Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Barrie Irving, Police Foundation and Denis Bourne, Kansai Business Systems


Focus of concern

  The White Paper adumbrates a number of features of police performance. Variations in crime rate and detection rate across the country are criticised and it is argued through a quotation from the Audit Commission that this variability exceeds what can be explained by environmental factors. While it is acknowledged that the police do not have sole responsibility for this variability (and presumably for the absolute rates of crime) the Government's intention to reduce that variability and generally improve (measured) police performance is clearly stated. To this end, a variety of stratagems are outlined including improving training, making human resource management regulations more flexible and subjecting Chief Officers to a standard assessment procedure. The nub of the new sanctions to be made available to the Home Secretary to back up the quest for better police performance is the creation of a Standards Unit at the Home Office and a new power to impose management intervention from outside a force (indeed, presumably from outside the service) on forces that are deemed to be failing by the measurement methods and criteria then available.

  The authors of this proof of evidence wish to concentrate on the seminal issue of improving operational policing performance at BCU level so as to push up overall levels of police efficiency and effectiveness. The White Paper makes it clear that this will also be a priority behind the drafting of the Police Bill.

  In this context, the authors wish to comment on the wisdom and efficacy of the strategy outlined in the White Paper. The authors concur wholeheartedly with the belief that many police operational units are currently operating sub-optimally but wish to argue both with the methodology that is likely to be used to identify "failing" forces/BCU's and the remedial strategy that the Government intends to deploy against them.

Relevant experience and expertise

  The authors share a multi-disciplinary consulting and research background. Their disciplinary profiles are complementary. Irving has degrees in Anthropology and Social and Forensic Psychology and Bourne is a systems engineer, operations researcher and professional manager. Both share an interest in and facility with statistical methods and the IT to support them. Together they have had 60 years consulting experience in a wide range of management environments. For the last 20 years this has included consulting on and research into policing issues at both Force and BCU level.

  As Director of the Police Foundation, Irving has been instrumental with Bourne in running an informal series of senior management strategy seminars for ACPO members. In 1993 the authors organised for ACPO a national cross sectional seminar on a strategy for change in the police service. The outputs from this work have directed their joint research and consulting work over the last seven years. The summary conclusion from this extensive collaboration is that operational performance at BCU levels has for many years been stifled by:

    —  The lack of appropriate and effective management skills training for sergeants and inspectors.

    —  The absence of a viable model and associated set of techniques for performance management and quality assurance in BCU operations.

  As Government concern about police performance has grown, so the opportunities to work with forces on both of these issues have expanded. While the historical consulting experience available to us is not dissimilar in portent to more recent work, (indeed the consistency of findings over 15 years is both reassuring and alarming), we wish to concentrate on the implications of an assignment in two London Boroughs and ancillary work in Surrey and Kent over the last two years.

Performance strategies, tactics and implementation

  Thanks to very considerable innovative policing research in the US during the 70s and 80s there is a ready supply of plausible methodologies available to improve detection rates, provide more effective policing services and control certain kinds of crime. While these methodologies have been available for many years in the form of original US research reports, policing handbooks and Home Office replications of original US work, the mix of operational activities on the ground in UK BCUs remains much as it was in the late 80s.[11]

  There are some key reasons why this is so:

    —  It has proved difficult to deliver to BCU/relief levels the IT necessary to implement more sophisticated strategies. UK Police attitude to information and information processing reflect the reality that most officers have to supply data that do not directly help them do their jobs.

    —  The pressure on local officers to maintain a purely reactive, incident chasing style of policing has been unrelenting as public demand for services and the dictates of Criminal Justice System administration appear to "use up" all available time.

    —  The availability over time/space of officers continues to be a matter of feast or famine. Externally dictated demands, conditions of service and other "cultural" considerations often lead to human resource wastage and patterns of deployment remain stubbornly misaligned with demand in many areas.

    —  The service has evolved a culture of conformity with complex sets of regulations and directives. The eyes of supervisors and supervised are, therefore, directed to demonstrating that what has been ordered to be done, has been done. In such a culture it is easy, perhaps inevitable, for results (performance) to take a back seat.

