Sunday, 28 April 2013

Crime Down Again Or The Emperors New Clothes?

So, yet again, we are expected to swallow the tripe that crime in the UK has fallen.

Sooner or later, the lid will be prized off this statistical can of worms and the public will learn, once and for all that the senior officers of UK policing have been fiddling the figures mercilessly for years.

The BBC & The Guardian among others continue to ride this fallacious bandwagon being peddled by the Chief Officers.
Ironic then, that in the same week that these astounding new revelations about falling crime (an alleged drop in recorded crime of a further 8%), that ONE senior police officer has raised her head above the parapet and admitted that it’s all one big sham.
In an article in Police Oracle Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis, Charr of the Superintendents Association, showing courage and integrity lacking in her ACPO colleagues, admitted that league tables and performance targets had created a culture of “Gaming” – cooking the books or just plain fiddling to you and me.

This is precisely what we have been saying from these pages for a number of years. We haven’t just said so, we have produced the evidence of the extent of the fiddling and the modus operandi being used to orchestrate the fiddling. See previous articles from these pages and the detailed reports in the section to the right of this article.  

To quote Chief Superintendent Curtis

“For many years forces have been compared with others at a national level and this has resulted in league tables being promulgated throughout the service down to individual level.

I know this because I was part of it. As both an Operations Superintendent and a BCU Commander I spent much of my time focused on the reds and greens. I recall conversations with colleagues about them holding back detections for the current month as they had reached their target and therefore could keep some in the bank for next month. Discussions about whether we should be encouraging staff to charge offenders with public order offences or drunk and disorderly, depending on whether our focus was on detection rates or crime reduction. I’ve also sat through many performance meetings trying to explain why my BCU’s crime figures had gone up or down by X per cent and what I was going to do about it.

I look back now with some sadness that I was part of a culture that appeared to treat numbers as being more important than doing the right thing and yet for a long time I didn’t do anything to challenge it.

I've spoken to a number of colleagues about this recently, including some chief officers, and I often hear responses such as, 'that doesn't happen in my force' or, 'targets are necessary otherwise staff won’t do what's required.'

Well that doesn’t fit with what I’m hearing. I'm picking up a growing sense of frustration from colleagues in the federated ranks who feel under immense pressure to deliver targets and feel that gaming is often the only way they can deliver this. There’s no doubt about it, the use of numerical targets in performance management is embedded in the police psyche”.

Better late than never Ma’am.

Restorative Justice

Chief Superintendent Curtis goes on to talk about the restorative justice processes , cautions, PND’s TIC’s and the other “out-of-court” disposals now available to police officers.

Chief Superintendent Curtis : “What I'm proposing is a return to common sense policing which focuses on doing the right thing for victims and the public. This would include freeing up the performance management framework from targets that don't just lead to dysfunctional behaviour, but also an often disproportionate bureaucracy of audit and compliance work.

I strongly believe that such an approach is essential to reduce demand and thus create further capacity for the diminishing resources that will be available for policing as a consequence of this and the next Comprehensive Spending Review. We need to minimise the impact of these cuts on our ability to reduce crime and protect the public”.

Common sense policing. Now where have we heard that before? Let’s hope someone is listening to her wise and ethical advices.

Again from these pages, we have reported how the restorative justice processes are abused beyond recognition. We have recently submitted articles, again providing evidence of the Gaming Culture, directly to Chris Grayling, who has commissioned a review of the cautions and restorative justice system.

Working with retired DCI Dr Rodger Patrick, now well known for his excellent detailed contributions, recently heard at the Home Affairs Committee and House of Lords debates on the subject, we have frequently espoused how mercilessly forces, led by Chief Officers who either created, overlooked or condoned these systems.

The latest media reports confirm that the message has yet to hit home.
With many thousands of officers wiped off the headcount as a result of the cuts and yet they STILL expect us to believe a further 8% drop? It doesn’t take rocket science to see that the numbers are being fiddled even more to suggest that forces indeed can achieve more with less.
Crime Down or Emperors New Clothes?

What is most worrying, is that these numbers we are expected to swallow, harm both the rank and file officers and the general public.

Chief Officers can con the politicians and their respective Police & Crime Commissioners that crime continues to fall no matter how few officers are available to deal with it. ACPO and the Chief Officers have shown themselves to be totally self-serving and shamelessly uncaring about the front line consequences of their strategies. But why should they care? They get paid handsomely for showing how wonderfully effective they are, what incentive is there for them to play the honesty card?

Cuts to the police service were authorised largely as a result of the many years of declining recorded crime. The statistics are crooked and distorted beyond belief. Many thousands of officers less to protect life and property, to prevent and detect crime. Yet the Chief Officers that are responsible for fudging the statistics remain in post, happily drawing their salary without conscience that they are the authors of the misfortunes dumped on the rank and file.
Whilst this is allowed to continue, the tax payer is being cheated out of the service he and she deserves and the front line officers are expected to toe the line, play the game and submit to behaviour that compromises their professional integrity.  

A few responses to Ch Supt Curtis' article:

So very true, I hope those in command will listen to this Chief Superintendent who is in touch with reality...let's us get back to policing, not targets, tackling crime not counting numbers!

Common sense at last, but will it ever be used or implemented by our command teams? I fear not!!!!

What a sensible officer, so refreshing

Unfortunately she is but one voice in a sea of many, it's ACPO that needs convincing.
Yes I am a dinosaur and can remember when officers had discretion and not get ticks in the box to make your CC look good, it was also down to common sense, once the bean counters took over common sense went out the window.

This has been a problem for years. Performance can be improved without top down targets. Governments of all hues and senior managers need to understand this:

I find it amusing when the author states " I'm picking up a growing sense of frustration from colleagues in the federated ranks who feel under immense pressure to deliver targets and feel that gaming is often the only way they can deliver this."
Where have you been for the last 10 years. Federated ranks have been generally unhappy with the culture for nearly a decade and we were ignored and treated like peasants for objecting!

I agree but wasn't it ACPO who cosied up to the last government and got all sorts of goodies from them to play the numbers game and make the government look good. They did exactly the same with the health service. you go to any A & E you'll get seen by a triage nurse in quick time then given a ticket and probably three hours you will be seen by someone who will deal with your injury, but on the records it will show that you were seen within 5 minutes. I really don't care how many rings it takes for the phone to be answered, I care that when it's answered the person on the other end knows how best to deal with my problem and I care that when the cop gets there they know what to do. ACPO have a lot to answer for.

The obsession with targets is a manifestation of a deeper misunderstanding of the police role – that of a crime-fighter – and that is why the articulate,intelligent and sincere leaders persist with them.Police as keepers of peace,maintainers of order,and dispensers of justice is the role that need to be emphasized to get rid of the targets of crime and detection figures.

It's all true what she says, but I bet targets still remain!

Always worth a visit is Dave's site over at Bankside Babble... Particularly relevant article this week looking at the same subject from a different angle.

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