Memorandum submitted by Barrie Irving,
Police Foundation and Denis Bourne, Kansai Business Systems
NEW CENTURY: A
Focus of concern
The White Paper adumbrates a number of features
of police performance. Variations in crime rate and detection
rate across the country are criticised and it is argued through
a quotation from the Audit Commission that this variability exceeds
what can be explained by environmental factors. While it is acknowledged
that the police do not have sole responsibility for this variability
(and presumably for the absolute rates of crime) the Government's
intention to reduce that variability and generally improve (measured)
police performance is clearly stated. To this end, a variety of
stratagems are outlined including improving training, making human
resource management regulations more flexible and subjecting Chief
Officers to a standard assessment procedure. The nub of the new
sanctions to be made available to the Home Secretary to back up
the quest for better police performance is the creation of a Standards
Unit at the Home Office and a new power to impose management intervention
from outside a force (indeed, presumably from outside the service)
on forces that are deemed to be failing by the measurement methods
and criteria then available.
The authors of this proof of evidence wish to
concentrate on the seminal issue of improving operational policing
performance at BCU level so as to push up overall levels of police
efficiency and effectiveness. The White Paper makes it clear that
this will also be a priority behind the drafting of the Police
In this context, the authors wish to comment
on the wisdom and efficacy of the strategy outlined in the White
Paper. The authors concur wholeheartedly with the belief that
many police operational units are currently operating sub-optimally
but wish to argue both with the methodology that is likely to
be used to identify "failing" forces/BCU's and the remedial
strategy that the Government intends to deploy against them.
Relevant experience and expertise
The authors share a multi-disciplinary consulting
and research background. Their disciplinary profiles are complementary.
Irving has degrees in Anthropology and Social and Forensic Psychology
and Bourne is a systems engineer, operations researcher and professional
manager. Both share an interest in and facility with statistical
methods and the IT to support them. Together they have had 60
years consulting experience in a wide range of management environments.
For the last 20 years this has included consulting on and research
into policing issues at both Force and BCU level.
As Director of the Police Foundation, Irving
has been instrumental with Bourne in running an informal series
of senior management strategy seminars for ACPO members. In 1993
the authors organised for ACPO a national cross sectional seminar
on a strategy for change in the police service. The outputs from
this work have directed their joint research and consulting work
over the last seven years. The summary conclusion from this extensive
collaboration is that operational performance at BCU levels has
for many years been stifled by:
The lack of appropriate and effective
management skills training for sergeants and inspectors.
The absence of a viable model and
associated set of techniques for performance management and quality
assurance in BCU operations.
As Government concern about police performance
has grown, so the opportunities to work with forces on both of
these issues have expanded. While the historical consulting experience
available to us is not dissimilar in portent to more recent work,
(indeed the consistency of findings over 15 years is both reassuring
and alarming), we wish to concentrate on the implications of an
assignment in two London Boroughs and ancillary work in Surrey
and Kent over the last two years.
Performance strategies, tactics and implementation
Thanks to very considerable innovative policing
research in the US during the 70s and 80s there is a ready supply
of plausible methodologies available to improve detection rates,
provide more effective policing services and control certain kinds
of crime. While these methodologies have been available for many
years in the form of original US research reports, policing handbooks
and Home Office replications of original US work, the mix of operational
activities on the ground in UK BCUs remains much as it was in
the late 80s.
There are some key reasons why this is so:
It has proved difficult to deliver
to BCU/relief levels the IT necessary to implement more sophisticated
strategies. UK Police attitude to information and information
processing reflect the reality that most officers have to supply
data that do not directly help them do their jobs.
The pressure on local officers to
maintain a purely reactive, incident chasing style of policing
has been unrelenting as public demand for services and the dictates
of Criminal Justice System administration appear to "use
up" all available time.
The availability over time/space
of officers continues to be a matter of feast or famine. Externally
dictated demands, conditions of service and other "cultural"
considerations often lead to human resource wastage and patterns
of deployment remain stubbornly misaligned with demand in many
The service has evolved a culture
of conformity with complex sets of regulations and directives.
