)

Other consequences of target-based performance measurement are:

■Tunnel vision – where managers select some targets (usually the easiest to achieve or measure) and ignore others.
■Sub-optimisation – where managers operate in such a way that serves their own operation but damages the performance of the overall system. (This concept is synonymous with Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. (1968)
■Myopia – where managers focus on achievable short-term goals at the expense of longer-term objectives.
■Ossification – where a performance indicator has become outdated yet has not been removed or revised, and energy is still directed towards achieving it.

(Adapted from Smith, 1990; Pidd, 2005)

It is argued that the pitfalls of target-based performance management are extensive and the consequences outlined above are practically guaranteed to occur when numerical targets are introduced into a performance measurement system. The result is that efficiency deteriorates, service delivery worsens, and operational effectiveness and morale are irrevocably damaged. In a private sector setting, this is bad; in a public services environment it is catastrophic.

The Folly of Total Reliance on Numerical Data

In the same way that Taylor was able to measure performance by assessing the input-output ratio of assembly line production, police performance systems count outputs such as the number of arrests per officer. The national key performance objectives set out for the police are only capable of recognising such outputs, and therefore neglect the quality aspects of policing that often have the greatest impact on people’s lives.

A serious limitation of using numerical data as a complete measure of good performance is in how the data is subsequently interpreted. Striking newspaper headlines such as “UK’s worst police forces named” (Daily Mail, 2006a) do nothing but to encourage public and media vilification, yet these judgements are based purely on published ‘league tables’ of performance against numerical criteria.

What is also worrying is the apparent inability of some managers to understand natural variation when interpreting statistical data. Seddon (2003) emphasises that any activity measured over a period of time will present varying results, and this is normal. Variation can also be attributed to external factors that are outside of the direct control of those working within the system. Furthermore, the overall capability of a system will naturally determine the parameters within which data should be anticipated, and that a degree of variation within these parameters is normal statistical activity. (Shewhart, 1939; Wheeler, 2000, 2003)

Setting a rigid point against this natural systemic variation and making it a ‘target’ will therefore have consequences. If the target is set above the upper control limit, it will not be achievable. If it is set between the upper and lower control limits (i.e. range of natural variation), then sometimes the target will be met and other times it won’t regardless of consistent effort. If the target is set below the lower control limit “there is no incentive for improvement; people slow down”. (Seddon, 2003, p.72)

Targets for police response times provide an appropriate example to illustrate this point:

Although now officially defunct, the 2009 Policing Pledge set a target for police response times. Such time-based limits remain, although they vary from force-to-force. The Policing Pledge target is as follows:

“Answer 999 calls within 10 seconds, deploying to emergencies immediately giving an estimated time of arrival, getting to you safely, and as quickly as possible. In urban areas, we will aim to get to you within 15 minutes and in rural areas within 20 minutes”. (Home Office, 2009a)

As with other high-level aims attached to targets, at first glance this appears to be an appropriate aspiration for the police to aim for, but let us consider the limitations and ambiguities within this target:

■How is an ‘urban area’ defined?
■Which time target applies if the route traverses rural and urban areas?
■When does the ‘clock’ start? Is it at the point 999 is dialled, when the call is answered, or once all pertinent information has been passed to the operator, and the police unit is actually despatched?

Now, let us consider the factors that could affect response times:

■Availability of resources.
■Driving grade of response driver and vehicle capability.
■Distance from the incident.
■Road conditions.
■Volume of traffic.
■Accuracy of information presented by the caller.

There are no measures of quality within this target. It is entirely possible that a call could be answered quickly, a police unit happened to be nearby, but the incident was dealt with badly. This would still meet the target. Conversely, a well-managed incident with a fast response time (albeit where the call was answered after 11 seconds), would fail against this rigid numerical measure. Even if it were possible to strategically position permanently available police response vehicles in such a manner that it was almost guaranteed the response times could be achieved, there will always be a degree of variation in the data; some would arrive in 10 minutes, others in 8, others in 13.

Targets within emergency call centres pose their own problems. It is not unusual for large LCD screens on the walls of such places to show in real time the volume of calls coming in, the amount of calls waiting, the speed with which calls are answered, and so on. These screens indicate whether every facet of call handling is on target or not, often with forbidding red text indicating ‘failure’. This can incentivise the call handlers to rush calls so they can get to the next one, resulting in them failing to obtain sufficient information required by the control room to effectively despatch a unit to the incident. The effect of this is that the control room staff then have to call the caller back to obtain the information they require, which represents avoidable rework, and which diverts them away from their primary function. This also causes delays, which can ultimately mean a slower or less effective response to the incident.

