Friday, 5 March 2010

Top Of The Flops

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 !


Metcountymounty said...

That sounds like the ideal job for someone wanting to escape team but not have to carry out ridiculous instructions on an SNT from some random council member who hasn't got a clue about policing.

Anonymous said...

It also sounds like the kind of squad that does well and gets shut down because it actually makes a dent in the figures so the funding can then be diverted somewhere else...

Stressed Out Cop said...


Yep it was a good job - no micro-management involved - showing that the troops can get on with it - The result was crime reduction ..

We also took work from response and would spin their cars out on a few calls when the box was empty.

Crime Analyst said...

Excellent and informed post SOC.

The results opf our FOI requests about dwindling response numbers are in and they're as shocking as you might expect.

Watch the press this week, it's expected to hit. In the meantime, have a look at the report on our site ....

Thanks again for your support, I will keep your blog name and identities out of anything we prepare.

Kind Regards


Hogday said...

My own, on-going, public satisafaction surveys always resulted in me finding that people were not in the least interested in the police, policing and the end results thereof, unless they either,a) needed the police immediately and wanted the outcome to suit their personal needs, or b)the police was the last thing they wanted to turn up at the given moment. In between these two, very few gave a rats. Not empirically sound research, I know, but it felt precisely like that was the way it was. This survey cost nothing but told me all I needed to know.

Crime Analyst said...

I keep revisiting this article because it makes so much sense SOC. I say again, excellent and well informed.

Your comments lie at the heart of what is wrong with the job today.

"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".

Enabling police discretion isn't just about the indivdual officer, it's also about trusting supervisiors to apply common sense, focusing directly on problems the public want sorted.Your success was a measure of how the principle can really work well.

This example identifies the difference between what works and what doesn't.

Hogday hits the nail squarely on the head. The vast majority of the public couldn't give a tinkers about public satisfaction and confidence surveys, they just want to see, by action like yours, that when there's a problem, the police will step in and sort it as best they can.

Results like yours speak volumes louder than any measures of public confidence or policing pledges.

The £3,427,521 allocated to the pledge on radio advertising,
national and regional press advertising, online advertising and and high street posters and the many millions more that
will be spent auditing forces and officers on its implementation is wasteful. It would have been a far better use of the budget to put 131more coppers on the street or to fund specific needs projects like yours, than bombarding the public with more spin and promises.

Action and results, NOT words restore public confidence better than anything.

A huge burden of responsibility for delivery of the promises of the pledge falls upon with the frontline police teams around the country.

Unless and until the focus shifts back to putting more of the existing resources, both human and financial back into frontline support like your example, the pledge will serve only to create false expectations that, when continually dashed, will deplete rather than improve the holy grail of public confidence.

Hogday said...

Analyst: I too thought this was an inspired post that spoke volumes, including a good deal of how the job I enjoyed used to work - not perfect, but honest.

Stressed Out Cop said...


If the truth be told this policing model pre-empted the roll out of community policing teams. I suspect the public satisfaction was part of the decision making process - it equals votes and CPT's have been well received locally. They should be as before them there was nothing.

Central control took over and the rest is history ... one model does not fit all areas. The Tories have picked up on this and will bring in town centre team's with more coverage and impact.

Hogday is correct .. people want visability and a quick response and a listening ear who will get their problem sorted. It's simple.

I've done bottom up policing which doesn't dove tail with home office objectives (or didn't). I've seen it work alongside other thematic strands (youth engagement) and I've seen it abandoned when the funding ran out and the model was mainstreamed ... the strategy being taken away from the person who knew exactly what was happening on the ground.

Best job I ever had - and the hardest .. pure policing .. I miss it.

I must admit I did draw pleasure from when the Supt didn't realise till 4 years after that I'd had control of quite a large budget .. that he couldn't grab to use elsewhere.

Money to be saved .. by looking at community teams .. the quieter areas can be merged and get rid of central control .. who contribute .. nothing.

Hogday said...

On reflection, I think SOC reinvents the SPG. We knew they were on our ground before they announced it, because the usual bad people were not present in their usual numbers. If it ain't hurting, it ain't working. Just add a little more accountability and inclusion in the bigger plan and `Bob's your Auntie's live-in lover`.

Stressed Out Cop said...


2nd best job I ever had .. Nets out get trawling ...

Hogday said...

SOC: :)) and the fish, although rarely ever `shot`, were usually easy to find in the barrel.