HC 1456 Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Dr Roger Patrick

The recent riots in England appear to be linked to a rise in gang related criminal activity. The evidence presented suggests that the impact of Performance Management on Policing in the UK has been, and still is, an obstacle to the effective implementation of strategies to counter this threat to civil society. The police imperative to improve overall performance in relation to national and force wide priorities has led to an under-investment in long term strategies designed to respond to gang related activity. In some cases this has resulted in officers being re-deployed from deprived areas to more affluent neighbourhoods.

1.The evidence presented is based on a study of the impact of Performance Management on Policing over the past decade. Some of the findings, in particular the tendency to improve performance by concentrating resources on activities which are the subject of performance indicators, may be pertinent to your inquiry.

2.Investing resources to curtail the activities of criminal gangs appears a poor investment in such an environment. I refer to this phenomenon as “skewing”, encapsulated by the term “what gets measured gets done”. This type of activity falls under the general heading of “gaming” and the research concluded that police forces were improving their overall performance by employing such tactics. A detailed survey of the re-organisation of the West Midlands Police in 1997 highlighted how this force systematically re-deployed officers from inner city areas to more affluent suburbs (Patrick 2004). Whilst this evidence may be somewhat dated the methodology of super-imposing police numbers before and after the re-organisation on geographical maps showing levels of deprivation is sound. There is also evidence to suggest this trend is continuing. Tarique Gaffur, a former Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, suggested that a strategy to respond to the threat posed by gangs by concentrating police resources on the deprived areas of the capital had not been implemented as “it would have taken officers away from the politically favoured policy of neighbourhood policing” (The Sunday Times 14 August 2011). Councillors in the Ladywood Ward of Birmingham recently disclosed that the Local Police Command Unit responsible for policing the areas affected by the recent riots had seen officer numbers reduced by seventy when the force restructured in 2010.

3.Whilst it was difficult to gain access to the detailed information on police deployments to replicate the mapping exercise for every force in England it was possible to gain further information on “skewing” from official reports, some accessed under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

4.Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary reported on the dangers of “skewing” as early as 1999 and viewed the practice as unethical:

“The drive for continuing improvements in detections should, however, be controlled to ensure high volume crimes are not unnecessarily pursued at the expense of proper investigation of more serious crime. There was evidence in one force that a divisional commander refused to allow his detectives to put more than minimal resources into a serious sexual crime investigation, preferring instead they concentrate their efforts on less serious crime such as car theft. This occurred because whether they solved a rape or the theft of a car radio, the division would only be credited with one detection.” (HMIC 1999:20)

5.The deaths of Police Constable Malcolm Walker in 2001 and Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis in 2003 exposed the vulnerability of the West Midlands Police to respond to the rise in gang related criminality. The force had been warned about “skewing” by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in 2001 (HMIC/WMP 2001:2). Similar deployment trends were apparent from the reports on Nottinghamshire Police following the Chief Constable’s declaration that his force could not cope with a rise in murders (The Times newspaper 14.3.2005):

“Resources were devolved to the BCUs Officers and staff were realigned with community beats and response teams. Detective capacity at headquarters was reduced and this included the disbandment of the Force Drug squad. In March 2003 HMIC noted some aspects of the reorganisation had not been handled well and the challenges were exacerbated by a rise in serious crime, both in terms of drug-related gun crime and an abnormal level of murders committed in 2002.” (HMIC/Notts. April 2005 unpublished)

6.The rise in organised crime, particularly gang and gun related activity, resulted in HMIC undertaking a thematic study of this threat (O’Connor 2005). This report could only commend three forces, Avon and Somerset, Greater Manchester Police and the Metropolitan Police Service for their investment in measures to counter more serious crime. However concerns about “skewing” continued to be expressed by operational officers:

“Every borough is playing the game; those that are not are seen as under-performing. Policing has completely lost its way. We only investigate crimes that matter in terms of performance data.” (Police Federation Conference 2007)

7.Evidence of this type of “gaming” activity was also apparent in a number of investigations conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). These included the investigation of Derbyshire Police’s response to the brutal beating and robbery of the riding instructor Tania Moore; the response of the Metropolitan Police Service leading up to the shooting of Peter Woodhams in East London in 2006; the performance of West Mercia police officers prior to the murder of Craig Hodson-Walker, the son of the Bromsgrove postmaster and the Met’s investigation of the serial rapist Kirk Reid. Despite the consistent pattern evident throughout these cases it did appear that the IPCC was unwilling to consider the organisational nature of these failings, being content to hold operational officers responsible.

8.Whilst the above information does not provide an explanation for the riots it does highlight some of the obstacles hindering the implementation of strategies designed to address the rise in gang related crime. The discontinuance of centrally set performance targets appears to have had little impact on the focus of police forces where a performance culture has become embedded.


Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (1999). Police Integrity England Wales and Northern Ireland. Securing and maintaining public confidence. June 1999. Home Office.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (2001). Inspection of West Midlands Police. (www.hmic.gov.uk)

O’Connor D, HM Inspector of Constabulary (Sept. 2005). Closing the Gap; A Review of the “Fitness for Purpose” of the Current Structure of Policing in England & Wales. HMIC 13 September 2005.

Patrick, R (2004). The Lot of the Poor is Unlikely to Improve Until They Have a Greater Say in Their “lot”: Going Local and the Impact on the Distribution of Public Services. Vista Perspectives on Probation and Criminal Justice & Civil Renewal Vol. 9 No. 3 2004.

Patrick R (2009). Performance Management, Gaming and Police Practice: A Study of Changing Police Behaviour in England and Wales During the Era of New Public Management. University of Birmingham. PhD Thesis.

September 2011

Prepared 22nd December 2011