Meanwhile, the call handlers are able to move onto the next call, under the glare of the monitoring screen which warns them that three more calls are waiting. If any of these go unanswered, this will have a negative effect on the target that relates to ‘dropped calls’. Of course, this situation is not limited to the emergency services – the private sector often finds itself in a similar position, and there have been many examples of the perverse effects of such control through targets. This type of pressure can encourage gaming to meet the target; for example, answering the call quickly but then putting the caller on hold, passing the call to another department, or offering a call back. Some call centres simply place the caller on hold automatically, or the hapless victim has to negotiate their way through labyrinthine menus to reach a human being. In each case, the clock stops, the target is met, and the caller receives a sub-optimal service.

Where there are insufficient levels of staff in the first place, it will be impossible to meet these targets, regardless of effort. This is because, in effect, the capability of the system prevents it from performing to the levels demanded, and setting targets will not change the capacity of the system. Failure to meet the target will generate pressure from management, which demotivates the staff who are trying their best, which then affects performance (maybe one goes sick, reducing the workforce), which results in more failure to meet the targets, and so on. This downward cycle will intensify unless action is taken to improve the system, instead of setting arbitrary targets or browbeating the workers.

In the case of response time targets, there are other factors outside the control of either the call handler, control room operator or police driver that can affect whether the target is met. A 999 call will usually be routed to a central call-handling centre, and the operator will create an incident log whilst the caller is on the line, adding information to it as they speak. The log will then be routed to a local divisional control room for staff to despatch a unit. If the incident is particularly complex or there is a lot of information to be gleaned, it may be a few minutes before the log is sent to the local control room. Unfortunately, the clock beings to tick at the point the incident log is created, eating into the time limit permitted for an officer to arrive at the incident. This means that if the intial call handler has a large amount of information to enter onto the log, then by the time a unit is despatched it may be impossible to meet the response time target.

These circumstances mean that thorough information capture at the first point of contact actually adversely affects the likelihood of meeting the target. In addition to this, where the 999 operator does not initially grade an incident as urgent, but when upon receipt at the local control room a subsequent operator reassesses the severity of the incident and upgrades it, it will also often be too late to arrive at the incident in time to meet the target. This perverse situation means that someone who is doing the right thing and seeking to get a police officer to a caller as quickly as possible can actually increase the likelihood of that division failing to meet its response time target. It is easy to see how the temptation to leave the incident at its original grading could creep in.

Worse still, it is also possible to downgrade urgent incident logs, meaning that a less stringent response time target applies. Such activity would be wholly unethical, but when dealing with human beings who are under pressure, it is possible to see how the information contained within a particular incident log may be interpreted as slightly less serious than first believed. When this does occur, it is important to understand that this is not because the operators are bad people.

One UK police force recently changed its self-imposed response time target for urgent calls from 10 minutes to 15 minutes. The 10-minute target had been in place for over fifteen years and on average, was achieved between 80%-95% of the time. This would indicate that the system was stable and the 15% degree of variation (caused by the factors outlined above) was normal. Of course, divisional commanders would be held to account if their division was at the lower end of this scale during one month, but when (through natural systemic variation) the subsequent month showed an apparent ‘improvement’ they were able to comfort themselves in the knowledge that performance must have improved.

It is difficult to rationalise the reasoning behind changing one such target for another (especially when the system remains untouched), so one wonders what the benefit will be in reducing the response time target from 10 to 15 minutes. The only apparent advantage would be the anticipated exceptionally high proportion of incidents where the new less challenging response time target is achieved. Of course, nothing will have actually changed on the ground, and there is absolutely no perceivable benefit to the public whatsoever.

Certainly, getting to an urgent call as quickly and safely as possible is an appropriate priority for the police, so why have a target at all? One would hope that any police response driver would get to a burglary-in-progress as quickly as they could regardless of whether there is a time-based target or not. It is suggested that if a police force experimented with a different response time target every month for a year, there would not be a great deal of difference between the actual response times. The data would purely indicate what the capabilities of the system were.

The perversities around setting targets in this environment are truly frightening. It is entirely appropriate to prioritise incidents, but it is argued that there is no additional benefit in attaching a time-based response target to them once prioritised. It should be enough to aim to respond to an urgent incident as quickly and safely as possible.

As a colleague recently pointed out, “The public don’t grade incidents”.