    —  A national statistics-driven centralised performance management regime has been grafted on top of this system. Because of the structure of this regime it has become absorbed into the culture of directives, orders and regulations without having any radical effect on local attitudes to improving outputs.

    —  In a culture of conformity confronting individuals about performance in the absence of direct evidence of dereliction of duty tends to be avoided. Individual performance issues are rarely addressed. In extreme cases where discipline procedures are inappropriate, they are dealt with in an arcane way that breeds resentment and distrust. Formal performance assessment is largely a discredited process.

    —  As long as the conformity model holds sway there can be no real pressure on the service to provide the management skills training necessary for pro-active performance management. There appears to be no need for it.

  It is against this general background that the authors have conducted recent experiments aimed at developing an appropriate and viable performance management model for BCU reliefs and their sergeants. The need for such a development is privately acknowledged by many senior officers who are sensitive to management issues in the service.


Issues arising in the Boroughs during pre-project consultation

  A series of workshops with local relief officers was used to establish attitudes to performance management, current practices and willingness to experiment with new approaches. The following summary conclusions were reached:

    —  Current working practices provide very little opportunity for constables and sergeants to exercise problem-solving skills: the mass of work is either purely reactive or heavily bureaucratic.

    —  There is no incentive to conserve time to invest in more sophisticated approaches to crime control, detection and public order.

    —  Officers are acutely aware of time-wasting and the inefficiency of traditional shift arrangements. Estimates of time available to be clawed back for pro-active work (from poor shift system design, routine and administrative tasks) were around 40 per cent.

    —  Management above the level of Inspector was seen as having virtually no impact on working practices at relief level except as a source of directives, and sanctions against officers who failed to comply with directives, rules and regulations.

    —  There was a general derisory attitude to exhortatory campaigns emanating from Scotland Yard that laid out their wares in glossy brochures accompanied by PR activity in the media.

    —  Sergeants admitted, and relief officers concurred, that given the volume of public calls for service, and the layers of bureaucracy relating to handling these calls, it had become established practice to define performance in terms of conforming to operational and administrative procedure as laid down, regardless of whether this conformity produced satisfactory results.

    —  The working groups admitted to being aware of a variety of pro-active policing strategies that were, in theory, meant to be applied but they denied that these theories had been implemented. In particular, sergeants and senior constables said that they had never received any training in how to implement such innovative strategies. The groups were initially entirely unversed in how to behave in a collaborative problem-solving enterprise.

    —  There was a tendency, it was claimed, to maintain traditional methods of working on the street but apply new names to what was done. There was a circularity about some innovations—techniques that had been around for many years were often re-born and re-branded. There was a cynical consensus that such re-inventions of the wheel oiled career progress as ambitious officers climbed the rank hierarchy. Older officers had personal experience of several generations of management "innovations".

    —  Discussion of these issues was generally combative and hectoring. The groups were clearly unused to working in a collaborative fashion. The dialogue often suffered from point scoring and a variety of more or less destructive habits of inter-personal communication. While these were all received and given with good humour, they made it difficult for any coherent and creative strand of argument to be developed without intervention from the research team.

    —  It was a significant feature of some sessions that rank was not often correlated with providing leadership. The research team's pre-existing view that promotion through the sergeant's exam may recognise knowledge and abilities that are not necessarily appropriate for problem-solving and dynamic team management, were reinforced.

  On the basis of these conclusions a strategy for developing performance management was designed taking into account management theory and best practice on the one hand and the special exigencies of police work on the other.


  Given the rather low state of morale and the negative attitudes to innovation and clever policing theory, the research team tried to apply the following principles:

    —  Build a collaborative, creative forum "at the coal face" to define and solve problems in order to avoid negative stereotypes of top-down management methods.

    —  Design a framework in which the forum could act without fear of exceeding its authority or breaking rules and regulations.

    —  Secure the support of the senior management team for the activity.

