National commission examining best practice could move service away from 30 years of ‘destructive’ number chasing.
A commission examining how police performance management could be transformed – as part of a bid to move away from knee-jerk reactions to statistics and targets – represents “the single, greatest opportunity in a generation”, PoliceOracle.com has been told.
According to Simon Guilfoyle, (pictured), a systems thinker who has been working with the College of Policing, the service is still suffering from the likes of numerical targets and binary and peer comparisons – which produce “hideous” and “perverse” outcomes.
He said that while year-on-year comparisons in crime figures often lacked context, they have still been used by some senior officers to make operational and deployment decisions.
The commission examining a more systems based approach, focusing on the capacity of an organisation and using data more intelligently and in context, could prove crucial to future operational decision making, Mr Guilfoyle added.
The work, being carried out by a group in the College of Policing, will examine the effects of performance management strategies in forces to find better ways of working towards organisational goals. It will explore new avenues, with a view to setting out national best practice in the area.
The working group is reporting to the national Performance Management business area, chaired by the Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary, Steve Finnigan.
Mr Guilfoyle said: “This is the single, greatest opportunity in a generation to transform police performance management and deliver a better service.
“We have the capacity to do the right things and deliver a better service environment.”
The commission follows warnings that a “target culture” is still prevalent in the service despite Home Secretary Theresa May’s removal of central government targets. She had said the only goal for officers was to “reduce crime”.
But the President of the Superintendents’ Association, Irene Curtis, later said many forces were still chasing numerical targets because the culture was “embedded in the police psyche”. She called for a new approach to performance management.
Mr Guilfoyle, himself a West Midlands Police inspector and author of a book on systems thinking, said the service had been misguided for the last 30 years by placing too much responsibility on the shoulders of its individuals – rather than analysing the systems those individuals operated within.
He said: “Take the example of making response times faster. The target will not change the capacity of the system to deliver it.
“When you focus your efforts on improving a system – how it operates that is – that is when you can make those systemic changes.”
Mr Guilfoyle, who sits on the College of Policing working group, said the “dysfunctional” performance framework still common in the service had led to a situation where negative behaviour had sometimes naturally festered.
This produced cases where officers or their teams had chased individual targets – such as arrests or detections – to the detriment of their own organisation and victims.
Meanwhile, comparing forces to their peers encouraged a focus on league tables – and did not necessarily reflect true performance or service given to the victim.
Mr Guilfoyle said: “We need to get out of this mentality of out doing your peer at the expense of the service user.”
The commission will involve numerous stakeholders – including the Home Office, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC).
A programme plan is being drawn up for September which will set out how the work will take place.
A number of forces in England and Wales have already begun adopting new performance management methods – and the successes of these are likely to be shared with the group as learning is collated.
The College of Policing itself had not issued a statement as this story went live.
Police performance: National plan ‘to end target mentality’
Also see - Inspector Guilfoyle Blog