Targets Can Seriously Damage Your Health

The introduction of performance targets in the public sector has had a significant impact, with examples of just about every one of the unintended consequences outlined above. Bevan and Hood (2006) expose examples of tampering with data in respect of ambulance response times, and delaying treatment at hospital to meet time-based targets. Seddon (2008) notes that, “…there have been many examples of police officers reclassifying offences in order to meet targets”. (2008, pp.124-125) In 2008 a Home Office Select Committee announced that the Government’s statutory performance indicators had generated a culture amongst officers of pursuing minor offences in order to meet numerical targets; some would “abandon their professional discretion as to how they might best deal with these incidents”. (Home Office, 2008b, p.13)

Ironically, the experience of a victim of crime who felt that they received a sympathetic and competent response to a distressing incident (e.g. sudden death in the family), would not register on the performance regime of a police force under the target system. In contrast, the arrest and cautioning of a 13-year-old child for committing an offence of Common Assault by throwing a water bomb at another child would count towards the sanction detection target. It is worth noting that a lengthy and complex investigation leading to an arrest and charge for murder, also counts as ‘one point’ in this system.

This type of example is one of the many symptoms of officers ‘hitting the target but missing the point’. Front line officers were sometimes given individual targets such as ‘to make three arrests per month’; as long as the officer achieved this target there was often little interest in what the arrests were for. This type of target-setting has resulted in otherwise law-abiding citizens being criminalised for extremely low-level or one-off offences. Often these ‘offences’ were little more than playground fights or name-calling between children. Under the target culture, these incidents provide rich opportunities for officers to achieve sanction detections for offences of Harassment, Public Order and Common Assault. Previously, these types of occurrences would have been dealt with by words of advice from a local officer.

Even when officers do not seek to meet targets by criminalising children, there has often been no choice. In 2002, the Government introduced the National Crime Recording Standards (NCRS), which were designed to ensure that crime was recorded ethically and corporately across all police forces. NCRS was supplemented by a prescriptive manual that set out exactly which crime should be recorded in which circumstances (Home Office Counting Rules, or HOCR), and another set of rules relating to how all incidents must be classified (National Standards of Incident Recording, or NSIR).

NCRS, HOCR and NSIR compliance is rigorously monitored by internal and external audit and inspection regimes. This has the effect of ensuring that compliance targets are achieved without necessarily adding any value to the service that the public receive. In some extreme examples, police forces have posted officers to a full-time role of retrospectively reviewing incident logs and changing classifications to ensure that they comply with the standard prior to audit. Again, this is not ‘value’ work and does nothing to enhance service delivery.

A further counter-productive effect of ‘ethical crime recording’ is the impression given of the levels of violent crime. Name-calling between 11-year-olds can be recorded as a criminal offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. A push by one child on another, even where there is no injury caused whatsoever is still Common Assault. Both these offences contribute to the Government’s ‘Violent Crime’ classification. This results in sensationalist headlines such as ‘Violent crime on the increase.’ (Daily Mail, 2006b) It also distorts the true picture of violent crime. (The Times, 2007a) Again, this does not enhance the public’s feelings of safety or decrease the overall fear of crime, which of course is another of the national key performance objectives!

The emphasis on technical compliance with standards rather than doing the right thing can lead to huge amounts of effort being focused toward activity that has no direct benefit to the public. For example, it became common practice to have a big push for detections at the end of each month (and especially in the last month of the performance year) in order to meet targets. This meant that investigations risked being rushed and minor crimes with ‘easy prisoners’ were prioritised over more pressing matters. Admin staff who usually worked until 4pm would be paid overtime until midnight to ensure that all detections were inputted into the system before the end of the performance year.

Localised police performance charts that count things such as the number of intelligence logs submitted also results in some of the consequences discussed earlier. If teams are pitted against each other to produce more intelligence logs, no one wants to be bottom of the league table, so invariably the volume increases. (What gets measured gets managed, after all). The problem is that the quality of the intelligence logs does not necessarily increase alongside the volume, and enterprising officers find new and innovative ways to avoid being the one in the spot light for apparent poor performance. Common tricks include:

■Submitting an intelligence log for the most mundane piece of information. (e.g. ‘The kids have been hanging around by the shops again’).
■ Breaking one piece of information into multiple pieces to enable the submission of several logs for the same piece of intelligence. (e.g. Log 1: “John Smith is associating with Frank Jones”. Log 2: “John Smith and Frank Jones stole a car, registration number ABC123 three days ago”. Log 3: “Vehicle registration number ABC123 was involved in a burglary two days ago”).
■ Duplicating information already captured by another process. (e.g. submitting an intelligence log as well as a stop / search form after conducting a search in the street).
■ Two officers working together both submitting an intelligence log about the same incident.

