This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Progressive police & crime planning and budgeting

I had a swell day in Leeds yesterday with the The Democratic Governance of Policing: The Role and Implications of Elected Police and Crime Commissioners conference. This was organised by the University of Leeds (Building Sustainable Societies research group) and the British Society of Criminology. You see the agenda here. Lots of fascinating speakers and discussions. Thank you to the organisers, especially Stuart Lister who took the lead in organising the event, I believe. It was first meeting of the Policing Network.

There will be a number of blog posts arising from the day, but I will start with this one to look at the impact that PCCs could have upon how policing and crime budgets are formulated. Regular readers will know, I have a particular interest in resourcing matters. (See here, here and most recently here for example). I was left wondering yesterday about how many PCCs would grasp the opportunity to introduce progressive plans and budgets as opposed to regressive ones... Let me explain.

The Harvard Philosophy professor John Rawls was mentioned several times yesterday. A relevant quote from his "A Theory of Justice" is:
Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both:
(a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and
(b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.
In other words, where inequalities exist, they should be tackled positively and only allowed to continue if they benefit the least well off / healthy / safe etc. (Please correct me if I have that wrong). This is a basis, as I would see it of progressive taxation as opposed to regressive taxation. Progressive taxation relies on the principle that those who can pay more should pay proportionately more into the public purse than those who are less able to pay. (As everyone knows: an income tax regime where rates rise as income rises is progressive whereas a sales tax where everyone pays the same percentage is a regressive tax.)

So how does relate to policing plans & budgets?

For me it all comes down to the resource deployment formula. If this is based purely upon population and reported crime incidents (which is the basis of Thames Valley's current formula: see here) then not only is this almost tautological (since rates and incidents are highly linked to both numbers of officers and population) but also, I would argue, it is regressive. In other words the areas of high crime, ASB (etc) are getting no greater a slice of the police 'cake', as it were.

Instead, I would argue for a resource deployment formula that is a) based upon harm / risk of harm (as opposed to incidents and reported crime) and b) favours areas with higher levels of crime,  making it progressive.

As was pointed out at the conference yesterday by Simon Holdaway (and now on twitter he was happy to report!) often crime is focused on just a few wards of a police area. But the resources may well not be deployed appropriately or even proportionately to those areas.

Now I am not saying that the policing and crime responsibilities should only be focused on harmful crimes, but I am arguing for resource deployment that disproportionately gives more to areas of high harm in its full sense (the areas can be communities of interest as well geography by the way).  This for me would result in more just policing as it would be about tackling harm inequalities (just as health services should be about tackling health inequalities).

It is in the gift of PCCs to make this progressive resource deployment happen. This is the moment to begin to do this, I would contend. This also (of course) needs to be reflective of what the PCCs put in their plans, naturally.

(And for the record: budgets follow plans, NOT the other way around!!! Budgets are subordinate to plans and therefore they come second!!!)

This is partly why I fundamentally disagree with the approach being taken by my PCC who appears not to want things to change that much and also wants the balance between rural & urban policing to remain fixed in aspic... whether is the right or wrong balance.

So over to you PCCs: the power is in your hands as to whether you wish to introduce progressive plans and budgets, that seek to tackle harm inequalities or not. In my view, if you are committed to doing all that you can for victims, there is only one choice to make...


  1. Tom Lloyd18/1/13 17:01


    Deploying officers where and when they can do most good (i.e. harm reduction activity targeted according to, presumably, 80:20 logic)
    clearly make sense.

    I would argue that this goes beyond the remit of the PCC as it amounts to operational deployment not a strategic intention to deliver outcomes.

    The PCC can, however, influence operational deployment of this sort by challenging the Chief Constable on whether a particular tactic is the most cost effective.

    I think that this is the real opportunity for delivering real change, will greatly improve policing practice and avoid leaping to operational solutions (as happens so much at the moment).


    1. Thank you for adding to the debate, Tom.

      We might have to agree to disagree here, Tom. I think setting the resource deployment policy for policing and crime reduction resources is absolutely within the remit of the PCC.

      The operational deployment of officers under the policy would of course be for the Chief to enact.

      In part, it is for the PCC to define what is effective (based upon engagement with their publics) but I think one dimension of that is tackling harm inequalities.

  2. Tom Lloyd20/1/13 11:42

    You are suggesting that the PCC and the public will know/can define what is effective. I think that is a monitoring and challenge role not part of a strategic plan that should identify desirable outcomes.

    Reducing harm inequalities, adequately defined, is an entireley appropriate outcome for which PCCs can properly demand action. They should not, however, determine the detail of the action.

    The military have an approach to this which is relevant here. Senior commanders (PCC) set objectives (e.g. cross that river with your Company) but do not prescribe the method. The Company commander will, certainly relying on training, decide according to local circumstances and currently available capacity what is the best approach; temporary bridge, boats, aircraft, etc.