The eyes of supervisors and supervised are, therefore, directed
to demonstrating that what has been ordered to be done, has been
done. In such a culture it is easy, perhaps inevitable, for results
(performance) to take a back seat.
A national statistics-driven centralised
performance management regime has been grafted on top of this
system. Because of the structure of this regime it has become
absorbed into the culture of directives, orders and regulations
without having any radical effect on local attitudes to improving
In a culture of conformity confronting
individuals about performance in the absence of direct evidence
of dereliction of duty tends to be avoided. Individual performance
issues are rarely addressed. In extreme cases where discipline
procedures are inappropriate, they are dealt with in an arcane
way that breeds resentment and distrust. Formal performance assessment
is largely a discredited process.
As long as the conformity model holds
sway there can be no real pressure on the service to provide the
management skills training necessary for pro-active performance
management. There appears to be no need for it.
It is against this general background that the
authors have conducted recent experiments aimed at developing
an appropriate and viable performance management model for BCU
reliefs and their sergeants. The need for such a development is
privately acknowledged by many senior officers who are sensitive
to management issues in the service.
Issues arising in the Boroughs during pre-project
A series of workshops with local relief officers
was used to establish attitudes to performance management, current
practices and willingness to experiment with new approaches. The
following summary conclusions were reached:
Current working practices provide
very little opportunity for constables and sergeants to exercise
problem-solving skills: the mass of work is either purely reactive
or heavily bureaucratic.
There is no incentive to conserve
time to invest in more sophisticated approaches to crime control,
detection and public order.
Officers are acutely aware of time-wasting
and the inefficiency of traditional shift arrangements. Estimates
of time available to be clawed back for pro-active work (from
poor shift system design, routine and administrative tasks) were
around 40 per cent.
Management above the level of Inspector
was seen as having virtually no impact on working practices at
relief level except as a source of directives, and sanctions against
officers who failed to comply with directives, rules and regulations.
There was a general derisory attitude
to exhortatory campaigns emanating from Scotland Yard that laid
out their wares in glossy brochures accompanied by PR activity
in the media.
Sergeants admitted, and relief officers
concurred, that given the volume of public calls for service,
and the layers of bureaucracy relating to handling these calls,
it had become established practice to define performance in terms
of conforming to operational and administrative procedure as laid
down, regardless of whether this conformity produced satisfactory
The working groups admitted to being
aware of a variety of pro-active policing strategies that were,
in theory, meant to be applied but they denied that these theories
had been implemented. In particular, sergeants and senior constables
said that they had never received any training in how to implement
such innovative strategies. The groups were initially entirely
unversed in how to behave in a collaborative problem-solving enterprise.
There was a tendency, it was claimed,
to maintain traditional methods of working on the street but apply
new names to what was done. There was a circularity about some
innovationstechniques that had been around for many years
were often re-born and re-branded. There was a cynical consensus
that such re-inventions of the wheel oiled career progress as
ambitious officers climbed the rank hierarchy. Older officers
had personal experience of several generations of management "innovations".
Discussion of these issues was generally
combative and hectoring. The groups were clearly unused to working
in a collaborative fashion. The dialogue often suffered from point
scoring and a variety of more or less destructive habits of inter-personal
communication. While these were all received and given with good
humour, they made it difficult for any coherent and creative strand
of argument to be developed without intervention from the research
It was a significant feature of some
sessions that rank was not often correlated with providing leadership.
The research team's pre-existing view that promotion through the
sergeant's exam may recognise knowledge and abilities that are
not necessarily appropriate for problem-solving and dynamic team
management, were reinforced.
On the basis of these conclusions a strategy
for developing performance management was designed taking into
account management theory and best practice on the one hand and
the special exigencies of police work on the other.
Given the rather low state of morale and the
negative attitudes to innovation and clever policing theory, the
research team tried to apply the following principles:
Build a collaborative, creative forum
"at the coal face" to define and solve problems in order
to avoid negative stereotypes of top-down management methods.
Design a framework in which the forum
could act without fear of exceeding its authority or breaking
rules and regulations.
