I was once summonsed by the Superintendo to give a high profile presentation to a representative from a Government office. At the time I was working on an additionally funded policing project in a selected area, one of dozens across the country. It would appear that somebody somewhere was conducting independent public satisfaction surveys and we had scored very highly and they wanted to see what we were doing differently.
I had to justify the extra government spend and on top of my policing role produced crime figures and indicators to justify our worth, so already had an in depth Powerpoint that I had already produced for my year end report. I didn't have any reason to cheat to make ourselves look good so just produced the true data, which were the usual indicators that showed how the team worked the ground alongside crime reduction in some crime categories.
A couple of years earlier I had been given free reign to write a project appraisal and bid for a substantial quantity of government money. Nobody where I worked showed any interest in this project as the Home Office had at the time gone mad on Robbery and Burglary targets and locally this was where all the resources were put. The money bid for was to pay for extra police posts and I decided I needed a substantial overtime budget to make an impact. I put in for twice what I envisaged needing, thinking I'd be knocked back and was quite surprised to see my bid authorised in full.
I had in effect created my own empire and freed myself from having to go cap in hand to others if I wanted to do an operation. I recruited the best constables to the team who wanted to do a bit of work and off we went to arrest as many people as we could. We had no vehicles so policed on foot as we saw fit, our little bit of the Division, which was also the busiest part. I allowed my team flexible working so across a working day I got more coverage and we would single patrol and do our own thing. Once a month we would really hit the ground together for a week to tackle whatever needed sorting be it robbery, burglary, drugs or the kids.
I could use my contacts to buy in extra resources from the budget so actually increased policing where it was needed. If the punters were getting terrorised by young people I could put my people on the spot at the right times so they could see something was getting done. We could also link into the partnership to nudge our problematic youngsters into diversionary activities. It was a hard job to keep a balance between enforcement and engagement, but on the whole all the community wanted was firm but fair policing.
You wouldn't be surprised to hear that crime reduced and the punters were generally happy when we tried to do our best for them.
It was the first time I'd heard the phrase public satisfaction. I gave the presentation and the lady listened. The partnership I worked with also covered other key areas of health and education and housing. I asked how they rated when compared to policing, and the answer was very interesting. They had all scored considerably higher and policing was still the lowest in the public Psyche despite the results we had achieved. I think we would have ranked alongside estate agents in the property boom or bankers today. I don't understand the ins and outs of the independent surveys that were done on us but the point is public satisfaction will look after itself if you get on and do the job and don't go trying to influence it by not doing the simple things the punters actually want.
If I worked community today I wouldn't have the freedom to police my area as I see it, because central control seems to know best and dictates what is done. I don't think my old punters are as satisfied as they were before .. I wonder why !