According to Nick Herbert MP, the police's targets have been abolished. Someone should tell HMIC. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary
is the body that visits and holds failing police forces to account. It functions almost solely by monitoring data and statistics, basing its reports on the results of polls and then producing recommendations.
As a Chief Constable, failure to follow recommendations by HMIC can have significant results: in extreme cases HMIC can refer a poorly-performing force
to the Home Secretary, and Home Office intervention in running the force can follow. If you think this is ever allowed to happen, think again. So HMIC's assessment of a force is crucial.
Here you can find HMIC's "report cards"
(their overall findings about each force). A quick scan through shows that, like it or not, HMIC is monitoring detection rates - that is, the force's ability to "solve" a crime by charging, cautioning or reporting someone for it. Here are some phrases that appear:
- "Results for solving violence with injury and vehicle crimes are deteriorating" (Dorset)
- "reducing such offences together with improving the number of offences detected and improving the confidence people have in GMP to deal with crime and ASB, are priorities for the force" (Greater Manchester)
- "Leicestershire solves less violent crime than peer forces and the detection rate for violence and car crimes deteriorated last year... more needs to be done to bring crime rates in line with similar areas" (Er, Leicestershire)
I could go on. But what is significant is that each of these criticisms about detection rates is coupled with a line or two describing what the force has done to tackle it. In most cases, a re-structure, or a new system has been brought in. And so Chief Constables preempt HMIC's conclusions and thereby preempt any action they might take. Regardless of whether or not the Chief was actually doing a bad job before, or if the poor crime statistics were the result of data-handling, outside influences (eg the economy in that area) etc. HMIC makes it clear that each force is to be compared to others "similar", drawing over-arching conclusions about what the "correct" crime and detection rates should be for that force.
Nick Herbert MP and David Cameron PM can expound until they are blue from head to tippy-toe that they have abolished targets and pledges. But HMIC still assesses forces based on these things, and requires them to produce statistics about it. In light of that, what Chief Constable dare not have a target for reducing crime areas that are above the average for their "type" of force? What Chief dare not endorse "best practice" as defined by HMIC?
Until HMIC's stranglehold on the police is released, all the Government's words are just that, words. Do not expect to see a tidal shift in the way we police Britain any time soon.
NB: As a side-note, what an incredibly good website HMIC has. Some talent's being wasted somewhere.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.