Secure the support of the senior
management team for the activity.
Provide simple management skills
training to give the forum a sense of efficacy and to allow early
experience of success.
Provide coaches and mentors for the
forum to ensure it developed as a working group, but minimise
intervention to ensure the group "owned" the results
and did not become dependent.
Encourage the members of the group
to consult with their peers and avoid being seen as an elite squad.
Encourage secondment and ad hoc membership for the same reason.
Training sessions provided
The authors have elsewhere detailed their criticism
of the current approach to police management training.
The core of this criticism is that National Police Training and
its predecessors have, for good historical reasons, been structured
as institutions of "Further Education". Police Officers
have been treated by these institutions as students who, having
received instruction, either pass or fail courses. While such
an approach can produce an educated elite, it does not, on the
whole, generate pervasive behavioural competence in essential
management skills. Raising the level of behavioural skills requires
a coaching/mentoring approach usually at the workplace. The accent
is on demonstration and practice not on the acquisition of information.
Trainers must be able to guarantee that they will, within broad
limits, produce desired levels of competent behaviour. The trainee
in such a regime is merely expected to turn up and bring reasonable
levels of intelligence, attention and motivation to the party.
It follows that effective trainers are paid somewhat more than
The following skill deficits were diagnosed
at an early stage in both boroughs:
Giving and receiving feedback on
Problem analysis and the design of
Defining simple work processes as
a basis for assessing and improving performance.
Bourne set up a number of training sessions
for both BCU groups. Response was enthusiastic and gratifying
in terms of rapid changes in behaviour. For example time spent
working with one group to eliminate destructive verbal and non-verbal
communications, produced entirely collaborative working within
two sessions covering one day.
Once appropriately trained and briefed, the
groups quickly settled down to define components of relief performance,
identify barriers and design remedial action. Consultation with
BCU colleagues remained satisfactory.
The groups quickly identified bureaucratic time-wasting
and ineffectual briefing and de-briefing as core problems.
Protected by mutual confidentiality the groups
concluded from a brief activity survey that around 40 per cent
of relief time could be clawed back for use on strategies with
higher performance potential than traditional reactive policing.
Remedial action was planned in the following areas:
Redesign of shift working rosters
to align deployment and demand. (First mooted in the MPS in a
document authored by James Hart, now Deputy Commissioner City
of London Police in May 1981).
Creation of a radio/telephone based
reporting system for officers on patrol to minimise returns to
Redesign of prisoner handling to
cut duplication of effort and bureaucracy.
Linking local criminal intelligence
to the task of briefing reliefs and building up a firm basis for
individual and group accountability.
Developing an effective bottom-up
feedback loop to activate the Senior Management Team to provide
The following modifications to existing systems
Telephone recording and Computer
Aided Dispatch systems were improved.
CAST, an improved prisoner handling
system was introduced.
A Variable Shift Roster System was
Outputs from Criminal Intelligence
sources were effectively linked to Relief Team management efforts
so as to set targets and improve accountability for performance
(outputs not conformance).
It is worth emphasising at this point that inter
alia these were precisely the goals of the "Neighbourhood
Policing Experiment" in London, an evaluation of which was
reported in 1989 (op. cit).
However, bottom-up consultation procedures were
not set up and, indeed, throughout the experiment the Senior Management
Teams' (SMT) involvement and support were variable. The predictive
factor here appeared to be the philosophy of management of individual
officers on the SMT. At the time, unknown to the authors, the
MPS was re-evaluating its policy with respect to BCU autonomy
levels and senior officers were probably aware that this experiment
was based on devolution of power whereas the MPS was moving in
the opposite direction.
A brief report by the MPS internal consultancy
service confirmed that the improvement to systems designed by
the BCU teams were indeed effective and roll-out of these improvements
was recommended throughout the MPS. In an interesting and indicative
omission the report failed to note:
The non-implementation of bottom-up
The difficulties around involving
the SMT in the experiment.
The effectiveness of bottom-up innovation
design in securing viable plans.