    —  Provide simple management skills training to give the forum a sense of efficacy and to allow early experience of success.

    —  Provide coaches and mentors for the forum to ensure it developed as a working group, but minimise intervention to ensure the group "owned" the results and did not become dependent.

    —  Encourage the members of the group to consult with their peers and avoid being seen as an elite squad. Encourage secondment and ad hoc membership for the same reason.

Training sessions provided

  The authors have elsewhere detailed their criticism of the current approach to police management training.[12] The core of this criticism is that National Police Training and its predecessors have, for good historical reasons, been structured as institutions of "Further Education". Police Officers have been treated by these institutions as students who, having received instruction, either pass or fail courses. While such an approach can produce an educated elite, it does not, on the whole, generate pervasive behavioural competence in essential management skills. Raising the level of behavioural skills requires a coaching/mentoring approach usually at the workplace. The accent is on demonstration and practice not on the acquisition of information. Trainers must be able to guarantee that they will, within broad limits, produce desired levels of competent behaviour. The trainee in such a regime is merely expected to turn up and bring reasonable levels of intelligence, attention and motivation to the party. It follows that effective trainers are paid somewhat more than FE lecturers!

  The following skill deficits were diagnosed at an early stage in both boroughs:

    —  Collaborative communication

    —  Giving and receiving feedback on performance

    —  Problem analysis and the design of remedial action

    —  Defining simple work processes as a basis for assessing and improving performance.

  Bourne set up a number of training sessions for both BCU groups. Response was enthusiastic and gratifying in terms of rapid changes in behaviour. For example time spent working with one group to eliminate destructive verbal and non-verbal communications, produced entirely collaborative working within two sessions covering one day.

Group outputs

  Once appropriately trained and briefed, the groups quickly settled down to define components of relief performance, identify barriers and design remedial action. Consultation with BCU colleagues remained satisfactory.


  The groups quickly identified bureaucratic time-wasting and ineffectual briefing and de-briefing as core problems.

  Protected by mutual confidentiality the groups concluded from a brief activity survey that around 40 per cent of relief time could be clawed back for use on strategies with higher performance potential than traditional reactive policing. Remedial action was planned in the following areas:

    —  Redesign of shift working rosters to align deployment and demand. (First mooted in the MPS in a document authored by James Hart, now Deputy Commissioner City of London Police in May 1981).

    —  Creation of a radio/telephone based reporting system for officers on patrol to minimise returns to the station.

    —  Redesign of prisoner handling to cut duplication of effort and bureaucracy.

    —  Linking local criminal intelligence to the task of briefing reliefs and building up a firm basis for individual and group accountability.

    —  Developing an effective bottom-up feedback loop to activate the Senior Management Team to provide support.


  The following modifications to existing systems were noted:

    —  Telephone recording and Computer Aided Dispatch systems were improved.

    —  CAST, an improved prisoner handling system was introduced.

    —  A Variable Shift Roster System was introduced.

    —  Outputs from Criminal Intelligence sources were effectively linked to Relief Team management efforts so as to set targets and improve accountability for performance (outputs not conformance).

  It is worth emphasising at this point that inter alia these were precisely the goals of the "Neighbourhood Policing Experiment" in London, an evaluation of which was reported in 1989 (op. cit).

  However, bottom-up consultation procedures were not set up and, indeed, throughout the experiment the Senior Management Teams' (SMT) involvement and support were variable. The predictive factor here appeared to be the philosophy of management of individual officers on the SMT. At the time, unknown to the authors, the MPS was re-evaluating its policy with respect to BCU autonomy levels and senior officers were probably aware that this experiment was based on devolution of power whereas the MPS was moving in the opposite direction.

Independent Evaluation

  A brief report by the MPS internal consultancy service confirmed that the improvement to systems designed by the BCU teams were indeed effective and roll-out of these improvements was recommended throughout the MPS. In an interesting and indicative omission the report failed to note:

    —  The non-implementation of bottom-up consultation.

    —  The difficulties around involving the SMT in the experiment.

