In one of my earlier posts entitled ‘People respond to Incentives’ I rehearsed this argument made in the books ‘Freakonnoics’ and ‘Superfreakonomics’ by Stephen D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner. If you haven’t read them – you should.
In the context of policing, these incentives often include being selected for a specialism, being promoted or just pleasing your boss. Home Office targets were decided upon by civil servants with no understanding of (a) what achieving those targets actually entailed, (b) what unintended consequences might result, and (c) what might be ignored in order to prioritise the activity that is designed to achieve the target.
Some of the fallout of this approach was the Public Administration Select Committee in November 2013 where the cynical manipulation of police crime statistics was laid bare. The toothless tiger that is HMIC was engaged and still failed to deliver any meaningful narrative as to the root cause of this endemic problem. I’m sure...
A sweeping statement perhaps, but one believed by many given the parlous state of British policing. If ever there was a time to be concerned – now is it.
We have ‘barbarians at the gate’ if we are to believe the Security Services and the Home Secretary. Whilst once again basking in the reflected glory of those entrusted to keep the public safe and who have foiled plot after plot to commit an outrage, she continues to order and orchestrate cuts that will have a catastrophic effect on not only the ability to prevent a ‘terrorist spectacular’ but also the abilty to answer the thousands of 999 calls from the public. I believe the Security Services and I am willing to believe that there have been a number of occasions where we have been incredibly close to suffering a huge loss of life. As the Patrick Magee of the IRA once famously said (following the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton) , ‘Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. ..
CRB checks can give you a completely false sense of security!
Previously in this blog you will have read about Non Sanction Detections (NSDs) and the huge numbers claimed in comparison to the total number of all types of detection.
However, what is not made clear is the fact that when CRB asked the Metropolitan Police to check their records, until April 2006 NSDs were not routinely searched for on their databases. As a result 1.5 million checks were completed without ever checking to see if there was a relevant NSD that should have been disclosed. It is therefore quite possible that those with relevant NSDs for serious offences – including Rape, other sex offences, violence and dishonesty, were given jobs on the basis of the MPS advising that they had nothing relevant recorded against them.
Clearly the potential for relevant NSDs to be missed is enormous! A (now retired) Assistant Commissioner from the Metropolitan Police instructed that a random sample of 500 (previously undisclosed) NSDs were checked to see what the potential...
The diagram below is a guide to some of the roles and responsibilities of the various individuals who play a part at different stages of the proceedings, together with the challenges they face; from the point a crime is recorded, through to being classified, quality checking detections and finally being included in performance measures and performance related bonus’s.
Officers often going from call-to-call with insufficient time to conduct a quality investigation. Some forces measure an officer’s performance using the number of arrests. Officers report crimes broadly according to the wishes of victims.
Uniform first line supervisors. Responsible for checking the quality of reports and investigations by Constables, including Penalty Notices and Formal Cannabis Warnings. Often they have insufficient time to do any genuinely intrusive supervision intended improve the quality of investigations and quality of service.
Let me explain. For those of you already exposed to the world of business, it will come as no surprise when I tell you that ‘performance is king’. Your success as both an individual and an organisation is largely judged by your ability to meet challenging performance targets; these can be in the form of selling a certain number of cars a month to answering calls within a specified timescale in a call-centre.
Unfortunately the Police Service is no different. Whilst Teresa May famously proclaimed and end to all targets other than reducing crime, many PCCs have re-introduced them. The Home Office set targets in relation to many topics, some were related to reducing crime and others relate to detecting crimes once they have been committed. The introduction of performance-related pay only further encouraged individuals to meet targets – whatever the cost. Performance in relation to a whole range of targets is one way in which the success (or otherwise) of a force was measured. Clearly some targets are more...
Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) & Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) checks
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) was formed when the Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority. It is effectively an executive arm of the Home Office. This is the part of the government who complete checks against police (and other) official databases to discover if anything is known about an applicant that might influence a decision to employ them – or not. Let me make this perfectly clear – there is a real and compelling need to protect our children and vulnerable adults from those who cannot be trusted. However, that decision by employers MUST be based upon reliable information. If it is not, or if all of the available and reliable information is not properly considered – then you may ask what exactly is the point of the CRB/DBS?
In simple terms, there are 3 types of check depending upon the type of job (including voluntary work) you are applying for and/or when you apply...
The Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) and the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) regulate the way in which police forces record crimes. The NCRS basically states that police will record a crime ‘if on the information available at the time of reporting it is more likely that a crime occurred than it did not’.
The HOCR goes on to describe what type of crime should be recorded. Whilst this may seem unnecessary detail – I can assure you it is not – let me explain why.
You are walking home from the pub one night when you are the victim of an unprovoked attack due to mistaken identity. You are hit from behind by another man who smashes a bottle over your head shouting ‘Have this one from me’ this results in a large cut requiring 8 stitches. As a result you defend yourself by punching him once in the face. He suffers nothing more than a black eye. There are no independent witnesses.
Police are called and both of you are arrested on suspicion of assault. Whilst at this point you may think this is...
Recent revelations at the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) in November 2013 regarding the reliability of Police recorded crime statistics have shaken public confidence. It is now clear that in many cases Police have failed to record some crimes at all, or alternatively recorded other crimes as less serious offences to assist in meeting crime reduction targets.
The issues described in this blog are also symptomatic of that same performance culture, but are even more damaging to individuals. This blog will illustrate how the discretion of officers has been eroded by a corrosive culture of meeting targets at the expense of unnecessarily criminalising ordinary members of the public. This can not only destroy a persons previous ‘good character’ but can also prevent them from getting jobs, working as a volunteer or even adopting a child.
These are NOT administrative failures, but rather they are the result of a desire to meet targets at almost any cost. The Home Office were first made aware of these issues in 2006, and their own Task Force...
For many years Police performance measures included detection targets. In much the same way that the Public Administration Select Committee on Crime Statistics (November 2013) revealed how recorded crime figures had been influenced and manipulated to meet crime reduction targets, the desire to meet detection targets resulted in a large number of unsafe detections being recorded against members of the public. Some reviews of detections have revealed that in excess of 80% of those examined were unsafe.
This blog describes the serious risks in relation to the provenance of this sensitive personal data others rely upon to make decisions regarding applications for jobs (or voluntary work) involving children or vulnerable adults and/or the decision to allow you to adopt a child or even travel abroad in certain cases. The recent appetite for organisations to exchange and sell personal information and thereafter use ‘big data’ as a predictive tool to support strategic decision-making amplifies the risk(s) of...
The recent documentaries ‘Police Under Pressure’ (BBC2) have been genuinely thought provoking; Whilst the first two episodes focussed on the performance culture and the impact of budget cuts (both laudable topics) the final programme looked at sex crimes committed against young girls in South Yorkshire. For legal reasons (ongoing court cases) this episode could not be broadcast until these had been finalised – resulting in prison sentences for at least some of the defendants.
A large part of the success of this operation appears to have been due to the dogged determination of a handful of comparatively junior ranking officers rather than the senior leadership team (surely an ironic title). One of the moments that stick in my mind is the look on a senior officers face when he agrees that previous allegations made by the same victim had not been investigated and that they were now attempting to play ‘catch up’ and presumably trying to persuade her that (given what they now knew) they desperately...