The success of bottom-up change in
winning local level support even when accountability was being
increased and rosters were being changed.
The report of these activities clashed with
MPS re-centralisation. The officer who commissioned the work has
been promoted out of the MPS and the authors have had no strategic
response to the report.
In common with many other similar exercises
in the police service, the development work will now go on at
the location to which the officer who commissioned this study
has moved. The progress made at the two sites will not persist.
In the near future the authors will be asked to create other such
experiments in new locations.
In both London boroughs it should be noted Police
Federation representatives were involved in the entire process
from the start. In both cases they were supportive and made a
significant contribution to results. This experience is consistent
with our experience in previous projects.
Recent work in Surrey has confirmed the observation
that resource allocation and management processes at BCU level
are often poor. While total police establishment may be an issue,
this cannot be confirmed until the weakness in deployment is eliminated.
Another project outside London has served to
reinforce our concerns about the nature of police trainingthis
time with reference to detective skills.
Finally, in partial confirmation of our belief
that technological change can enforce work culture reform, we
have observed an innovative data sharing and problem-solving project
set-up and run at sergeant level in a London Crime and Disorder
Partnership. The authors, acting as consultants to the partnership,
have been able to achieve rapid change with the full support of
senior management because there is no other way to commission
the necessary technology.
Implications for the White Paper
The work in the MPS and elsewhere over the years
has shown that bottom-up redesign processes can work effectively
and carry with them the majority of junior officers. These flowerings
are counter-cultural, threaten established relationships with
Senior Management and are only usually sanctioned and supported
by senior police managers who are confident in their ability to
devolve power. Without coherent senior management support for
the bottom-up philosophy, the results of such experiments as these
quickly wither even though they are temporarily successful. When
junior officers are not involved in the process of change in the
way that bottom-up techniques allow, there is a persistent tendency
to keep street level operations entirely isolated from senior
managers and their schemes for change and improvement. It is into
this cultural environment that the White Paper ventures.
The tone of the White Paper's rhetoric
The document accurately mimics the hectoring
tone of those campaigns for change about which junior officers
are most cynical. The erection of a new superordinate source for
this kind of rhetoric on the back of devices like a "Standards
Unit" and formal assessment of the ACPO rank officers, merely
increases the vast chain-of-command distance between street level
officers and the perceived source of ultimate power in the system.
If the command structure already worked well, this might be an
acceptable stratagem. In the face of the current evidence about
the level of connection between senior and junior ranks and in
view of the length of the chain of command,
the White Paper's approach threatens to reinforce the negative
attitudes of junior officers and the dysfunctional management
style of their superiors.
At a more prosaic level, the performance superstructure
being planned by the Home Secretary is likely to create an even
greater need for the collection of statistical and other information
at BCU level. Again the average officer will not have any personal
interest in the accuracy of this information. The top-down performance
regime envisaged will merely reinforce the directives/regulations/report-up
culture that officers on the ground can so easily identify as
the source of their poor efficiency.
If the Police Bill pours additional human resource
into this system while doing nothing to change the management
culture, then there is a real danger that it will be mopped up
by additional administrative burdens created at the same time.
On the other hand, responsibility for additional officers, sworn
and un-sworn, will increase the need to radically overhaul junior
and middle management training and performance procedures.
If senior managers see themselves as being placed
under threat by the invention of yet more superstructure at the
Home Office, then they will be liable to exaggerate their own
This will actively hinder the process of management cultural reform.
The right targets by the wrong methods
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is absolutely
right for the White Paper to target restrictive conditions of
service and high levels of bureaucracy and inefficient IT deployment
as sources of poor police performance. But these key factors have
been targeted with little effect for many years. As the complexity
of social life and the rate of technological development increases,
so the leisurely pace of police adaptation becomes critical.
The general approach of this White Paper has
already been tried in essence by Sir Patrick Sheehy..
Not only was there little visible implementation, the reduction
of the rank structure that was achieved actually reverted more
or less to normal after a polite interval. The rally at Wembley
Stadium could well be repeated in Whitehall.