    —  The effectiveness of bottom-up innovation design in securing viable plans.

    —  The success of bottom-up change in winning local level support even when accountability was being increased and rosters were being changed.


  The report of these activities clashed with MPS re-centralisation. The officer who commissioned the work has been promoted out of the MPS and the authors have had no strategic response to the report.

  In common with many other similar exercises in the police service, the development work will now go on at the location to which the officer who commissioned this study has moved. The progress made at the two sites will not persist. In the near future the authors will be asked to create other such experiments in new locations.

  In both London boroughs it should be noted Police Federation representatives were involved in the entire process from the start. In both cases they were supportive and made a significant contribution to results. This experience is consistent with our experience in previous projects.

  Recent work in Surrey has confirmed the observation that resource allocation and management processes at BCU level are often poor. While total police establishment may be an issue, this cannot be confirmed until the weakness in deployment is eliminated.

  Another project outside London has served to reinforce our concerns about the nature of police training—this time with reference to detective skills.

  Finally, in partial confirmation of our belief that technological change can enforce work culture reform, we have observed an innovative data sharing and problem-solving project set-up and run at sergeant level in a London Crime and Disorder Partnership. The authors, acting as consultants to the partnership, have been able to achieve rapid change with the full support of senior management because there is no other way to commission the necessary technology.

Implications for the White Paper

  The work in the MPS and elsewhere over the years has shown that bottom-up redesign processes can work effectively and carry with them the majority of junior officers. These flowerings are counter-cultural, threaten established relationships with Senior Management and are only usually sanctioned and supported by senior police managers who are confident in their ability to devolve power. Without coherent senior management support for the bottom-up philosophy, the results of such experiments as these quickly wither even though they are temporarily successful. When junior officers are not involved in the process of change in the way that bottom-up techniques allow, there is a persistent tendency to keep street level operations entirely isolated from senior managers and their schemes for change and improvement. It is into this cultural environment that the White Paper ventures.

The tone of the White Paper's rhetoric

  The document accurately mimics the hectoring tone of those campaigns for change about which junior officers are most cynical. The erection of a new superordinate source for this kind of rhetoric on the back of devices like a "Standards Unit" and formal assessment of the ACPO rank officers, merely increases the vast chain-of-command distance between street level officers and the perceived source of ultimate power in the system. If the command structure already worked well, this might be an acceptable stratagem. In the face of the current evidence about the level of connection between senior and junior ranks and in view of the length of the chain of command[13], the White Paper's approach threatens to reinforce the negative attitudes of junior officers and the dysfunctional management style of their superiors.[14]

  At a more prosaic level, the performance superstructure being planned by the Home Secretary is likely to create an even greater need for the collection of statistical and other information at BCU level. Again the average officer will not have any personal interest in the accuracy of this information. The top-down performance regime envisaged will merely reinforce the directives/regulations/report-up culture that officers on the ground can so easily identify as the source of their poor efficiency.

  If the Police Bill pours additional human resource into this system while doing nothing to change the management culture, then there is a real danger that it will be mopped up by additional administrative burdens created at the same time. On the other hand, responsibility for additional officers, sworn and un-sworn, will increase the need to radically overhaul junior and middle management training and performance procedures.

  If senior managers see themselves as being placed under threat by the invention of yet more superstructure at the Home Office, then they will be liable to exaggerate their own authoritarian style.[15] This will actively hinder the process of management cultural reform.

The right targets by the wrong methods

  Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is absolutely right for the White Paper to target restrictive conditions of service and high levels of bureaucracy and inefficient IT deployment as sources of poor police performance. But these key factors have been targeted with little effect for many years. As the complexity of social life and the rate of technological development increases, so the leisurely pace of police adaptation becomes critical.

  The general approach of this White Paper has already been tried in essence by Sir Patrick Sheehy.[16]. Not only was there little visible implementation, the reduction of the rank structure that was achieved actually reverted more or less to normal after a polite interval. The rally at Wembley Stadium could well be repeated in Whitehall.

