This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Targeted Lie

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.


Anonymous Refreshingly Frank said...

To PC Hoggs from a Muppite

I am half way through your brilliant book, and while I do admire your witty sarcasm and humorous rudeness, which out of admiration I will attempt to imitate (imitation is the most sincere form of flattery) I just do not understand your ‘pork’ (or is it ‘beef‘, I can never remember) about the withdrawal of the targets.

Baby-faced piglet said he would abolish the targets and he has. No problem there. But of course the HMIC will still continue to monitor the police force and judge it on statistics and figures. You cannot expect to do your jobs entirely to your own satisfaction. No, no, no, NO, you cannot.

It seems to me that the real change (which you seemed to have trotted by without noticing) is that performance will not be judged on an absolute scale, where you are given money in exchange for a required number of results ((targets) rather like buying donuts or pork scratching from Tescoes), it will now judged on a relative scale, comparing one force’s performance against another’s. This, PC Hoggs, is called COMPETITION and is an intrinsic part of the Con party’s beliefs, as oppose to the old Labour‘s socialist belief that regulation and control is all important.

Of course, I could be completely wrong.

I bet you don’t print this - possibly for my own safety - :)

PS I am tall, dark, handsome, highly qualified in a marvellous position in life, unmarried, no children and can wield enormous power when I am in the mood.

18 October, 2010 20:42

Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK I have to ask:

What was HMIC doing _before_ there were central targets?
Is the drive to count everything simply created by the fact that counting is easier than it used to be?

If violent crimminals are not going to prison because there are 'no prison places' - then who exactly _is_ in prison? (taking up said places). How long will they be there?

Sorry to post anonymous, I should re-activate my Google account.

19 October, 2010 05:36

Anonymous painauchocolat said...

You give people targets, they will change the way the work to match those targets - regardless of whether this provides a better service.

This applies to teachers, traffic wardens, police officers, footballers....

19 October, 2010 19:52

Anonymous shitjuro said...

I have a target..... yoo-hoo boys, Daddys home!

20 October, 2010 15:34

Anonymous Mac said...

spot on Ellie,

It's always been HMIC that terrify senior officers, not the home office.

Every time they visit we get weeks of panicked briefings about what to say if approached by one of the inspection team.

Hand picked people are sent to the focus groups together with a full written briefing about what to say.

The week before, posters are put up extolling our virtues and 'letters of appreciation' and 'Team player of the week' notice boards go up. All to tick the 'staff are valued' box. We still have the same ones up from the last visit over a year ago.

All designed to make it look like it's like that all the time (Teachers would recognise it as like an OFSTED visit).

But above all HMIC need FIGURES. We currently have an additional bureaucratic burden on our PDRs to show how committed we are to diversity. The information was always there but previously someone in headquarters couldn't just push a button and churn out a number. Now they can but the thousands of employees all now have to do the extra bureaucracy to make it happen.

Politicians can say all they like but until HMIC are reeled in nothing will change because the HMIC gradings have a greater effect on senior officer career prospects than anything a politician will say.

20 October, 2010 20:35

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Policing seems to have become a means by which the law is managed by police officers; a victim's request for justice is therefore an unreasonable demand on a managerial class and is treated in much the same way as a criminal.
Everyone that I have spoken to that has been a victim of crime describes the police as "useless", "arrogant", "self serving", "ignorant" etc etc.
Goodbye plod, hello wage packet.
This blog ia a disgrace.

20 October, 2010 22:02

Anonymous DBRG said...

Melvin - you're a shambles, an absolute shambles...and for that reason're fired.

20 October, 2010 22:11

Anonymous seo said...

from where did you collect these all information to post on your this blog ?

22 October, 2010 14:03

Anonymous Ade said...

Policing by numbers, what about putting bobbies on the beat and letting them decide.
Surely if there is not much reported criminality then he / she must be doing a good job.
Trouble with targets is it looks profit driven, next year the targets will be higher, if not, because of good policing then police numbers will be reduced.

Brian Gerrish on Youtube, state of the nation

22 October, 2010 17:31


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