    One PCC has recently determined that all burglaries will be attended by police within 24 hours of reporting. This will have the definite impact of diveting resources from other tasks and may not deliver the desired benefits. These, presumably are: victim satisfaction and confidence in the police, more burglars caught, more burglaries prevented, etc. We know what happens when central dictat interferes with making appointments with GPs.

    This is really an argument about the necessary separation of outcome and process. PCCs and the public are pretty clear about outcomes (especially if asked the right questions) and will have often very strong views on the processes needed to acheve them. That does not mean that those processes are necessarily the right ones. We employ police expertise (as challenged by PCCs as explained hereinbefore) to deliver what is the best choice of method at that time in that place to deliver the best outcomes.

    p.s. I do acknowledge that some processes can legitimately be outcomes, e.g. in the area of generating public satisfaction, so this is a very complex issue!

    1. HI Tom - again thanks for adding to the debate.

      It is a matter for the CC to enact policy set by the PCC. I agree. And if the PCC says (via the policing plan) that the CC must tackle harm inequalities progressively then I would hope that they could then both work together on creating a resource deployment formula that would seek to reflect this. After all, if the polcing plan is nothing else - it is a de facto a policy for resource deployment.

      This of course is a very grey area - and no doubt in coming months we will see PCCs and CCs settling into new relationships where each knows better than they do now who does what and who has responsibility for what. And also, this will vary from one area to another.

      I hope that PCCs set outcome objectives not output ones (such as the one you quote: all burglaries will be attended by police within 24 hours of reporting)

      And as you say - this is a complex issue not least that politics sometimes turns outputs into outcome measures...

  3. An interesting debate. What does the 2011 Act say. Well, it states "A chief constable must exercise the power of direction and control conferred by subsection (3) in such a way as is reasonable to assist the relevant police and crime commissioner to exercise the commissioner’s functions". Does this amount to the duty to "...enact policy set by the PCC"?

    I am not sure that it does since the Act also says "The chief constable of the police force...must, in exercising the functions of chief constable, have regard to the police and crime plan issued by the police and crime commissioner for that police area". The "must have regard to" echoes the words in the 1994 Act, so nothing has really changed.

    As Jon argues, we will see PCCs and CCs settling into new relationships where each knows better than they do now who does what and who has responsibility for what. However, they cannot operate outside the framework set out in the 2011 Act.

    1. Thanks Ian for your contribution.

      You are correct of course - whatever happens must do so under the 2011 Act. But as we both know, custom & practice will probably prevail. And if either party has to start citing legislation ~at~ each other, the relationship will have reached a fairly parlous state, in my opinion. As far as I understand legalese: "must have regard to" is quite strong though.

      I disagree that 'nothing has changed' since we are now talking about two individuals rather than a body of people and a Chief Constable. I think this changes the dynamic chemistry (although not the legislation so much) quite significantly.

      All in all, my core hope is that the plans are infused with evidence based policy and clear principles... and ~not~ ill-informed ramblings or wobbly ethics.

    2. I recognise this problem from my time as Chair of Nottinghamshire Police Authority, Police Performance Committee.

      The Policing Plan defined objectives and some targets. The CC worked to realise them. To check how that was done I attended the monthly Corporate Performance Review, where the DCC held Divisional Commanders and others accountable for the performance of their officers. At that meeting, Divisional Commanders needed to recognise crime trends and clearly demonstrate how they were responding to them. They had to have clear plans of action in place or in development and provide evidence of the effects of their actions. This was a sort of evidence-based approach.

      I followed their actions through from the Corporate Performance Review when I attended monthly Divisional Performance meetings (there were two divisions). At those meetings I saw the Ch Supts render their operational staff accountable and, ideally, the same problems were recognised and information/evidence was required for discussion of them.

      This action allowed me and the PA to understand how the DCC required his officers to use particular processes to realise objectives. It was usual for me to discuss the methods (processes) used and to advocate for particular actions to be taken.

      My experience of the PA was within the context of a massive change programme instituted to deal with exceedingly poor performance under a previous chief officer regime. The key was to understand performance meetings through the lens of police culture. That allowed you to understand why particular actions and understandings were in place when crime and related problems were discussed. You could then point out to officers how their assumptions led them to particular, sometimes questionable conclusions. Further, you needed to understand the analysis of crime statistics and be able to relate crime stats to other data sources. You had to know what you were doing and have the trust of the DCC.

      In addition to all this, the three monthly Police Authority performance meeting asked the ACC with responsibility for crime reduction questions about how outcomes were achieved. We were able to check whether his account corresponded with those I heard at the other meetings.

      A PCC needs to do something like this if there is to be an understanding of how policing is practised and be interested in how outcomes are realised. My view is that a PCC must take a similar approach if they want to change policing in their area.

      My starting points were - (1) The further down the rank hierarchy you go the less possible it is to make actions visible. (2) Policy is not practice. We need to understand policy in action. (3) The occupational culture of the lower ranks is different from the world of chief officers. Do not underestimate lower ranks' resistance to change (Holdaway, 1983 :-))