Of course, the result of this sort of activity is that the volume of intelligence logs increases, whilst the intelligence of real value risks being lost in the ‘noise’. The intelligence department will also struggle to process the increased volume of logs and have to wade through excessive amounts of submissions that are of limited or no use. This causes delays, clogs the system, and quality suffers.

‘Gaming’ in how crimes are recorded (or not recorded) is another danger. “There have been many examples of police officers reclassifying offences in order to meet targets – for example, reclassifying shop theft as burglary”. (Seddon, 2008, pp.124-125) Depending whether a target focuses on crime reduction or crime detection will determine whether officers are encouraged to under-record a particular offence type (where there is little chance of detecting it) or over-record it (where there is an easy arrest).

In extreme cases, by proactively targeting a particular offence type (e.g. prostitution or drug activity), this can have the undesirable consequence of increasing recorded crime. This paradox was recognised by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in a report that noted,

“It is a moot point whether it made sense for the government to set a target to reduce police recorded robbery in the first place, given that increases might well reflect enhanced police action in this area. Ironically, the government’s target on street crime has risked creating a perverse incentive for police forces to avoid identifying and recording robbery offences”. (Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, 2007, p.33)

There is also the risk that as confidence in the police’s ability to deal with such offences increases, the public are more likely to report incidents that may not have been reported previously. Of course, this gives the impression that the crime rate is increasing, which damages public confidence (a policing target), increases the fear of crime (another target) and prevents crime reduction targets from being met.

Another example of targets dictating how officers on the ground respond to crime is how they are incentivised to make arrests for Section 5 Public Order instead of Drunk and Disorderly, as the former counts towards sanction detection targets. (The Times, 2007b) Of course, this works in reverse if the focus for a local commander is to reduce crime, as officers can be persuaded to deal with an identical disorder-related incident by arresting for Drunk and Disorderly, as this does not count as a crime…

When performance data is publicised, this too can have adverse consequences. Often, there is little interpretation of the data, and when accompanied by sensationalist headlines, it is easy to present a negative impression of any public service. The publication of league tables for schools, hospitals and the police serves little purpose but to galvanise negative sentiment towards those who are apparently ‘failing’. The irony is that the quality of healthcare, schooling or policing does not necessarily bear any correlation to a particular institution’s star rating or position in the league table.

The impact of targets is exacerbated when it is considered that police and CPS targets sometimes conflict with each other; for example, the police are under pressure to increase detections, whilst the CPS are judged on their ability to reduce failed prosecutions. (Home Office, 2008b, p.13) This causes the police to prefer charging a suspect in a borderline case, whilst the CPS are often unwilling to risk proceeding unless there is a very high likelihood of success at court. The only losers in this situation are victims of crime.


It is important to return to the assertion that performance measurement per se is not a bad thing. Indeed it is a valuable tool for enhancing accountability and encouraging continuous improvement. It enables managers to identify failing departments or organisations, and take action. Without it, genuine failings would not be exposed and sub-optimal performance would go unchallenged. A proportionate performance measurement system allows professionalism and innovation to flourish, whilst reminding the workforce that standards must be maintained in order to achieve organisational effectiveness and maximum efficiency. This is consistent with the systemic approach espoused by Deming (1986), Seddon (2003, 2008) and others.

It is also important to remember that this argument is against numerical targets and not priorities. Priorities such as for the police to detect crime, or for the NHS to promote health are entirely appropriate. These principles are embedded within these organisations, and form the bedrock of their raison d’ĂȘtre. Priorities should remain as organisational objectives, but without a numerical target being attached, as this obfuscates the original purpose and diverts activity away from it. The experience of recent years has demonstrated the toxic effect of performance measurement being used as a management tool in the public sector.

It is argued that arbitrary numerical targets should be abandoned, particularly in the public services arena. Targets generate perverse incentives and behaviours, and do not add value to the service that is delivered. It is better to strive for 100% all of the time and concentrate on doing the right thing, instead of worrying about whether current ‘performance’ is a fraction of a percent above or below an arbitrary target that was created with all the science of a ‘finger in the air moment’.

The public have a right to expect an effective and accountable police service, but also one that is flexible enough to respond to a variety of circumstances. The target culture has not delivered this goal. Numerical targets are the most destructive feature of performance measurement systems, and when imposed on a public service setting will guarantee inefficiency, additional cost, lower morale, and ironically, sub-optimal performance. Performance measurement is vital when implemented properly, priorities are crucial, but numerical targets must be eradicated.

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A courageous and superbly written article Simon, congratulations! A timely reminder that the spectre of performance targeting and its effects on police recorded crime and detections has yet to be exorcised from the service.

Look out for our forthcoming report on police detections.

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