Sunday, 5 October 2014

Only Five Minutes Left On The Clock!

Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model.

Let me recap: in 2013 at the Superintendents' Conference the Home Secretary Theresa May ordered police forces to ditch targets. The police chiefs didn't exactly do as she instructed: they centred instead on the idea of having only one target: public satisfaction.

The effect this has had is that we are now slaves to the attendance targets. These targets are:

15 minutes for 999 calls (I-grade).

60 minutes for downgraded 999 calls (S-grade).

48 hours for other calls (E-grade). 

The only thing that now matters to the sergeants, inspectors and the Control Rooms, is getting to the calls within those limits. The result is that an unattended 999 call is now usually downgraded to an S-grade to avoid missing the target. Similarly the S-grades are often downgraded to E-grades. See my earlier post for an explanation:

Disappointment Car

This is why – under the present Local Policing Model – burglaries, rapes and million pound frauds are sometimes attended only days later as E-grade appointments.

Needless to say, low level managers everywhere in the Met – inspectors and chief inspectors – continue giving their teams individual targets anyway 'just in case'. They do this to prove their teams' productivity and cover their backs: this incidentally is neither a secret nor my speculation. It's well-known police practice.

You'll remember that early this year the former Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Simon Byrne (now Chief Constable for Cheshire Constabulary) told the media that there are no individual targets for officers, even though every copper knows that simply isn't true.

Expectations Not Targets

Police managers will always latch on to targets like a lifeline in a stormy sea – that's their instinct because for two decades it's the only management style they've known. So we now have a new obsession with the attendance times, and this has created some interesting situations.

Here is an example recounted to me by a dog handler:

“My role is to track down burglars. Officers will contain a house then I go in with my dog Growler. Or the suspect has hidden in bushes, so officers send for us and Growler will sniff him out.”

“That's what used to happen, and still does in theory. Nowadays the moment I arrive at a burglary the Control Room tells me they want me to go to a domestic around the corner. That isn't my role, but they say they've got no-one else available. I'm told:

'We've got a domestic around the corner from you there's only five minutes left on the clock.' 

I'm expected to leave the burglary – and there could be suspects still in the building – and go to the domestic. Neither do they care what I do at the domestic – it's all about simply getting an officer there before the sixty minutes runs out.”

Similarly, an armed response officer told me:

“We used to patrol during downtime, but the Control Room now asks us to go to domestics. We'll go to one, but then there's always another, and another. They say they've no local officers free, but it isn't our job to go to all these calls. What if we're needed at an armed incident? We'll help out with one or two from time to time, but they're taking the piss.”

“Because of this we've stopped patrolling. Until they get rid of the Local Policing Model and things change we have to stay at our base waiting for firearms calls.”

While all this is going on, Met senior and middle managers hold public presentations to prove the Local Policing Model is working: “Look at the figures! We have more officers out there now. We do, we do!”

Prior to the meetings they brief their constables and instruct them, “Don't tell them it isn't working. We've got to make this look good.” 

The Figures Prove Its Working

If it isn't one target with which the senior officers are obsessed, it's another: if it isn't arrests and detections, it's attendance times.

The big picture is that the LPM is designed to be purely reactive – it's about attending appointments and responding to calls. Patrolling or proactive work isn't built in to it. The appointments and the sheer number of calls don't allow time.

The only times now when we are able to carry out proactive work such as drugs operations is when the Chief Inspectors panic over the teams' performance figures. They make us drop everything we're doing and pull together for a warrant. Because it's a rushed affair we use out-of-date intelligence and the consequence is an operation that fails to find any drugs or stolen property.

It's absurd for the Chiefs' to feel they have to panic over figures then rush through a botched drugs operation. I say this because the system in which we now all work – the Local Policing Model – is reactive: it isn't designed to send us out looking for crime. So the fact that the Local Policing Teams conduct very few arrests, for example, is entirely defensible. The powers-that-be shouldn't expect as many arrests, searches, detections and so on, as we used to generate.

Remembering that police bosses cannot see past targets, the LPM makes sense. They bosses don't want a proactive system. They're not interested in preventing crime, because you can't count those crimes that you've prevented. If I close a crack-house, take a dangerous dog off the street or arrest a drug dealer, I'm preventing future crimes from happening.

But they can't be counted and added into a spreadsheet of performance figures.

You can only count crimes that have happened – the number of appointments attended and so forth. Managers at all levels in the Met want to have sheets of figures they can point at and say:

“Look! Look! This shows how hard my team are working. You can't criticise me. And I'd like another promotion please.”

The public wants crime prevention, which won't can't be measured and so won't contribute to performance tables, but it's the proactive work – drugs warrants, patrols, tasking teams rounding up drug dealers – that prevents robberies, burglaries and drug dealing long term.

So, we have the worst of all worlds. All the old targets plus new pressures that result in specialist units diverted from their real purpose simply to hit the attendance targets.

It isn't weakness for a manager or a policy maker to admit that a policy needs refining and to take on board the experiences of the constables striving to implement it.

On the contrary that would show strength and leadership.

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- Justice and Chaos