The authors understand the frustration of successive
Ministers and their supporting teams of civil servants when faced
with the police service's ability to fend off change.
However, it is a well established principle of clinical practice
that losing patience with the patient does not increase the effectiveness
The identification of failure
Local junior officers have a considerable degree
of control over the figures that emerge so impressively from the
mouth of the statistical machine that successive governments have
built at the Home Office. The figures in important respects are
the product of the culture. They are fairly accurate where officers
feel the responsibility to make them so. They can be alarmingly
inaccurate where those responsible for collecting them have no
stake in their accuracy.
BCU's for geographical, demographic, historical
and social reasons that are not under police control, face idiosyncratic
performance advantages and disadvantages. We have demonstrated
that small groups of locally based officers can produce accurate
and actionable diagnoses of performance problems on their patches.
If officers perceived that they were gathering information to
feed a remedial process in which they were critically involved
and over which a supportive management presided, they would quickly
ensure that data quality and processing improved. Something akin
to the opposite is happening. Distant statistical experts are
meant to identify failing BCU's. Already the tables in the White
Paper give a stark picture of the rough and ready statistical
reasoning that is to be employed. Those responsible for drafting
the White Paper must imagine that the political force of the argument
for change will be enhanced if police management is seen by the
public to be responsible for a degree of failure that is clear,
stark and considerable.
In this context, we would argue as follows:
there is no doubt that successive generations of police managers
have allowed a management culture and style to evolve that does
not produce adaptive and performance related responses to changes
and increases in public demand. The first step, however, towards
improving that situation should be to encourage senior managers
to take responsibility for it themselves. The proper, indeed the
constitutionally exact role of the Home Secretary is to support
and give advice to Chief Officers so that police performance at
a local level can be enhanced. Taking responsibility for both
problem definition and the design of remedies out of the hands
of Chief Officers is to disempower them when they most need to
act with assurance and flair. Facile statistical definition of
failure is a powerful symbol of what the Home Secretary intends,
both in terms of relationship with and future action in respect
of the ACPO and Superintendents' Association. The definitions
are facile because they fail to take into account the true complexity
of the performance measures available and their pattern of interconnectedness
and correlation with geographic and demographic characteristics
of BCU's and hence forces. A situation has been allowed to develop
where Home Office policy officials and Ministers seem to be out
of touch with what their statistical experts are privately saying
about police performance measurement.
Ministers, no doubt wish to impress the police
service with the firmness of their reform intentions. The Cabinet
is signed up to evidence based policy. It appears to us counter-productive
in that case to resort to a meretricious use of statistics.
To set the record straight, the variation tables
quoted in the White Paper should be more properly used to set
out a number of null hypotheses for which there are well-established
test procedures. Irving has already tried out some of these procedures
and is under the impression that Home Office statisticians have
also. The results tend to give the lie to the idea that there
is the kind of unexplained and unacceptable variation in performance
statistics that the White Paper claims. There is certainly great
variation but much of it can be explained. Indeed, that is the
point of the well-known and respected statistical technique known
as analysis of variance.
What is far from clear is that poor police management
is identified accurately as a substantial cause in these figures.
As we have been at pains to point outthere is poor police
management and it is the cause of poor performance but the hot-spots
cannot be found by the simplistic method the White Paper adopts.
An effective compromise here is to present the
simple league tables as no more than the beginning of an exploratory
process. To be successful that process requires the good faith
of the Government, and the constructive participation of the ACPO,
Superintendents' Association and Federation. In the end, we would
argue, the diagnosis of management failure that is accurate enough
to use as the basis for remedial action and which will be accepted
by all interested parties as the basis for change, requires the
kind of process that the authors initiated in the MPS. Insofar
as legislation supports such cultural reform processes, it can
be said to have serious positive potential, otherwise it is likely
to suffer the fate of its predecessors. It is our conclusion that
the White Paper has set out on a well-worn path with insufficient
insight into the nature of the problem it seeks to tackle.