  The authors understand the frustration of successive Ministers and their supporting teams of civil servants when faced with the police service's ability to fend off change.[17] However, it is a well established principle of clinical practice that losing patience with the patient does not increase the effectiveness of treatment.

The identification of failure

  Local junior officers have a considerable degree of control over the figures that emerge so impressively from the mouth of the statistical machine that successive governments have built at the Home Office. The figures in important respects are the product of the culture. They are fairly accurate where officers feel the responsibility to make them so. They can be alarmingly inaccurate where those responsible for collecting them have no stake in their accuracy.

  BCU's for geographical, demographic, historical and social reasons that are not under police control, face idiosyncratic performance advantages and disadvantages. We have demonstrated that small groups of locally based officers can produce accurate and actionable diagnoses of performance problems on their patches. If officers perceived that they were gathering information to feed a remedial process in which they were critically involved and over which a supportive management presided, they would quickly ensure that data quality and processing improved. Something akin to the opposite is happening. Distant statistical experts are meant to identify failing BCU's. Already the tables in the White Paper give a stark picture of the rough and ready statistical reasoning that is to be employed. Those responsible for drafting the White Paper must imagine that the political force of the argument for change will be enhanced if police management is seen by the public to be responsible for a degree of failure that is clear, stark and considerable.

  In this context, we would argue as follows: there is no doubt that successive generations of police managers have allowed a management culture and style to evolve that does not produce adaptive and performance related responses to changes and increases in public demand. The first step, however, towards improving that situation should be to encourage senior managers to take responsibility for it themselves. The proper, indeed the constitutionally exact role of the Home Secretary is to support and give advice to Chief Officers so that police performance at a local level can be enhanced. Taking responsibility for both problem definition and the design of remedies out of the hands of Chief Officers is to disempower them when they most need to act with assurance and flair. Facile statistical definition of failure is a powerful symbol of what the Home Secretary intends, both in terms of relationship with and future action in respect of the ACPO and Superintendents' Association. The definitions are facile because they fail to take into account the true complexity of the performance measures available and their pattern of interconnectedness and correlation with geographic and demographic characteristics of BCU's and hence forces. A situation has been allowed to develop where Home Office policy officials and Ministers seem to be out of touch with what their statistical experts are privately saying about police performance measurement.

  Ministers, no doubt wish to impress the police service with the firmness of their reform intentions. The Cabinet is signed up to evidence based policy. It appears to us counter-productive in that case to resort to a meretricious use of statistics.

  To set the record straight, the variation tables quoted in the White Paper should be more properly used to set out a number of null hypotheses for which there are well-established test procedures. Irving has already tried out some of these procedures and is under the impression that Home Office statisticians have also. The results tend to give the lie to the idea that there is the kind of unexplained and unacceptable variation in performance statistics that the White Paper claims. There is certainly great variation but much of it can be explained. Indeed, that is the point of the well-known and respected statistical technique known as analysis of variance.

  What is far from clear is that poor police management is identified accurately as a substantial cause in these figures. As we have been at pains to point out—there is poor police management and it is the cause of poor performance but the hot-spots cannot be found by the simplistic method the White Paper adopts.

  An effective compromise here is to present the simple league tables as no more than the beginning of an exploratory process. To be successful that process requires the good faith of the Government, and the constructive participation of the ACPO, Superintendents' Association and Federation. In the end, we would argue, the diagnosis of management failure that is accurate enough to use as the basis for remedial action and which will be accepted by all interested parties as the basis for change, requires the kind of process that the authors initiated in the MPS. Insofar as legislation supports such cultural reform processes, it can be said to have serious positive potential, otherwise it is likely to suffer the fate of its predecessors. It is our conclusion that the White Paper has set out on a well-worn path with insufficient insight into the nature of the problem it seeks to tackle.

