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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"PI Blues"

Now this isn't empirical, but I'm increasingly of the view that, in an age where everything needs to be audited, patrol is no longer a 'cost effective' use of police time.

Why? Because unless you do Stop Accounts/Searches, HORT/1s, fixed penalties etc., time spent on patrol is not able to be audited and translated into pretty pie charts and graphs which make good headlines. How can we expect our bosses to sit there in front of Statistics and Auditing with the majority of officer's time spent on "Other" - ie patrolling? That's not going to make for good report reading! Maybe they'll ask us to audit how much crime we think we have prevented by patrolling? Oooh I could have some fun with that!

"Yessir, by driving down this particularly dodgy side road, I singlehandedly prevented a murder and a mugging. When I drove past the shopping centre I thwarted a terrorist attack from being carried out. Can I have a promotion now? I did save the area, after all."

For those who don't know, some forces have Key Performance Indicators, or PIs, that each officer is expected to hit. Things like Response times; number of arrests per month; pieces of process (Stop Accounts, producers, tax disc reporting thingies) etc. I don't know if I have any, and I don't really care, although I hear if we apply for a transfer to another department, whether or not we meet PIs is something taken into account. I suppose it's the same for most other things in the public and private sector. Work a Friday or Saturday night and you'll satisfy your arrest criteria for the month anyhow.

Since I don't care I'm in no rush to meet or exceed these targets - we don't get commission or a bonus from doing so (we should be so lucky) and worrying about them would just be added pressure on top of our crime queue, court appearances and ensuring we're adhering to the language in the latest diversity booklet when engaging in thought processes. Some officers do, and that's their perogative. I joined up to deter and deal with criminals, not to stick cars for out of date tax so I get a tick in the box. This is either the 'correct' attitude to have or the 'incorrect' attitude, depending on your viewpoint. Answers on a postcard please.

Conversely, some areas and forces have 'divisional targets', for certain kinds of crime. So, for example, a busy city centre might be given a target of, say, 8 burglaries per month (there's no target for shoplifters in city centres, go figure), whilst a large rural area may have, say, 2 or 3 burglaries, with an urban area having a much higher burglary target of around 20 (more houses, derrr!). I'm making these figures up by the way according to what would be logical, so the real figures are probably completely different.

If more than this targetted number occur, bosses jump up and down and everyone is pressured to drop what they're doing and sort it out, even though it's after the fact. For bosses, they're usually happy with known offenders for this sort of crime being locked up or just something auditable to show we're actively tackling this type of crime. Problem here is the 'known offenders' have to actually be wanted for an offence or have a warrant! We can't just collar them and say "You're under arrest for making our crime figures look bad" and caution them. Even if we do have good reason to lock them up, they'll be out within a couple of days unless they have a warrant for failing to appear, or have committed offences on bail.

I'm not actually sure what happens if we keep below the crime targets, maybe a bottle of champagne is opened somewhere or something. In practical terms, it makes no difference to members of the public, and for frontline police it's a measure of how much we're going to have people breathing down our necks. Maybe the targets are supposed to motivate us to keep crime low. Personally I thought the oath of allegiance was a pretty good motivator for that one.

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.
Comments:
Oh god, you'll think I'm stalking you! Truth is, I like your (writing) style. The humour and the frustration are nicely balanced; as I suspect you are.

Urr ... I just realised my own blog still exists .... Good job no-one reads it.
 
Actually Runner, in my force they do measure patrol times. They don't do it overtly, but I suspect that its more than 'measured', as we are forever being reminded to tell them on the radio where we are, and if we are 'visible'. They also want us to write mini reports of where we patrolled at what time, and what stop searches were done etc.

This all then boils down to them being able to say: in hotspot a last month we had 100 crimes. This month, 20 officers patrolled it for an hour and we only had 90 crimes. Aren't we fantastic!
 
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