Report says wrong type of data is contributing to under-performance in meeting real demands
Police forces are likely to be told to collect less crime data after a review criticised a culture of target chasing and box ticking.
Performance targets set by the Home Office were abolished in 2010, but the report revealed they still exist at a local level – and distort the job the police do.
In the Independent Review of Targets in Policing, the president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales reports to have found evidence of senior officers focused on “not being at the bottom of the table”.
One of chief superintendent Irene Curtis’ key recommendations is for the Home Office to review the requirement for all police forces to submit victim satisfaction data. That task “includes a requirement to survey victims of vehicle crime, which many forces might otherwise not deem a priority”, the review points out.
Weight of feedback
It adds: “Similarly, feedback from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) rightly carries significant weight with forces.
“However, concerns were expressed that HMIC scrutiny creates undue focus on quantitative data, inter-force comparisons and league tables.”
Among the other key recommendations are that:
- Chief constables to improve their performance measurement, monitoring and reporting processes.
- Police and crime commissioners should consider the potential negative impact of setting numerical targets in their police and crime plans.
- HMIC should improve the way it presents performance data and communicates its monitoring processes.
- The Home Office ought to consider taking back responsibility for the National Standard for Incident Recording (NSIR), to tackle “inconsistent recording of incidents between forces”.
Home Secretary Theresa May – who ordered the review – immediately backed its conclusions, saying: “Targets don’t fight crime, they hinder the fight against crime. They distort operational reality and reduce police officer discretion, while undue focus on one target can lead to some other crimes being neglected altogether.
“The review shows that the police need to go further in order to tackle the culture of narrow target chasing and bureaucracy that has hampered and limited officers, preventing them from exercising their professional judgement.”
Curtis also points to the need to “collect data that is not currently easily available (rather than measuring what is easy to measure)”.
Where forces have moved away from the use of hard numeric targets, they still exist “at sub-force level by those in supervisory roles”.
The inquiry probed all 43 police forces in England and Wales and conducted a survey of officers and staff which received more than 6,000 responses.
Image by Chris McKenna, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons