Police forces are set to be ranked in league tables according to their success in cutting serious crime. Under Priti Patel’s new regime, forces across the UK will be measured according to their effectiveness in combatting six types of crime including homicide, serious violence, and the supply of drugs.
Speaking to The Times, chief constables decried the new system of ‘national crime and policing measures’ as a return to targets, and an impingement upon operational autonomy.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said in a letter that forces would be measured not only on their abilities to cut crime rates, but on victim satisfaction. The benchmarks will include recorded crime, hospital admissions for knife-crime related incidents, and referrals to drug treatment clinics. Malthouse wrote that the plans do not represent ‘a return to force-led numerical targets’, but will instead provide ‘national accountability and collective responsibility’.
A government source refuted the framing of the new scheme as a return to targets, instead stating that it is solely concerned with tracking progress: ‘We’re giving forces extra officers and now we want to see outcomes,’ they told The Times. ‘Police chiefs are very competitive. Which police chief is going to want to be the worst performing police force? If people see their force isn’t performing, then people will start asking why. It’s making sure they’re held to account.’ Accordingly, a Home Office source told The Independent that the plans were not targets, but ‘metrics’, adding that ‘we have backed the police with funding and officers and now we want to see results’.
Referencing the government’s promises to fund an additional 20,000 police officers, Harvey Redgrave, CEO of Crest Advisory, argues that the new measures were an inevitable trade-off. ‘This is not surprising,’ he writes. ‘No 10 will be acutely aware that the political gains that come with boosting officer numbers have a shelf-life: if violence continues to rise and the detection of crimes continues to fall, claims about additional spending will sound increasingly hollow.’ Redgrave goes on to comment that the ‘measurable improvements’ are not necessarily damaging, but that they should be focused on things directly within the police’s power to control, such as the detection of crime.
But the plans have been met with scepticism by the Police Federation of England & Wales, the staff association for rank and file officers. ‘My message to the government would be to stop and think before returning to the mistakes of their predecessors,’ said Chair John Apter, referring to the target regime introduced by the Blair government and later scrapped. ‘Targets in policing are not new, and we have seen before that when resources become scarce, forces focus on targets to the exclusion of other issues’.
Similarly dismayed with the new measures are serving officers, who have taken to social media to voice their concerns.
Targets are back. I’ll have a lot more to say about this, but once we start nicking people because we have a ‘league table’ and not because they need nicking, it’s a dark road. We’ve been here before. pic.twitter.com/qneVq6qYgz
— Inspector Gadget (@InspGadgetBlogs) April 22, 2021