Can a potentially constructive Police Bill be
designed on the basis of this White Paper
There has never been, to our knowledge, any
example of a Government producing a revolution in management culture
and style by legislative dictat. There are strong reasons for
believing that changing the legal framework of operations in the
Railways and British Telecom only prepared the ground for the
possibility of change. Irving was involved in an analogous management
culture revolution in Shell International in the late 1960's that
became, for some time, a key example. Bourne was similarly involved
with successful changes in another oil company, a large financial
services business, and FMCG company and a large supermarket chain.
Nearly all the most effective catalysts for change were applied
at middle and junior management levels with Directors supporting
but not directing the process.
Radical change in US police agencies does not
offer us much by way of example because of the significantly different
political structures in which police forces are embedded.
Technological change is one universal means
to power rapid and radical adaptation. However, no such radical
technological change is on the horizon for policing and those
innovations that might have had an effect (Command and Control,
CAD and Crime Pattern Analysis) have mostly been folded into the
existing culture without causing much disturbance.
The Home Secretary and this Government may well
argue that even during the Thatcher administration and at the
time of Sir Patrick Sheehy's report, concern over police performance
and political will and power never coalesced as they do now and,
therefore, historical precedents should be ignored in favour of
a full frontal assault.
The authors have already seen the first reactions
from the ACPO and the Superintendents' Association and we are
bound to say that the White Paper seems to have provoked a lively
new interest in performance management. There is no intrinsic
reason why, after a period of turbulence, the institutions outlined
in the White Paper cannot be adapted to a reasonable and reputable
process of management reform.
However, the immediate intention to reform police
conditions of service poses a taxing dilemma. The proposals have
already been roundly condemned and rejected by the Police Federation
as all involved could have predicted. We have acknowledged that
conditions of service with respect to shift working, overtime,
salary scales, special payments, sickness, absenteeism, etc.,
must change. That much has been apparent since Sheehy in 1993.
However, the way in which that list is approached will affect
the progress of the rest of the reform agenda.
So far the auguries in this respect are not
good. Our conclusion is that if negotiation with the Federation
is left on the current combative course, the ACPO and Superintendents'
Association will be seriously disadvantaged in trying to work
behind the rhetoric of the White Paper and the impositions and
injunctions of the Police Bill to achieve genuine reform of management
It should be clearly recognised that there is
much that could be offered to the Federation arising out of the
reform agenda. The Federation has a considerable interest in the
professional development of its members. The introduction of warden
and non-sworn officer schemes will create opportunities for junior
officers to take on management roles. New pay scales and reward
systems are mooted that would be welcomed at local level if there
was trust that the spirit of these innovations would be honoured
in their implementation. The recent Federation vote against the
reforms measures its confidence in the service's management just
as the tone and content of the White Paper symbolises politicians'
trust in the service. This is an elegant stand-off.
In conclusion, we believe that the political
scene is too well set to be substantially redrawn at this juncture.
If the Government has to keep on the present course, the most
useful contribution it can make to the reform of police performance
management is to invest heavily in three crucial areas. First,
every effort must be made to empower not weaken the leadership
potential of ACPO and the Superintendents' Association. Secondly,
a viable working relationship has to be created through the Federation
with Sergeants and Inspectors to deliver reform. Thirdly, there
must be a radical reappraisal of management training for junior
Barrie Irving, Police Federation
Denis Bourne, Kansai Business Systems
11 Irving, Barrie. L; Bird, Cathy; Hibberd, Malcolm
and Wilmore, John (1989) Neighbourhood Policing: the natural history
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Irving, Barrie (2000) An Independent Review of Police Management
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In an unpublished study of European forces carried out in the
mid 1980's Professor Ron Clarke, formerly head of the Home Office
Research and Planning Unit, discovered that the UK has 2.3 more
rank levels than the average European force. Back
See Adlam, R. (2002) Leading Light, Police Review, Vol. 110,
No. 5660, p.24 Back
See Adlam, R. (2002) (op. cit.) Back
Sheehy, Sir Patrick (1993) Report of an Inquiry into Police Responsibilities
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Faulkner, D; Irving, B, (1994) Crime Management by Reducing Repeat
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