Can a potentially constructive Police Bill be designed on the basis of this White Paper

  There has never been, to our knowledge, any example of a Government producing a revolution in management culture and style by legislative dictat. There are strong reasons for believing that changing the legal framework of operations in the Railways and British Telecom only prepared the ground for the possibility of change. Irving was involved in an analogous management culture revolution in Shell International in the late 1960's that became, for some time, a key example. Bourne was similarly involved with successful changes in another oil company, a large financial services business, and FMCG company and a large supermarket chain. Nearly all the most effective catalysts for change were applied at middle and junior management levels with Directors supporting but not directing the process.

  Radical change in US police agencies does not offer us much by way of example because of the significantly different political structures in which police forces are embedded.

  Technological change is one universal means to power rapid and radical adaptation. However, no such radical technological change is on the horizon for policing and those innovations that might have had an effect (Command and Control, CAD and Crime Pattern Analysis) have mostly been folded into the existing culture without causing much disturbance.

  The Home Secretary and this Government may well argue that even during the Thatcher administration and at the time of Sir Patrick Sheehy's report, concern over police performance and political will and power never coalesced as they do now and, therefore, historical precedents should be ignored in favour of a full frontal assault.

  The authors have already seen the first reactions from the ACPO and the Superintendents' Association and we are bound to say that the White Paper seems to have provoked a lively new interest in performance management. There is no intrinsic reason why, after a period of turbulence, the institutions outlined in the White Paper cannot be adapted to a reasonable and reputable process of management reform.

  However, the immediate intention to reform police conditions of service poses a taxing dilemma. The proposals have already been roundly condemned and rejected by the Police Federation as all involved could have predicted. We have acknowledged that conditions of service with respect to shift working, overtime, salary scales, special payments, sickness, absenteeism, etc., must change. That much has been apparent since Sheehy in 1993. However, the way in which that list is approached will affect the progress of the rest of the reform agenda.

  So far the auguries in this respect are not good. Our conclusion is that if negotiation with the Federation is left on the current combative course, the ACPO and Superintendents' Association will be seriously disadvantaged in trying to work behind the rhetoric of the White Paper and the impositions and injunctions of the Police Bill to achieve genuine reform of management culture.

  It should be clearly recognised that there is much that could be offered to the Federation arising out of the reform agenda. The Federation has a considerable interest in the professional development of its members. The introduction of warden and non-sworn officer schemes will create opportunities for junior officers to take on management roles. New pay scales and reward systems are mooted that would be welcomed at local level if there was trust that the spirit of these innovations would be honoured in their implementation. The recent Federation vote against the reforms measures its confidence in the service's management just as the tone and content of the White Paper symbolises politicians' trust in the service. This is an elegant stand-off.

  In conclusion, we believe that the political scene is too well set to be substantially redrawn at this juncture. If the Government has to keep on the present course, the most useful contribution it can make to the reform of police performance management is to invest heavily in three crucial areas. First, every effort must be made to empower not weaken the leadership potential of ACPO and the Superintendents' Association. Secondly, a viable working relationship has to be created through the Federation with Sergeants and Inspectors to deliver reform. Thirdly, there must be a radical reappraisal of management training for junior officers.

Barrie Irving, Police Federation

Denis Bourne, Kansai Business Systems

February 2002

11   Irving, Barrie. L; Bird, Cathy; Hibberd, Malcolm and Wilmore, John (1989) Neighbourhood Policing: the natural history of a policing experiment. London, Police Foundation. Back

12   Irving, Barrie (2000) An Independent Review of Police Management Training and Education: the customers' views. London, Back

13   In an unpublished study of European forces carried out in the mid 1980's Professor Ron Clarke, formerly head of the Home Office Research and Planning Unit, discovered that the UK has 2.3 more rank levels than the average European force. Back

14   See Adlam, R. (2002) Leading Light, Police Review, Vol. 110, No. 5660, p.24 Back

15   See Adlam, R. (2002) (op. cit.) Back

16   Sheehy, Sir Patrick (1993) Report of an Inquiry into Police Responsibilities and Rewards, London, HMSO. Back

17   Faulkner, D; Irving, B, (1994) Crime Management by Reducing Repeat Victimisation: a strategy for change. London, Police Foundation. Back

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